B2B ECOMMERCE   |   7 minute read

B2B eCommerce: 5 lessons from businesses doing it right

$12 Trillion. (Yes, that’s a trillion with a “T”). That’s how much the B2B eCommerce industry is going to be worth by 2020 - roughly 3x the size of B2C eCommerce. Want to get in on the action? Read on to see how the biggest players are leveraging online wholesale to cash-in on this mega trend and take their business to the stratosphere.


Let’s face it: going online with your business (pretty much in any industry) is not really a choice anymore. Our old friend Darwin was right: go online or watch as your competitors grab your pie from under your nose. Not a pretty visual, but you know that’s how evolution goes.

As Forbes reported in 2014: “The technology has improved, buyer expectations have increased, and automation is becoming increasingly powerful. The days of faxing procurement forms may not disappear entirely over the next five years, but the coming generation will wonder how we ever got by.”

Don’t just take our word for it - let’s see what the numbers say:

  • 89% of B2B procurements managers are using Google to research their vendors. They perform at least 12 searches before engaging with a brand. Oh, they are also as lazy as the rest of us and only look at the first page of Google.
  • 52% of B2B product research is happening on mobile.
  • 75% of customers are influenced by social media and don’t need face-to-face contact with a vendor.
  • 40% of B2B customers expect to streamline their process and integrate their procurement with other systems.
  • 69% of companies expect to stop printing a catalog in 5 years. Online is replacing offline as you read these words.

What’s driving this shift to online procurement?

The pressure to go online is growing because industry leaders in all sectors are adopting technology to manage their processes more efficiently.

As platforms like AmazonSupply and Alibaba become increasingly popular, more companies are interested in placing orders through mobile devices - a trend which won’t die down anytime soon. Over 10 million SMEs are now using AliExpress, Alibaba’s B2B marketplace for SMEs, to source for a smaller number of goods at much cheaper prices than retail.

With B2C eCommerce at the peak of its popularity, procurement managers (who are usually only seeking the simplest way to order quality products) will increasingly seek integrated solutions to B2B procurement that makes their jobs and lives easier.

Here’s how you can provide them a stellar shopping experience online - as shown by the top B2B eCommerce players in the industry today. Take these 5 lessons learned from companies crushing it at B2B eCommerce.

1. Beautiful, mobile-friendly websites set you apart.

Who’s doing it right: Blake Envelopes

Even though envelopes may not be the most exciting eCommerce niche in the world, Blake has heavily invested in making their website an absolute pleasure to visit and interact with. The quality of the website also conveys the quality of the product and the customer service a user might encounter - increasing the likelihood of a long-term relationship. Oh, and try to make it mobile-friendly while you’re at it.

B2B eCommerce

Additionally, Blake comes with a powerful search interface which allows clients to access and order the right envelope with very few clicks. Definitely a winner!

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2. Design experiences that boost efficiency.

Who’s doing it right: MSC Industrial Supplies

MSC’s website is not the most beautiful, since it is tough to visually innovate in the industrial supplies space. However, they have understood that bulk, repeat, and quick ordering are all very common in B2B eCommerce and more important to their customer than a pretty-looking website.

Multiple Search and a Quick Order Pad allow customers to find and place orders quickly. Along with their offer to deliver within the next day for orders placed until 8pm, MSC’s website is right up there at providing an excellent customer experience in line with their expectations.

B2B eCommerce

3. Content-assisted purchasing counts.

Who’s doing it right: Swahili Wholesale

Swahili Wholesale provides retailers with Fair Trade Artisan Products made in Africa (mostly gifts and home decor products). They have clearly positioned themselves as an online wholesaler - with no retail option available. They have many pages of specialized content about Fair Trade, Artisans and Products - along with a simple sign up and order management process. Each product page provides multiple visuals of the product, along with the story of the artisan and detailed product description. Excellent way of integrating storytelling into B2B eCommerce for creative industries!

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4. Social proof drives credibility.

Who’s doing it right: Firerock

Did you know that 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision?

Firerock has a gorgeously designed website, along with extremely detailed product information (including photos and videos) of their building products. They exclusively work with construction companies via B2B eCommerce - so you can see that all their materials are geared towards this customer base.

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They have an excellent “Testimonials” section with detailed testimonials from a variety of customers (from homeowners to construction companies) speaking about their experience with Firerock. Their eBrochure is also particularly excellent - they manage to make even home construction look sexy!

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Another company doing reviews on Social Media right is ScrewFix. They have integrated review and social media buttons right into their product descriptions, allowing customers to engage with products right away -- much like AmazonSupply.

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5. Personalized experience delivers bigger profits.

Who’s doing it right: Soho Apparel

Soho Apparel is one of the few online apparel websites making B2B ordering as easy as regular online shopping. They provide personalized B2B interface for customers, allowing them to modify Minimum Order Quantity and Pricing terms for each customer. In addition, they offer free shopping to all customers for ordering over $500 - along with a varied catalog of products to allow stockists to purchase across categories. 

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There you have it!

Like Mark Cuban says in his book “How to Win” - your customers are looking for the path of least resistance. Especially when it is their job to look at vendors all day long, they look for the option that makes their jobs (and lives) easier. We are all lazier than we would like to admit - so the key to success with B2B eCommerce is indulging the customer’s inherent laziness to deliver an absolutely irresistible customer experience.

Ready to try a software providing all of the winners listed above in one easy-to-use package? Check out TradeGecko’s B2B eCommerce platform!


See Also: 

eCommerce is the future of wholesale: 6 reasons why

9 questions you have about moving your wholesale business online (but hesitate to ask)

8 reasons you should move your wholesale business online immediately