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How to tap into the quiet rise of B2B E-commerce

Business · 3 min read

Commerce Trends: B2B e-commerce

You might only sell directly to end consumers, but should you be considering a move into the B2B sector? Recent trends give a resounding ‘yes’ – here’s why…

Hear the phrase 'e-commerce' and you’ll almost certainly think of B2C – but B2B e-commerce is more than three times the size.

What does B2B e-commerce look like?

It’s more than just standard office supplies and consumables – examples include:

GE Electrical Grid SolutionsManufacturing giant GE sells power grid hardware through its online store.

Boeing Modification MarketplaceEssentially a pimp-my-plane platform for existing Boeing customers.

RS ComponentsRS sells electronic components to trade via its website, offering around 500,000 products to over one million customers.

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Where’s B2B e-commerce heading? 

Two distinct types of B2B e-commerce exist today. The first is the most straightforward – including GE, Boeing and many more. The second is marketplace websites – such as Amazon Business and Alibaba.

Changing times for B2B

In 2015 nearly half of B2B purchasing decisions were being made by millennials. This is not to say they automatically prefer e-commerce, but it’s a safe assumption to make – just look at the impact Chinese Millennials have had on retail e-commerce.

What's the difference between B2B and B2C

Though increasingly indistinguishable, there are differences between the two: 

1. B2B often sells large items that can’t be easily delivered

2. B2B buyers need to get approval for large purchases

3. B2B can have many individuals making the purchase

What B2B e-commerce can learn from B2C

“61% of all B2B transactions start online.”

The rise of mobile

More and more B2B purchasers are using their mobile to research purchases.

Innovation

Amazon has been pushing same-day delivery, while JD.com has already successfully tested a fleet of 40 drones. DHL Express has invested heavily in drones, and expects them to go into regular service in the very near future.

Customer experience

B2C retailers have given B2B companies a template for success, with simple and effective online user experiences. B2B now needs to follow suit.

B2B Marketplace Opportunities 

- IndiaMART: India’s largest online B2B marketplace.

- Moglix: Singapore-based Moglix is growing fast – as much as 300% every year.

- Mercateo: Germany’s top B2B e-commerce trade website.

- Amazon Business: For Europe, America and beyond, Amazon Business is the biggest B2B marketplace.

- Rakuten Ichiba: The largest e-commerce marketplace in Japan.

- Alibaba: The world’s largest B2B e-commerce marketplace.

For real B2B e-commerce growth, look to Asia and India

Asia is seeing the most powerful growth – with Forrester predicting the B2B e-commerce market to expand by 12.1% each year. China is growing at nearly double the rate of the US B2B e-commerce market – be sure to read our guide on doing business with Tiger Cub economies.

How to grow your B2B e-commerce brand

Present your business or e-commerce offer as a distinctive brand for the sector you serve, and demonstrate how you are better than competitors.

Challenge old-world assumptions

Recently emerging B2C brands are digitally native. They try to make the entire journey simpler. Keep pushing for better. Fewer clicks to find a product. Better search. More delivery options. Faster delivery.

 Take some inspiration

As a B2B brand, aim to match or exceed the slick experience of B2C. What story can you tell? What is your USP? What advantage do you have over competitors? To help e-commerce growth, use the tools already at your disposal:

- Trust: Use social proof: customer testimonials, online review ratings, case studies.

- Distinctiveness: What do your competitors look like, do and say? Strive to be the opposite.

- Consistency: Uniformity across your visual and textual output is a sign of trustworthiness and reliability.

- Customer-centricity: All your products, services and operations need to serve your customers.

How to scale up and expand your borders

Do your research. Who is your typical business buyer? Where is the growth in product segments? What are businesses demanding in your chosen areas? For more help, take a look at our Country Guides.

Take a diversified strategy

Your e-commerce shop will need to handle all relevant local languages and local currencies. Three-quarters of e-commerce shoppers want to buy in their own language, while 59% rarely or never buy from English-only websites.

Get your digital channels working harder

Almost nine out of ten B2B buyers start their search online – so be the first on the results page. 39% of all e-commerce traffic comes from search – read this guide to find out more. Use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to share brand-led content. If you have the budget, bring your products to life with animated GIFs and video. Use preferred local digital services and channels such as Yahoo in Japan, WeChat in China and XING in Germany.

Want to know more? 

DHL Express has the expertise to help your B2B e-commerce brand find whole new markets around the world. Speak to your experts today to get started.

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