Ecommerce for B2B: Your Guide to Getting Started

by | Nov 6, 2023 | Wholesale Club

More and more, business-to-business (B2B) buyers are turning to the digital marketplace to complete transactions. Instead of waiting for in-person meetings with sales reps, buyers are researching and purchasing products online, and this trend is going to occur more and more frequently. 

  • In 2021, U.S. ecommerce for B2B accounted for $1.7 trillion in transactions. Experts expect that amount to swell to $3 trillion by 2027
  • By 2025, 80% of B2B sales engagements that occur between buyers and supplies will happen online, according to Gartner.
  • In a McKinsey study, 35% of B2B customers surveyed said they would spend $500,000 or more in a single transaction

Are you ready to maximize your potential in the B2B ecommerce space? Then read on!

In this post, we’ll cover the basics of ecommerce for B2B, including how it works, the benefits your business can enjoy, types of ecommerce for B2B, how to choose the right B2B ecommerce platform, and how to optimize your B2B online sales. 

How Does Ecommerce for B2B Businesses Work?

In the B2B business model, products and services are sold directly between businesses (hence the term “business-to-business”). Unlike the business-to-consumer (B2C) (aka direct-to-consumer, or DTC) model, B2B transactions are between wholesalers and retailers or wholesalers and manufacturers.

Since ecommerce refers to digital commerce, the sales process occurs online. For example:

  • Businesses purchasing supplies on Amazon for bulk-rate discount pricing is an example of B2B ecommerce.
  • Consumers purchasing shirts from a business on Amazon at retail price is an example of B2C ecommerce.

Before online sales channels became popular, B2B transactions were labor-intensive and faced time and geographic constraints.

Unique Opportunities in the B2B Ecommerce Market

3 doors with 1 door open and 2 doors closed

When you take the B2B customer experience online, you’re going to enjoy numerous benefits, including:

  • 24/7 availability: Ecommerce businesses aren’t constrained by the brick-and-mortar storefront hours of operation. B2B ecommerce platforms are always accessible, so customers can explore items available on your online store anytime, day or night.
  • Expanded geographic reach: B2B buyers can purchase orders from your product catalog anywhere you ship. As such, B2B sellers can enter new markets they couldn’t previously access.
  • Cost-efficiency and improved functionality: B2B ecommerce streamlines complex B2B transactions, reducing manual processes and paperwork. You’ll save time and resources through automation, allowing you to focus on business growth and development.
  • Customer empowerment: B2B customers enjoy the convenience self-service ecommerce platforms offer. They can place orders, track shipments, and manage accounts with ease, and reordering can be done with the click of a button. With customer support options like real-time chat and email accessibility, you’re further improving the buying experience.
  • Data-driven personalization: Ecommerce platforms generate valuable data based on customer needs. Built-in customer relationship management (CRM) software can track customer data, conversion rates, inventory turnover, and much more. By following these closely, you can identify ecommerce trends and find ways to improve and streamline user experiences.
  • Real-time inventory management: Ecommerce tools offer real-time inventory visibility so you can keep accurate stock levels while reducing your chances of overstocking. As a result, you can improve your supply chain efficiency.
  • Adaptability and scalability: Ecommerce for B2B businesses helps you adjust to market fluctuations, expand operations, and stay agile in the B2B marketplace. You can meet your customers where they are on social media and boost your online presence by adopting a multi-channel or omnichannel marketing strategy that attracts and retains customers.

Types of B2B Ecommerce

When your B2B company is just stepping into the ecommerce space, it can feel pretty overwhelming. The good news is that there are clear paths you can follow, each with its own set of advantages and challenges. Here are four common categories of ecommerce for B2B to consider.

1. Wholesale: Empowering Bulk Orders

Wholesale businesses acquire goods in bulk from manufacturers and distributors and then make these products available to consumers at retail prices. Costco’s business model is a perfect example of this.

If business buyers are looking to purchase in large quantities, wholesaling is a great way to go. If you’re a wholesale supplier, check out some of the buyer-oriented B2B marketplaces. These platforms create a bustling marketplace where you can showcase your products to an audience of buyers and retailers for less effort than traditional marketing requires. The partnerships you form can pay off in perpetuity!

