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Forrester Wave on B2C Digital Commerce Platforms: A Critical Examination

Forrester Wave B2C Commerce 2024

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In the ever-evolving landscape of digital commerce, the latest Forrester Wave™ report has stirred considerable debate. Notably absent is a clear leader in the B2C digital commerce space, a surprising shift from previous reports. 

As Meghan Stabler, Senior Vice President at BigCommerce, delves into the intricacies of this report, her analysis reveals a significant disconnect between Forrester's evaluation and the market realities faced by brands and retailers today.

The changing dynamics of digital commerce

Reflecting on the absence of a defined leader in the latest Forrester Wave, Meghan points out a critical oversight. "The concerning part about Forrester's Wave for commerce solutions for B2C is the fact that they're missing where the industry is headed," she asserts. 

The current market is witnessing a growing trend towards a composable tech stack — a modular approach allowing brands to integrate best-in-breed solutions to future-proof their technology infrastructure.

Composable tech stacks are the modern choice.

The evolution from monolithic platforms to composable tech stacks began in Europe and has gained traction across North America. 

This approach allows brands the flexibility to innovate incrementally by integrating specialized solutions, such as advanced search functionalities from partners like Algolia or Bloomreach, or CMS/DXPs like Contentful, ContentStack, or Bloomreach, and so on.

"We're seeing success with brands modernizing their tech stacks, from Diamonds Direct to Muji to MKM Building Supplies and Coldwater Creek," Meghan notes. 

However, Forrester's evaluation criteria appear to penalize platforms like BigCommerce for not having native solutions as robust as those offered by dedicated best-in-breed partners. 

Meghan expresses her frustration: "If Algolia excels in search functionalities, we shouldn't have to match them to score well. We partner with them, and with the solution providers, to ensure that we bring the very best of ecommerce to the brands and retailers that are seeking ultimate business value and growth. BigCommerce’s leadership strength lies in our open commerce philosophy and a strong curated ecosystem of technology partners — providing a core commerce platform with seamless integrations."

Is Forrester's methodology a flawed approach?

One of the key criticisms Meghan raises is the narrow scope of Forrester's reference checks. "Forrester only picks three references from each vendor, which skews the perception," she explains. “Brands currently experiencing success on a platform are unlikely to express intentions to replatform, leading to a misguided conclusion that replatforming is not happening. Replatforming is happening, albeit at a slower pace."

Furthermore, Meghan highlights a fundamental misalignment in Forrester's scoring methodology. "The way the scoring is set up, we have to be as good as specialized providers in every aspect to score high. This contradicts the principle of composability," she argues. 

The expectation for platforms to excel in all areas undermines the value of integrating best-in-breed solutions, which is central to modern digital commerce strategies. The report's scoring system, which differentiates between core and non-core functionalities, is controversial. 

“Forrester’s emphasis on non-core functionalities might disadvantage platforms that excel in core areas but integrate well with third-party solutions,” Meghan argues. “In addition, the analyst’s focus on unusual functionality overlooks practical needs, such as uptime, security, and customer service. These fundamental aspects are crucial for businesses and should be prioritized over less common features.”

The report's rankings are based on a small and subjective sample, which may not accurately reflect the broader market. This limited sample size raises concerns about the reliability and representativeness of the findings in general, especially when compared with other analyst firms, their approach, findings, and reports.

The industry reaction is confusion and criticism

The industry's reaction to the latest Forrester Wave has been one of bewilderment. Influential voices in the commerce community, such as Brian Walker, Rick Watson, and Sergei Ostapenko, have openly questioned the validity of the report. Meghan shares their sentiment, describing herself as "dumbfounded" by the analysts' conclusions. The consensus among experts is that Forrester's attempt to remain neutral has instead created confusion.

Meghan's advice to brands and retailers is clear: "Download the full report, but assess your platform needs with a view for agility, integration capability and growth. Evaluate the platforms based on your unique needs and the flexibility they offer."

She encourages a discerning approach, leveraging reports for insights while critically assessing the fit of each platform within the context of a composable tech stack.

The final word 

BigCommerce remains committed to its open commerce philosophy, emphasizing flexibility and integration. Meghan underscores the company's dedication to empowering brands with the freedom to choose their tech stack components, enabling sustainable growth and innovation. 

"Our role is to provide a robust core commerce platform with proven integrations, allowing brands to innovate at their own pace. We’ve shown this with the significant brands and retailers that use our open commerce platform without trepidation," she concludes.

As the digital commerce landscape continues to evolve, the need for adaptable and future-proof solutions becomes ever more critical. While Forrester's latest report may have sparked debate, it also highlights the importance of a nuanced and informed approach to technology selection in the B2C (and B2B) space. Brands must navigate these waters with a clear understanding of their goals and the capabilities of the platforms they choose to partner with.

For those interested in delving deeper, Meghan invites you to explore the full Forrester Wave™: Commerce Solutions For B2C, Q2 2024 and join the conversation about the future of digital commerce.

Shelley Kilpatrick avatar

Shelley Kilpatrick is an accomplished content marketer who creates compelling, original content designed to educate and empower ecommerce businesses. She is currently Manager of Content Marketing at BigCommerce where she leads a world-class team of content writers and strategists. Outside of work, she loves exploring all things Texas BBQ and craft beer with her husband and two dogs.