Experts predict that business-to-business eCommerce sales in the US will exceed $1.2 trillion by the end of 2021. For B2B companies—or B2C companies looking to expand into B2B territory—bringing sales and marketing operations online can lead to lower costs, greater internal efficiency, more customers, increased sales and conversions, stronger data analytics, and many other benefits.
In this article, we discuss the ins and outs of B2B eCommerce, including its various forms, the value it can bring to traditional brick-and-mortar companies, and the qualities of a well-built platform. So if you’re interested in creating a B2B eCommerce website for your business, keep reading!
B2B eCommerce refers to the selling and purchasing of products and services between organizations via an online portal—unlike B2C, which involves businesses selling goods to consumers. The main purpose of a B2B eCommerce website is to simplify and accelerate the sales process—both for the business and its customers—with the goal of bringing in more buyers and increasing revenue.
By digitally transforming the B2B sales process, companies are able to save time and money while also enhancing the customer experience. They can do away with hard materials like paper, file cabinets, printers, and fax machines, as well as automate manual processes like mailing invoices to clients, organizing paperwork, making sales calls, and so on.
With an intuitive online sales portal, buyers can find what they’re looking for, learn about new products and services, make payments, and even schedule recurring orders—all without the help of a salesperson or customer service representative. Any company—whether your B2B or B2C—understands the value of making life easier for their customers, and that’s what building an online sales portal is all about.
Let’s take a look at the different categories of B2B eCommerce, along with a few examples of each:
B2B2C, as the name suggests, is a combination of both B2B and B2C eCommerce models. It involves one business providing products or services to another business, while also selling to that business’ customers at the same time.
Uber Eats is a perfect example. When the company sells its food delivery service to a restaurant, it’s also acquiring all of the customers who will order food from that restaurant through Uber Eats. In this case, the mobile app is the online sales portal—where customers place orders, then Uber Eats and the restaurant split the profits.
Using raw materials, parts, manual labor, and machines, manufacturers produce finished goods, then sell those products to distributors, wholesalers, or retailers. This kind of transaction is becoming increasingly common in the B2B eCommerce arena.
For example, automotive companies like Tesla and Nissan purchase many different items from manufacturers in order to build their cars—like brake pads, windows, upholstery, and so on. These companies can purchase such products from manufacturers via online sales portals, then use them to build ready-for-market automobiles.
Wholesalers buy products in bulk from manufacturers, then sell those items to distributors and retailers for a profit. These transactions are traditionally done over the phone, in person, or by email. However, many manufacturers are now making these purchases via B2B eCommerce platforms, since it’s easier and more efficient.
The distributor’s job is to bring products to the marketplace. Once they’ve purchased the items from the manufacturer or wholesaler—typically through an online sales portal—they can sell those products as inventory to retailers at a marked-up price.
Let’s say you own a retail shop that sells musical instruments. You may purchase guitars from a certain distributor, which purchased them from a particular wholesaler or guitar manufacturer. In this example, each level of the supply chain can have its own B2B eCommerce platform—where products are listed, transactions are made, and logistics are managed.
B2B eCommerce sites, as mentioned, enhance the customer experience and drive efficiency for businesses. And as the number of online shoppers continues to grow each year, your clients won’t just appreciate the ability to do business with your company online, they will come to expect it. Here’s a closer look at the main advantages that come with bringing B2B systems online:
By delivering a faster and easier buying experience, your clients are more likely to recommend your brand to other businesses in their network. Also, with SEO-friendly pages that are rich in keyword-targeted content and free of technical errors or bugs, your B2B site will rank well in search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Increasing site traffic via SEO and other marketing strategies—such as social media and email campaigns—can play a huge role in expanding your customer base and stimulating business growth over time.
In addition to bringing in new customers, B2B portals simply help businesses sell more products. As long as the platform is quick and easy to use, clients won’t hesitate to create new orders, as well as establish recurring orders with automatic payments. Plus, without needing an in-person sales rep, you can implement cross-selling and up-selling features, such as pop-ups that recommend certain products to customers—based on their order history or browsing behavior—before, during, or after they make a purchase.
