If you look at some of the biggest B2C trends that have emerged over the past decade - from social media to omnichannel sales, and even marketing tactics - they’ve all been adopted by B2B sellers. Why? Because professional buyers are consumers too, and our experiences as consumers have a profound impact on expectations and behaviors in the workplace.
Professional buyers are becoming increasingly comfortable with digital solutions. In 2021 B2B eCommerce sales totaled $1.63 trillion, up 50% from 2019. This was fueled by the rise of online B2B marketplaces, which grew 130% in 2020 alone, or 7x faster than the pace of overall B2B eCommerce. And, according to Adobe, last year 73% of B2B companies reported conducting sales online, compared to just 55% in 2020.
As B2B eCommerce continues to take hold, businesses will face increased pressures to address many of the same hurdles that first confronted retailers years ago: whether that’s meeting ever-rising buyer demands for more, answering the call for a streamlined eCommerce experience, or providing a way to push back against digital natives who are pouring into the space.
While these pressures will not relent, B2B businesses should again look to their B2C counterparts for a proven solution: the online marketplace. According to The State of Online Marketplace Adoption by Mirakl, a global survey analyzing the shopping habits and preferences of consumers around the world, shoppers are overwhelmingly turning to online marketplaces. The top reasons why center around convenience: better selections, more competitive prices, improved delivery options, and an overall enhanced customer experience, all on a single site. Just as it has for retailers, the marketplace model offers B2B businesses the same ability to offer a streamlined, aggregated, and frictionless buyer experience that meets the rising demands of their increasingly digitally savvy buyers.
A better selection at competitive prices
With an online B2B marketplace, businesses can quickly grow their catalog without the costs and risks associated with owning, storing, and transporting inventory. The marketplace model enables businesses to offer products or services that are sold and shipped directly by sellers – earning a commission on all items bought on their marketplace. A curated selection of high-quality sellers allows you to give your buyers more options to compare while offering you the flexibility to test new categories and create a truly endless aisle.
In 2018 Aniel, a member of the Faubourg Group, launched France’s first B2B marketplace for auto parts. Aimed at better serving all automotive professionals, the marketplace offered them an efficient and profitable way to expand their catalog without further taxing their already limited warehouse capabilities. In less than three years, the Aniel Marketplace has onboarded more than 65 million offers for more than 15 million products. This has led to 200% YoY growth of marketplace GMV, which today accounts for 20% of their total online sales.
Building on this success, Aniel announced plans to reach 100 million marketplace product offers in 2022: another step forward in their goal of becoming the ultimate “one-stop shop” for all things automobiles.
We have developed a centralized, efficient, and digital distribution channel in less than five years with an unprecedented number of offers available. Mirakl’s expertise was essential to ensure the success of our platform. Today, we have managed to put in place a win-win system, in which car manufacturers and their networks are no longer seen as competitors, but as essential partners in the success of our platform, which aims to be more inclusive than ever. Vincent Belhandouz, President of Aniel Marketplace
Delivery options that fit your buyers’ needs
When a product will arrive can often be as important as the item itself; this is especially true when that product is crucial for business operations. Parts Town, a leading foodservice equipment parts distributor, initially used the marketplace model in 2020 to launch Parts In Town. By leveraging partnerships with local service companies, dealers, and distributors, Parts Town was able to deliver more of their US customers (spread across the country) genuine OEM parts in under an hour. Now, Parts Town could offer clients a solution for same-day fixes – meeting a critical need in the foodservice and restaurant industry – without having to expand their existing network of warehouses and distribution centers.
On the heels of this success, Parts Town expanded its marketplace project the following year with the launch of the Parts Town online marketplace. The endeavor allows them to not only grow their OEM catalog, but also branch into new verticals, and even protect themselves from supply chain disruptions as buyers have the ability to search from an entire ecosystem of third-party sellers.
Our marketplace has served as a catalyst for growth. With it, we're creating more value and stickiness to our customer base and partners in the industry. We have been a growth-oriented, customer-centric business, and what we have found is that growth and profitably comes by providing more value. Emanuela Delgado, SVP of the Revolution at Parts Town
Enhanced customer experience with brand protection
B2B online marketplaces allow buyers the same convenience, selection, and ease of use they’ve become accustomed to in their personal lives. In 2018 Airbus Helicopters, the world’s leading manufacturer of helicopters, launched an online marketplace to deliver their professional buyers the same customer-centric experience. Using the platform their clients could now browse, compare, and purchase all their helicopter needs on a single site. What’s more, the platform has provided Airbus Helicopters with invaluable data on customer preferences and buying habits – which has helped them to better understand their customer base and inform future decisions.
Moving forward, as Airbus expands its assortment, the platform will enable them to moderate new listings - ensuring only products that meet its high-quality standards are offered to their buyers.
With a marketplace, we’re able to branch into new markets with the introduction of new, high-quality products. It has become an axis of growth, allowing us to reach new customers and provide an all-inclusive solution for our existing, loyal customer base. Paul Louit, Head of Marketplace at Airbus Helicopters
Using your competitive advantage
An online marketplace allows you to meet, and often exceed, rising buyer demands in everything from product variety to delivery options. What’s more, as an established brand with a loyal customer base, you have an advantage over incoming digital natives.
The consumer survey revealed: more than half of all shoppers are more likely to purchase items from a third-party retailer on-site they trust. As the incumbent, your buyers want to make their purchases from you. By offering an expanded selection, at competitive prices, with fast delivery options, you’re improving the buyer experience and protecting yourself from long-term buyers wavering for a more “convenient” option.