Where’s the $1 trillion action in e-commerce? Business to business 


The underlying motivation for SAP’s $8.3 billion buyout late last year of Concur, the venerable online expense management system, just became a lot clearer. Brace for an explosion in online selling between businesses, motivated largely by operational efficiencies.

This year, $780 billion of all business-to-business (B2B) tractions—think trade between retailers and wholesalers, or professional services such as travel management—will flow through digital channels, according to a new forecast by Forrester Research. That’s about 9.3% of the anticipated total.

Five years from now, the share will be more than 12%, or $1.1 trillion annually.

Two industries will experience far higher penetration than that average by 2020: drugs and “druggist sundries,” and electrical and electronic goods will see 20% of all B2B sales go digital, Forrester predicts. Other sectors won’t hit that mark, but the electronic portion will grow fast—including automotive parts, machinery, and grocery goods.

“B2B buyers are now…

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