B2B Ecommerce: What It is and How to Start

b2bheader

B2B ecommerce is the process of marketing and selling products between two businesses online. 

The goal is simple: expand customer reach and reduce cost-to-serve to drive more revenue for your business. 

But how do you get started in B2B ecommerce, and what does the future hold? 

If you aren’t familiar with this ecommerce model, don’t worry. This guide will take you through how it works, how to get set up on an ecommerce platform, and successful B2B ecommerce examples to inspire your own operations. 

Table of contents

How B2B ecommerce works

The term “business-to-business” (or B2B) refers to the process of selling products and services directly between two businesses. As a business model, B2B differs significantly from the B2C model, where businesses sell directly to consumers. B2B ecommerce involves transactions between a manufacturer and wholesaler, or a wholesaler and a retailer, through an online sales portal.

B2B ecommerce is amongst one of the fastest growing sales models. Some estimates value the global B2B ecommerce market at over $12 trillion, taking up 13% of total B2B sales in the U.S.

Innovation and technology from B2B ecommerce platforms have helped drive the movement. B2B business traditionally involved labor-intensive, manual sales and marketing processes. The introduction of digital commerce helps these businesses reduce costs and improve efficiency through ecommerce automation.

B2B sellers work with:

  • Wholesalers
  • Large retailers
  • Organizations such as schools or nonprofits 
  • Resellers

Buyers and sellers can now meet in one digital home; placing and managing orders from their mobile phones and creating new opportunities for businesses to connect with distributors and suppliers.  

“Being able to automate the wholesale process changes how we build our team. It prevents us from missing 2 a.m. orders and keeps our customers from having to wait to place an order until we’re in the office. It just solves so many problems”

Paul Hodge, CEO of Laird Superfood

Key advantages of B2B ecommerce include:

  • Automated sales processes between businesses, suppliers, and distributors
  • Reduced infrastructure and overhead costs 
  • Less need for intermediaries, higher growth prospects
  • Ability to reach a mass market at scale
  • Omnichannel branded presence available 24/7
  • Better partner relationships
  • High employee productivity 

The COVID pandemic exposed many weaknesses in supply chains and the many flaws in B2B workflows. The silver lining was the move to online selling. While it may seem daunting to move your entire B2B business online, those who do reap the benefits of better customer experience, streamlined ordering, and new revenue streams for their company.

The future of B2B ecommerce

The trend is obvious: B2B ecommerce is a major sales channel in digital commerce. Changes in buyer behavior due to the pandemic will continue to drive adoption further beyond 2021. Forrester forecasts that B2B ecommerce transactions will breach $1.8 trillion by 2023, which would account for 17% of all B2B sales in the United States.

Of course, emails and phone calls continue to have their place in B2B business. Still, there’s no question about it—ecommerce pushes the boundaries of what B2B sales could be. 

This is great news for B2B sellers, because buyers are changing. Nearly 73% of millennials, a generation that grew up around technology, are now involved in the B2B buying process. These new buyers expect convenience and relevance more than their baby boomer and Generation X counterparts. 

Personalized sales portals, mobile ordering, AR tours, self-service functionality—B2B platforms continue to pave the way for cost-effective and accessible selling opportunities.

Think about what that means. 

  • You can reach a mass audience with less resources.
  • You can personalize relationships at scale.
  • Your customers now have the power to serve themselves.

The rise in B2B ecommerce is not only a pandemic trend. Buyers and sellers are moving toward digital commerce because it streamlines operations and boosts efficiency. And this trend will carry through 2021 and beyond. 

Types of B2B ecommerce

If you’re just starting out in B2B ecommerce, you’ll likely fall into one of the following three categories. Each has its own pros and cons, and many businesses operate in multiple categories at once. 

Supplier-oriented

This model is common for B2B retailers where there are many buyers and few suppliers. Businesses will often join supplier directories or set up an online sales portal to meet demand and sell at scale. Suppliers using this model control pricing and the customer experience, which helps build long-term relationships with B2B buyers. 

