The rise of technology and the growth of ecommerce has reshaped the way businesses interact, trade and thrive in the digital age.
Years ago, most business to business (B2B) transactions were handled over the phone, via email or even through fax machines, but these days things are different. With a plethora of ecommerce platforms on the market, businesses can now manage their B2B operations from one centralized platform.
But with so many ecommerce platforms on the market, how do you know which one is best for B2B businesses?
Don’t worry, we’ll explore which is the best B2B ecommerce platform in this comprehensive guide.
Ready? Keep reading.
What is B2B ecommerce?
B2B ecommerce, short for business-to-business ecommerce, refers to the online buying and selling of goods and services between businesses. It encompasses digital transactions and interactions that occur exclusively within the B2B realm, catering to the specific needs of businesses rather than individual consumers.
Unlike B2C (business-to-consumer) ecommerce, which focuses on selling directly to end consumers, B2B ecommerce usually involves selling items in bulk at wholesale prices. Platforms that facilitate B2B ecommerce typically have dedicated features to make this process straightforward for both the buyer and the seller.
Why is B2B so important?
B2B commerce has seen significant growth in recent years. According to Statista (2023), an estimated 17% of B2B sales were expected to be generated digitally in 2023, up from 13% in 2019. This trend underscores the growing importance of B2B transactions in the digital space, with U.S. B2B online sales projected to reach 1.8 trillion U.S. dollars in 2023.
Every enterprise relies on acquiring goods and services from other businesses to establish, maintain, and expand their operations.
For instance, a company might engage in B2B relationships to:
- Source specialized raw materials for production.
- Utilize advanced technology and software solutions.
- Access legal and financial advisory services.
- Collaborate on marketing and advertising strategies.
- Employ logistic services for efficient product distribution.
- Secure cleaning and maintenance services for facilities.
These behind-the-scenes B2B interactions are vital for a business's day-to-day functionality and long-term strategic planning.
Different types of B2B businesses
There are several types of B2B businesses, these include:
Producers design and manufacture their own products. Producers may sell their products directly to other businesses or indirectly via retailers or resellers.
Retailers and resellers sell products and services made by other companies directly to businesses.
Agencies and consultancy services provide advice, strategies and subcontracted work to businesses. For instance, a marketing agency manages a multimillion dollar advertising budget for a brand.
Choosing the best B2B ecommerce platform
Ecommerce platforms have been around for a while, but many of them now offer dedicated B2B functionality to help businesses trade with other businesses.
But how do you know which one is the best for your needs?
Choosing the right B2B ecommerce platform depends on a variety of factors. Here are some key features you should look for when deciding which is the best platform for your needs.
1. Platform features and functionality
Not all ecommerce platforms offer dedicated B2B functionality, so when you come to choose one, it’s crucial to consider the features and functionality it offers for B2B
You'll want a platform that provides essential B2B features, such as bulk orders, custom pricing options and dedicated categories for trade buyers. These features enable B2B buyers to efficiently browse your store and make purchases with the correct trade prices in place. Remember, when a customer lands on your website, you want it to be as easy as possible for them to buy items in bulk, so utilising a platform with dedicated B2B features is a must for B2B merchants looking to provide a seamless experience.
Choosing a B2B ecommerce platform that provides scalability and adaptability is essential to accommodate your business's changing requirements and expansion. Anticipate future growth and select a platform without revenue constraints. Typically, revenue caps vary based on the pricing tier, often necessitating an upgrade to a costlier plan. It's important to review your provider's pricing options to ensure seamless scaling as your business grows.
By choosing a platform that allows seamless scalability, you can confidently accommodate business growth and adapt to changing market demands without facing hiccups further down the road.
2. User experience and interface
In B2B ecommerce, understanding the distinct needs of sellers and buyers is key for a successful platform.
Sellers require a platform with robust B2B features like bulk order options, custom pricing, and trade-specific categories. These functionalities enable efficient product showcasing, segmented pricing management, and a smooth purchasing process for B2B clients.
Buyers seek an easily navigable, user-friendly website. A responsive design, crucial for the growing mobile user base, ensures seamless access across devices. Furthermore, features like advanced search and filtering save time and improve the browsing experience, catering to buyers' needs for efficiency.
