Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, and other marketplaces have already changed the way consumers shop — according to recently released research, more than half of online purchases were made via marketplaces last year, with consumers spending more than $1.86 trillion in 2018.
Now, that same disruption is coming to B2B businesses. B2B sellers have embraced marketplaces in recent years, and are projected to spend a whopping total of more than $6 billion via these digital platforms in 2019 alone, and most estimates expect this figure to rise in the coming years.
But while these platforms are already well understood by consumers and early-adopting businesses, many B2B sellers remain in the dark when it comes to marketplace commerce. And it’s crucial that those who aren’t already selling on marketplace platforms do so soon, because as more millennials and other digital natives enter the workforce and rise to positions of B2B buying responsibility, they increasingly want and expect this process to be as simple, convenient, and enjoyable as the B2C buying process.
So how do you start selling on B2B marketplaces, and how do you find success? Read on to find out.
Why are B2B businesses flocking to marketplaces?
The biggest reason for the increase in B2B sales via marketplaces is also the simplest — companies are going to marketplaces because that’s where their customers are.
As we mentioned earlier, B2B buyers, especially younger workers or digital natives, increasingly want a buying experience that is similar to the B2C customer experience. That means they value convenience, speed, and an enjoyable experience over other factors that were in the past more important, such as price. Marketplaces give B2B buyers all of this, offering a wide selection of manufacturers, products, and prices along with an easy-to-use and consistent buying experience. Any seller, whether offering products to consumers or other businesses, wants to be where their buyers are, which makes the influx of B2B sellers to marketplace platforms quite understandable.
But that’s not the only reason that B2B manufacturers and distributors are embracing marketplace commerce. Selling on marketplaces is also often much cheaper and faster than creating and developing a stand-alone eCommerce store. B2B sellers who are looking to embrace omnichannel commerce but don’t want to invest time, money, and other resources in building their own offering only to see it struggle to catch on see marketplaces as an attractive alternative.
What marketplace should my B2B business sell on?
When B2B businesses make the decision to start selling via these marketplace platforms, they have another decision to make: Which platform, exactly, should they sell on?
Unfortunately, as is the case with so many other questions, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
As of 2019, the biggest platforms in the space include some well-known names from the consumer marketplace industry, including Asian giants Alibaba, and the B2B division of American titan Amazon, known simply as Amazon business. Other, B2B-specific platforms have also flourished in recent years, including eWorldTrade, Wholesale Central, and Joor.
It’s crucial to consider more than just the size and customer base of each specific marketplace, of course. Make sure you take into account the niche the platform serves, the geographic markets it will deliver to, and the marketplace platforms most often used by other companies in the industry.
That last factor can be particularly important as, increasingly, industry-specific marketplaces have found success as more B2B buyers have embraced omnichannel commerce. GoDirectTrade, for example, has become a go-to shop for aviation parts, while the Hanes Closeout Marketplace, offered by the well-known consumer brand of the same name, has found success by operating as a liquidation marketplace for other clothing brands, such as Champion, Bali, and Maidenform.
How do I turn a new marketplace channel into a success?
When it comes to online marketplaces, one of the most important things you can do to find success is to make sure your product information is perfect.
As we mentioned above, B2B buyers may want a convenient and enjoyable experience, but they also expect accuracy and consistency when it comes to product data. If they can’t find the data they need, or if they don’t trust it’s accurate, they won’t buy from your company, and will likely patronize a competitor.
Accurate product data isn’t enough, however, because, with dozens, if not hundreds of similar or identical items each being listed on the same marketplace, yours needs to stand out. You can achieve this by forging an emotional connection with your buyer via compelling product information.
It’s also important to put all this information into context, as each platform has its own rules/regulations— and if you don’t comply, you could be shut out. So, use PIM to take control of product information and turn your marketplace endeavor into a success.
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