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There’s a common view amongst many b2b ecommerce companies that their b2c peers have an easier life. With fixed pricing, simple product descriptions, and a single standardised payment option, b2c retailers seemingly encounter few of the complexities that come with selling online to businesses.

But as the global b2b ecommerce market races towards a predicted value of $6.5 trillion in 2020, twice the size of b2c estimates, the potential rewards are clearly worth the extra effort. With this in mind, what are the major challenges facing b2b sellers on this journey, and how can they address them?

The complex route to purchase.

According to Google, b2b purchasers conduct an average of 12 searches before interacting with a particular company’s website. During this process, they require a depth of detail on product features, benefits and specifications and usually need to understand how potential purchases will fit with their existing products or equipment. Most purchasers will also need to evidence multiple quotes as part of their corporate approval procedure.

For ecommerce manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers, content really is king – from providing as much information as possible about specific items on the product page, to creating an area for additional resource within the website, where buyers can access material such as white papers, blog posts FAQs and explanatory videos. On top of this, with 42% of b2b buyers using mobile devices for their research, ensuring the interoperability of site design, content and navigation across different devices and browsers is essential for delivering an optimised user-experience.

Higher value products and a multitude prices.

The value of b2b orders is generally considerably more than those in b2c. What’s more, b2b customers often have their own individual pricing agreements, discount structures, promotional deals and payment terms from their suppliers. This makes it difficult, if not impossible to list a single product price on the product page.

Successfully managing these pricing variations, promotions and payment terms requires an ecommerce platform that is either able to apply predefined rules for different customers, or preferably, through integration with business systems such as Sage, is able to draw this information directly from the back-office. With the latter solution, the system can generate tailored information based on each unique customer’s contract and relationship.

An expanding competitor landscape.

Online, b2b sellers are head-to-head with a whole new range of competitors, all battling for online visibility, as well as with their traditional adversaries. To stand out on Google against the Amazons, eBays and Alibabas of this world, in addition to the likes of content aggregators, publishers and even business that are local to potential customers, b2b sellers must ensure that the structure and content of their website is search engine optimised.

Amongst other things, this involves making sure that the key words and phrases people will use to find you are included in the right areas of your site – along with producing and posting a continual stream of your own relevant, bespoke content.

Dealing with multiple brands and thousands of products.

Many b2b companies, for example, engineering component wholesalers, will be offering hundreds of product lines and thousands of different products from a wide variety of manufacturers. Buyers must be able to easily and quickly find and compare products, prices, specifications and real-time stock levels in order to make informed purchase decisions – otherwise they will go elsewhere.

The best ecommerce platforms tightly integrate with enterprise business and accounting systems to display current stock levels for individual products and can handle numerous attributes and data integrations. With over 75% of b2b buyers stating that enhanced search facilities are a must-have feature, the top performing platforms also incorporate advanced capabilities that that enable buyers to search items by multiple variables.

Delivering large orders efficiently.

The challenge in handling and delivering b2b orders quickly and efficiently is normally that their size and scale often demands the use of specialist freighting services. This can add considerable expense to orders and impact on delivery times, so it’s important that your ecommerce platform allows buyers to see accurate shipping costs and timings to avoid any nasty surprises for your customers.

In conclusion….

Recent industry research says that the average customer conversion rate for a b2b ecommerce site is 10%, compared to 3% for b2c sites. By choosing the right ecommerce platform and adopting current industry best practices, b2b sellers can really leverage the true potential of doing business online.
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