A well-designed B2B ecommerce platform that addresses these specific seller and buyer requirements can facilitate effective transactions and nurture lasting business relationships.
3. Integrations and customisation capabilities
Integration and customization are vital for the efficacy of a B2B e-commerce platform. Key factors to consider include:
Integration with Business Systems
A good B2B ecommerce platform should effortlessly integrate with existing systems like inventory management, ERP, CRM, and order fulfillment. Modern platforms often bundle these functionalities, reducing the need for separate system integrations.
API and App Marketplace
Opt for a platform with a strong API and a comprehensive app marketplace. This enables sellers to enhance the platform's capabilities through third-party apps or bespoke solutions, catering to unique business needs and offering a customized experience to B2B clients.
The platform should facilitate multichannel selling, connecting with various marketplaces, social media, and online sales channels. This approach broadens customer reach, boosts sales, and increases brand visibility.
Local and International Commerce
For businesses operating or aspiring to operate globally, select a platform adept in both local and international commerce. Essential features include multilingual support, multi-currency transactions, and adherence to regional regulations, aiding in scaling your brand globally.
4. Streamlined payments and B2B financing options
Streamlining payments and offering B2B financing options are key for a successful B2B ecommerce platform. Consider these essential factors:
Secure and Reliable Payment Gateways
Choose a platform integrated with reliable payment gateways that support diverse payment methods like credit cards, bank transfers, and other alternatives. This variety meets different buyer preferences, improving their purchasing experience and your chance of gaining sales.
Buy Now, Pay Later Options
Implementing B2B financing solutions, such as Buy Now, Pay Later options, can significantly benefit both sellers and buyers. This approach adds flexibility for wholesale buyers while ensuring prompt payments and minimizing late invoice risks.
5. Robust analytics and reporting capabilities
Selecting a B2B ecommerce platform with powerful analytics and reporting features is crucial for data-driven decision-making and optimizing operations.
Comprehensive Data Insights
Opt for a platform offering detailed insights into sales trends, customer behavior, and order patterns. This data helps understand customer preferences, identifies upselling and cross-selling opportunities, lets you refine product strategies, and much more.
Ensure the platform allows for customizable reporting, enabling you to create tailored reports like sales, inventory, or customer segmentation. This customization is key for tracking performance indicators, assessing marketing campaign effectiveness, and evaluating overall ecommerce success.
A platform that offers real-time analytics is crucial for immediate market responsiveness. This feature allows you to monitor site performance, track conversions, and promptly address any issues, maintaining a competitive edge and ensuring a smooth customer experience.
Integration with External Analytics Tools
Choose a platform that integrates well with external tools like Google Analytics for expanded insights and reporting capabilities. This integration provides a comprehensive view of your ecommerce performance, leveraging advanced analytics for ongoing improvement.
By prioritizing these analytics and reporting capabilities, you can gain deeper insights into your business, refine your strategies, and drive your B2B ecommerce operations towards greater success.
The best B2B ecommerce platforms
Here are some of the most popular ecommerce platforms for B2B businesses.
ShopWired is one of the top-rated ecommerce platforms on the market. At the time of writing this post, ShopWired has an impressive 4.8/ 5 stars on Trustpilot from 516 reviews.
ShopWired caters to both B2C and B2B, and is very popular amongst B2B merchants thanks to its dedicated B2B features and functionalities. The platform supports bulk ordering processes and offers tailored pricing structures for different customer segments. It includes features for managing customer accounts and trade-only areas, ensuring that businesses can offer a personalized and secure experience to their B2B clients.
One of ShopWired's main advantages is that all B2B features are available on any pricing plan, and are native to the platform. This is unlike other popular platforms where B2B functionality is only available on higher-tiered pricing plans or via third-party integrations.
Beyond platform features, ShopWired is often praised for their top-tier support, helping merchants grow and flourish into 6 or 7-figure turnover businesses very quickly. If you're a merchant who appreciates solid technical support, customer service, and overall reliability, then ShopWired is the platform for you. ShopWired also offers a very competitive pricing structure in comparison to other ecommerce platforms.
