B2B Ecommerce: Option or Necessity?


With B2B ecommerce growing at 18.7% CAGR (GrandViewResearch, 2020), ecommerce isn't just just another option for B2B businesses anymore–it’s a necessity.

If manufacturers, CPG, and other traditional B2B players want to stay in business for the long term, embracing ecommerce is the only option. This is especially the case now because millennials are the dominant group in today’s workforce. In fact, 73% professionals in B2B buying are millennial, who prefer to purchase online with little or no interaction from a salesperson.

So, stepping forward, we must get over the reluctance of so many B2B businesses to embrace this new technology. If your company isn't quick to digitally transform, how long until decision makers among your clients stop choosing you as an option?

So What Exactly Is B2B Ecommerce?

B2B ecommerce has many benefits. Its ideal value proposition for both business buyers and sellers is that it makes buying and selling as easy as shopping on Amazon. In fact, the ultimate goal of companies like OSF Digital and Salesforce is to make B2B platforms and sites as easy to use as B2C commerce.

Ecommerce solutions let all involved parties (buyers, suppliers, and sellers) make and complete transactions online. Businesses can easily compare products on multiple sites, review product catalogs, use bulk ordering, and easily do so while keeping the traditional supply chain invoicing processes for payments. Just take a look at the ease of using B2B sellers’ systems with a tool like B2B One Page Order.

Does It Take Over the Business?

Honestly, B2B transactions and B2B ecommerce sites alone are no longer really a disruptive technology. Many organizations have already adapted, and even prefer the online / self-serve customer experience. It’s quickly becoming a norm for B2B buyers and business customers. The question isn't if B2B companies will switch to the digital business model, it’s when.

Why Should You Care?

Estimates put the B2B online purchasing process at 15% to 30% greater efficiency than traditional ordering. In a world of much more self-service, customers groups expect B2B companies to give them greater flexibility. There are times when working with the sales team is easier, but most of the time the order online method puts more control in the hands of the buyer.

How Do I Get Started with B2B Ecommerce?

There are many different ways to get started. It’s a complex topic and there is much to consider. Your B2B marketing must now weave in digital marketing, which includes your online ordering capabilities. Make sure there’s a social media element to it to spread the work on various B2B forums, like LinkedIn and Twitter. Blend your new capabilities into a sound strategic plan.

Benefits of B2B Ecommerce

B2B ecommerce does not just provide convenience and control for buyers. It also offers remarkable opportunities to develop and build new businesses for manufacturers. B2B ecommerce gives brands access to new customers, prospects, business partners and suppliers. It creates a more seamless and cohesive experience between the B2B brand and its customers. Ecommerce platforms not only allow manufacturers and retailers to bring the online shopping experience to their customers, it lets them increase revenue and retain valuable customers by making the custom ordering process easier. Check out how to get started selling direct to consumer in as little as 2 weeks.

How to Get Started with B2B Ecommerce

Getting started in B2B ecommerce may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Always make sure to keep the site, capabilities, and features focused on what the B2B customers will want. Remember also to choose a platform that will give you enterprise-grade capabilities, speed, and reliability. As an example, Salesforce is the perfect platform for these requirements.

Beyond that also consider a product developer and systems integrator that has solid experience delivering B2B ecommerce solutions. Better yet, look for a partner that continually innovates internally to be able to provide faster time-to-market for your solutions. Quick Start products that provide exceptionally fast B2B solutions out of the box are great solutions for companies just getting started down this path.

Beyond that still, also look for partners who continually work on ways to accelerate your project, even if it’s a custom solution. Bespoke systems are great in that they are truly tailored to suit your every need. But product vendors vary widely here. The vast majority of systems integrators start these projects with a completely blank slate. While it sounds like a good approach for a custom solution, it is tremendously costly and time consuming. Instead, look for partners who think in the ‘product’ domain. Seek out partners who will deliver what you need, exactly as you want it, but which also use accelerators based on structures they have used with many other B2B customers.

How to Increase Your Conversion Rate

Nearly two thirds of retailers claim they have a low conversion rate. Most are actively working to increase these rates. In B2B ecommerce, that means that B2B businesses must get to know the profile of their customers by delving into their pain points and personalizing their online buying experience for their company.

It all starts with developing a vision of what the ideal customer journey is like, for their corporate needs. Make sure your ecommerce site gives your customers screens and capabilities similar to what they are already accustomed to using. Having an entire order cleanly and visually laid out on one page reminds B2B customers of their invoicing systems, which they recognize well. Always ensure your ecommerce elements are a natural fit for your clients. That will encourage them to use it more, both improving your process efficiency and likely adding to your order volumes.

Option or Necessity?

B2B ecommerce is no longer a topic of discussion just for the early adopters. With the phenomenal growth of the B2B ecommerce business worldwide, there is little doubt that it is an absolute necessity. The days of ecommerce being an option for B2B organizations are long gone. Embrace digital transformation within your own organization. If your business isn’t on board yet, give OSF Digital a call, and we will help you strengthen your company’s digital B2B capabilities. The future is only a call away.

Carlo Wolf

Author: Carlo Wolf, Regional VP, DACH

Carlo was one of successyou’s founders and served as the CEO of the company until it was acquired by OSF Digital in December 2019. He is now Regional Vice President for the DACH Region for OSF Digital. Carlo has worked for over 30 years in the IT industry, mostly in sales, leadership, and general management roles in large, global organizations as well as in start-ups. Throughout his career, he has been focused on customer relationships, customer success, and innovative technologies.