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4 Tips for Creating a Winning B2B Marketplace

Nov 04, 2021

Online marketplaces are no longer just for B2C sales. The biggest growth in marketplaces is actually in B2B, but what does it take to create a successful B2B marketplace?

The online marketplace – an e-commerce website where customers can shop from multiple different sources – has historically seemed like a business-to-consumer (B2C) concept.

Shoppers have embraced these platforms as part of their e-commerce discovery and buying journeys. Meanwhile, uptake of marketplaces for business-to-business (B2B) sales has been slower to date.

This is now changing. The online marketplace is set to become a major force in B2B sales.

In fact, a study by financial services consulting firm iBe TSE Ltd noted that the fastest growth in global marketplaces, and marketplaces in the USA in particular, will be in B2B rather than B2C.

It reports that marketplace platforms currently only account for 7.5% of the $7.9 trillion in online B2B sales made annually.

However, iBe’s study forecasts that B2B marketplaces will account for 30% of all global online B2B sales by 2024 at a value of $3.6 trillion, up from $680 billion in 2018.

This represents a big opportunity for B2B companies selling through and/or operating online marketplaces.

Marketplace platforms currently only account for 7.5% of the $7.9 trillion in online B2B sales made annually.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the success of two of the biggest B2B marketplaces in the world – Alibaba and Amazon Business. Amazon Business is reportedly on track to achieve a massive $31 billion in gross merchandise volume in 2021. This is forecast to reach $83 billion in gross merchandise volume by 2025.

Meanwhile, reported that in 2019 it already had 10 million B2B buyers across 190 countries.

It’s not just the big names that are able to take advantage of the B2B marketplace boom, either. Small-scale B2B marketplaces are also taking off, especially in the USA. There are countless ripe opportunities for B2B businesses to create highly focused marketplaces that serve a particular industry, niche or vertical in a targeted way.

In particular, there is a definite first-mover advantage for B2B businesses operating in sectors which are not currently served by an existing platform.

However, to succeed in this fast-growing area, B2B businesses need to get their strategy right. That means delivering an online buying experience that caters to B2B best practices specifically and choosing the right marketplace platform to build a site around. 


1. Give B2B Customers What They Want

In order to develop an effective B2B marketplace, you need to know what your customer wants.

This isn’t just about products or services. It’s about catering your strategy to fit the target audience. In this case, that target audience is made up of buyers who are purchasing on behalf of the goals of an entire business.

You need to think about what these B2B buyers are looking for when choosing a sales partner. There’s more at stake for a B2B buyer whose core business is relying on the purchases they make than a B2C shopper making a one-off buying decision. 

What Are Some Key B2B Marketplace Considerations for businesses?

  • High quality products and services
  • Reliable buying experience 
  • Affordability
  • Ability to get products at scale
  • Quick order turnaround and fulfillment
  • Expert support

By understanding what drives B2B sales, you can create a B2B online marketplace that meets those needs and speaks to B2B buyer audiences in a way that communicates the value of your products.

Of course, you should also ensure that your marketplace partners, products and services are of the best possible quality. Who you associate your business with will often have a noticeable impact on your brand. 

Also bear in mind that your offering will also impact the type of marketplace strategy you adopt. For example, a business that sells products or materials will approach a B2B marketplace in a different way than one that sells a service.

modern b2b commerce

2. Make User Experience for Business Buyers your Unique Selling Point 

The digital customer experience is one of the biggest influences on where B2C e-commerce customers choose to shop.

It’s no different in the B2B world. What is different is what that experience should look like. 

From their day-to-day lives, your customers are increasingly digitally proficient and used to a certain level of functionality from e-commerce websites. They expect this to carry over into the experience of using B2B online marketplaces.For sellers, your B2B marketplace presents the opportunity for them to offer a higher standard of user experience than they could on their own.

By focusing on the B2B marketplace user experience, you can find ways to address common pain points in procurement. For example, providing your customers with digital paperwork may help streamline their accounting.

However, you should also consider the complexity of the products and services your B2B online marketplace offers. It may be that for more complex offerings working with a marketplace partner is required to create the best possible user experience.

Remember that the B2B purchasing process is longer and more complex than with B2C. There is a decision making process that has to occur and which involves multiple stakeholders before any purchases are made. 

In B2C, the customer adds to cart and checks out and that’s that. B2B buyers, on the other hand, are going to most likely want more in terms of product information, video tutorials, and marketing materials in general. 

You should also make sure that the refunds and return process is well communicated. This includes telling buyers who the warranty is with – seller, manufacturer or marketplace operator – and who to contact in the event of a problem.

Should You Use Dynamic Pricing?

B2B buyers are used to negotiating on costs and tightly managing spending. As such, the B2B marketplace experience may include dynamic pricing.

