Supply Market Research Trends for Procurement and Supply Chain: 2021 Update

Our book, Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals: Research, Process, and Resources, was published in 2015. To keep up with the continuously evolving and changing nature of supply market intelligence, we are offering this year’s trends article, in addition to maintaining and updating the selected resources on the ProcureSearch hub.

This year’s trends article starts off with two pieces written by Kelly about the explosion of procurement startups and new research challenges. These pieces are followed up by Jeanette’s listing of resource-related trends and associated examples.

– Kelly Barner and Jeanette Jones


Explosion of Procurement Startups

There has been a groundswell of new procurement solutions over the last couple of years. Some are focused on specific types/sources of data and others are built around one or more procurement process pain points. Regardless of each solution’s value proposition, this trend tells us three things:

  1. There is still plenty of room for new ideas in procurement,
  2. Professionals from other functions are being drawn to procurement’s scope of responsibilities for their ability to impact the business, and
  3. Investors are willing (and in some cases, eager) to back procurement solutions they feel address a new or previously unsolved business problem.

As noted, one of the distinct things about these solutions is that many of them are being founded and/or led by people without traditional procurement backgrounds.

In some cases, this creates a challenge for the founder and early team, because they are not as familiar with the past and existing landscape of procurement solutions. I’ve had many conversations where someone is pitching me on the ‘better mousetrap’ they built, and I must gently inform them that they have reinvented a platform or service that already exists (albeit with some tweaks).

Reinvention isn’t always bad – sometimes procurement is stuck using sub-par tools because no one wants to challenge existing players. But in other cases, it is an indication that the new company has not done their homework, leading to sales, operational, and marketing challenges down the road.

Procurement has a reputation for being insular and disconnected from the larger business. Sometimes we even deserve that reputation. But if a company is going to try to sell a solution to procurement, especially if that solution is for our own use, they need to show us the respect of exploring our current situation before informing us that we are underserved, and they have arrived to save the day. Fortunately, this scenario is the exception. In most cases, new solutions truly represent a step-change in capabilities and user experience.

The greatest advantage offered by new solution creators and providers coming from outside of procurement is that they have a different view of what the business wants and needs. They may define a part of the process we didn’t know needed to be addressed and then invented a better way to do it. Procurement stands to benefit greatly from this perspective.

One of the areas where we have seen real advancement is ‘experience.’ Whether it is the buyer experience or the supplier experience, new solutions address user expectations in a way that procurement has not been able to do thus far. In some cases, they achieve this through an intuitive user interface, and in others by making information previously reserved for procurement’s own use accessible. By evaluating the potential of these solutions, we learn as much about the experiences we provide as we do how those experiences influence how others perceive procurement.

None of the recent innovation would be possible or accessible without the best-in-class ecosystem model that has flourished in procurement. We can now combine process management with data enrichment as seamlessly as if everything were part of one cohesive platform.

The next move is ours – learning as much as we can about each new solution and combining them all together with our vision to create a superior procurement experience for all of our stakeholders.

New Research Challenges

When Jeanette and I wrote Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals, we naturally included a section on quality assurance. Quality has been an important topic in research for a long time, especially given the reliance on open-access Internet resources often used by procurement to gather insight on industries, companies, and products/services.

The events of the last two years have changed nearly everything about our lives and work, a point we won’t belabor here, but they have altered how procurement should look at information quality. There are two key ways that current events should drive a new type of research awareness in procurement.

Start by checking the ’sell by date’ of data. It used to be that data even a year or more old was perfectly acceptable. Now, we need to take a far more nuanced approach to determining the applicability of data.

