B2B E-Commerce

Erin Griffith had a good post on PandoDaily titled, Whatever Happened To The Promise of B2B E-commerce. I find this to be a super interesting topic. In short, Erin argued that "the trillion-dollar promise of B2B commerce may finally be on its way."

Personally, I'm not so sure. I posted the following comment -- though for some reason it never got posted to the post, so I thought I'd post it here.

Great post, Erin.

Though I’m not sure I agree that b2b e-commerce is finally on its way.  There are multiple, inherent transactional differences between b2b and b2c that, I believe, make a transition to b2b e-commerce nearly impossible in the short to medium term. There are so many steps in a large enterprise’s buying process that cannot be replicated in a scalable manner online (customized legal agreements, reference checks, price negotiation, unique purchase approval structures, payment terms and the individual emotions that drive big purchases). Just look at the legal side for a moment. Most e-commerce sites have their own “terms of use” section that dictates the legal terms associated with the use of their site. Large enterprises will want to review and customize these terms of use based on their own policies, procedures and appetite for risk.  It’s very difficult for e-commerce sites to allow for this in a scalable way across hundreds or thousands of clients.

Now you may argue that e-commerce has come such a long way that technology should be able to replace much of this bureaucracy. But in a large enterprise each of these steps represent a task that is completed by someone with a job. So you can either eliminate those jobs or assign those individuals to work on something else. But just like purchasing, reorganizing non-strategic job roles for an unclear upside will take a long, long time. And in my view, real growth in b2b e-commerce is simply going to have to wait.