B2B e-commerce: what it is and how to start

Alibaba.com JANUARY 24, 202210 MIN READ
B2B e-commerce: what it is and how to start

In 2020, the global B2B ecommerce market size was estimated to be worth USD 6.64 trillion, and this figure is set to rise with an annual growth rate of 18.7% from 2021 to 2028.1 With the rise of online shopping, now is a prime time to launch a B2B company and start selling goods and services around the world. But the question is, what is B2B ecommerce and how can you create a successful B2B business in 2022? Well, in this article, we’re going to answer what is a B2B business, and reveal our top tips and digital marketing strategies on how to make a B2B business a success online. So for those who are interested in starting their own B2B ecommerce website or promoting a B2B brand on an established marketplace, this blog post will provide you with an in-depth guide.

What is B2B ecommerce?

The definition of B2B ecommerce can be summed up in one simple sentence: a company selling products and services to other businesses. This could be anything from selling office supplies online to marketing industrial machinery as a global supplier. Put simply; your business model involves selling goods and services to other companies, whether this is on a small, local level or on an international scale.

A B2B seller might export food overseas or ship in-demand merchandise to another country. A B2B buyer, on the other hand, will be searching for such goods online, and perhaps be using a dedicated B2B ecommerce marketplace such as Alibaba.com. Although there are different types of B2B ecommerce business models to be aware of. Let’s recap the main three, supplier-oriented, buyer-oriented, and intermediary-oriented.

Supplier-oriented is the most common form of B2B retail. Businesses will generate interest and online sales by using a B2B directory or online marketplace. This allows B2B companies to market their goods and services online and reach B2B buyers. Sellers will have control over their pricing strategy and, therefore can offer discounts and offers to attract new customers or reward long-term business relationships.

However, buyer-oriented B2B ecommerce is slightly different and works by promoting a handful of highly-rated sellers to a significant number of buyers online. Buyers will usually have their own website where they sell goods and products, which a seller can browse to determine whether they would like to work with them. This type of marketplace is usually set up by buyers who are searching for a reliable place to source goods and services. Those suppliers and manufacturers featured on the site will be trusted by the buyers to provide quality.

Moving onto intermediary-oriented marketplaces. This platform works by involving a match-maker, so to speak. This third party will carefully analyze the needs of the buyer and introduce them to the right supplier. The owner of the site will have complete control over the information about the manufacturers and sellers as well as the buyers.2

B2B e-commerce

How B2B ecommerce works?

If you're looking to start a B2B ecommerce website, Alibaba.com is also the perfect platform for you. Connecting B2B businesses with international sellers, Alibaba.com offers businesses of all sizes access to suppliers and manufacturers from around the world. All of which can help you grow your business from the ground up. In addition to a wide range of products and services, Alibaba.com also offers:

  • A safe and secure payment system to facilitate online sales
  • Easy order tracking, so that B2B buyers are always kept in the loop
  • 24/365 customer service and support
  • The ability to search and filter the search results to find reliable and highly rated suppliers.

To know more about why Alibaba.com is a great B2B ecommerce platform, check out the page Why sell on Alibaba.com.


7 benefits of using B2B ecommerce

Now that we've established what B2B ecommerce actually is, let's take a look at some of the main benefits of using a dedicated platform to generate and close profitable B2B sales online.

1. Ease of use

A good ecommerce platform designed for B2B users will be easy to navigate, with all the features and functions you need easily accessible. This will save you precious time and frustration when it comes to finding what you need such as stock and suppliers, as well as make it simple to place orders and track shipments.

2. A wide range of products

A dedicated B2B ecommerce platform will also offer a much wider range of products than you'll find on general marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay. This is because they are solely focused on facilitating B2B sales and have built up a vast network of suppliers and manufacturers from around the world, who offer products and services specifically catering to businesses.

3. Lower costs & fees

B2B transactions typically involve larger order volumes, which means lower transaction costs for both the buyer and the seller. In addition, ecommerce platforms for business customers usually offer discounts on bulk orders, making it even more cost-effective to do business in this way.

4. Global reach

With a B2B ecommerce platform, you will have access to suppliers and manufacturers from all over the world. This can significantly open up your business to new markets for your brand and help you tap into global trends and opportunities from further afield.

5. Fast and easy order placement

When you find what you're looking for on a B2B marketplace, it's fast and easy to place an order. This reduces the chances of human error and misunderstandings and helps you get your products faster. So minimize the risk of low stock or being sold out by using a fast and reliable B2B platform.

