B2B eCommerce in 2018

Mandy Movahhed
November 7, 2018

This blog post will cover:

In 2018, consumers expect an easy online ordering option to meet their every need. To enable this type of transaction companies have adopted Amazon-like eCommerce portals. Today, if you’re selling products direct to consumers, eCommerce is a must have.

Likewise, the business-to-business (B2B) world is following this same trajectory. Given the complex nature of B2B ordering, manufacturers and distributors have traditionally been slow to adopt B2B eCommerce, but this is quickly changing.

B2B eCommerce is rapidly becoming the norm in 2018. Old school manual ordering processes are being replaced with digitally optimized ordering solutions that enable B2B order capture across a variety of desktop and mobile devices.

B2B eCommerce in 2018

B2B eCommerce is undoubtedly one of the most disruptive technologies to impact manufacturing and distribution over the past several decades, with particularly rapid growth in market penetration and B2B buyer demand over recent years.

According to the 2018 Manufacturing & Distribution Sales and Technology Report, 65% of respondents said that their customers have requested online ordering in the past year, up from 58% from the 2016 version of this survey.

b2b ecommerce
Source: 2018 Manufacturing & Distribution Sales and Technology Report

Looking at market penetration, just over half (51%) of manufacturers and distributors now have online ordering in place for their B2B customers, up from 44% in 2016.

B2B eCommerce: Why Roll it Out

When asked why they implemented B2B eCommerce, 63% of respondents to this survey reported that they were looking for efficiency gains associated with increased automation of the customer ordering process. The other main rationale for investing in B2B eCommerce software was to remain competitive in their respective industries—60% of respondents reported that this was a key factor.

Additionally, 34% of respondents reported that they implemented B2B eCommerce because their customers were specifically requesting the ability to place orders online. These data points indicate that B2B eCommerce is increasingly considered to be table stakes to doing business in manufacturing and distribution today.

b2b e-commerce
Source: 2018 Manufacturing & Distribution Sales and Technology Report

B2B eCommerce: Impacts You Can Expect

Manufacturers and distributors across industries are seeing measurable results from their B2B eCommerce investments, including larger, more frequent orders, upsells, cost reduction, and customer reactivation. What’s more, these results have grown in impact over the last several years.

With respect to average order size, 60% of respondents say that after rolling out online ordering, customers are placing larger orders. 73% also report that their customers are placing orders at a higher frequency, while in 2016, this number was reported at only 45%. Given the dominance of online ordering in B2C, it is not surprising that the B2B buyer is more comfortable with more frequent online purchasing in the workplace as well.

Due to growing internal competencies in B2B email marketing and increasing sophistication in the ability of today’s B2B eCommerce platforms to drive upsells and cross-sells, online ordering is also improving product discoverability. 76% of respondents state that they have noticed customers discovering new products and/or new product categories when they browse online, compared to only 50% in 2016.

75% of respondents state that they now have a segment of customers that places orders online only, reducing the overall costs associated with serving them. Finally, 53% of respondents noticed previously inactive customers coming back to place orders again after launching their B2B eCommerce offering. In 2016, this number was only 38%.

Given the prevalence of consumer eCommerce over the last decade, manufacturers and distributors are not only losing customers if they don’t provide online ordering, they’re also seeing those customers return when they do finally implement B2B eCommerce technology.

b2b e commerce
Source: 2018 Manufacturing & Distribution Sales and Technology Report

B2B eCommerce: Types of Solutions

Since B2B eCommerce solutions come in different shapes and sizes, from custom solutions and ERP extensions to SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), choosing the option that works best can sometimes feel like a daunting task.

Here are the most common categories of B2B eCommerce software solutions in 2018:

  • Cloud-Based SaaS Solutions: SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) B2B eCommerce solutions are out-of-the-box and cloud-based, entirely managed and updated by a third-party vendor. Because they are easy to implement, have a familiar buyer interface (including super mobile offerings) and an overall lower cost of ownership, SaaS solutions are increasingly the option of choice for the modern manufacturer and distributor selling B2B. To see if Handshake’s SaaS B2B eCommerce software is a fit for your business, sign up for a 10-minute chat with a Handshake specialist here.
  • ERP Add-On Solutions: Extensions of ERP software, these B2B eCommerce solutions are attractive to some businesses given their tight integration with their ERP. However, while ERP vendors may be adept at building complex software that represents financial and inventory data, they often fall short when attempting to make B2B eCommerce software that is modern, easy-to-use, and mobile-friendly.
  • Third-Party On-Premise Solutions: Most on-premise solutions were developed in the pre-Cloud days, and the manufacturer/distributor themselves is therefore responsible for deployment and management on their local servers. What’s more, because they are difficult and costly to upgrade, suppliers often choose to forgo innovation and updates, so their buyer interfaces look rudimentary and outdated.
  • Custom-Built Solutions: More prevalent in the early days of B2B eCommerce when options were limited, custom solutions are now waning in popularity. Given their exorbitant costs and the difficulties associated with maintaining and upgrading these systems, suppliers are moving away from custom solutions and towards off-the-shelf options.

