In 2020, annual business-to-business purchases exceeded USD$100TR1. Of this, only USD$12TR were online transactions2, but change is coming – and fast.
Traditional methods of B2B operations – from sales to customer interactions; from fulfilment to order delivery – are becoming digitalised, driven by the pandemic and a new influx of millennials in decision-making roles, who are seeking business interactions more aligned with their B2C experiences. In fact, 64% of B2B buyers now place more importance on experience than price, whilst 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a better experience3. So, can you really afford to not invest in your e-commerce channels?
The advancement of B2B e-commerce software means it has never been easier to build a high quality, user-friendly platform. You can offer your website in multiple languages and include a powerful search engine, detailed product descriptions, interactive support, how-to videos and multiple payment options. In fact, all the features customers have come to expect from a B2C website. This will save your business time and money, whilst boosting sales.
Although they're not a replacement to your e-commerce website, B2B marketplaces could be worth considering as a useful addition to your sales channels.
One of the many digital B2B sales channels opening up to your business is the B2B marketplace. This type of e-commerce platform brings together corporate sellers and buyers. Vendors can be wholesalers, manufacturers, suppliers and brands who sell finished and semi-finished products, parts, raw materials and services to other businesses – in volume. This means the selling dynamics of the B2B marketplace are different to B2C:
For suppliers, B2B marketplaces can seem appealing. SMEs with limited marketing budgets are given access to a wide customer base and increased bulk sales. For customers, there’s the convenience of not having to vet and manage a multitude of suppliers.
Yet, there are also challenges. B2B transactions tend to involve higher average order values. As a result, the stakes are much higher – a single bad transaction can reflect poorly on the supplier. B2B businesses looking to integrate marketplaces into their e-commerce strategy will need to carefully weigh up the benefits versus the risks involved. You may prefer to invest your time and money into your own e-commerce website – from digitalising your full product catalogue to integrating a powerful search engine that will help customers have a better path to purchase.
Firstly, there are Horizontal Marketplaces; ‘generalists’ offering a wide inventory of products to a broad range of sectors. This is where you will find the likes of Alibaba.com, Flipkart.com or EC21.com.
Then, there are the Vertical Marketplaces (Vortals). These are specialist-focused and tend to deal in one type of product or industry. In the automotive industry, for example, buyers and sellers meet at sites such as Car-Part.com or PartsMarket.com. In machinery, that could be Klarx.com. In tools, Tolexo.com.
B2B marketplaces can also differentiate along geographical lines. The big, global players transact worldwide (although they may tend to favor manufacturers from specific markets) such as GlobalSources.com and AmazonBusiness.com. Local B2B marketplaces tend to connect buyers and sellers within a specific country or region such as Railali.com in Indonesia and ManoMano.com in Europe.
Obviously, every marketplace should give you the opportunity to grow both bulk sales and your network. For SMEs on a limited budget, it should also allow you to reduce the amount of time and money spent updating catalogues or monetising marketing channels. It’s also important that your marketplace should allow you to connect and converse with buyers directly – owning business relationships – and utilise automated solutions that save time spent gathering leads and orders by email or phone.
Of course, B2B marketplaces won't be right for every business, and that's where investment in your own e-commerce website is a must. If you consider that 38% of B2B customers said the ability to place orders via an online sales portal is their top criterion when choosing a new supplier4, can you really afford to not have one?
Whether you already have an e-commerce website that needs an upgrade, or you're starting from scratch, our exclusive white paper, The Ultimate B2B E-commerce Guide, will help your business navigate the B2B digital revolution and optimise every new sales opportunity. Download it today.