Definition: B2B (Business-to-Business) ecommerceB2B (Business-to-Business) ecommerce is an online business model where the primary target market is businesses, rather than individual consumers. As more products and services move online, building business relationships over the web has become a vital source of revenue, leading to robust growth in the B2B ecommerce sector.

Origins & Growth

Since 2000, ecommerce has grown by over 1,100%, from just 0.6% of retail sales in 1999 to over 7% in 2015. This growth has taken place despite the fact that many assets, such as gasoline, cannot be bought online.

While most online businesses focused on B2C activity during the early stages of ecommerce, as the capacity and security of doing business online improved, business-to-business transactions became more common. Now, B2B ecommerce is a critical sales channel for many firms, with over 70% of all B2B businesses acquiring customers online.

B2B ecommerce allows companies to acquire customers and book new orders without using an extensive sales force or relying on existing customers. Using the vast reach of the web, a company can organically build relationships with customers online, regardless of location. A manufacturing company in Ohio, for example, could receive a parts order from a company in California on its website without any member of its sales team directly interacting with the new customer. The ease and efficiency of doing business online has helped drive B2B ecommerce's rapid growth.

B2B: Traditional vs. Ecommerce

Online commerce gives companies access to many more consumers than traditional business. Taking advantage of this increased prospect pool usually requires digital marketing efforts, which take many traditional approaches and applied to two fundamental goals:

a) Build a user-friendly website that represents your business and helps prospects find the information they need.
b) Drive qualified traffic from a presence across various online channels? to get the right users onto the website

Building a business-friendly website has never been easier, but a standalone website is just the first step to bringing the right users presenting your brand to the right people. Efforts across some or all of the following channels help make the most out of a business website and maximize online visibility with prospects:

  • SEO: Optimizing the website so that it appears in relevant search results, which can be greatly simplified by an ecommerce platform
  • Paid Media: PPC advertisements on search engines such as Google and Bing, as well as display ads on other websites where prospects visit
  • Content marketing: Creating content that attracts and educates B2B audiences in a manner that builds relationships and guides buyer decision making
  • Social media: Building relationships with the target audience via their preferred social networks
  • Email: Stay in touch with prospects and customers alike via newsletters, product confirmation messages and promotional materials

Success across these channels is built into some ecommerce platforms, enhanced by integrations with medium-specific providers and services. Ultimately, digital and traditional marketing are based on the same core principles of connecting with customers and differentiating a brand from the competition.

B2B Ecommerce in an Multi-channel World

Many B2B businesses have some combination of physical store locations, warehouses, salespeople and marketplace storefronts (such as Amazon or eBay). B2B ecommerce — even more so than B2C — requires the alignment of all these segments to ensure efficient & holistic business operations. Ecommerce platforms help bring these efforts together by supporting integrations with business services such as POS, 3PL, and digital marketing products. Bringing efforts online and aligning them with existing systems can not only increase customers and revenue, but also streamline operations to make an organization as profitable and efficient as possible.

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