According to some analysts, B2B e-commerce is expected to experience double-digit growth in the coming years, encouraging more and more merchants to conquer the B2B market as well as B2C. In this article, we explore how this market is beginning to make its place in the global e-commerce landscape through marketplaces.
What are B2B marketplaces?
B2B marketplaces are platforms on which manufacturers, suppliers and distributors can trade with companies that want to purchase raw materials, finished products or services. In terms of turnover, it is currently the most important model in B2B sales and one of the most important reasons for growth in B2B e-commerce. An ibi research study conducted in Germany in 2018 revealed that over 25% of the companies surveyed use a B2B marketplace for their B2B sales. 31% of them sell on Amazon Business; twice as many as the second most used provider, mercateo.
Buyers can search marketplaces by product type or directly in the manufacturer lists. The main goal of B2B marketplaces is to simplify everything related to purchasing. These platforms can be generalised or specialised in one field of activity, hybrid (selling their own products) or pure player (simple intermediary).
B2B marketplaces offer the same possibilities as traditional B2C marketplaces but adapt to the framework of companies. For example, buyers can view supplier certifications, company information pages are available, and accounts can be opened for multiple users. In addition, the displayed prices consider the particularities of the B2B sector and dealers benefit from a tax exemption program. These are just a few examples of B2B customization.
Two B2B marketplaces dominate the market
While B2B marketplaces are becoming increasingly popular with e-commerce professionals, two players currently dominate this market: Alibaba and Amazon.
By 2017, Amazon Business had sold $280 billion worth of products and generated $178 billion in sales, compared to $40 billion for Alibaba, which sold three times more products than the American giant. Amazon’s success is not limited to the United States. The American giant, which generated $1 billion in sales in the year of its launch (2015), is now enjoying success in Europe, where its platform is available in Germany, the United Kingdom and France.
Advantages of B2B marketplaces
B2B marketplaces offer multiple advantages to sellers as well as buyers.
By distributing their products on B2B marketplaces, sellers benefit from a reduction in costs (sales prospecting, promotion, infrastructure, etc.), access to online commerce, a large and new audience, multiple sales channels, but also from a beautiful showcase to promote their products/services to professionals.
Already familiar with the use of marketplaces in their personal purchasing journey, buyers are more inclined to purchase from these platforms.
Buyers benefit from a wide choice of products, a simplified purchasing process, price transparency to compare before making a choice, reduced transaction costs and a better purchasing experience aligned with B2C e-commerce standards.
Like B2C, B2B e-commerce is nowadays driven by marketplaces. Already in 2017, a study carried out by Roland Berger already revealed that B2B e-commerce had a total sales volume of $7,600 billion, with 80% of transactions carried out on Asian territory. According to Forrester’s latest forecasts, B2B marketplaces will gain further ground in 2020. As for sellers, more and more of them will adopt digital product management in order not to miss the potential of this market. This trend should also be reinforced in Europe, where the enthusiasm for marketplaces has never been so strong.