B2B Ecommerce for Manufacturing Use Case


Ecommerce for manufacturing businesses is different from ecommerce for consumer businesses. Naturally, B2B and B2C businesses require different approaches. Read on to see why B2B manufacturers need to consider B2B ecommerce solutions, in this post-pandemic environment.

What is B2B Ecommerce?

Business to business (B2B) ecommerce is the use of online ordering platforms to sell products and/or services directly to other businesses. Digital experiences are similar to those of the B2C (business to consumer) world. Digital commerce for B2B customers can be done via websites, mobile apps, or both. However, B2B ecommerce is not B2C ecommerce. B2C ecommerce are transactions intended to be sold to consumers.

B2B ecommerce is about selling to other businesses and B2B companies—not to consumers. This is quite different from the historic approach to B2B transactions. Traditionally, B2B transactions involve reviewing a product catalog with a manufacturer's sales rep and working with that sales team to submit an order. However, customer expectations are evolving in the procurement space. Companies increasingly want to submit online product orders in real-time, rather than waiting for the end of a weekend, or the next working morning. Online sales are becoming the norm with more and more people, including B2B buyers.

B2B Ecommerce for Manufacturing Businesses

B2B Ecommerce for manufacturing businesses is different from ecommerce for consumers in volumes, repeat orders, volume-based discounting, and so on. Yet, despite these differences, manufacturers are wise to design their online ordering systems with a B2C mindset. After all, B2B buyers are B2C consumers, too. In that respect, these buyers have become quite accustomed to Amazon and other B2C online retailing systems. As such, they now expect the B2B online store experience to be similar to that of any other online retail experience.

In 2021, Harvard Business Review pointed out that 73% of B2B buyers are now millennials. To the point made above, millennials find online B2C shopping to be a natural experience for purchasing goods. As such, manufacturers need to embrace the B2C-like ecommerce experiences and port those into their B2B ecommerce systems.

Consider too that Salesforce research found that 68% of B2B buyers expect personalization. These procurement experts want manufacturers to understand their personal needs and preferences before making a purchase decision. This does not mean the millennial's personal preference for dark vs milk chocolate or favorite color in sneakers. Rather it means providing personalized systems that remember their previous order, allow them to import flat files (Excel spreadsheets with the long list of goods they need), and make the process resemble the look and feel of their invoicing system.

Offline isn't Coming Back

B2B ecommerce for manufacturing is exploding at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.3%, according to Vantage Market Research (2022). In 2021 this market was $6.92 Trillion USD. It is expected to grow to $18.97 Trillion USD by 2028. But, to engage these customers successfully, you need to find a way to bridge the gap between your offline and online businesses. Ecommerce for manufacturing businesses was traditionally focused on events and in-person sales. However, over the last several years, there has been an increasing number of successful B2B ecommerce companies that use online marketing and lead generation to reach their customers. Beyond this, research by McKinsey Consulting in 2020 found that 80% of B2B buyers won't go back to the traditional in-person sales/purchasing method. What the pandemic taught the world is that even for B2B transactions, digital methods work well, and have become the preferred purchasing technique.

At its core, B2B ecommerce for manufacturing businesses means running an online business that serves the needs of the manufacturing business. Ecommerce is how you connect with your customers. It’s how you engage and sell to them. It’s how you grow your business. B2B ecommerce for manufacturing businesses relies on marketing and lead generation to drive customers to the website. Finally, business-to-business ecommerce is all about finding the right balance between online and offline sales channels that complement each other, but with a focus on digital commerce improving efficiency, and the effectiveness of both customers and the manufacturer in question.

Challenges Solved

B2B ecommerce in manufacturing solves various challenges historically faced by this sector. Some of these include:

  • No Single Integrated View: Traditional B2B sales often provide a fragmented view of the customer. Customer data can be scattered across various back-end systems. Large corporations with global reach may have their data fragmented across regions. Together, this results in a poor customer experience.
  • Manual Frustrations: Channel partners may want more control to enter their own orders. Flat files or even direct manual entry may be desirable from your customers' point of view.
  • Self-Service Generation: With so many millennials on procurement teams, there is a strong desire and call for easy-to-use (think B2C) self-service B2B portals.
  • Real-Time Orders: Let's face it, the digital age is an always-on paradigm. B2B customers often need to get orders in on weekends or after hours.
  • Geographic Coverage: B2B customers can be spread out in geographies where you just do not have sales staff. You can't get these client orders without a digital channel to capture them.

