Brett sinclair executive director, b2b ecommerce association

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B2B ecommerce platforms: the definitive guide

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on B2B eCommerce Platforms, tailored specifically for manufacturers, wholesale distributors, and retailers. 

In this essential resource, we delve into the world of B2B eCommerce platforms, exploring their benefits, key features, and real-world applications to enhance your business operations.

Table of contents

What is a B2B ecommerce platform?

A B2B ecommerce platform is a piece of software, usually hosted in the cloud, that allows B2B businesses to conduct business more easily. It is a tool that allows you to build a digital storefront, add and remove product listings, make sales, take payments and provide after sales service/support. 

Unlike B2C retail ecommerce, a B2B ecommerce platform will usually have sections of the site locked away that can only be accessed by customers with login credentials. These credentials are usually granted only to approved companies and there buyers.

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In most cases, these buyers are given access to unique products and pricing that have been pre negotiated. In many industries the B2B buying and servicing process is complex, which demands a different type of ecommerce feature set than you would typically see in a retail ecommerce experience.

Why B2B companies need an ecommerce platform

In today’s digital-first economy, the imperative for B2B companies to integrate eCommerce capabilities is underscored by compelling statistics reflecting buyer preferences.

A recent survey revealed that over 70% of B2B buyers find purchasing from a website more convenient than buying from a sales representative, and about 65% of B2B companies across various industries have reported an increase in sales through online channels.

This shift towards digital platforms is driven not only by the convenience they offer but also by their ability to provide enhanced customer experiences, personalized interactions, and immediate access to detailed product information.

Key benefits of B2B ecommerce platforms

Deploying a B2B eCommerce platform offers a range of substantial benefits that can transform the way businesses operate and engage with their clients. Here are the main benefits:

Increased sales & revenue

By offering 24/7 online ordering, a B2B eCommerce platform can significantly increase sales opportunities. It allows businesses to reach new markets and customers that were previously inaccessible due to geographical or time constraints.

Improved customer experience

These platforms can offer personalized experiences, such as custom pricing, tailored product recommendations, and account-specific catalogs. This level of personalization leads to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Operational efficiency

Automating the sales process reduces manual tasks and errors. It streamlines order processing, inventory management, and invoicing, which can lead to significant cost savings and operational efficiencies.

Data driven insights

B2B eCommerce platforms provide valuable analytics and insights into customer behavior, preferences, and purchasing patterns. This data enables businesses to make informed decisions, optimize their marketing strategies, and improve product offerings.

Scalability

As businesses grow, B2B eCommerce platforms can scale to accommodate increased product ranges, customer bases, and transaction volumes without a corresponding increase in overheads.

Bigger reach

hese platforms enable businesses to expand their reach to a global audience, overcoming traditional barriers such as different time zones and languages.

Faster order fufilment

With streamlined processes and better integration with supply chain systems, B2B eCommerce platforms can lead to faster order fulfillment, enhancing customer satisfaction.

Enhanced marketing capabilities

Integration with digital marketing tools allows for more effective marketing campaigns, targeted promotions, and improved communication with potential and existing customers.

Customer self service

Features like order tracking, self-managed accounts, and easy reordering options empower customers to manage their purchases and interactions, which reduces the burden on sales and customer service teams.

Compliance & security

B2B eCommerce platforms often come with robust security measures and compliance standards, ensuring sensitive business data is protected, and transactions are secure.

Features of a B2B ecommerce platform

Powerful features for B2B organizations stand out from the crowd with a professional online presence that caters to the needs of your B2B customers. Some of the most common and popular B2B features include: 

Custom catalogs and pricing

Efficiently create and manage customer-specific catalogs and pricing by seamlessly exchanging catalog data via OCI Punchout.

Automated processes and dynamic product mapping allow for relevant, up-to-date product information at every touchpoint or sales channel.

You can also easily integrate product, pricing, customer, and channel information from a variety of external sources, and push data from the e-commerce platform to other systems such as your ERP.

User roles and responsibilities

Easily control and monitor your sensitive business processes by creating separate user roles (buyer, approver or admin) within your organization, enabling a personalized user experience with specific responsibilities. Automated approval processes, predefined budgets, and activity monitoring which increases internal efficiency and reduces errors.

My account dashboard

Give users a complete overview and quick access to all of their order information. Buyer, approvers, and administrators each have their own dashboard. Buyers can view the status of their orders, as well as order templates, and quotes. Approvers can check on pending orders and get an overview of approved / rejected ones. Administrators gain insight into each user and their budget.

Quoting

Allow your buyers and dealers to negotiate prices without leaving the commerce site, ensuring seamless communication and full transparency of your pricing policy. Buyers can request quotes for individual products or product lists, and provide additional comments or information. Dealers can respond directly with a new quote so buyers can execute the order once an agreement is reached.

Quick order

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Save time and boost convenience with quick orders. Your customer can place an order by entering just the product ID and quantity or upload a CSV file to order multiple products at once.

Order templates

Increase your sales potential and make it easy to do business with you. Customizable order templates, e.g. based on order history, offer a convenient buying experience and speed up your customers’ purchasing process

Contracts

Boost your customer’s satisfaction with a best-price strategy! With revenue-based contracts, you can get the most out of customer-specific pricing. And it’s easy for your customer, too! Orders placed in a given period are automatically assigned to the contract and the accurate, special price and the My Account dashboard provides full transparency on the details.

All inclusive B2B blueprint store

Save time and money rolling out new sales channels, thanks to our ready-to-use blueprint store. With responsive design, optimized for desktop and mobile alike, the store comes with B2B-specific workflows and processes, and demo content which is easily customized.