Buyer-oriented

Buyer-oriented marketplaces exist where there are many buyers and fewer sellers. Buyers in this case have their own online marketplaces. They invite suppliers and manufacturers to show their products and accept bids from different sellers. 

If you’re a wholesale supplier, these B2B marketplaces are a good way to advertise your products to buyers and retailers with less marketing effort.

Intermediary-oriented

The intermediary-oriented marketplace involves a third-party that matches buyers and sellers. The intermediary controls the product catalogs and product information, which means you have to follow specific guidelines. It also owns the buyers orders, contact information, and relationship. 

Examples of intermediary-oriented marketplaces, also known as “horizontal marketplaces,” include B2B ecommerce sites like Amazon Business, Alibaba, AliExpress, Rakuten, or TradeKey. 

Using a B2B ecommerce platform

Often B2B ecommerce businesses find themselves locked in legacy platforms. They traditionally relied on faxes, phone calls, and Excel spreadsheets to sell to B2B customers. 

Today, businesses can take advantage of B2B ecommerce platforms to meet online customer needs. These platforms help create an online experience that drives sales and fulfills orders, no matter where your buyers are.  

image22

While many people think a B2B ecommerce platform is just a tool to list products and accept payments, a true one is more than that. It acts as a command center where you control everything from sales to commerce operations, whether it’s for B2B and wholesale customers or a D2C website. 

For example, a B2B ecommerce website lets you:

  • Provide personalized sales and marketing experiences across sales channels and devices
  • Help customers find products with onsite search and customized navigation
  • Integrate customer data from your ERP or CRM through reliable APIs
  • Offer flexible payment options with different payment providers and manual invoicing
  • Optimize for conversion with powerful checkout promotions

If you’re getting into wholesale, a B2B ecommerce solution drive sales by helping you:

  • Create custom pricing and discounts for specific customer segments
  • Automate and review new buyer signups
  • Allow B2B customers to buy, track, and reorder products easily
  • Sync inventory, purchase orders, and customers with an existing ecommerce store or third-party software

“It’s fair to say that having the wholesale portal will save us the equivalent of one employee a year. That’s $50,000 to $60,000 a year and covers the cost of Shopify Plus several times over.”

Paul Hodge, CEO of Laird Superfood

In the end, a solid B2B ecommerce platform allows you to manage everything from one place, with endless opportunities for growth. You can set up a password-protected and branded B2B online store with Shopify Plus today, no coding required. 

B2B ecommerce best practices

Navigating B2B in ecommerce means understanding how B2B brands succeed:

Give ecommerce for B2B the B2C treatment

The rise of ecommerce has led to massive shifts in the overall B2B marketplace. Some of those changes have brought with them a host of best practices from the world of B2C:

  • High-quality product images and videos
  • Robust onsite search with visual merchandising
  • Social proof in the form of reviews and rating
  • Flexible shipping options and order updates
  • Personalization based on past purchases
  • Meant-for-mobile storefronts
  • Online catalogs for easy browsing
  • Real-time product and stock availability
  • Customer service via chat and phone support 

Thankfully, meeting those challenges doesn’t require guesswork. Business customers rank the following B2C capabilities as increasingly essential to their online shopping experience:

image4
  • Access to product information online
  • Personalized buyer experience and pricing
  • Ease and speed

Fortune 500 industrial supply company W. W. Grainger exemplifies this emerging overlap. After creating an account, buyers are directed to a homepage that mirrors any major B2C site. Likewise, their product pages bear all the B2C hallmarks listed above:

image6

However, what sets Grainger apart as online B2B pioneers are three additional features. First, three purchasing programs that go beyond auto-reordering to fit the size and needs of individual businesses:

image11

Second, a “Bulk Order Pad” that toggles between two entry options located immediately next to their search bar. And third, a robust, autocomplete search bar with “Add to Cart” options embedded:

image12

Given that 75% of B2B customers buy online, and 47% do online research during the buying process. An enhanced onsite search functionality is essential.

