Must See Forrester Webcast: The End of Channel Conflict


  1. Sellers will embrace digital product management — or fall behind. A new role will emerge to master new direct channels, including marketplaces. This role will be a hybrid of retail merchandiser, B2B sales rep, and consumer packaged goods (CPG) captain. Think of it as a specialized type of new-age digital product manager. This role will be responsible for understanding how each channel uniquely serves the buyers who use it and will monitor customers’ channel-switching preferences.  Digital agencies help accelerate these efforts via new digital channel practices and innovation centers that help captains test new offerings and experiences unique to direct channels.
  1. Manufacturers will double down on signing up new nontransactional partners. With the shift to online selling, more manufacturers will engage affinity- and affiliate-type partners that are non transactional but are influential in the early digital buying journey. The next year will see a spike in recruitment, onboarding, and new co-marketing deals with these partners, along with investments in order management systems to plug into ecosystems. Some manufacturers will outsource their marketing and sales to these digital experts or even private equity firms that seek to create a new breed of marketplaces/distributors and take stewardship over niche or subindustry segments more effectively than Amazon or Alibaba can.
  1. Megavendors will pivot away from acquired legacy platforms toward partnerships. The cost to refactor old platforms continues to mount, while the talent to do so exits for competitors in more-exciting stages of growth. Partnerships and behind-the-scenes cloud OEM activity will pick up pace, resulting in vertical solutions. Many big eCommerce shops will tell you, “You can’t get there from here” when describing the effort to modernize an on-premises eCommerce platform for cloud. Investor pressure to grow revenue and margins leaves little opportunity for organic innovation at this point, boosting corporate investments in software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups.
  1. Headless commerce will become the default. Loose coupling and interoperability will allow vendors to major in certain functional areas while delivering more value and innovation than a vertically integrated commerce suite.  Agencies and systems integrators will provide pre-integrated bundles of headless components. Less mature companies will need to rely on their agency to decide when they need headless content or commerce (e.g., dynamic front ends with bespoke user experiences) versus an all-in-one bundled suite (e.g., a good enough front end with prebuilt workflows).
  1. The rise of marketplaces will drive demand for tools and talent. Marketplaces will gain momentum across multiple tech and industrial categories — boosted by adoption of eProcurement and overall B2B eCommerce sales. Buyers will begin to prefer marketplace buying for a wide range of indirect goods and MRO items from SaaS tools for business users, to networking equipment, to scientific supplies. (see endnote 12) Modern buyers will make price transparency/low cost a must-have versus a nice-to-have. This will create a spike in demand for “builders” as well — both tools and talent — who can help to stand up the hundreds of B2B marketplaces that vendors, distributors, retailers, and associations will launch in the next year.

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