Today I’d like to share my Top 12 B2B e-commerce predictions for 2012. The predictions are based upon research, news, trends, industry discourse and customer discussions. The predictions span different industry verticals, geographic regions and technology sectors.

  1.  Cloud-Based Integration Platforms Come of Age

The market is at the right inflection point to massively adopt cloud-based integration. Much like SalesForce.com has built a platform for cloud-based applications in the CRM area, cloud-based integration platforms will emerge to support information exchanges between corporate ERP systems.

  1.  ERP and SaaS Providers Seek Partners for Cloud Integration

Traditionally, developers of ERP and supply chain applications have left the connectivity and integration of business partners to the customer’s IT department. In 2012 we will see more ERP and supply chain vendors leveraging cloud-based integration platforms to accelerate implementation.

  1.  Purchase Orders become Cross-Channel in Retail

As mobile goes mainstream and online sales reach double-digit percentages in many categories, retailers are re-engineering their supply chains to support these fast growing channels. In 2012, retail industry associations will lead efforts to enhance the standard B2B e-commerce transactions to better accommodate the cross-channel model.

  1.  Next Best Offer Forces Marketing to Align with Supply Chain

Next Best Offer (NBO) is the analysis that determines, often within 200 milliseconds, which marketing offer is most likely to entice customers. To deliver on NBO, the entire retail supply chain will need to exchange price and promotions information in real time.

  1.  Consolidation Wave Hits e-Invoicing

More than 550 vendors provide e-invoicing services in Europe alone, many of which are small providers with less than $50 million in annual revenues. In 2012, we will see a continuation in the consolidation of the e-invoicing sector that started in 2011 when SAP acquired Crossgate and Ariba acquired b-process.

  1.  Austerity Drives Public Sector e-Invoicing Adoption

Within Europe and the United States, austerity and growth are the government watchwords of today. By implementing e-invoicing, public sector authorities can decrease back-office expenses. Already, the governments of Norway, Denmark, Spain and Greece have announced e-invoicing programs. More will follow in 2012.

  1.  Bank Payment Obligation Booms in Emerging Markets

Suppliers in emerging markets are beginning to push back on open account terms due to the credit risk imposed on them. Paper-based letters of credit (L/C) are not an attractive alternative due to the costs. The Bank Payment Obligation (BPO) functionality of SWIFT’s Trade Services Utility (TSU) may be the answer.

  1.  Supplier Risk Management

At least three Global 1000 brands will suffer a public relations disaster in 2012 for issues related to environmental impact, product quality and human rights in their supply chains. As a result, risk management in their supplier community will become a paramount concern in 2012.

  1.  Freemium Models Gain Traction in B2B

In a freemium model the majority of users are subsidised by a small group of customers who pay for access to enhanced features. Examples of freemium models already exist in the EDI network and e-invoicing sectors. In 2012, we will see a freemium-style file sharing service enter B2B.

  1.  OFTP 2.0 Adoption Levels to Triple

OFTP2 has seen widespread adoption by the major car manufacturers and tier 1 suppliers in Europe. Expect the use of OFTP2 to expand beyond Europe in 2012. The increasing requirement to exchange engineering and design files has led automakers to find a reliable, secure and fast way to exchange this big data.

  1.  The End of Managed File Transfer

Historically, technical and commercial limitations drove a distinction between moving small and large, structured and unstructured files between companies. As the availability of network bandwidth, processing power and storage capacity, increase this unnecessary division of technologies will dissolve. The category of MFT will become a feature of broader integration suites.

  1.  The Digital Economy Grows

As technologies such as RFID, sensors, video cameras and GPS devices, more and more information will be exchanged via machines creating fully digital business processes. Middleware and integration technologies will form a critical underpinning of this second (or digital) economy as they do in the physical world today.