Enhance your onsite search functionality

If you sell a large catalog of, say thousands of car parts, it won’t be easy for customers to find what they’re seeking on your B2B ecommerce website in a pinch.

In the B2C world, site search is now a necessary function of a website. Just like an in-store sales clerk, it aids customers to find and buy the right products. That’s because customers who use site search are almost 2X more likely to convert on your site and can generate upwards of 40% of your site’s revenue.

Enhancing your onsite search for B2B customers is equally important and helps to streamline the sales process — empowering your sales reps to work in a more consultative, rather than transactional role. 

Mark Roberge, HubSpot Advisor and former Chief Revenue Officer, explains:

“You know you are running a modern sales team when selling feels more like the relationship between a doctor and a patient and less like a relationship between a salesperson and a prospect.

“It’s no longer about interrupting, pitching and closing. It is about listening, diagnosing and prescribing.”

The V-Belt Guys website isn’t exactly sexy nor content heavy. But it doesn’t need to be. Instead, they put first things first.

image5

Their search strategy includes three separate invitations to submit a query on the homepage, plus word auto-completion and the ability to preview product images and prices while you type.

image18

A customer can select “See all results,” to get a full-screen experience complete with price comparisons, bigger images, and detailed product descriptions.

To increase value, V-Belt Guys provides its visitors with key search elements like:

  • Part number
  • Manufacturer or brand
  • Part or full product title
  • Product type (e.g., product use cases)
  • Item details (e.g., width, function, and “number of teeth”)

This important service offering will assure customers that your B2B ecommerce business can help them find exactly what they need in a hurry. That’s a value proposition that generates repeat purchases — something that’s getting harder to do online.

Make wholesale easy on traditional customers

In the case of independent retail stores, small-to-medium franchises, and B2C outlets, some B2B buyers prefer simplicity over the bells and whistles of B2C ecommerce.

Catering to these types of buyers means offering them a digital version of the spreadsheets and faxed order forms they’re used to. Adding all the bells and whistles of B2C can become a distraction and even a detriment.

As Pierre Verrier, Director of Design and Development at Noticed puts it:

“The greatest myth around wholesale ecommerce is that it’s difficult to get your sales channel up and running. Using Shopify Plus and the Wholesale Channel is a fast and convenient way to get selling and give your customers the optimal portal to streamline their ordering process.”

For example, The Elephant Pants strikes a similar balance between B2B and B2C through their wholesale ecommerce platform on Shopify Plus. This includes a number of the B2C elements already mentioned; namely, an easy-to-find search bar, quick access to previous Orders, an online catalog for browsing, and transparent pricing:

image17

As The Elephant Pants CFO and founder, James Brooks, explained to me:

“Initially, some of our retail partners expressed resistance to an online wholesale portal. For us, the move was about replacing our pieced-together method of phone calls and Quickbooks with something faster. For them, human guidance was still important.

“Really, we’re in it together with our sellers. We provide them with advice on purchasing and marketing, spec sheets, and POS displays.”

“Because supporting them was crucial, we brought on a great sales rep and merged the physical with the digital.”

“Today, we help 80-90% of our buyers create their orders through the wholesale channel. The terms are determined on a buyer-by-buyer basis. As a result, wholesale has doubled for us over the last two months on a per-week basis.

Sometimes B2B needs to offer more than B2C. Sometimes, less.

In the case of resellers, small-to-medium franchises, and B2C outlets, less equals more. The simpler the order process, the more traditional your site should be. If your orders get complex — e.g., with customizations, multiple variants, or fulfillment options — the B2C treatment shines.

Everything comes down to the customers you serve. However, before we turn to serving the people who can make deals, it’s crucial to examine the people who can break them.

Read more: Wholesale Ecommerce: What is It and How to Start?

Generate B2B leads with ‘agnosticism’

Over ten years ago, Seth Godin introduced the idea of permission marketing to describe the “privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”

Even though Godin coined the term, the ethos of permission was far from original. How to be successful in life and how to market successfully have always had value at their core. Not value in the product per se — that should go without saying — but rather, value in advance of the product.

