B2B digital commerce is set to top $1.1 trillion in the US alone by 2020, according to a recent Forrester report[1]. That’s one giant opportunity for enterprises in every vertical; it’s never been clearer that digital commerce is no longer the preserve of fast-moving B2C brands.
There’s a ‘but’, however. B2B players simply aren’t as digitally mature as their B2C counterparts, nor are they as adept at providing the kinds of experiences their buyers want. Just as the ‘Millennial effect’ is forcing consumer brands to up their mobile game (powerfully asserted by my colleague Mark Taylor back in April in ‘The Millennial Effect: Go Mobile or Go Home’), our familiarity with and reliance on Amazon-like purchasing experiences is tipping into the B2B world, reshaping expectations and affecting buying decisions. The same Forrester report predicts that 74% of B2B buyers research at least half of their business purchases online and increasing numbers expect to complete the ensuing transactions online, too. But those transaction numbers will rely heavily on the quality of the B2B digital buying experience.
The challenge for B2B enterprises is not insignificant. There are very good reasons for the lag in B2B digital commerce maturity: B2B business models, buying patterns and decision making are markedly different to B2C ones. Add to that crowded, competitive marketplaces with disruptive new (often online) market entrants, and the scale of the challenge becomes even clearer.
Nevertheless, it’s time for B2Bs to get audacious and enter the fray. To do that, it’s especially important for B2Bs to think in terms of firm-wide digital transformation, that encompasses customer experience along with organizational change and technology, closely coupled with innovation. Indeed, we’re seeing a trend towards investment in innovation centers to drive digital transformation, which is an encouraging step. And at the heart of technology-driven innovation are platforms that allow for flexibility, customization, speed, scale and low risk.
In May, our technology partner IBM showcased new solutions from its IBM Commerce portfolio at Amplify 2015. Each of those solutions is aimed at helping enterprises in both B2C and B2B markets engage and serve their customers better. And each of those solutions offers the flexibility, customization, speed, scale and low-risk innovation B2Bs so desperately need, if they are to claim their share of the burgeoning digital commerce opportunity.
At Capgemini, we work with IBM not only because we believe in their market-leading technologies for commerce and beyond, but also because we are aligned in our belief that true market leaders are the ones who will harness disruptive technology trends such as cloud to reinvent core business processes and to innovate. A great example of this premise in action—and evidence of the velocity that cloud allows—can be seen in our recent work at Swedish logistics provider PostNord. IBM’s cloud-based Bluemix solution provided a flexible and low-risk platform on which we designed and prototyped an innovative solution to help PostNord dramatically improve B2B customer experience and ultimately, fight off market competition. From initial enquiry to prototype, we did this within just three weeks.
For B2B enterprises, the digital commerce opportunity far outweighs the corresponding challenge right now. According to Gartner[2], B2Bs that successfully consumerize their digital commerce site could by 2018 see market share gains and boosted revenues by as much as 25%. With the right platform and partner in place, the possibilities for B2Bs are immense—and firmly within reach. As our work at PostNord has shown, the first step is simply to dare.

[1] The Forrester Wave™: B2B Commerce Suites, Q2 2015
[2] Gartner report: Critical Capabilities for Digital Commerce, 28 April 2015