B2B e-commerce is SEXY!!!! You’ve probably never heard anybody else say it, and I suspect you won’t again. Merriam Webster dictionary gives a definition of sexy as “generally attractive or interesting”…..and B2B e-commerce is definitely interesting.
The last decade has been dominated by B2C e-commerce with rapid growth by consumer centric companies such as Groupon, Rue La La, Zulily, Gilt, and Wayfair. At Accorin, we expect B2C e-commerce to continue to grow, but we also expect B2B eCommerce to grow even faster. This is already happening amongst well established B2B organizations and newcomers. Grainger, a global leader in industrial supplies, has over $3 billion annually in B2B e-commerce sales. Amazon has significantly ramped up its B2B e-commerce focus with its Amazon Supply division. Staples recently launched its new site with the intent on creating a B2B marketplace for business supplies, organized by vertical (e.g. medical office supplies, spa supplies, etc.). Many traditional B2B distributors with extensive catalog operations are now investing in their e-commerce operations.
Two B2B sites that focus on the unique needs of B2B customers are G.L. Huyett and McMaster-Carr. Both are industrial distributors selling products such industrial fasteners, nuts and bolts, safety shields and the like.
Both incorporate key B2B eCommerce site best practices. For example:
- Product centric displays with detailed specifications (McMaster-Carr even offers technical drawings and 3-D models of many products)
- Strong product taxonomies
- Quick multi-line ordering
- SKU based ordering
- Detailed notes on each order line-item
- Tools to identify the right products
- Order histories
- Payment options that include Open Account / Purchase Orders
- Tiered Pricing
- Bulk shipment options
On these types of B2B eCommerce sites you don’t see the rich visuals and brand imagery that you do see on a lot of B2C eCommerce site. Their focus is on business users that are purchasing as part of a job, not on the experiential needs of B2C customers. In the former, you need to help them get their job done, in the latter, you need to create an emotional connection. That’s not to say that B2B eCommerce sites can ignore their users’ experiential expectations, but these expectations are different from B2B sites, and typically revolve around fast orders, re-orders, bulk orders, product finder tools, and shipping options.
At Accorin, we treat all eCommerce sites as unique businesses that require unique strategies, features, functionality and integration points. B2B eCommerce is not cookie cutter and it is definitely interesting…..even sexy.
The Bottom Line
B2B eCommerce is accelerating. If you are a B2B company and aren’t looking at eCommerce, it’s time to start. Because there is a good chance that your competitors already have an eCommerce project underway.