As far back as the early 1930s, BBDO VP and creative director John Caples wrote:

“The best advertisements are those that appeal to the reader’s self-interest, that is, advertisements based on reader benefits. They offer readers something they want — and can get from you.”

What was true then is still true today … only more so.

As applied to B2B, this means generating leads through “supplier agnostic” sales collateral. That might sound like a strange concept, but customers are inherently self-interested. The traditional method of leading with content that elevates your product, your solution, or even your value proposition makes it about you.

The Challenger Customer frames the issue powerfully:

“This is a big shift for marketers. For the majority of content types you produce, following this content strategy will shift the focus from supplier-centric to supplier-agnostic.”

In place of supplier-centric collateral, lead generation should focus on two types of problems central to your target customers’ own business:

  1. Problems they’re aware of
  2. Problems they don’t yet know exist

The lesson to take on board is that B2B in ecommerce lead generation can’t start with you; it has to start with your customer.

Businesses can use a content-based strategy to funnel customers from different pain points to their products. Think of your content funnel like this:

  1. Understand — to educate buyers
  2. Select — to guide purchase decisions
  3. Implement — for post-transaction support

When a new customer arrives at your site, they can learn more about their own problem and potential solutions. Instead of pitching products, your goal is to develop needed awareness so the buyer places a real value on solving their problem.

Of course, in many cases, stories are far more powerful than feature lists and product specifications. That’s why a great deal of the B2B marketing we do here at Shopify Plus is customer-centric rather than product-centric.

Instead of making the product the hero, our aim in storytelling is to make the business the hero:

By relentlessly zeroing in on the problems your market faces, you force yourself to not only turn away from self-centered sales and marketing but to earn your future customer’s “permission” before the sales process begins.

As Polycom’s CMO Amy Barzdukas told me:

image3

“Leads from those [content] initiatives were nurtured with in-depth educational content to help them understand the value of collaboration as well as how to evaluate different solutions. This approach enabled us to build a trusted relationship for traditional, sales-focused follow up like demos and product details.”

“The benefits of creating content for each stage of the buyer’s journey are shorter sales cycles, higher conversion rates, and increases in our marketing-sourced pipeline and revenue.”

Success means getting “permission” at the top of the funnel and only then progressing down the funnel with collateral that sells explicitly.

Humanize your B2B through social media

Despite its undeniable rise in B2C ecommerce, social media has remained largely a mystery to B2B businesses. Networks like Facebook, Instagram, and even LinkedIn are primarily viewed as direct-to-consumer channels.

Nonetheless, Content Marketing Institute’s 2020 B2B Report found that social media was the leading organic content distribution channel B2B marketers are using:

image1

While social media may not work for direct sales in B2B, it is a powerful source for both outreach as well as creating the kind of consensus that B2B decision making necessitates. Why? Because consensus is about people, and people connect with people.

“Social selling,” note Laurence Minsky and Keith A. Quesenberry Harvard Business Review’s How B2B Sales Can Benefit from Social Selling, “concentrates on producing focused content and providing one-to-one communication between the salesperson and the buyer. [T]he goal is for the rep to form a relationship with each prospect, providing suggestions and answering questions rather than building an affinity for the organization’s brand.”

In the next practice, we’ll look at a real-world example of how to form those relationships. For now, rest assured that effective social selling — creating native content for multi-channel marketing — only requires salespeople (or brands) to invest 5-10% of their time actively engaging one-on-one.

And that’s not to say “brand affinity” isn’t effective as well.

In 2015, GE created one of the most successful B2B campaigns in history through a Twitter character named the Invention Donkey:

In its aftermath, GE credited the campaign with over 3.5 million views, 200,000 social media interactions, and — above all — giving its B2B audience a human touch point to what could otherwise be a faceless 140-year-old multinational conglomerate.

