B2B e-Commerce: definition, strategies and trends
Thinking about engaging in B2B e-commerce may be the ideal solution for those looking for a business to start in the e-commerce arena, but one that is significantly less inflated than classic online stores, which mostly sell products or services to consumers (B2C).
“B2B e-commerce” refers to the process of selling products, services, but also information online between businesses, either through their own e-commerce, or by offering goods or items by placing them within specialized sites.
But let’s go in order, first defining what the B2B model of e-commerce is and what it means, and then seeing in practice how a small or medium-sized entrepreneur can start this particular but profitable type of digital commerce.
What is the B2B e-commerce model
Opening a B2B e-commerce means starting a business to sell products or services specifically to other companies.
Those who buy are thus not customers understood as end consumers, but a wide range of parties including, for example:
- wholesale traders
- companies in every sector
If the goal is to open a B2B e-commerce business, the steps to be planned should definitely involve the creation of a website, of avisual identity and one communication style innovative and designed specifically for a “business” consumer, who, as can be guessed, has quite different needs and requirements than a classic end consumer.
Types of B2B e-commerce
Starting a business-to-business e-commerce involves, first, defining how to offer a wide range of goods and services to businesses. Much depends on the nature of the products or services themselves, which may be:
- Industrial Components
- Office Supplies
- Raw materials
- IT Services
- Maintenance services
- And so on
These products can be sold by exploiting various channels. You can opt for:
- Using industry platforms: In this case you make use of an existing platform, create your own account, upload your products and advertise them, taking advantage of social networks and search engines.
- B2B Social Selling: Alternatively, you can consider offering services or products directly by leveraging online platforms, taking care to select the platforms most frequented by business customers (LinkedIn, Amazon Business, eBay for Business).
- Open your own B2B e-commerce: by choice or as a complement, you can opt to open your own e-commerce platform. By doing so, you will have full control of your business, will not need to rely on other portals, and will benefit from greater decision-making freedom.
Why start a B2B e-commerce
The question you might be asking yourself now is: why start a B2B e-commerce and incur the expense of setting up and running an online store, when you could, at a reduced cost, offer your services or products to companies by leveraging social selling or other well-known existing platforms?
Clearly, there is no universally correct answer. However, running your own e-commerce business gives your business unparalleled professionalism and confidence according to the consumer.
In addition, the tools and strategies you can implement by having an e-commerce are far better than those offered by third-party platforms, and this can ensure that you reach a wider customer base in terms of numbers, but also in terms of the propensity to purchase itself. Let’s look in detail at what benefits starting a B2B e-commerce provides you today:
- Total control of the business: openingyour B2B e-commerce allows you to manage every aspect. You decide how to present the products and can customize the design to your liking. You can also decide with wide freedom on communication strategies and work best on your brand identity.
- Better customer relationships: the relationship established with customers should not be underestimated. By managing everything from your platform, you find it easier to build strong relationships, gather feedback, and establish collaborations and partnerships.
- Higher profit margins: evenif you have to bear an initial investment, the profit margins will be higher. In fact, you have no fees to pay to the platform you use, or any subscriptions for additional services.
- Perfect data analysis: Last but not least, running your own ecommerce business means having access to all the data you want to monitor and analyze. You can with ease establish metrics and analyze any data, and as a result easily make better decisions for your business development. As confirmed in a study in the Journal of Financial Services Marketing, data analytics is critical in e-commerce today and can greatly aid the achievement of success.
How to start a B2B e-commerce platform
The steps to start a B2B e-commerce are several. Before we begin, however, some considerations should be made.
In case you are already running a business that provides products or services to other companies, the e-commerce platform will be easier to develop. This is because you already have a market and, as a result, you already have customers, in addition to the fact that your brand already tends to be well-known. This is a significant advantage, considering that what you are about to start is a new channel for increasing sales and acquiring new customers.
On the other hand, if you wish to start a business from scratch, then it is absolutely necessary even more to focus on processes such as: market analysis, product identification, and only then to think about the actual development of the platform.
In any case, let’s look at some steps you absolutely must consider to start your business while limiting your business risk as much as possible:
- Draft a business plan: draft or commission a business plan. This document will provide you with an overview of all the costs you will have to incur to start e-commerce, as well as the possible revenues you can likely expect to generate in the short, medium and long term.
- Analyze the competition: study how your competitors are operating. Review their e-commerce and try to identify critical issues on their sites. Creating a more functional, well-kept and user-friendly e-commerce can make all the difference.
- Rely on experts in the field: the market analysis, the business plan, possibly even a SWOT analysis, and the stages of developing the platform and a communication and marketing plan are all very delicate steps. Relying on specialized figures is essential to have a well-structured platform and team that can turn your new business into a source of income in the shortest possible time.
- Focus on platform development: the e-commerce platform should be as functional as possible. Consider that in the B2B arena you may find yourself handling multiple orders, large quantities, and ongoing service requests. In addition, it is crucial to ensure maximum protection of sensitive data and to offer each user a simple and personalized shopping experience.
- Always aim for growth: thanks in part to careful data analysis, never think the job is done with the launch of the platform. An experienced entrepreneur knows that he or she must constantly seek new solutions, explore new market niches, and follow trends. A proactive attitude in this regard proves crucial to achieving success in the industry.
Square Marketing: a team at your service for B2B e-commerce
Opening an ecommerce business for the B2B world can be challenging; our guide is useful for gathering an initial pool of information that can dispel major doubts and help with early decision-making.
Of course, the second step is to seek counseling that can simplify the processes and help in defining the business plan.
A dedicated team for each stage of the project, a solid strategy and careful analysis are the activities that Square Marketing can concretely implement to help you develop your business idea.
Contact us, or come visit us at our locations, in Milan or Cerea (VR).