When the word ecommerce is mentioned, most people assume it means B2C. Many companies still consider ecommerce strategy to only be concerned with how to sell product on their own website. In reality, ecommerce is much larger than a few direct to consumer retail sales via a website, and B2B accounts for approximately twice what B2C does.

What types of ecommerce are there?

There are 6 broad categories of ecommerce, these are:

  1. Business-to-Consumer (B2C)
  2. Business-to-Business (B2B)
  3. Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C)
  4. Consumer-to-Business (C2B).
  5. Business-to-Administration (B2A)
  6. Consumer-to-Administration (C2A)

Here is a link to a more detailed description of what each of these means.

How much is B2B ecommerce worth?

B2B ecommerce will be worth approximately $6.7 Trillion by 2020 according to Forbes. A vast proportion of this is driven by China, which you can see from the graph below, shows no sign of slowing growth.

Why should you be concerned with B2B ecommerce?

First and foremost, because it is here to stay. Retailers are already beginning to plug into brands and manufacturers via ecommerce. Customers purchase products via online retailers, who have bought them online from brands/manufacturers, who have used the data they have received to plan their manufacture schedule, and possibly bought raw materials through ecommerce. So, if you sit somewhere in this chain, and are not thinking about B2B ecommerce, you could find yourself cut out.

Why are companies moving to B2B ecommerce?

Companies are engaging in B2B ecommerce largely because it is a cost and time saving exercise. By automating those processes, it is possible to make better decisions, with less input from human beings. Rather than sending POs and invoices back and forth, arranging payment, working out shipping etc. the whole process can be done electronically.

More than this, however, it can provide access to new customers, and new markets. In the same way that Amazon and eBay provide access to customers on their marketplaces, there are specialist B2B emarketplaces. The largest of which is Alibaba, a Chinese ecommerce giant who operates cross border.

What can you do to take advantage of B2B ecommerce?

Firstly, you can look at marketplaces like Alibaba. Are there similar products (or even counterfeit products) being sold on the platform? For example, if you type in “Scottish Whisky” into Alibaba, most of it comes from the far east. We can be fairly confident that not all of that is going to authentic Scotch. If there is a demand, look at putting your products onto Alibaba to cost effectively test the market.

The next thing you can do is look at developing your own B2B ecommerce site. This doesn’t have to be complicated, as many of the existing ecommerce platforms (even entry level ones such a WooCommerce) offer plugins that allow you to offer wholesale pricing on log in only. For more comprehensive B2B ecommerce solutions, Magento and Oracle Netsuite are the market leaders. This way, you can ask your existing customers to purchase online (saving time and resource), but also convert potential customers by removing barriers to purchase.

For more information on ecommerce, and strategies that you can use to make the most of the opportunities it presents, please feel free to get in touch?


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