The tantalizing growth rate of B2B e-commerce is pretty compelling.
As of 2019, the global B2B eCommerce market was valued at $12.2 trillion. In terms of revenue, that’s 6 times that of the B2C market. While projections of the growth rate vary, they are all in the double digits. By the end of 2020, the value of the B2B e-commerce market could be as high as $15 trillion. This is why many manufacturers and brands are dedicating more resources to e-commerce sites and portals that serve B2B customers.
Currently, Asia Pacific is leading the way with a market share of almost 80%, leaving North America and Europe far behind. Amazon Business and Alibaba are the two most prominent players in the world market.
However, the U.S. B2B e-commerce market through websites and online marketplaces has seen accelerating growth in the last couple of years. Sales transactions in the United States processed through B2B e-commerce sites, log-in portals and online marketplaces grew 11% by the end of 2018, to reach $1.08 trillion, according to data published in the 2019 U.S. B2B Ecommerce Market Report.
Who’s winning so far
The report also cites the companies that have uniquely positioned themselves to play a key role in global B2B e-commerce:
WHOLESALERS & OEMS
ENTERPRISE RESOURCE PLANNING & CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
B2B e-commerce is growing so fast because B2B buying habits reflect a younger generation’s preferences.
In most business organizations, when someone is tasked with finding the best prices or terms on products and placing orders, it’s more and more likely that this person is a Millennial.
A recent study by Heinz and SnapApp found that Millennial B2B buyers are now a big part of the picture:
- 41% of millennials are either making purchasing decisions (13%) or influencing them (28%).
- 38% are tasked with researching purchases.
- 82% are part of the buying committee in some capacity.
Millennials tend to shop differently than their older peers.
Millennial buyers are far more independent than Generation X or baby boomer buyers during their path to purchase: They will conduct extensive research on their own before making any purchasing decisions.
While Generation X and Baby Boomer buyers rely on salespeople for guidance, millennial buyers are more likely to rely on the opinions of peers or outside experts.
You’re probably already selling B2B.
The definition of B2B e-commerce can include a lot of different arrangements you may already have in place:
- Selling wholesale.
- Distribution relationships with large or chain retailers.
- Selling to organizations (schools, businesses, nonprofits).
- Supplier selling to resellers.
Check through your customer list and you may recognize some of these B2B buyers.
Tips on how to market to B2B customers
Set up a B2B portal on your front page.
B2B buyers will be buying in greater volumes, or often they will ask for a custom order. So let them know right away that you’ve got a special storefront just for them, with a link that says something like “Business Customers.”
Don’t stress about price transparency.
If you have low margins and fierce competitors looking to underbid your B2B sale offers, you may not want your wholesale or custom prices available to the public.
Many B2B e-commerce sites at first solved this problem by using the website as a catalogue without prices, and pushing to a “Contact Us” CTA for getting the details. But pricing transparency can be solved easily with technology.
Many B2B e-commerce vendors offer price availability only after a customer creates an account and logs in. In the members-only area, they can view the same catalogue with pricing, showing wholesale or volume discounts.
This enables you to price flexibly for your B2B customers.
Use live chat.
Phone calls for product ordering and questions are so 2010. Almost everyone prefers to do the full research online now. And live chat (vs telephone contact or talking to a chatbot, which is all too easily recognizable) is seen as the preferred way for customers who want to communicate directly with you.
Educate better than your competitors.
With the vast array of information available on the internet, most buyers today don’t trust sales pitches. They just want all the unbiased facts. Sites that take the time to explain why one feature is better than another for some specific use, or give background on how the product was developed, how quality control is implemented, etc., are the ones that build trust and get customers engaged with your solution.
In many cases, B2B buyers are part of a team that’s making the decision. You want the person who’s done the research to sound credible themselves, so be credible with the information you give them. Don’t over-sell.
If you’re not a great writer, hire a great copywriter with some content SEO expertise to write clear, compelling copy that an independent researcher can believe in and trust. The more complete the explanation about your product and its uses (without being “sales-y” in your tone), the more likely they are to stay and buy from you. If they still have questions and have to look elsewhere, you could be sending them into someone else’s sales funnel.
So make sure you answer every question you can think of, and have an FAQ section your customers can easily find.