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Best Use Cases of B2B eCommerce Platforms in 2020

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B2B eCommerce comes in many different varieties. eCommerce makes connecting with new markets more affordable than ever. So, companies are experimenting with new channels and new ways of interacting with their customers. The key is keeping things simple. B2B sales are complex enough as it is, so serving new markets and new opportunities shouldn’t add to the complexity.  The best eCommerce platforms simplify the process.

If you are looking for ways to expand your revenue base, take a look at how innovative companies are diversifying their eCommerce offerings without adding to operational complexity by leveraging their eCommerce platform. When you can use your website presence to serve new markets without increasing costs or complexity you are utilizing eCommerce to the fullest.

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Diverging B2B and B2C Channels

COVID-19 mandated business lockdowns accelerated the move by manufacturers and wholesalers to consumer direct sales. But B2B and B2C buyers have different expectations when it comes to consumer experience. Can you operate both channels to the satisfaction of their respective markets without resorting to separate eCommerce platforms? SaltWorks says not only can you do it, but you can do it quite successfully.

SaltWorks sells gourmet salts by the shaker or the ocean container. Not only has their methods for processing and packing gourmet salt revolutionized the entire industry, their approach to online sales is shaking things up too.

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SaltWorks recognized that both B2B and B2C customers are looking for as much product information as they can find. But when it comes to making a purchase, their experience expectations are quite different. So, the journey begins the same for both markets. All customers see the same home page.

The same experience continues to the product category pages as well.

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However, once they begin the purchase process, their paths diverge and the experience changes.

Retail customers select smaller packages, receive retail pricing, and checkout with their credit card. B2B customers are instructed to log-in with their credentials.

Once logged in they have access to custom pricing, volume discounts, various shipping options and different payment workflows.  To make processing small orders even easier, retails customers can click a “Buy On Amazon” button to go directly to SaltWork’s Fulfilled By Amazon (FBA) page.

Using this model, SaltWorks provides retail customers the purchase experience they expect while making the job of the corporate purchasing agent easy as well.

Two different channels served with one eCommerce platform and one back-end admin panel.

B2B2C eCommerce

Manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors are expanding their eCommerce channels to include a pathway to retail consumers.  Whether they are setting up other businesses to operate as franchisees or affiliates or helping their retailers establish a web presence, these savvy companies are boosting their sales by helping their downstream sellers provide an exceptional customer experience. It’s a win for all parties.

Villa Verde, a French supplier of garden, home décor and pet supplies created an extensive network of mom and pop franchisees and individual websites.  Customers visit the retailer’s website, make a purchase from the small seller who collects payment and Villa Verde fulfills the order and bills the seller.

They even offer a “click & collect” option that allows buyers to purchase online and pick up in a local sales center.  Villa Verde processes the order and ships it to the store the customer requests, whether it is an affiliate or company owned location. During the government enforced closure of most retail operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these small retail sites experienced an increase in pet supply sales as customers turned to on-line ordering. These increased sales from the local sites off-set Villa Verde’s losses due to store closures.

When Villa Verde opted to change their eCommerce model to include B2B2C they literally future-proofed their company, not knowing that a pandemic awaited.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, pet supply wholesaler Animal Supply expanded their digital presence into B2B2C by creating their innovative Pet Connect channel.

Many of Animal Supply’s customers were small pet retailers that lacked the financial resources or technical expertise to create an effective eCommerce program. Animal Supply created Pet Connect to enable these retailers to offer an exceptional eCommerce experience without the hassle of creating a website and fulfilling orders. Like Villa Verde, Animal Supply realized that diversified eCommerce was a way to grow their business by helping their customers grow their own business.

B2B Marketplaces

Another increasingly utilized eCommerce model is the eCommerce marketplace. For distributors, adding support with an eCommerce marketplace will be crucial for survival. Between 2017 and 2019 distributors lost 7 points of market share (from 45% to 38%) to digital marketplaces. No wonder that Forrester predicts thousands of new marketplaces will be launched in the next ten years.

eCommerce is all ModMart does. Their eCommerce marketplace serves retailers in the gift and specialty home décor sector. Buyers for the gift and home décor sector face a tremendous challenge in finding new and unique products that are in stock. And they are turning more and more to the internet to help. According to Sirius Decisions, 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.  ModMart makes the buying process much easier by bringing together numerous brands representing one million SKUs.

Now retailers can visit one place to view products and place orders instead of using multiple brand websites and relying on trade shows.

This is another best-case example of future-proofing a business. Because in the post pandemic world, more and more orders in the gift and home décor sector will be placed on-line. With concerns about travel and large gatherings, the trade show in 2020 has gone the way of the dinosaur. Sales reps dependent on shows won’t be writing orders and buyers dependent on shows to discover new products are out of luck. The International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago, the industry mega show, was cancelled this year as was the Natural Products Expo. But ModMart offers a virtual trade show hall 24/7 with their innovative eCommerce marketplace. If you are a wholesaler or distributor supporting multiple brands, the marketplace is certainly an online channel worthy of exploration.

B2G eCommerce

Another highly lucrative but little utilized eCommerce channel serves the SLED (state, local, and education governmental entities) market. SLED represents roughly $1.5 trillion in sales in the US alone.

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In addition to SLED, according to, 2019 US federal spending kicked in an additional $4.45 trillion.

For this type of eCommerce, utilizing electronic data interfaces (EDI) is a key functionality. While any size company can successfully do business with SLED entities, you’ll do business on their terms. Often this includes accepting electronic submission of purchase orders or using EDI to integrate their purchasing system with your sales order system.

Cloud solution provider NetApp created a website that’s not only rich with customer success stories, it includes links to existing governmental contracts since governments often piggyback on existing contracts for new purchases.

When it comes to B2G eCommerce not only will you need a website that features rich product information and multi-media materials, you’ll need a back-end that is supported by a rich system of APIs for easy integration.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) provider Duet offers last-mile technology services to transportation services. Their website must serve as a sales tool but also as a portal to their technology for existing customers.

What They Have in Common

While each of these companies offers very different products, they have a few things in common.

First, they realized that eCommerce plays a crucial role in supporting all forms of B2B business. From marketing to sales and support, a web presence is a must-have channel. They all saw eCommerce as a way to diversify and create new channels to new customers while still providing additional support to existing customers.

Second, they understand that the eCommerce experience should be tailored to the needs of the customer and provide the experience they demand.

Lastly, they recognized that the best eCommerce platform is one that conforms to the way they want to do business, doesn’t add layers of complexity, and isn’t simply a B2C solution stretched to meet their B2B needs.

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James Musoba
James Musoba
Studying Africa's startup and technology scene. I always look forward to discovering new exciting inventions and vibrant entrepreneurs.

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