With trade shows canceled and enterprise digitization accelerated, 2020 was a big year for the adoption of B2B eCommerce. Whether through the use of online marketplaces or proprietary supplier portals, B2B sellers embraced the opportunity to connect with business customers online, while buyers reciprocated by sourcing, procuring and paying for goods the way they do in their personal lives.
Even before the pandemic hit, the B2B eCommerce landscape was heating up as businesses sought greater efficiency. As the trend proliferated, it opened up new opportunities for businesses to migrate their payment workflows online, too.
“The B2B buyer is rapidly evolving and becoming more sophisticated, and, in turn, expectations are shifting [toward purchasing] with their payments of choice,” Anjali Shah, director of client management for online merchants at American Express, told PYMNTS in the February 2020 B2B eCommerce report, a collaboration with American Express.
The Rise of the Marketplace
The B2B eCommerce space saw some of the biggest investments of the year for B2B FinTechs, a testament to investors’ confidence in the evolution of the market. Only days ago, startup Spryker secured $130 million for its B2B eCommerce technology, while Mirakl landed $300 million in September, pumping the firm’s valuation up to $1.5 billion.
There are several models that digital B2B commerce can follow, but marketplaces are an increasingly popular choice for sellers seeking a streamlined avenue to selling online, and for buyers in search of greater vendor and product diversity. Retail giants like Flipkart ramped up their investments in online wholesale operations this year, with the pursuit of the “Amazon-like experience” continuing to be a driving influence for the sector.
But the needs of B2B buyers and sellers are far more complex than those in the world of consumer shoppers, leaving plenty of opportunity for innovation among B2B marketplaces as well as vendors that choose to deploy their own online stores. With demands intensifying among the end customer, wholesalers, suppliers and the eCommerce platforms upon which they operate will have to meet a lengthy list of requirements.
According to Eric Dean, president of IMC_di, a seller’s online store will often be the first point of interaction with many new customers, and can be a make-or-break moment for any potential sale. As he recently told PYMNTS, business buyers are no longer finding it acceptable to interact with an interface that does not include up-to-date and accurate product and pricing information, sluggish customer onboarding or a clunky checkout experience.
Among corporate customers’ biggest demands is a seamless payment process when procuring goods and services online. Initially, this simply meant the opportunity to digitally transact on the same platform where these businesses made their purchases. But looking ahead, it is no longer enough for B2B sellers to merely offer card or ACH payment acceptance at the digital point of sale.
B2B marketplaces and eCommerce platforms must be agile enough to meet the complex financial requirements of B2B trade. That includes custom payment terms, trade credit and financing, and choice in how the payment is executed.
“One size doesn’t fit all in B2B sales,” said Björn Widerström, co-founder and CEO of B2B eCommerce technology firm Briqpay, in an interview with PYMNTS last November. “To create a good customer experience, merchants need to adjust their checkout experience to match the specific needs and requests of that market. That could, for example, be to offer local payment methods to give the customer the option to pay with their preferred method.”
Increasingly, the rise of B2B eCommerce and the adoption of electronic B2B payments are coinciding with the proliferation of the concept of embedded finance and Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS). Online platforms are finding new opportunities to integrate payment and finance functionality right at the point of sale.
According to BaaS firm Wise, this fosters a holistic B2B ecosystem within digital marketplaces and eCommerce platforms, in which buyers and sellers can cultivate communities of discovery, with technology that meets every need from sourcing to purchasing to financing and payment. In doing so, financing and payments are both more convenient, and present the opportunity to accelerate cash flow.
“What ends up happening is that once the embedded banking and payments piece is built-in, money moves not just from slow to fast, but from slow to instant, because it’s embedded within the experience itself, which means you’re getting the business money as quickly as possible,” said Arjun Thyagarajan, co-founder and CEO of Wise, in an interview with PYMNTS.
Though the ability to seamlessly integrate complex functionality – including real-time inventory, custom payment terms and embedded financing – is a lofty goal, the opportunity for the B2B eCommerce landscape to create holistic ecosystems stands to build upon the progress that the B2B community has made in 2020. In 2021, the continued proliferation of B2B eCommerce will support the evolution of new business and payment models, and will further drive the modernization of how business buyers and suppliers operate.