Here is an excerpt from the book on the timeliness of data as a factor in quality assurance:

“The accuracy of analysis and recommendations is greatly improved when they are based on the most current information available. As a result, the timeliness of information found during market research is an important factor in determining its quality. […] It is procurement’s responsibility to make sure that information is sufficiently current, and that significant, unforeseen changes that take place after the fact are incorporated into analysis and recommendations, even when they are not covered in the most recent reports and articles.” (p. 94)

Naturally, we were making the assumption that information quality declines on a linear basis over time. The only real question to be answered was, ‘Is this data still fresh?’ Now, however, we need to consider things like:

  • Is this data from before the pandemic or during?
  • If released during the pandemic, was the information published during a time of particular uncertainty?
  • How likely is this specific type or source of information to be affected by the pandemic and company/government response?

In some cases, information released at the height of the pandemic may have a shorter shelf life than data published in 2019. Procurement needs to be hyper aware of this dynamic.

Everything – from commodity prices to regulatory requirements – has been in flux over the last two years. Procurement should always double check the publish date on content and look at what it actually says to determine if it captures a snapshot in time or has longer term applicability for their purposes.

Secondly, procurement professionals need to be vigilant in the face of an abundance of news coverage of the supply chain. You might think that more news is good news, but it rarely works that way in practice. In fact, doing research with supply chains occupying a space above the fold every day can make internet-based research harder instead of easier.

Not only is there a lot more content to sort through, but the coverage is also far more ‘emotional’ and much of it is written for the casual reader rather than procurement professionals.

If you are researching in a B2B context, you may be spared some of the information noise, but even then, the hype may still play a role. This is a valid reminder to consider the intended audience for the content you are reading and factor that into your decision about whether it belongs in your research or not.

Returning to a section from the quality assurance chapter of Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals, we cautioned readers against treating information shared as part of a promotional campaign as unvarnished fact. Similar in spirit, my present advice is to ask yourself whether a piece of content was written to inform or to sell newspapers (although the best content should be capable of doing both simultaneously without compromising either).

Here are some read flags that the information you have found may be a part of content that should not be allowed to influence business decision making:

  • It contains explanations about the supply chain that seem overly basic or simplistic for a procurement professional.
  • When you boil the content down to its essential facts (citable statistics and data points) they represent a very small portion of the content and/or are pulled from other sources.
  • There is a call to action near the end that is better directed to an individual consumer than an institutional buyer.

Unless there are obvious quality or ethics issues with the content you are reading, simply being an article intended for the general public does not disqualify it from being used in research. Always remember to triangulate the pieces of information or insights that are surprising, questionable, or particularly important to a set of recommendations. This technique (further detailed in the book) is essential in many cases and can be a life saver in this complicated business and media landscape.


AgData is Hot

In large part, due to advances in technology in IoT, AI, and ML, and a growing desire for sustainable food provisioning, the market for agricultural data is seeing a strong uptick in activity. Global spending on smart, connected agricultural technologies is projected to triple in revenue by 2025 (BI Intelligence Research) and IoT-enabled Agricultural monitoring, the fastest-growing tech segment, is set to reach $4.5 billion by 2025 (PwC). In addition, venture capital investments in the sector nearly doubled in 2020 from 2019.

Sample Activity:

Bushel – Bushel acquired FarmLogs to provide a solution that will enable farmers and grain companies to connect field-level data with the grain through the supply chain for greater efficiencies.

Fastmarkets – Building on their 2020 acquisition of AgriCensus, Fastmarkets acquired The Jacobsen, an agricultural Price Reporting Agency for US agricultural commodity markets. Argus Media and Platts are other firms investing in Agricultural data platform buildouts.

Gro Intelligence – Food, agriculture and climate solutions provider Gro Intelligence raised $85 million in Series B funding. CEO Sara Menker states, “Food security and climate risk represent existential global-sized opportunities for our AI-powered decisions and insights platform.”

ESG and Supply Chain-Related New Product Launches Accelerate

2021 is the year of ESG and it doesn’t look like that sentiment will be changing anytime soon. Four areas of growth and activity to note include: 1) B2B marketplaces that focus on sustainability, 2) investment intelligence firms realizing the need to score ESG risk performance on a company’s supply chain, 3) new product launches or add-ins by incumbents continue, and 4) funding acceleration of startups.

