Commerce Glossary

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What is B2B eCommerce?

b - to - b e - com - merce
A type of transaction between two commercial entities where the order-to-cash process is conducted electronically, typically over the internet.

While the consumer or B2C eCommerce segment gets most of the attention, the global B2B eCommerce market is actually much larger and offers businesses more opportunity for growth and global expansion. For example, in 2020, B2B eCommerce sales totaled close to $15 billion (US), which is roughly five times the size of its B2C counterpart and is expected to grow 18.7% through 2026. This growing trend will surely push offline B2B sellers to set up an eCommerce site, making B2B eCommerce platforms more valuable than ever.

Traditionally, B2B commerce, especially for large multi-million-dollar transactions, was conducted on an individual, one-to-one basis. The sales typically revolved around close, personal relationships between the seller (or reseller) and a small circle of buyers – usually procurement and the business lead – within the buying company. But with the introduction and rapid growth of SaaS, or software-as-a-service, the B2B buying cycle became more democratized and digital, with the balance of power shifting away from centralized procurement and toward widely distributed business end-users.

Now that business users could buy or try new software or services on-demand without the involvement of procurement or IT, they began to expect more B2C-like experiences from their purchases and vendors. In response, B2B sellers shifted their strategy and resources from traditional channels, and the focus on the initial sale, to automated systems and processes that supported self-service sales and support, as well as long-term customer success and satisfaction.

The B2B market has multiple digital channels for distribution and sales, from the direct company websites and specialized industry-specific resellers and system integrators to online wholesalers and marketplaces.
While B2B eCommerce resembles B2C in many respects, there are some key differences that every B2B company should consider. The most important is complexity, whether with respect to the product or service offering itself or the ordering process, and the need to accommodate customization and specialization. B2B eCommerce calls for a flexible approach to online sales, that caters to the wide variety of prospects and their desired outcomes, at their pace and in tune with their priorities.

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