B2B marketplaces are the fastest growing digital commerce sales channel. This is according to a recent study by Digital Commerce 360, which found that sales on B2B marketplaces increased 131% to US$56.5 billion in 2021 and again to US$112 billion in 2022.
With figures like these, it’s hardly surprising that everyone wants in on the action. There are thousands of B2B marketplaces worldwide, and more come online with each passing month. Together, they are changing the face of B2B transactions for businesses operating in sectors ranging from consumer products to healthcare to freight and transforming the way that these businesses transact.
The evolution of B2B marketplaces
The so-called digital transformation and a shift in expectations have reshaped B2B buyer and seller dynamics chiefly by ramping up competition through vastly increased choice and optimising the transaction journey. It has never been easier for businesses to buy and sell goods and services; entire transactions can be settled in just a few clicks.
It wasn’t always this way, though. B2B transactions used to be notoriously difficult, marred by friction and frustration, full of bottlenecks and extremely complex procurement processes. Historically, factors like limited supplier choices and geographical constraints have played a big role in dictating who you can and can’t do business with.
With the growth and evolution of B2B marketplaces, however, these challenges are becoming a thing of the past.
Rather than B2Bs being burdened with the day-to-day management of their own online stores and sales pipelines, modern centralised B2B marketplaces have made it easier for businesses to work with stakeholders across the entire supply chain—manufacturers, sellers, distributors, and buyers—and cater more to niche markets as a result of the diversity that comes with the global reach that many B2B marketplaces can offer their sellers.
The benefits for buyers
B2B marketplaces offer several benefits to buyers. including:
Unified UX—B2B marketplaces are integrated platforms that offer unified buying experiences. All the tools that a buyer needs to contact a seller, initiate a deal, negotiate purchase terms, and then conclude proceedings are all included in one centralised platform.
New Partners—B2B marketplaces offer buyers the ability to connect with new sellers and forge new partnerships all around the globe. This allows them to tap into new supply markets and reduce the costs associated with finding new purchasing opportunities.
Product Matches—The technology behind B2B marketplaces enables buyers to easily search for and find exact matches of the products that they need based on metrics like colour, exact dimensions, lead times, product availability, shipping costs, and more.
Efficient and Streamlined—The nature of B2B marketplaces means business can be initiated and conducted quickly. From negotiating terms to signing on the dotted line, they’re designed to be efficient and streamline the procurement process no matter where in the world you’re located.
The benefits for sellers
B2B marketplaces aren’t just built to benefit buyers; there’s a whole range of advantages designed to add value for sellers too.
Reach a Wider Audience—B2B marketplaces make it possible for sellers to grow their reach without additional overheads or the need for cross-border trade expertise. That’s because most marketplaces support localisation (i.e., translating into local languages) and facilitate certain elements of trade, such as by providing native payment processing services.
Build Online Presence—Building a formidable online presence is one of the biggest challenges faced by B2Bs. Even the bigger players can struggle with it. B2B marketplaces provide all the groundwork for sellers to build upon, eliminating a lot of the difficult legwork required to get started and begin marketing online.
Simplify Order Management—B2B marketplaces are designed to be seamless and easy to use. That’s their core selling point. Setting up your marketplace store, adding products, managing orders, and more can all be handled from within one centralised platform. No more chasing emails or digging out spreadsheets.
Integrate with Existing Systems—B2B marketplaces typically offer integration functionality via APIs so that you can connect everything up with your existing systems and solutions like SAP and CRM tools.
The future of B2B marketplaces
B2B marketplaces will continue to evolve in 2023 as several key trends drive continuous growth and improvement in the space. Spending on them is expected to exceed US$3 trillion by 2027 as marketplaces continue to create valuable opportunities for businesses to do business in international markets.
One of the greatest drivers of this growth is AI implementation. Chatbots, personalised recommendations, and smart algorithms that provide B2B sellers with an insight into buyer behaviour are all contributing to the increased adoption of B2B marketplaces. Never before have sellers had so much data in their hands that they can use to their advantage.
Another driver is personalisation. Along with more channels and more convenience, customers want a more personalised experience. This includes B2B buyers who want to feel like they’re getting a deal that nobody else is being offered. The adoption of blockchain is another factor that B2B marketplaces must take note of as more and more businesses seek to secure their transaction data against the prying eyes of threat actors.
Marketplaces can't be successful without a bedrock of trust and a solid reputation among buyers and sellers. Find out more about the role of trust and reputation in B2B marketplaces in this blog post.