B2B eCommerce is a lesser-known facet on online retailer, yet it can be a substantial part of a strong online business. Since direct consumer sales are not involved, this is now a very well-known facet of eCommerce.

What is a B2B eCommerce Model?

Essentially, B2B eCommerce - or business to business eCommerce - involves buying and selling between two businesses, rather than between consumers and business. To understand this more clearly, we’ll break it down with a simple example. If you’re a business startup and you sell goods to an end user, then this is an example of business to consumer retail. However, if you’re buying from a wholesaler or manufacturer for your businesses, than this is a commercial transaction known as business to business retail.

It’s estimated that B2B eCommerce will generate USD1.2 trillion in revenues by 2012. Additionally, 85 percent of B2B businesses that are currently online plan to go online over the next two years, and 71 percent of these businesses think that an easy-to-use website will enhance their sales prospects.

With these figures in mind, it’s easy to understand what influences B2B eCommerce and what strategies are useful for generating strong B2B sales online. In this post, our aim is to make it easier for you to understand how to create a good B2B eCommerce strategy and what B2B eCommerce platforms can help you business grow.

What are the characteristics of B2B eCommerce?

B2B eCommerce underpins industrial trade as it involves manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers from every industry. Many big names like Apple, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Ford, General Motors, and US Foods are all examples of successful B2B businesses.

But, B2B eCommerce strategies are equally beneficial for small businesses, and using platforms and solutions that assist with these can help businesses grow. B2B wholesale platforms are a good resource for small businesses to find affordable wholesalers and manufacturers. Economics of scales mean that the larger your orders are, the cheaper your rates will be.

The next question is how you can benefit from this if you’re a service provider and aren’t looking for a manufacturer or wholesaler. The simple answer is that you’ll be buying the services you offer from another business, making it a B2B transaction. For example, if you provide a website hosting service, then you might want to buy server space from a website hosting wholesaler.

The most common kind of online transaction these days is between businesses and B2B eCommerce solutions providers. No matter how big or small you are, all businesses need these solutions to facilitate different processes like payment security and management, shipping solutions, and website support.

Selling to businesses is a little different from selling directly to consumers. For example, your customer support needs to be more technical and your marketing and advertising needs to be more business orientated. These days, even social media marketing is targeted towards driving B2B eCommerce rather than B2C business.

B2B eCommerce Strategies

There are lots of things that can affect B2B eCommerce sales and if you want to generate a high sales volume, you’ll need to adopt certain strategies. 90 percent of B2B businesses say their decisions are influenced by the content that is available online, and some 84 percent of CEOS make purchases through social media. In addition, 80 percent of high-level business managers get their information from online articles and blog posts rather than marketing campaigns or advertisements. If you want to succeed, you’ll need to cater to this. Here are a few ideas.  

1. Simplify the buying process for your customers

Your first priority should be to create a user-friendly website. Knowing your customers is also important, but if your website is hard to navigate than this won’t help much. In B2C marketing, consumers and end users get excited if they feel that a business really knows them and makes them feel special. But, in B2B transactions, the customer is more concerned with saving time, effort, and money and getting the right product. For this reason, a strong website is the most important B2B eCommerce strategy. When it comes to a B2B eCommerce platform or B2B online business, buyers are looking for a no-nonsense website that offers a simple buying and shipping process.

2. Use content as a marketing tool

A recent survey showed that blogging is the preferred marketing strategy for 50 percent of companies. Email newsletters and social media content also rate as good B2B marketing options. Most decision makers have already done their research before approaching a company for business, so you won’t need to advertise to them the same way you would to a consumer.

Unique content with detailed product information is a must for your website. This is because 59 percent of B2B eCommerce buyers will do research online before approaching the seller. They won’t call your customer service to get information. This is why your online content should have all the required information and answer any questions a potential B2B customer may have. Buyers will be looking for information that most consumers won’t consider that important, so you’ll want to include technical product details as well.

3. Use social media

Social media plays a huge role in B2B eCommerce. Many buyers use Instagram for purchases these days. B2B buyers now trust social media more than conventional advertising. A complete background check is done through social media so that buyers have a good idea about the company, its products, and its reputation. Because of this, a good B2B eCommerce strategy will invest in creating an effective social media strategy. Make sure your business is represented on every pertinent social media platform and that you regularly engage with your followers.