Another big advantage of online sales portals is that they can provide B2B merchants with advanced data management capabilities. With properly-integrated automation tools and reporting software, stakeholders can gain a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses within their sales and marketing processes. These insights enable teams to work smarter and deliver better results, allowing the company as a whole to scale more quickly.
Before you begin designing or redesigning your company’s online sales portal, it’s important to understand what today’s consumers expect, what potential issues to look out for, and what can help your platform stand out from the competition. These are some of the qualities that all successful B2B eCommerce websites share in common”
If your B2B portal is visually unappealing and difficult to navigate, your clients won’t use it, and your stakeholders will be disappointed with the project’s return on investment (ROI). B2B and B2C customers across all industries expect sites to have attractive page layouts, high-resolution images, helpful and typo-free copy, as well as easy-to-use navigation and search functionality.
By analyzing customer data, sending out surveys, and conducting interviews, you can get a pretty strong sense of what makes your buyers happy, along with what makes them tick—then apply those findings to your overall eCommerce strategy. More specifically, you can design and facilitate unique experiences for different user personas. This is becoming increasingly important for B2B companies aiming to optimize their customer experience. In fact, a recent survey shows that 45% of B2B customers expect a personalized portal experience.
Let’s say your B2B eCommerce site sells furniture to office buildings, and a segment of its users only ever purchase chairs. For these customers, you could personalize their experience around that category, so that they receive new product updates, discounts and promotions, and other content related to chairs. You could also try cross-selling them desks, ottomans, and other furniture that goes with the chairs they’ve recently purchased.
B2B buyers want to be able to pay for products and services in a manner that’s most convenient for them. For some customers, this means paying with a credit card, while others prefer using purchase orders, wire transfers, or even cold hard cash. If your portal only accepts payment methods that don’t align with a clients’ business’ policy, you’ll likely miss that sales opportunity. Simply put, the more payment methods your sales portal accepts, the better.
When a business’ online sales portal is not effectively integrated with its product information management (PIM) or inventory management software (IMS), problems will arise in the user experience (UX).
A customer may try to purchase a product that’s out of stock, even though the site displays it as available. Or, if information around a product is not updated accurately or quickly enough, the customer may be unsatisfied or frustrated once it arrives. Through automation, B2B companies can update product information and inventory in real time on multiple channels, saving significant time and effort, while also ensuring transparency on the buyer side.
Research shows that 51% of B2B customers are more likely to buy goods and services from mobile-friendly platforms. Giving buyers the ability to access sales portals, search for items, and make purchases on their smartphones and tablets helps businesses improve their customer retention, and ultimately sell more products. The rise of mobile commerce is a trend that’s here to stay, so it’s imperative to make sure that every page, feature, and piece of content on your B2B eCommerce site is fully optimized for mobile—without resulting in any speed or performance issues.
Once you’ve decided to bring your company’s B2B sales and marketing online—or revamp your current B2B portal—there are many questions to address. Which eCommerce platform will be used to power the site? Which manual processes will be replaced with automation? What kind of data analytics tools will be implemented? How will this transition be communicated to your current clients? And how will internal roles and responsibilities evolve moving forward?
Undoubtedly, building an online sales portal can be a long and complicated process. But with Codal behind the wheel, your business can deliver a B2B eCommerce experience that exceeds buyer expectations, drives internal efficiencies, increases customer retention, and boosts revenue. Our award-winning UX design and development team uses cutting-edge technologies and data-driven strategies to engineer, test, deploy, and maintain B2B portals that are built to scale.
For example, we recently launched a B2B portal for our client DEMDACO, a wholesaler that focuses on selling home goods, apparel, and artisanal gifts. We also created a B2B platform for Orderve, which helps restaurants and other culinary buyers purchase gourmet products in bulk.
Interested in learning more about B2B websites and how Codal can help grow your eCommerce business? Get in touch with us today!