B2B eCommerce: A shift in thinking

The B2B eCommerce market reached a huge $7.661 trillion by the end of 2017 – more than triple that of the B2C eCommerce market.B2B eCommerce vs B2C eCommerce market

And not surprisingly, wholesale companies that have taken advantage of the convergence between B2B and eCommerce excel compared to their competition in customer service, cash-to-cash cycle, and profitability.

Let’s take a look at some of the key reasons wholesalers are shifting to eCommerce, as well as the advantages of moving your business online.

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What’s causing the shift to B2B online?

There are obvious parallels between the shift we’ve seen in B2B (business-to-business) trading in recent years and the earlier shift in the B2C (business-to-consumer) market where consumers thought “online-first” and retailers had to follow suit.

As more businesses adopt an eCommerce approach, wholesale buyers’ expectations are now mimicking those of B2C customers – so wholesalers are now facing pressures to adapt or be left behind.

B2B buyers now prefer eCommerce self-service options at every stage of the funnel – from awareness, to consideration, and to purchase. In fact, the average B2B buyer does a significant amount of independent research and is more than halfway through the B2B purchasing cycle before they reach out to a supplier. With that in mind, wholesalers without an eCommerce self-service component risk being overlooked entirely by customers at the awareness and consideration stages.

86% of B2B buyers also prefer ordering using a self-service portal rather than talking to a sales rep. Likewise, 69% of business buyers prefer direct payments like a B2B payment gateway over purchase orders and invoices.

Wholesale buyers have spoken - they want the flexibility and autonomy that retail customers have had for years. Accordingly, wholesale businesses are seeing the writing on the wall and responding to a resounding customer need to remain competitive.

eCommerce for wholesale: advantages for businesses

Of course, the benefits of eCommerce don’t just lie with consumers. As we already touched upon, wholesale businesses with eCommerce capabilities outperform businesses by almost every metric. Specifically, the top-performing B2B businesses are 70% more likely to use digital technologies to automate processes with customers, suppliers, and partners, according to a recent report by Aberdeen.

In an environment where the typical sales cycle is longer than B2C and customer relationships are longer-term, eCommerce frameworks and digital technologies allow wholesale businesses to be more efficient, provide personalized customer service, and use analytical data to inform business decisions. This is a far cry from the physical ledgers and order forms used by traditional wholesalers.


According to the same report by Aberdeen, the most profitable B2B businesses can be distinguished by four key factors:

  • They account for the buyer’s whole journey, from lead to revenue
  • They identify, dissect, and duplicate buyer behaviors
  • They utilize online sales and CRM systems
  • They have diversified sales channels, with online components

All of these factors utilize eCommerce or digital technologies – so it goes without saying that investing in B2B eCommerce pays dividends over time for wholesalers in the form of:

  • Time and cost savings – automation maximizes efficiencies and minimizes the risk of errors
  • Positive buyer experience – B2B customers receive the personalized, flexible experience they’ve come to expect from B2C
  • Greater business predictability – reporting and analytics tools enable better forecasting and planning

Ultimately, these advantages not only lead to higher revenues but also equip wholesalers with the right tools to scale up and nurture long-term customer relationships.

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