4. Focus on SEO as a B2B eCommerce strategy

Getting your message through to your customers is crucial, no matter what business model you’re using. The best investment you can make is in search engine optimization (SEO). 62 percent of buyers say that the first thing they do when researching a purchase is to search the internet. Of course, this means that the recommendations and links displayed on the first page of search results has a very strong effect on the purchasing decision.

Most customers don’t even go beyond the first half of the first page of search results. That’s why SEO is a crucial part of your website. In order to generate more sales, you’ll want to make sure that your SEO strategy is strong enough to get your website on the first page of search results.

If you’re using a B2B eCommerce platform, they’ll usually have a good SEO mechanism. But, it’s important that you choose a package that facilitates SEO. Sit down with the platform’s customer representative and discuss in detail how their particular service can enhance the SEO of your website. Don’t forget that paid SEO positions are available too, and you should budget for this in your SEO strategy.

5. Help your buyer by setting up bulk ordering

The process of buying from your website should not just be easy. It should also meet your customers’ demands. If you’re a wholesale seller and your item is cheap - like paper clips - you could get an order for thousands of dollars from just one customer. Make it possible for the customer to order as much as they want and let them decide how they want it.

Other facilities like delivery and shipping are also important. If your customer wants to buy from your website and get their products delivered to a local distribution center or an office branch, you need to offer them this service or a similar solution. Your main aim should be to build a long-term business relationship with each of your customers and offering such services can help with this.

6. Use customer testimonials as a guide for new customers

Good ratings and reviews are a very powerful marketing tool. New customers are more inclined to trust verified reviews from previous customers than any other marketing campaign. So take advantage of this and display your best ratings and testimonials on your website to create trust with potential customers.

It’s very common for online buyers to read product reviews on the internet before they make a purchase. This can be used to your benefit to create trust and confidence in new customers. If possible, your testimonials should be from your most satisfied, oldest, or frequently returning customers.

7. Identify your customers and their buying habits

It’s important that you study your customers in detail. Observe how they shop and what they want. For example, if most of your customers purchase in certain amounts, then you could make a starter buying package with that number of products to facilitate sales with new customers.

For example, if most of your customers buy 1,000 pieces from you, you could offer this as a package. And, to encourage larger orders, you could create another package of 1,500 items at a discounted rate. Not only are you making it easier for customers to buy the first package, but you’re also encouraging them to spend more by getting more items at a discounted rate.

8. Meet and greet your customer

Advertising and marketing are still required, New customers want to see and feel the product before they buy it, so don’t lose the opportunity to interact with your customers face to face. Attend industrial exhibitions, trade shows, and conferences for better market outreach. These expos are a great way to reach potential customers and meet more people in your industry. Building your network is also an important part of B2B eCommerce strategies, so these meetings are beneficial for both buyers and sellers.

9. Good customer service and good inventory management is a must

Regardless of whether you use a B2C or B2B business model, your inventory management should be impeccable. To facilitate this, use B2B eCommerce solutions to automate and manage your inventory, and connect this with order management and customer service.

Customers often get irritated if they can’t track their shipments and there’s no response to online queries. Being quick to respond with detailed information will go a long way to soothing any ruffled feathers. For a new customer, talking them through the sales and delivery process is a good way to keep them satisfied and build a good working relationship. It’s important to have well-trained customer service representatives who not only help customers get the answers they need, but placate them and keep them engaged.

What is the Best B2B eCommerce Platform?

There are many powerful business platforms out there and some of them are very popular B2B wholesale platforms. Many of these platforms already have integrated B2B eCommerce solutions like order placement, inventory management, and shipping solutions. The most popular platforms have gained their status thanks to the services they offer and how easy they are to use. For example, Amazon is very popular in America, but Alibaba is more popular in Asia; this is because both platforms offer services and useability that appeals more to their respective markets.

These are some of the best B2B eCommerce platforms around today:

• Shopify B2B
• Magento B2b
• Big Commerce
• Netsuite
• Go e-cart
• Insite commerce
• Open Cart B2b Marketplace
• Contalog
• 3D Cart
• Amazon Business
• Alibaba.com
• eBay Business Supply

B2B eCommerce: Use the Right Strategies and Platforms to Succeed

B2B eCommerce is responsible for a huge chunk of eCommerce sales generated around the world. Although it’s easy to overlook, it’s obvious that this plays a major role for small and large businesses. But like anything else, they keys to success are proper management and effective strategies.

Easyship can be your partner in all your business ventures, no matter which business model you use. We have a range of B2B eCommerce solutions for shipping, and partnering with us can take the headache out of catering to this niche in your business. Sign up for a free account today to see all our services.