3.6 Worldwide B2B Ecommerce Forecast

Optimism plunged in the last quarter of 2008, and many projects were expected to be put on hold as companies fight for survival. {1} Costs would be pared back, and there might be a danger of 'unfocused' price reductions, reflecting a heavier burden of regulation and compliance. My Customer {2} suggested three key strategies. First was a deeper understanding of changing customer requirements, both in the recession and afterwards. Second was the building of a 'corporate brain' to gather information, turn it into updated knowledge using analytics, and then into insight. Third was innovation, from customer solutions (not just service), to business models. Leading organizations were gearing up their ideas pipelines, improving innovation processes and measuring new inputs to outputs ratios.
SearchCRM had more specific advice: {3}

Build on social technology that has increased in the last 12 months to enrich the customer experience through community-based interactions. Three in four US online adults now use social tools to connect with each other, compared with 56% in 2007.

Develop CRM strategies that deliver clear business value. Cost projects carefully: there will be no room for overruns.

Reduce the risk of CRM ventures failing. In a recent survey of CRM professionals, 33% of the problems related to technology, 27% to business processes, 22% to people, and 18% to CRM strategy.

Get more value from customer information, evaluating how enterprises collect, distribute, and use data.

Redress vendor pricing and licensing arrangements: software licensing and pricing is still marred by complexity, soaring maintenance costs, and a lack of flexibility and alignment with business goals.

CRM may even save your company in the tough times ahead, provided it's sensibly used. {4}

Ebusiness now seems to be weathering the economic recession remarkably well: B2B has continued its rise, {5} {6} {7} and B2C has remained flat but not fallen over the last three years as customers have looked to make savings online. {8} Manufacturing is expected to outperform GDP growth, with B2B benefiting accordingly. {11} B2B currently makes up 90% of ecommerce sales. {9}

It is the marketing of B2B services that captures webspace, and three recommendations from Customer Think {12} were to look at marketing data more frequently, build in strategies to cope with qualified and not-yet-ready-to-buy leads, and to use social media to track buying signal keywords and provide basic customer support. According to BtoB's 2012 Outlook: Marketing Priorities and Plans, {10} 48.4% of companies surveyed will keep their 2012 marketing budgets flat, 40.8% will increase them and 10.8% will cut back. Some 74.0% will increase their online spending, and 22.4% reduce their print advertising.

A Forbes article suggested that B2B companies need to be more selective in 2013, using social media digital, content creation and digital advertising appropriately. {13} Indeed the Gartner prediction of 3.7% growth in 2013 IT spending is based on some questionable assumptions, thought Tom Pisello. Customer value needs to be emphasized. {14}

Sources and Further Reading

1. IT Pros Sour on Job Prospects, Economy. Baseline. January 2009.
2. The world is turning: What is the future for CRM globally? MyCustomer. November 2008.
3. CRM experts predict 2009 by Barney Beal. SearchCRM. December 2008
4. 5 Reasons Why CRM is Even More Important During a Recession. InsideCRM. August 2008.
5. The B2B Barometer: Q1 2011. Circle Research. 2011.
6. E-commerce stats: £10bn spent online in January and February by Graham Charlton. E-consultancy. March 2011. Part of Econsultancy's Internet Statistics Compendium.
7. UK SME Online Retailers Experience Slowdown in Sales. Actinic. September 2011.
8. E-commerce emerges from the recession with a larger share of consumers' wallets by Allison Enright. Internet Retailer. November 2011.

9. eCommerce Stock Outlook by By Zacks Equity Research. Yahoo Finance. July 2012.
10. Outlook 2012 Large share of marketers boosting spending, especially online. BtoB. January 2012.

11. Manufacturing recovery continues; outlook good through 2013. B2B Supply Chain Blog. April 2012.
12. Three areas for B2B marketing improvement in Q4 (and 2013) by Matt Heinz. Customer Think. October 2012.
13. B2B Marketers Need To Get Real About Social Media and Customer Engagement by Louis Columbus. Forbes Blog. January 2013.
14. Gartner says 2013 will be a Better Year for IT Spending Growth? by Tom Pisello. B2B Marketing Zone. January 2013.