There is a big difference between selling products to the general public, and marketing your goods on a B2B online marketplace such as Alibaba.com. Business customers will have completely different needs than an end consumer, and so it’s important to understand who your customers are and what they are looking for online, in order to increase sales.
From identifying your unique target market, to discovering possible barriers to sales such as logistics and language barriers, with our help you can transform your digital marketing approach to business customers. In this article, we’re going to reveal 6 top tips on how to successfully sell on a B2B marketplace.
We will discuss the key differences between B2B and B2C marketplaces, and highlight the main advantages of using a B2B marketplace as a B2B business. Find out how you can start connecting with valuable business buyers from around the world and optimize your return on investment.
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B2B stands for business to business or B2B e-commerce. A B2B marketplace is an online platform dedicated to connecting B2B sellers with local and international buyers. B2B businesses tend to sell bulk orders of products and specialist services that help other companies grow, develop, or supply the public with goods.
A B2B business might sell printer ink and packaging supplies to offices, which helps a wide range of companies operate on a daily basis. But a B2B business could also sell printer ink to a retailer who then sells it to the general public. While in the first example, a company is purchasing products to use as a business, the second example is also B2B, as the customer is another business, but rather than use the products themselves, it purchases them as stock.
To find customers, a B2B business can sign up to an established B2B marketplace. Here they will be able to promote their goods and services to business customers around the world. Typically on a B2B marketplace, you’ll find manufacturers and suppliers, as well as retailers and vendors looking to purchase stock.
Since a B2B marketplace has been specially designed to help connect B2B sellers with buyers, any promotions or marketing efforts generate a higher return on investment as the audience on the platform is highly targeted. So, unlike promoting on social media, for example, your ads will only be seen by relevant buyers and not just the general public.
On the other hand, B2C represents transactions between businesses and consumers. eBay, Amazon, and Facebook marketplaces are all considered B2C platforms that allow companies to reach out to the general public who may be interested in buying their products or services. Suppose you sell handmade birthday cards, you can start selling your designs through a B2C marketplace and instantly put your products in front of potential buyers online.
Over the past couple of years, B2C marketplaces have been gaining significant popularity, especially due to lockdowns and travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 2020 accelerated the use of e-commerce at a pace never seen before. The adoption of online shopping has undoubtedly been increasing for the past couple of years, but the global pandemic pushed more consumers and businesses online. And this had a direct impact on consumer behavior, creating a demand for convenience, personalization, and multiple payment options.¹
Shopping online is convenient, whether you’re stocking up your fridge or investing in your supplies as a business! Marketplaces empower both B2C and B2B businesses by offering a reliable platform to market and sell goods. Rather than create an e-commerce website to start selling online, start-ups, manufacturers, and small businesses can sign up for an account on either a B2B or B2C marketplace and take advantage of the fully-functioning e-commerce infrastructure.
With no responsibility to manage a website or provide check-out processes and multiple payment gateways, sellers can keep things simple and focus their time and money on building up a business profile rather than developing and designing a dedicated website. This gives B2B sellers more flexibility and opportunities to expand their reach online even with a very low marketing budget.
For more information on the key differences between B2B and B2C e-commerce, read our guide here.
Online B2B marketplaces create a self-service digital environment, where multiple sellers and suppliers can sell products and services to other businesses. Even before the global pandemic, B2B marketplaces were predicted to generate sales worth $3.6 trillion by 2024, up by an estimated $680 billion in 2018, according to payments research firm iBe TSD.2
Growing far quicker than any B2C platform, a survey of business buyers conducted by Digital Commerce 360 found that 20% of purchasing managers spent more (22%) on marketplaces during the pandemic than ever before.3 The question is, why?
The pandemic triggered a rise in the number of entrepreneurs and start-ups, and as a result, there was growing demand for B2B e-commerce. Where can you place a bulk order for goods as a business and trust that what you’ve bought will arrive on time, and in good condition? B2B marketplaces, of course!
Serving as simple transactional platforms, B2B platforms are becoming increasingly innovative and supporting businesses across all industries online. Amazon Business and Alibaba.com are both prime examples of well-established e-commerce platforms that support business growth and international trade.
