B2B e-commerce won't become a reality unless manufacturers and retailers learn to trust each other enough to share information, according to a new "e-readiness study" conducted by Roland Berger & Partner for the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA).

Among other factors, the study cites the lack of trading partner collaboration, data synchronization and operational experience as impediments to e-commerce.

Comprised of interviews with more than 200 executives from retailer, wholesaler, broker and manufacturer organizations, the study examined the top B2B business priorities for retailers and manufacturers, how they plan to use internet exchanges and where opportunities exist for the manufacturers and retailers to work together.

Both manufacturers and retailers agreed there is "far too little sharing of information" about their B2B e-commerce strategies and initiatives.

"Clearly there are areas in which manufacturers and distributors can benefit from increased sharing of information and better collaboration," said GMA Executive Vice President Mark Baum. "This study provides a strong starting point in understanding some of the current barriers to B2B e-commerce."

Both retailers and manufacturers rated cost, order and payment management as high priorities. Collaborative business processes -- forecasting replenishment, category management and promotion management -- rated highly, but many of these activities remain in the "planning" stages.

The study confirmed that many companies have spent significant time and money implementing proprietary data exchange and process automation systems and are unlikely to abandon these investments in the short-term. About half of retailers indicated they intend to electronically connect with suppliers through the public B2B Internet exchanges and one-to-one solutions. Some 10 percent of retailers indicated they would consider using another consortium-led Internet exchange.

More than two-thirds of manufacturers indicated they would use public B2B Internet exchanges, with Transora considered the primary exchange for them. However, 63 percent of companies said they would use multiple exchanges to connect with retailers.

Among other highlights in the study:

  • Retailers almost universally agreed that item management was the most important business process to be addressed by B2B e-commerce. It is also considered a crucial first step for many collaborative initiatives, but most companies have data inconsistencies or irregularities that will create inaccuracies and frustration in a real time, automated, collaborative environment.
  • Manufacturers have allocated funds toward developing e-commerce capabilities. Senior management is typically involved.
The B2B E-Readiness Report is now available atwww.gmabrands.com. To receive a hardcopy of the report, please contact Melissa Porter at 202-337-9400.