B2B ecommerce software vendors

Big Commerce

BigCommerce’s B2B Edition combines BigCommerce Enterprise with a specialized app to offer an effective B2B e-commerce solution. It features tailored pricing models through custom price lists, catering to specific customer groups. The platform provides streamlined onboarding and support, along with self-service capabilities for customers. Strategic partnerships enhance its functionality, making it suitable for businesses seeking a comprehensive and efficient B2B e-commerce experience.

Adobe Commerce

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Adobe Commerce, formerly Magento, is a leading B2B e-commerce solution known for its extensive capabilities. It supports both B2B and B2C models and offers features like omnichannel support, mobile-first design, self-service options, and customization. 

The platform is flexible and scalable, allowing businesses to create personalized experiences for diverse customer segments. As a comprehensive omnichannel solution, Adobe Commerce is ideal for businesses seeking to enhance their online presence and customer experience.

SAP Commerce Cloud

Originally known as SAP Hybris, it offers a flexible, multi-channel solution that caters to the unique needs of B2B purchasing cycles. Its extensive customization capabilities, combined with its ability to innovate at scale and tap into enterprise-wide data, make SAP Commerce Cloud a leading choice for enterprises seeking an efficient and scalable B2B e-commerce solution.

Spryker

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Spryker, based in Berlin, Germany, is a dynamic and growing force in the B2B eCommerce sector, notable for its leadership team’s extensive experience in the field. As a relatively new entrant, Spryker is ambitiously expanding beyond the DACH region, pushing the boundaries of its market presence.

Sana Commerce

Sana Commerce Cloud, designed for manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers, excels in B2B ecommerce through seamless ERP integration with systems like Microsoft Dynamics and SAP. This SaaS platform offers essential B2B features, combining real-time data accuracy and cloud agility for effective tech stack integration. 

Pepperi

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Pepperi’s B2B eCommerce platform is an intuitive and versatile solution designed to cater to the diverse needs of businesses. Offering a B2C-like buying experience for wholesale buyers, it is tailored to meet the specific requirements of each business. Pepperi’s flexibility is particularly beneficial for Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) brands and wholesalers, as it allows them to swiftly respond to changing market conditions.

OroInc

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OroCommerce is a versatile and robust B2B eCommerce platform, catering specifically to the needs of brands, manufacturers, and distributors. As an enterprise-grade solution, it offers a comprehensive set of features that are adaptable to various B2B commerce models. Its flexibility is further highlighted by its open-source nature, allowing for extensive customization to meet the specific requirements of B2B

Intershop

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Intershop, a pioneering B2B ecommerce platform from Jena, Germany, is renowned for its longevity and adaptability in the evolving online commerce landscape. Praised for its strong sales and service rep tooling and exceptional customer account self-service management, Intershop is steadily strengthening its position in the market.

How much does a B2B ecommerce platform cost?

The cost of a B2B ecommerce platform can greatly vary, depending on the complexity, functionality, and scale of your operations. 

Costs can range from free open-source solutions, which may require more investment in customization and maintenance, to cookie cutter SaaS platforms or enterprise platforms that can cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars per year. 

There are also small and mid-range solutions that balance cost and functionality. Prices are usually based on the order volumes, users, amount of data, and range of features you require, as well as any setup and integration costs. 

Remember, the cheapest option may not always be the best fit for your business. It’s important to consider the total cost of ownership, which includes not just the platform fees, but also costs associated with development, maintenance, integrations, updates, and training.

Building a business case for a B2B ecommerce platform

Developing a compelling business case for B2B eCommerce is crucial for organizations looking to transition into or expand their digital capabilities. Central to this case is the demonstration of tangible ROI, which encompasses not only increased sales and revenue but also enhanced operational efficiencies and cost savings. 

A well-constructed business case should highlight how eCommerce platforms can streamline order processing, reduce manual errors, and optimize inventory management, leading to significant reductions in operational costs. 

Additionally, it should emphasize the potential for new customers and market expansion, as digital platforms can open doors to segments and markets, previously inaccessible due to geographical or logistical constraints. 

The business case should also consider the improved customer experience offered by B2B eCommerce solutions, such as personalized product recommendations and self-service portals, which can lead to higher customer retention and loyalty. Moreover, the ability to gather and analyze customer data through these platforms provides invaluable insights, enabling businesses to make data-driven decisions and stay ahead in a competitive market. 

In essence, the business case for B2B eCommerce should not only focus on immediate financial gains but also on long-term strategic benefits, such as scalability, agility, and the ability to rapidly adapt to changing market dynamics and customer preferences.

Embracing B2B digital transformation

As we conclude, the message is clear: B2B eCommerce is no longer just an option; it is a critical component for business success in the digital age.

The benefits of adopting such platforms—ranging from increased sales and revenue to enhanced operational efficiency and global market reach—are too significant to overlook.

In an era marked by rapid technological advancements and shifting buyer preferences, the ability to adapt and embrace digital solutions is not just about staying competitive; it’s about setting the stage for future growth and sustainability.

Want to become a member?

Become a member of the B2B eCommerce Association for free today. Connect, learn and find new opportunities. 

About the B2BEA

The B2B eCommerce Association is a global network and resource hub for B2B practitioners, offering invaluable opportunities to connect and learn. Our mission is to empower manufacturers and distributors in their eCommerce and digital transformation journeys through useful tools, practical resources and exceptional networking opportunities. Join us to thrive in our dynamic industry

Want to become a member?

Become a member of the B2B eCommerce Association for free today. Connect, learn and find new opportunities.