Dynamic pricing uses algorithms to change prices based on a variety of factors such as supply and demand, and competitor pricing. It can help sales staff when negotiating with customers. It can also help maximise profits, increase conversions and manage stock by changing pricing based on different scenarios such as the size of an order, product type and customer.

In many cases, dynamic pricing also means that the customer has room to negotiate on the price tag. If you’re selling in bulk, offering discounts on larger orders can be a great benefit, and it will give you a built-in upselling mechanism for sales pitches. 

However, implementing dynamic pricing in a B2B marketplace can be complex and requires considerable analytics capability alongside a robust IT infrastructure and data management. B2B businesses considering dynamic pricing may find it helpful to work with a marketplace partner like Avensia to put in place the technology required.

One benefit of online marketplaces is that they can offer considerable savings around logistics and fulfillment. For example, while more specialist products may need to be shipped separately, standard items may be able to be combined and shipped together. This has the added benefit of getting products to buyers faster.

While some marketplace platforms offer various data management and logistic streamlining services built in, others may require you to use third-party services for those things. Either way, it’s important to know what your platform is capable of before deciding to use it for your online marketplace. 

Ultimately, the experience of using a B2B online marketplace should be easy and enjoyable for buyers. They should see it as a valuable and useful channel for purchasing rather than a frustrating and complicated experience.

3. Use Data to Stand Out 

The standardisation of data across a B2B marketplace is vital. 

Where possible, sellers using your marketplace should sync inventory listed on the platform with their actual stock levels. This will ensure that buyers only see accurate product availability information and prevent frustration.The optimisation of inventory will also enable you to fulfill orders quicker, which builds customer loyalty.

How Can a B2B Marketplace Use Customer Data?

Online marketplaces often receive high volumes of visitors, and that translates to lots of behavioral data that can be used to improve the buying experience. In fact, if we had to pin down the #1 benefit that comes with using an online marketplace, this would be it. The sort of access you have to customer data, including purchasing behavior and site navigation patterns, is incredibly useful, and even vital, for your success as a business.

For example, a B2B operator can see what people are searching for within the marketplace, at what point they drop off in the buying journey, and which pages they tend to land on.

This can help identify gaps in the product offering or weak points in the user experience, and ultimately, lead to optimization for a better customer experience.

This information can also support your B2B operations outside of the marketplace by enabling you to get to know your customer better.

Another recommendation for B2B businesses starting marketplaces is that you allow the customer’s procurement system to be integrated with the marketplace. This will make it possible for buyers to automate their purchases, saving them time and money and increasing loyalty.

This plays into the fact that repeat purchases are a key component of B2B sales. Online marketplaces that retain and restore customer purchase history make it easy for sellers to quickly re-buy regular purchases.

In fact,e-commerce buyers expect a personalized buying experience based on their past purchases and other data. This is true for both B2C and B2B e-commerce. That data can also be used to make more relevant product recommendations.

As such, personalization and customer data should be key considerations when planning your B2B marketplace.

Personalization and customer data should be key considerations when planning your B2B marketplace.

4. Consider the Wider Benefits of Operating a B2B Marketplace

Starting a B2B online marketplace is a big commitment. However, the rewards are potentially greater as well. 

It changes the way that you communicate with both your customers (the buyers) and those selling through the platform. 

For example, some buyers may be worried about how a marketplace will change the customer relationship. Others will be used to dealing directly with suppliers and be unsure about purchasing through a marketplace.

You may also be concerned about what operating a B2B marketplace means for the long-standing relationships between your sales staff and customers. However, you should think of it as a way to augment those relationships.

A B2B online marketplace helps you to acquire new customers who may not have come across your brand or products through your own direct channels. It’s a vehicle for product discovery just as much as it is a convenient way to buy those products. 

As an in-bound channel for sale leads, a marketplace can support the direct relationship. Instead of chasing new customers, sales staff can focus on building deeper connections with acquired customers.

What Are Some Benefits to Starting a B2B Marketplace?

These include:

  • Improving your e-commerce offering
  • Greater discoverability of your products and brands
  • Delivering more choice to customers
  • Reaching a wider customer base
  • Helping build your brand
  • Enabling you to enter into new markets
  • Increasing customer loyalty
  • Selling more


The B2B Marketplace and Modern Commerce

A B2B online marketplace is about more than just the marketplace.

It’s about the wider digital transformation of retail and the customer journey.

E-commerce has become a normalized shopping behavior for many people across the world. Online marketplaces are a way for B2B businesses to meet the new digital expectations that their customers have.

They’re also a way for B2B businesses to modernize their operations and embrace the mindset of modern commerce.

The B2B sector has been business as usual for a long time. This is in direct opposition to modern commerce principles which are all about reinvention. By embracing the opportunities in marketplace commerce, B2B businesses can position themselves for success in a modern commerce world.