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Quick Takes on the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce

Andrej_Maihorn_Headshot_v2.jpg Andrej Maihorn

After an eight-month process that included briefing calls, detailed RFIs, hours of demo preparation and delivery, and fact checking, the 2019 Gartner Digital Commerce Magic Quadrant has finally published.  Throughout the process, Gartner leaves no stone unturned in their quest to help businesses sniff out the marketing BS and focus on what’s real.  The result is an analysis of relevant digital commerce players businesses can use to begin their vendor evaluation process or help validate what they learned through their own due diligence and vendor evaluations. 

2019’s report was particularly interesting for a few reasons.  First, we see a significant market consolidation among platform vendors; second, it is clear Gartner’s methodology favors suite vendors which does not align with the digital commerce ecosystem strategies of many organizations; and third, innovation is more than a buzz word. 

Market Consolidation
The number of vendors included in the report is nearly half what it was just a couple of years ago.  The digital commerce platform market is consolidating rapidly, driven by acquisitions, vendors exiting the business on their own, or vendors losing market momentum and unable to meet Gartner’s inclusion criteria.  The result is fewer viable digital commerce platform options for mid-market and enterprise companies.  Beyond the leaders, who are all mega portfolio vendors (more on this later), organizations are left to choose from vendors rated as Niche players or Visionaries.  Niche players tend to be geography specific, targeted at unique use cases or best suited for smaller organizations.  They may be perfectly suitable options depending on an organization’s individual requirements, but most have some nuanced limitation in functionality or the proven ability to scale that make them unsuitable for enterprise organizations. 

It’s a Suite World
Gartner’s scoring methodology inherently favors large software companies with global reach and broad suites of digital experience applications.  A fact that is born out in this year’s results with the four “leaders” being Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, and SAP.  Unlike Forrester and Paradigm B2B who evaluate specific digital commerce applications or individual platform capabilities, Gartner evaluates the entire company, elevating mega software companies with global operations, large development teams, and multiple digital commerce platforms in their portfolio.

While there is nothing wrong with Gartner’s approach, organizations need to understand the criteria used and determine whether it aligns with their own priorities and needs.  Digital business is becoming much more nuanced, as evidenced by the market demanding well designed APIs and service-based architectures. The result is markets are often looking to assemble a purpose selected digital experience and commerce stack as opposed to the all-in-one suite offerings prevalent in this report.

Innovation is More Than a Buzz Word 
In the digital commerce world, organizations and vendors alike have been talking about innovation for some time.  We look to companies like Netflix, Airbnb, Uber and others as the gold standard for continuous innovation of the customer experience.  However, when it comes to selecting digital commerce platforms, organizations have historically prioritized platform features and functions, and total cost of ownership as their top selection criteria.  Now, we’re seeing these priorities shift.

Technological innovation is taking over as a top priority consideration, outranking total cost of ownership (TCO) as the number two consideration for selecting a digital commerce platform.

The reality is TCO will always be a key consideration for organizations and is probably still at or near the top.  This change, as validated within the report, simply reflects the fact that organizations now understand the impact that innovation and the ability to quickly adapt as customer preferences change and new touchpoints emerge has on TCO. It goes without saying the more channels, touchpoints and experiences your digital commerce platform supports the better TCO it will deliver to the business.  TCO for that all-in-one platform built for web and mobile browsing will start to look pretty bad when organizations have to build or buy other solutions to support voice commerce, chatbots or connected devices.  Not to mention the fragmented customer experience and myriad of other problems induced by such a siloed channel strategy.

Analyst firms like Gartner spend hundreds of hours compiling data, combing through detailed vendor RFI responses, viewing demos and conducting interviews to create these reports.  It would cost any single business tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to commission this amount of work.  Fortunately, you can access it for free, aside from having to provide your contact information.  I encourage you to read the full report, but as with any study take the time to understand the methodology, the strengths and cautions for each vendor, and what the future holds for businesses who aren’t afraid to innovate and differentiate on the digital experience playing field.  

For your free copy of the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce click here.