Benefits of B2B Ecommerce

The most important benefit of B2B ecommerce is the fact that it frees up your time. The majority of the work required to conduct B2B ecommerce is behind the scenes, so much of the sales, and up-front ordering time can be freed up with the digitization of your buying processes.

Other benefits include:

  • Reduced costs — sales staff can carry greater quota loads
  • Improved forecasting
  • Always ready to receive a customer order
  • Increased processing speed —orders can be routed immediately to development for large batches for trusted clients
  • Expanded geographic reach — to parts of the world where your manufacturing company has no staff
  • Improved buyer-centric digital experiences
  • Grow margins — bypassing the middleman and selling directly to companies

Overcoming Barriers to B2B Ecommerce

The key to overcoming the barrier to B2B ecommerce is to start with a robust enterprise-grade ecommerce solution. This is closely followed by working with a systems integrator that has the expertise to help you technically and can guide you by consulting on the right approach for your business.

Keep in mind that B2B ecommerce is a gradual process. It’s not a one-day event where you open your website, fill it with products, and hope for the best. It takes energy, drive, and determination to make it a success. Working with experienced partners like OSF Digital can make a world of difference, too.

Consider a free consultation about your business approach, and how best to undertake the digital transformation process. This consultation also helps define the ideal customer service you wish to provide, and what your customer's expectations are. This way, you can give them a taste of what you have to offer, ensuring your brand promise is met.

Take a calculated and measured approach to the business, but get into the market as fast as possible. Offerings like OSF Digital's Quick Start B2B solution are a great way to get your system up and operational in 2 weeks flat! For more complex B2B ecommerce for manufacturing solutions, consider the B2B Manufacturing Accelerator, to provide a fully customized solution, while getting you to market fast. Then, you and your customers learn by doing.

The Importance of B2B Ecommerce

B2B ecommerce is a great way to grow your business. It’s a low-risk channel, so it’s unlikely you’ll encounter much resistance. B2B ecommerce is great for selling services and subscriptions. That’s because it’s easy for customers to buy a recurring good or service. B2B ecommerce is also a great way for businesses to diversify their revenue. Customers from different industries can often be found and they can find your business online. B2B ecommerce is also a great way for businesses to expand their sales channel, making it easy for customers to purchase goods or services online.

Think also about the scalability that online B2B selling brings to your company. It improves the efficiency and productivity of your sales staff, gives you expanded geographic reach, and grows sales. All this while also providing an important B2C feel to your B2B online ordering experience.

Ecommerce Strategy

When you’re ready to start building your ecommerce strategy, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your goals and type of business you want to create. Once you know your goals, you can customize your ecommerce strategy to meet your needs. The following four-step process is a great place to start:

1. Identify your business model for this use case. The first step in a successful B2B ecommerce for manufacturing strategy is to understand your business model. This includes understanding your customers and what they want from you. By understanding your business model, you can focus your efforts on a model that yields the best results. For a quick and pressure-free discussion about this type of consulting, contact us at OSF Digital. We can share our experience of building hundreds of ecommerce systems that support many different business models.

2. Define your goals. Next, you need to define your goals so that you can tailor your strategies toward achieving them. For example, if you want to increase your revenue and decrease your costs, you need to make sure that your strategies are focused on achieving these goals.

3. Create your business model. The next step in an ecommerce strategy is to create your business model. This model guides you through the steps necessary to put your strategy into action.

4. Build your strategy. Once you have your business model and goals, you can start building your strategy. This includes getting your system operating fast,so you can get on with business—the digital way.

Charles Dimov

Author: Charles Dimov, VP of Product Solutions

Charles brings more than 20 years of experience in marketing, sales, product development, and management. With depth and breadth in varied markets, he drives the right go-to-market and demand generation strategies for OSF’s core products. A lifelong learner, he graduated from the University of Waterloo with degrees in management, business economics, and engineering. Charles also holds several certifications in leadership and marketing.