Sample Activity:

CRIF – Credit bureau info provider, CRIF, launched CRIF ESG, a portal for evaluating companies according to ESG criteria. Companies can now document their own ESG initiatives and check the sustainability performance of all their suppliers and business partners.

GoExpedi – MRO digital supply chain and data analytics company, GoExpedi, launched ESG Command. The platform allows users the ability to identify environmentally-friendly products and certified diverse businesses and track products and suppliers that align with their ESG goals.

Higg – Sustainability insights platform Higg introduced a new analytics tool that provides “contextualized visibility” into the environmental performance of suppliers, including which ones are falling behind on issues like GHG emissions and water sourcing.

ICIS – To address the growing demand for recycled plastics globally, particularly for use in food and beverage packaging, ICIS released the ICIS Recycling Supply Tracker – Chemical, providing a comprehensive view of the emerging chemical recycling market.

Responsibly – Danish startup Responsibly raised $2 million (pre-seed) to benchmark supply chains on climate and diversity. A company can check if any level of its supply chain is involved in deforestation, water pollution, as well as human rights violations or gender pay gap issues.

Sourceful – Sustainability-focused supply chain startup, Sourceful, obtained $12.2 million seed funding in September. It provides an all-in-one platform for users to source sustainable products, automate stock replenishments, and offset their carbon footprint.

Sustainalytics – Sustainalytics launched its Corporate Supply Chain ESG Solutions, which enables companies to assess and manage ESG risks within their supply chains. The new solution utilizes the same ESG risk ratings used by asset managers for company-level assessments.

Supplier Intelligence Takes Off

Never has the importance of quality supplier data and intelligence been as evident as in 2021. COVID-19 has shone a very bright light on the critical need for supply chains to be resilient and risk-averse. ProcureTech and incumbent solution providers are ramping up their offerings to include third party risk data, some in the form of marketplaces, which has led to a great deal of activity in the supplier risk and intelligence space.

Sample Activity:

Beroe – Beroe announced its integration with Corcentric in April. The integration of Beroe Know Your Supplier (KYS) with the Corcentric Platform offers Corcentric customers an opportunity to link their supplier profiles with 3rd party risk data.

Coupa – Coupa announced the launch of its Coupa App Marketplace, and with its list of data partners in the Marketplace that provide intelligence offerings. Providers include Costdrivers, Craft, IntegrityNext, EcoVadis, and SecurityScorecard, to name a few.

Globality – Services marketplace provider Globality raised a $138 million Series E funding and is now estimated to be worth about $800 million.

Google Cloud and Craft – Google Cloud launched a new partnership with Craft to help supply chain professionals uncover supplier intelligence using its Supply Chain Twin.

Interos – New strategic partners Accenture (through Accenture Ventures’ Project Spotlight program), and Coupa Ventures joined the Interos $100 million Series-C funding round in December.

Oracle – Oracle introduced several significant updates to Oracle Procurement, including DataFox Supplier Intelligence, which provides supplier verification data during onboarding and real-time supplier health alerts, as well as risk indicator scores.

RapidRatings – RapidRatings and Trust Your Supplier announced an integration that provides a seamless port into RR’s FHR Network. In March, Suplari integrated RapidRating’s Financial Health Ratings into their Spend Intelligence Cloud.

scoutbee – scoutbee won the DPW Demo 2021 award in the Supplier Value category. Judges were impressed with scoutbee’s “technological capability and the vast potential of its supplier insights – derived from up-to-date verified market data.”

TealBook – Supplier Intelligence provider TealBook had a busy year. For example, they announced a partnership with GEP to incorporate their data to support GEP’s supplier intelligence, supplier discovery and vendor certificate data. In January, Jaggaer and TealKook announced a partnership to provide enriched supplier data for Jaggaer customers through access to TealBook’s Supplier Intelligence Platform. Also, TealBook announced it raised $14.4 million in a funding round led by RTP Global.

