February 18, 2014, 1:06 PM

B2B sites increasingly marry content and commerce

There are more B2B content management systems available now than in the past, good news for the more than half of B2B companies looking for that kind of software, Forrester Research analyst Peter Sheldon says.

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Peter Sheldon

Many companies that sell to other businesses first built web sites that provide information about their products, then added transactional capabilities that let customers submit quotes and purchase products. Blending the content and the commerce remains a key task for many online B2B companies,

Peter Sheldon, a vice president and technology analyst at Forrester Research Inc., said at a business-to conference last week.

“The whole goal is to provide a seamless buy cycle,” letting customers explore a company’s brand and products and conduct an e-commerce transaction on a single web site, Sheldon said during a presentation Feb. 13 at Oracle Corp.’s B2B Commerce Summit in Chicago.

“B2B marketers today need to tell rich stories about how their products are being used in the field … and romance the customer,” Sheldon said. They also must be able to manage web content in a way that lets them distribute it through various forms of online marketing, including social media and e-mail marketing, and to let customers route it through workflow systems for corporate authorizations of planned purchases.

In addition, B2B online merchandisers may also need to offer online shopping tools like product configurators, effective site search and navigation designed to help business customers quickly find what they need, and personalization engines to help them buy everything they need to complete a project, Sheldon said. Along with all the content options, he added, B2B e-commerce site managers also need to make it simple for business customers to quickly shift from exploring content to purchasing products.

“The crux of the challenge is you need both e-commerce and web content management,” Sheldon said.

Recent research by Forrester, he added, showed that 53% of B2B companies were planning to invest in web content management systems within the next 18 months, and that 64% plan to invest in an e-commerce technology platform.

The good news, he said, is that in recent years technology vendors have been moving to integrate web content management and e-commerce applications. “In the past, these were separate categories from vendors’ perspectives,” he said. “Now web content management and e-commerce platforms are overlapping.”

As Sheldon has also noted in blog postings, notable combinations of web content management and e-commerce technology platforms include last fall’s acquisition of e-commerce technology platform CommerceServer.net by web content management vendor Sitecore from Smith, a digital development agency. CommerceServer.net was originally developed by Microsoft Corp. as an e-commerce technology platform based on Microsoft’s .Net technology. Other significant developments include Oracle’s 2011 acquisition of Fatwire, a provider of content management technology that now integrates with the Oracle Commerce ATG e-commerce platform.

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