Tim Roan — creative director behind the project — said, “The challenge for a lot of big companies is that it’s hard to simplify complex stories. GE is doing some very big, very important and very hard things to help make the world work, and we wanted to show that in a fun, smart way.”

The role of social media to bring together multiple decision makers is one that Troy Osinoff — who led digital marketing at the $5 billion B2B enterprise Watsco — drives home as well:

“B2B brands should be looking at social to build human relationships with the people who will ultimately decide whether to use their product or service. Your social media presence and campaigns are an opportunity to create connections with everyone, from the gatekeepers to key decision makers.”

“Social media is uniquely positioned to not only disseminate information like whitepapers and research but to connect and rally people around your brand.”

Such connections may start with a bit of fun, but they also have to progress.

Price with both automation and negotiation

According to Forrester’s latest research, 74% of B2B buyers now research “at least half of their work purchases online.” Additionally, 53% complete those purchases online as well.

What’s the implication of this increased reliance on ecommerce?

“Today’s B2B buyers insist that B2B eBusiness and channel strategy professionals match B2C companies like Amazon by incorporating B2C tenets of price transparency, immediacy, and convenience into their core buyer experiences.”

As we've already seen, this doesn’t mean that B2C and B2B experiences are one for one. The keyword in Forrester’s appraisal is “price.”

The balance here is about price personalization that’s automated (i.e., dynamic) for buyers in the research phase and negotiated for those closer to purchase.

All of this is good news for B2C merchants thinking about moving into B2B or wholesale. Instead of recreating the wheel, a compelling B2B site should integrate the best-practices your existing site already provides.

To segment the two audiences, Shopify Plus makes creating multiple storefronts easy. In addition, apps like Locksmith enable you to password protect not only specific product collections but also to create subscriber-only sales and content. 

For the first — automatic pricing — Shopify Scripts offers a simple solution by removing the need for discount codes. Scripts can be used to automatically adjust prices in real-time based on factors like quantity, size, customer tags, and product combinations:

image2

For the second — negotiated deals — pricing must be tailored on a buyer-by-buyer basis. This includes …

  • Creating multiple price lists for fixed, percentage, or volume discounts
  • Applying those lists to individual customers or groups
  • Setting minimum, maximum, and quantity increments per product
  • Establishing minimum purchase amounts storewide or per customer
  • Reviewing draft orders before invoicing for negotiated deals
  • Integrating loyalty and reward programs automatically

The central theme is personalization: the flexibility to allow different customers to see and select different pricing.

To accommodate this, Shopify Plus’ wholesale channel has three types of pricing lists, which can be used to create as many or as few lists as your business needs:

image20

Each list can then be applied either to individual customers or customer groups — e.g., “Gold-level-customer” and other tags:

image7

These types of features are why the most successful B2B brands are moving towards cloud-based commerce platforms. It helps support new strategies and can help scale operations. 

For all its complexity, the B2B opportunities are enormous. Succeeding online means taking advantage of an emerging world that mixes B2C best-practices with both traditional and non-traditional B2B tactics.

7 successful B2B ecommerce examples

In the world of B2B ecommerce — where $12 trillion is on the line annually — finding a way to short-circuit the path to hard-won experience is invaluable. 

As a quote often attributed to Warren Buffett puts it: “It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.” Better still is learning from other people’s successes.

This isn’t a round-up post, and it’s not a beauty contest.

Instead, this is a detailed examination, ranging from international tech conglomerates to chocolates, and from baby carriers to model trains.

  1. General Electric: B2B goes direct to consumer
  2. Polycom: start with what they need
  3. Nicotine River: customers are your best sales reps
  4. eJuices: help resellers sell “direct”
  5. ScaleTrains: tell them when it’s coming
  6. Chocomize: on-page SEO Is a secret weapon

1. General Electric: B2B goes direct to consumer

Founded in 1892, General Electric is the very definition of an international B2B conglomerate. In 2017, it was ranked the 13th-largest enterprise in the United States on the Fortune 500. That kind of history and size is not without its difficulties.