The Smart Cube – The Smart Cube announced a major upgrade to its Supplier Risk Intelligence offering, which now covers risk factors such as anti-bribery/corruption, supplier diversity, labor health and safety, diversity and inclusion, environmental sustainability, and more.

B2B Vertical Marketplace Growth Continues

B2B marketplaces are growing in popularity because of ease of use, large selection of on-target suppliers/customers, transparency of data, and the convenience of conducting all aspects of the purchasing process in one place. According to Digital Commerce 360, “40% of business buyers now purchase at least 50% of their organization’s goods and services on marketplaces, and 67.1% of buyers are purchasing “somewhat more” to “significantly more” products on commercial and vertical industry marketplace platforms.”

Investors are noticing and jumping in. Marketplaces for purchasing materials provide a good example of B2B vertical marketplace attractiveness:

Cirplus – This German startup has developed a digital marketplace for plastic waste pickup and reprocessing and nearly $4 million has been invested so far, with the most recent coming on the third anniversary of Cirplus’ launch.

Felux – Felux, a steel and industrial marketplace provider, raised $5.1 million in seed funding. The platform allows buyers and suppliers to connect directly with customers and provides technology that manages sourcing and procurement, logistics, financing, and payments.

Knowde – Knowde, a marketplace for ingredients, polymers and chemistry, announced it had raised $72 million in Series B financing. In September, Knowde launched the plastics for packaging segment of its global platform.

Reibus – This independent metals marketplace announced that it raised $75 million in Series B funding. Reibus saw its revenue increase more than 7 times over 2020.

ShelfLife – Raw materials marketplace provider, ShelfLife, received $3 million in Series Seed funding. ShelfLife connects food and beverage brands with wholesale suppliers, allowing brands to discover, manage, and order from their suppliers all in one place.

Yesler – Yesler, raised $3.3 million to continue building out its marketplace for buying and selling lumber and other building materials. The software has three components—Yesler Analytics, Buyer’s Network and Marketplace.

Supply Chain Measurement and Tracking Launches Brought on by COVID-19

The supply chain challenges of 2021 have prompted providers to launch tools and software that not only measure what is being experienced, but also track and monitor developments as they are happening.

Sample Activity:

Achilles Information – Supply chain risk and performance management provider, Achilles, launched the Achilles Supply Chain Risk Index (ASCRI), a time series index measuring quarterly changes in supply chain risk.

RSM – The RSM US Supply Chain Index, launched in November, provides a near real-time and forward look at the elements of transportation, manufacturing, sales and labor that underscore the manufacturing and service sectors.

Wells Fargo – Wells Fargo announced in July that it has built its own tool, The Pressure Gauge, to answer the question, When will supply chain pressures begin to ease?

The White House – The White House, in November, started publishing a twice monthly dashboard of metrics to track progress at both the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and in the economy at large.

World Bank and IHS Markit – In the spring, the new global Container Port Performance Index (CPPI) was launched, which identifies gaps and opportunities for improvement for stakeholders such as shipping lines and national governments.

ProcureSearch: What’s New

The Supplier Discovery and Supplier Risk categories have been combined to form one category: Supplier Intelligence and Risk. There is now a link that directs readers to the Landscape Market Maps section, where there is a separate category for ProcureTech/Supply Chain and currently includes 10+ maps. These maps allow for comprehensive views of who is competing in the supplier intelligence, sourcing, and risk data startup space and how they are positioned within the ProcureTech landscape space overall.

Links to Landscape Market Maps in various Direct (Agriculture), and Indirect (Contingent Labor, Marketing, IT, Travel/Meetings, and Logistics) categories have also been added. For example, for Agriculture, a link is provided on that page to the Landscape Market Maps section, where there is a separate category for AgTech.

Image by Rahul Bhattacharya from Pixabay


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