2. Manufacturing: The Heart of Production

Without manufacturers, the supply chain wouldn’t exist. Manufacturers churn out goods in abundance. These products may then find their way to other suppliers, wholesalers, or even other manufacturers, where they are assembled, rebranded, and prepared for the consumer market.

Manufacturers that adapt to the digital age can enjoy a competitive advantage. They’re no longer just producers; they’re also the providers of digital solutions. The flexibility in purchasing, personalized features, and access to critical information is essential in the B2B ecommerce space.

3. Distributors: Orchestrating the Journey

Distributors manage the packaging, shipping, and marketing — all of which are tasks that businesses may not wish to handle in-house.

Manufacturers often partner with distributors to streamline the distribution process, and B2B ecommerce solutions make this process easier than ever before. By uniting on ecommerce platforms, they’re creating efficient, agile supply chains that streamline the buying process and help them meet and exceed customer expectations.

4. B2B2C: Cutting Out the Middleman

B2B2C (business-to-business-to-consumer) connects wholesalers or manufacturers directly to consumers. On B2B ecommerce websites, this setup often features an enticing virtual storefront showcasing an array of products. However, the consumer may not always be aware that these goods aren’t coming directly from the business itself.

As an entrepreneur, the B2B2C model lets you cater directly to consumer needs by cutting through layers of intermediaries.

How to Choose the Right B2B Ecommerce Platform for You

Ecommerce for B2B: arrows leading to 2 different paths

Selecting the right ecommerce software can substantially impact the course of your business, and with an abundance of options available, decision-makers may need help when selecting the perfect ecommerce site for them.

Here are a few things to help you narrow your choice:

  1. Your business needs: What specific needs and challenges do you face? Are there any unique B2B features you absolutely must have? Write a list of needs and then wants, and keep it handy when reviewing platform stats.
  2. Your budget: Selecting an ecommerce platform is an investment. Which platform most aligns with your needs and is also within your budget? Remember, the most expensive option isn’t always the best, but the cheapest may not offer the best value.
  3. Flexibility and scalability: No two businesses are exactly alike. Select a platform that can be tailored to your unique business needs. The platform you use should also be one that can scale with your business. Think about where your business is but also where you want it to go.
  4. User-friendly: The platform you choose needs to be easy to use on any device. If not, you’re likely to lose customers who become frustrated or confused when searching for a product or during checkout.
  5. Seamless integration: Select a platform that can integrate with third-party apps and other essential tools you’re using. Doing this ensures a smooth flow of data and of operations between your ecommerce platform and your CRM, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, and more.
  6. Security measures: Ecommerce platforms should follow the latest security standard, including SSL encryption and data protection regulations.
  7. Transaction options: Your platform should come with the currency, payment terms, and payment options (e.g., credit cards, Apple Pay, etc.) your customers are most likely to use.

What’s a Good B2B Ecommerce Platform?

While there are a number of options available, many business owners find that Shopify or Shopify Plus is their best choice. It’s incredibly user-friendly and customizable, easy to scale, has top-notch security and customer support, and offers tons of payment options.

The Shopify platform also boasts a vast app ecosystem that can further extend the functionality of your ecommerce platform, with features and tools that’ll suit your specific business needs.

For example, Orbit’s Wholesale Club app lets you offer two different catalogs: one for the public and one for wholesale services to your industry customers. Without it, you’d have to have two different Shopify stores.

Optimize Your Ecommerce for B2B Sales With OrbitApps

The most successful B2B sales strategies involve knowing who your customer is, understanding what their needs are, and effectively communicating how your products or services can meet these needs. Doing this, and delivering effectively, helps you build trust and strengthen relationships, and often results in more referred business.

At Orbit, we’re here to be your trusted partner in your ecommerce journey. We help merchants like you solve real challenges so that they can streamline their businesses and better sell to their customers. From our robust collection of apps to our friendly and reliable support, we’re here to help empower and expand your business. Together, we can launch your ecommerce business into the stratosphere, so get your business into orbit today!

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