As Tim Roan—the creative director behind GE projects like The Boy Who Beeped—told AdAge:

“The challenge for a lot of big companies is that it’s hard to simplify complex stories. GE is doing some very big, very important and very hard things to help make the world work, and we want to show that in a fun, smart way.”

One of the ways GE does that is through creative storytelling, like with its Ideas Are Scary campaign.

But where branding rubber meets the ecommerce road is in GE’s direct-to-consumer (D2C) sites, like C by GE. Beautifully designed and interactive, C by GE opens a door for consumers to experience the future of light.

By creating direct-to-consumer access points, large B2B companies can test products and omnichannel marketing initiatives with the same agility of newly funded startups.

2. Polycom: start with what they need

There’s hardly a conference room in the world that isn’t graced by Polycom’s iconic three-point phone. For 25 years, the teams at Polycom have been innovating audio, video, and collaborative technology.

Over the last decade, a host of low-cost alternatives have flooded the communication market. Against this onslaught, Polycom has remained staunchly committed to offering best-in-class solutions rather than entering the downward spiral of competition on price.

How?

Through a relentless focus on meeting its audience’s needs through educational content.

It’s a focus that shows.

Alongside traditional navigation—like solutions, services, and product catalogs—Polycom’s very first clickable option puts visitors front and center with a simple phrase: “I need to.”

image14

Likewise, on its homepage, each product category follows suit:

image9

Behind each of those needs lies a repository of media-rich content that goes far beyond text on a screen. Videos, original research, whitepapers, webinars, in-person events, detailed spec sheets, and even presentation assets all cater to B2B’s love of self-service.

The lesson is one that any B2B organization can learn from: customers’ needs come first. Products, second.

3. Nicotine River: customers are your best sales reps

Nicotine River is a B2B liquid nicotine and laboratory equipment wholesaler. Needless to say, much like communication technology, the vapor nicotine market has exploded over the last 10 years.

Unlike Polycom, rather than invest in content or social media as its primary driver for product differentiation, Nicotine River has gone all in on trust.

Through a savvy combination of apps like Yotpo (for customer reviews), Fomo (for real-time social proof), and McAfee SECURE (for safety concerns), every page breathes credibility. And at each step, Nicotine River relies on third-party validation to prove it.

image8

Why this emphasis on trust?

First, because people are people, even in B2B. The same biases that trigger compliance—i.e., persuasion and purchases—are just as present in wholesale transactions as they are in B2C. Second, because user-generated content—namely, reviews—is one of the most powerful triggers you can leverage online. As Yotpo’s exhaustive study found: visitors who experience UGC are 166% more likely to convert than those who don’t.

image13

In other words, your best sales rep isn’t you, it’s your customer.

4. eJuices: help resellers sell “direct”

If Nicotine River is the grown-up incarnation of liquid nicotine, then eJuices is its millennial-focused counterpart. That ethos shines, especially through its onsite visuals.

image19

Still, don’t let eJuices’ B2C vibe fool you. While it excels at customer-facing B2C touches in both its branding and user experience, eJuices is a B2B wholesaler. And that means supporting its retail partners is top priority.

In addition to customer-friendly features like robust search, a rewards program, and “average lead time” for each and every product, eJuices’ Direct option solved what can often be a sale stopper in B2B business: inventory.

Rather than force retail partners into large, up-front purchases, the company has created a “virtual warehouse.”

What’s more, its explainer video—used instead of a densely worded terms of service PDF—details the process beautifully.

The takeaway here isn’t only to know your niche and communicate with it naturally but to invest in tactics that lower the risk for resellers. 

5. ScaleTrains: tell them when it’s coming

Hobbyists are a notoriously manic group. That’s not a dig at enthusiasts. If anything, it’s a testament to their passion. After all, the more time and energy someone invests in an art form, sport, or craft, the stronger their emotions become.

Catering to hobbyists in the B2B realm means one thing: never give them a needless reason to complain. Chief among needless complaints—no matter what business you’re in—is failing to provide a clear schedule for delivery.