6. Improved customer experience and service

Most B2B platforms online will have a team of dedicated customer service professionals available 24/365 to help with any queries or issues that may arise. This is a huge benefit compared to general online marketplaces and helps save companies valuable time and money. Should anything go wrong with an order or shipment, you can access support immediately and potentially request a refund or for someone to track the order on your behalf. This level of customer experience and service helps to build trust between B2B buyers and sellers, encouraging more sales and orders.

7. Data Analytics

A digital marketplace makes it far easier to collect data and information about your unique target market. From logistics to their order history, you can learn so much about your customers and use this data to enhance customer experience. For more information about the pros and cons of B2B ecommerce, read our article on Ecommerce 101 For Beginners.

How to start B2B ecommerce?

Now that we've covered what B2B ecommerce is and how it works, let's take a look at how you can start your own business. What you need to nail down before you move on to promoting your business on a marketplace is your product range or the services you’re going to offer, your unique target market, and your pricing strategy.

Choose products and services that will be in demand all year round to ensure you have the ability to generate sales throughout the year. Once you’ve decided on the products or service you offer, make sure to analyze your competitors and price yourself well within the market. Overpriced goods from an unknown supplier is not a good strategy for a new business. But price yourself too low and you risk not making a profit.

Once you’ve established a pricing strategy, it’s time to market your business online and attract customers. This can either be done by developing your own website, or finding a reliable and established marketplace.

Rather than build a website to promote your products and services, take advantage of an existing and well-established B2B marketplace such as Alibaba.com. Designed to give B2B sellers a sleek, well-designed and user-friendly platform, Alibaba.com makes it easier than ever to start trading online. Set up a profile as a B2B business owner can use data such as industry reports to analyze the market and give yourself a competitive advantage.

Start selling on Alibaba.com and create your very own branded digital storefront, and gain access to an end-to-end wholesale service platform. Nurture your business and reach thousands of buyers around the world. Ready to start generating B2B corporate purchases online, here’s how to get started with Alibaba.com.

5 tips for a successful B2B ecommerce project

success with ecommerce

If you want to launch a successful B2B ecommerce project in 2022, here are some top tips to supercharge your success.

1. Get personal with buyers

B2B buyers are taking a B2C approach to corporate purchases and this means sellers need to focus on personalized shopping experiences. This industry is undergoing immense change, with B2B buyers carrying out around 12 online searches before making a final decision and placing an order. 55% of B2B marketing budgets are now being spent on digital marketing and social media in order to provide a more personalized buying experience for B2B buyers.1

For more digital marketing strategies, read our article on 10 digital marketing strategies for manufacturers.

2. Design for mobile sales

More people are opting to browse online via a smartphone or mobile device. As an online seller, you should make sure that your website is optimized for mobile use or risk losing out on profitable sales. Keep this in mind when designing a website for your business, and when creating product listings and formatting images.3

3. Set up online customer service

Due to the global pandemic, 75% of B2B buyers prefer a digital experience over an in-person interaction. So if you used to call up potential buyers or existing customers to secure sales, it’s time to take this online. Pay more attention to the customer service and support you offer online. Customers now appreciate live chat support, instant messaging services and a strong social media presence.4

4. Make repeat orders simple

To encourage more sales as a B2B company, make sure the process of placing a repeat order is a seamless buying experience. This can be done by automating payment options, saving credit card information and shipping details of existing customers and allowing buyers to reorder with one click. You could even take this a step further by recommending products that may interest them based on their previous order history.5

5. Run a competitive analysis

To establish how competitive your business is in the market, run a competitive analysis. Scope out the competition online and research what your top competitors are offering, their sales techniques and results, their social media campaigns and their offers and discounts. This can help you to optimize your business by understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and give yourself an advantage in a crowded marketplace. This is also known as a SWOT analysis.

Sell on Alibaba.com

When it comes to B2B e-commerce, Alibaba.com is the world’s leading platform to use. With over 40 million products from suppliers all over the world, you can find everything you need to get started selling online. In addition, Alibaba.com offers a wide variety of features to help businesses grow and succeed online. Opening an account as a B2B retailer is easy. Start by following a few steps to register for an Alibaba.com seller account and then once you’ve completed the Business Verification process, you can choose a dedicated account manager to help and support you through the entire process. Sign up for a seller account today.

1. https://www.bigcommerce.co.uk/articles/B2B-ecommerce/B2B-ecommerce-trends/