For a variety of reasons, companies across all industries are leveraging SaaS B2B eCommerce solutions to give their B2B customers access to place online orders from a modern, image-rich digital catalog. The best B2B eCommerce software also allows B2B buyers to view their customer-specific pricing and promotions, inventory levels, and past order history.

B2B eCommerce Website Examples

B2B eCommerce SaaS solutions allow companies to launch elegant, custom-branded B2B eCommerce portals that are easy to use and fun to browse.

The following are some examples of B2B eCommerce websites enabled by our Handshake Direct solution. To get your own B2B eCommerce website set up with Handshake, schedule a 10-minute call with a Handshake specialist here.

b2b ecommerce website
Your login page is the gateway to your B2B eCommerce portal. It also serves as an opportunity to communicate important product and promotional information. Sugar Paper’s customized login page includes a special welcome message.
b2b ecommerce site
In B2B eCommerce, the ability to structure specific product-offerings into catalogs is a necessity. Buff uses our Catalogs and Collections features to showcase both their in-season and preseason catalogs in Handshake Direct.
b2b ecommerce websites
Building off the experience we’ve all come to expect in our consumer lives, B2B eCommerce websites allow for advanced product filtering. Walman Optical set up our custom Filters functionality to allow buyers to navigate their catalog by Best Sellers or New Releases.
b2b ecommerce sites
Reordering is an important workflow in B2B as well. For this reason, B2B eCommerce portals make it easy for buyers to duplicate past orders. Upon login, Skip Hop buyers can shop by category, or conveniently tap into their recently ordered items.

Once your buyers see how easy and intuitive your B2B eCommerce portal is, they’ll be eager to start placing orders through it.

Some companies, however, still struggle to encourage adoption of their B2B eCommerce portals. The following sections focus on the reasons for this gap, as well as suggestions for improvement.

B2B eCommerce Adoption

According to the 2018 Manufacturing & Distribution Sales and Technology report, 79% of suppliers state that their buyers prefer placing orders online. However, suppliers are still struggling with buyer adoption of their B2B portals, pointing to user experience gaps that discourage buyers from ordering online.

When asked directly about the challenges they’ve faced with their B2B eCommerce solution, adoption came out on top, with 45% of respondents stating that not enough customers are placing orders through their portal.

Respondents also expressed concerns that point to key deficiencies in their B2B eCommerce solutions. 24% of respondents stated that their portal lacks required customizations, and a combined 46% said that their buyers either don’t think that their B2B eCommerce experience is user-friendly or complain about the performance of their portal. It’s clear that these reported user experience issues directly fuel B2B buyers’ ability and willingness to place orders online.

b2b ecommerce solutions
Source: 2018 Manufacturing & Distribution Sales and Technology Report

Adoption data tells a similar story—41% of respondents have less than 25% of their customer base placing orders online, and only 25% of respondents could say that more than half of their customers are placing orders online. Only 9% of respondents have very strong adoption, with more than 75% of their customers placing orders via B2B eCommerce portals.

b2b ecommerce portal
Source: 2018 Manufacturing & Distribution Sales and Technology Report

A deeper look at this survey data reveals a key factor in encouraging B2B eCommerce adoption.

B2B eCommerce & Mobile

Survey results indicate that a B2B eCommerce offering that includes a mobile option can positively impact adoption rates, particularly when the offering includes a native mobile application.

For respondents who currently have a B2B eCommerce solution that allows their buyers to place orders through a mobile web browser, 25% are seeing adoption rates of over 50%. For suppliers who offer no mobile option, the adoption rate drops significantly––to only 11%. Most notable, however, is the impact of a native mobile ordering app on adoption. 43% of suppliers who offer a native mobile app as their mobile option are seeing more than half of their customers placing orders online.

b2b ecommerce platform
Source: 2018 Manufacturing & Distribution Sales and Technology Report

With better performance, reliability, and online access, native mobile apps provide a superior mobile buying experience than mobile web. Given the clear connection between user experience and B2B eCommerce adoption, it is no surprise that suppliers with a native app are seeing higher adoption rates than their peers.

For information on driving better B2B eCommerce buyer adoption, download the B2B eCommerce Adoption guide here.

Getting B2B eCommerce in Place at Your Business

At this point, it should be clear that B2B eCommerce is a must-have for modern manufacturers and distributors. Suppliers that have digitally enabled their customer base to conveniently order from them—from anywhere, on any device—generate more revenue and incur less costs than those still employing old school methods.

If you haven’t yet implemented B2B eCommerce at your manufacturing and distribution business or are looking to upgrade your current B2B eCommerce solution for one that is up to 2018 standards, request a demo of Handshake’s B2B eCommerce software today.