In other words, the trains have to run on time. That’s all the more vital when trains are what you sell.

Puns aside, ScaleTrains.com—an “upstart model train manufacturer”—doesn’t just set clear expectations on shipping timelines through its checkout process, it’s built an entire page dedicated to getting in front of product availability before it becomes an issue.

In this case, two lessons stand out. Number one, your own delivery schedule doesn’t have to be a dry spreadsheet of dates and inventory. Instead, it can and should embrace the aesthetic of your market itself. Number two, never miss an opportunity to add scarcity to your buyer’s journey (e.g., “Extremely Limited”).

image15

6. Chocomize: on-page SEO is a secret weapon

In B2C ecommerce, search-engine optimization (SEO) is cutthroat. On-page best practices—like featuring each product’s keywords in page titles, H tags, body copy, and alt image tags—are table stakes, but the war over backlinks is what separates page one from all the rest.

Here’s a secret…in B2B, on-page SEO can still be a powerhouse of ranking and revenue.

Take Chocomize as a test case. Makers of personalized chocolates and other corporate gifts, Chocomize’s minimum orders start between 250 and 600 units, with significant discounts going to purchases closer to 10,000. With order volumes like that at stake, you’d be tempted to think that Google’s top search results would belong to online Goliaths like Godiva, Lindt, and Etsy.

Not so.

Chocomize’s homepage isn’t just on page one of Google for “personalized chocolate bars,” it’s also the number one result for both “custom chocolate bars” and “custom corporate chocolate.”

image21

As Chocomize’s SEO consultant, Jacob McMillen, told me:

“We focused on a few key improvements. The first thing was getting meta tags for their high priority pages in order. Meta tags need to both target the search engine and the user. Google heavily factors user behavior into their algorithms, so if you can get people clicking on your listing, it will rise in the results.

“The second thing we did was improve and expand page content. We turned the top pages into in-depth presentations that channeled visitors to specific product categories. Finally, we added internal links to help channel the domain’s authority to the top pages we wanted to rank.”

The SERPs speak for themselves.

image10

It’s true: examples can never fully replace experience. But examples can make us wiser and more successful, with a lot less pain.

Whether you focus on serving your audience’s needs, optimizing your on-site or off-site search, supporting your retail partners, or making wholesale easy, what matters is picking up at least one lesson from these seven B2B ecommerce examples and leveraging their wins for yourself.

Make your B2B ecommerce website

As you can see, B2B ecommerce is a great way to find new customers and increase sales for your business. Whether it’s building an online storefront, improving inventory management, or streamlining your recording process, a B2B ecommerce platform can help you get there. 

Want guidance for B2B ecommerce?

Shopify Plus hosts a large ecosystem for merchant support and award-winning Agency Partners.

Those are just two of the reasons—along with a dedicated wholesale channel for B2B sales—our merchants are growing 120% year over year.

Learn more about Shopify Plus’s features for B2B ecommerce sellers

Common Questions Related to B2B ecommerce

What is B2B ecommerce?

B2B ecommerce is the marketing, selling, and distribution of products from one business to another through an online or digital portal.

What's the difference between B2B and B2C ecommerce?

While B2B ecommerce involves one business buying from another business, B2C ecommerce involves an individual buying from a business.

What are the characteristics of b2b ecommerce?

Some of the key characteristics that differentiate B2B ecommerce from B2C ecommerce include multiple decision-makers and a longer time-to-purchase.

How do I start a b2b ecommerce company?

To start a B2B ecommerce company, you’ll first need to decide what you want to sell and evaluate whether there’s market demand. You’ll also need to set up an ecommerce website to list the products you’ll be selling.

Which is more profitable b2b or b2c?

B2C sales are only about a third of the size of B2C sales, making B2B ecommerce the most profitable model in terms of global gross merchandise volume.

About the author

Michael Keenan

Michael is a SaaS Marketer and SEO and founder of Peak Freelance. He’s inspired by learning people’s stories, climbing mountains, and traveling with his partner and two Xoloitzcuintles.