Whether the platforms help clients source products compliant with certain industry regulations or they make it easier for sellers to network and reach overseas buyers, B2B marketplaces are an invaluable resource in the B2B world.
So what are the main advantages of B2B marketplaces?
Since top B2B marketplaces such as Alibaba.com are reputable, trusted, and industry leaders, buyers already trust the platform when it comes to order fulfillment. If a seller fails to provide the goods or services as described or on time, the marketplace will often offer support, customer service, and in some cases, refunds.
When you place an order on a B2B platform, you’ll typically receive the order details via email, along with shipping information. This significantly improves customer experience by making online B2B transactions more transparent, risk-free, and streamlined.
B2B marketplaces also provide significant choice, value, and comparison. Buyers can quickly search for the products or services they need, filter through suppliers and sellers, and compare offerings. When competitors are pitted against each other on a B2B platform, sellers can give themselves an edge by highlighting their positive customer reviews, supporting prospects via customer service, and by offering free and fast shipping, etc. This helps buyers make the best decision online.
While you might assume that it’s not beneficial to be positioned next to a competitor, it does mean that you’ll be gaining more visibility from your competitors' customers. And through competitor research, you can actually improve your own business and learn from other companies currently succeeding within your particular industry, category, or niche. When implemented well, marketplace procurement can also help to facilitate reporting and data analysis.4
B2B buyers will have different needs when compared to selling to the general public. You should spend time understanding what they need from a supplier or seller. This could be anything from fast delivery, samples, branded goods, white-label products, private-label goods, or perhaps they need products that meet EU product standards.
Read our guide on the difference between private labeling and white label goods here. For more information about possible trade barriers, check out our complete guide to trade barriers.
Never underestimate the importance of professional photography. When marketing your products or services on an e-commerce platform, photography can make or break a sale. It is one of the most powerful tools you can use to enhance your brand and highlight your unique selling points.
Since we process information through what we see, some studies have found that people remember 80% of what they visually see through pictures and videos and only 20% of what they read.5
A well-written product description will explain what the product is and why it’s worth buying. Use this opportunity to share the most important information with your customers, and highlight the key features and benefits, convincing users to place an order.
Always try to educate potential customers about the problems your products will solve, what value your business and products will provide and how you are better than your competitors.6
A top tip to convert more sales on a B2B platform is to qualify your leads. While not everyone who shows interest in your products will place an order, you can use questions to determine whether a user is a potential customer or not.
Ask leads about their problems, dilemmas, issues, and why they have contacted you. This will help you to recommend the right products to them. You should also try to identify the decision-maker to close sales faster.
In the B2B world, there will often be a chain of command, which means the person inquiring about your goods may require sign-off from a manager to place an order. In this case, it’s often more efficient to converse with the decision-maker from the start.7
As we’ve just mentioned, a buyer often needs to convince a senior member of their team to OK a deal, which can involve a lot of research on their part to persuade them. To speed up this process, you can seize this opportunity and create documents that detail your unique selling points, reasons to place an order, and why to engage your company.
By having these documents and information at hand, you can quickly share them with interested users online and help them convince their manager or boss to close the deal. B2B buyers rely on informative content to guide them through the buying process and gain the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision. So by providing them with this content, answering common FAQs, you potentially speed up the buying cycle.8
A lead is someone who has shown interest in your brand, business, and products or services, so if they go cold, it might not necessarily be because they’re no longer interested. Business customers can suddenly become distracted and busy with other tasks, so always reach out to cold leads to see if you can help them complete an order.
Consider sending out an email to remind them of their previous interest in your products or services, or perhaps offer them a time-sensitive discount to convince them to complete a purchase order.9
Alibaba.com is one of the world’s largest B2B marketplaces. It has over 26,000,000 active buyers who use the B2B marketplace to connect with sellers from around the world. Join the increasing number of businesses now enjoying significant growth thanks to this powerful e-commerce platform.
By choosing to sign up for a business account with Alibaba.com, you too can take advantage of this well-established and trusted platform. Start trading internationally from day one and learn how to grow your business using Alibaba industry reports.
Whether you’re a corporate client looking for a reliable supplier or a B2B seller looking to increase sales without spending a fortune on digital marketing and web design, sign up on Alibaba.com today.