Advantages of ShopWired for B2B:
- Custom pricing for B2B trade customers
- Tiered/volume pricing for trade and/or retail customers
- Automate and review wholesale customer signups
- Create a separate category/product environment
- Set minimum and/or maximum order quantities by product or variant
- Allow customers to submit orders without making immediate payment
- Grant customers credit account status
- B2B features are available on all pricing plans, as well as during ShopWired's 14-day free trial.
ShopWired provides a comprehensive solution for businesses seeking to streamline their B2B ecommerce operations, with a focus on user-friendly features that accommodate the specific needs of wholesale and trade sectors. For more detailed information about ShopWired's B2B capabilities, click here.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud is a cloud-based enterprise ecommerce solution designed for omnichannel interactions and customer service. The platform offers solutions for both B2C and B2B merchants. However, unlike platforms like ShopWired that offer B2C and B2B features together on all plans, SalesForce has separate plans for B2C and B2B merchants. If you want both, you must subscribe to the Connected Commerce plan, which is more expensive. Actual pricing is unavailable on the SalesForce website as merchants must enquire for a custom quote
Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s B2B functionality is built on the Salesforce Lightning Platform, which combines data from Salesforce CRM and commerce applications for a comprehensive view of customers, distributors, and buyers. This helps B2B buyers manage their operations within the SalesForce dashboard.
Advantages of Salesforce for B2B
- Simplifies B2B account handling with efficient order tracking and management for streamlined client experiences.
- Delivers personalized product recommendations to B2B buyers based on their business needs and historical purchase data.
- Facilitates complex B2B pricing structures and allows for the quick generation of accurate quotes for bulk orders.
- Supports a variety of payment methods suitable for large-scale B2B transactions, providing flexibility for business clients.
Disadvantages of Salesforce for B2B
- Can be costly and complex compared to other platforms.
- Pricing is unclear, merchants must get in touch for a custom quote.
- Third-party integration is not always straightforward.
- Some reviews online mention platform slow-downs during busy periods.
- SalesForce might be considered somewhat outdated compared to more modern ecommerce platforms.
BigCommerce is another popular ecommerce platform for small-medium sized businesses .
BigCommerce prides itself on providing a solid feature set for both B2C and B2B merchants. Among its dedicated B2B features, the platform enables businesses to efficiently launch and manage multiple storefronts, accommodating diverse brands and customer segments. It also boasts a modernized buyer portal that automates administrative tasks, enhancing the buying experience for B2B customers. Additionally, BigCommerce supports customized purchasing experiences, allowing businesses to tailor the shopping journey to specific buyer needs
It's important to note that BigCommerce's B2B features are only available on the Plus, Pro and Enterprise plans. The cheapest of these options, the Plus plan, costs a considerable $105 per month, which is a lot more than BigCommerce's Standard plan which only costs $39 per month but doesn't have B2B features. With such a price jump, small-medium sized business owners might be better off using a platform like ShopWired, where B2B features are available on all plans, including the cheapest plan.
Advantages of BigCommerce:
- Extensive product and inventory management.
- SEO tools to improve organic search performance.
- Customizable templates and mobile optimization.
- Robust multi-channel selling.
- Comprehensive analytics and reporting.
- Payment gateway integration and API access.
- B2B features such as wholesale pricing and bulk order processing are included.
Disadvantages of BigCommerce:
- The platform's depth of features can be overwhelming for new users, especially those with limited technical skills.
- While offering a balance of cost and features, the pricing might be a concern for small startups or businesses with tight budgets.
- The themes on BigCommerce lack diversity, and purchasing a decent theme can be an additional cost.
- App integrations cost- while the platform has a large app marketplace, many essential integrations require paid subscriptions, potentially increasing the overall cost.
Overall, BigCommerce is a robust choice for businesses that require a mix of ease of use and advanced features. However, its complexity and cost might pose challenges for smaller or less technically inclined businesses.
Shopify, a prominent player in the ecommerce platform market, extends its capabilities to accommodate B2B ecommerce needs. While widely celebrated for its B2C features, its B2B functionalities also offer significant benefits, though they come with their own set of considerations.
Shopify's foray into the B2B sector aims to leverage its robust platform capabilities to cater to the distinct needs of wholesale and enterprise-level clients. With the Shopify Plus plan, businesses gain access to advanced features like bulk ordering, customized pricing strategies, and priority customer support, all crucial for managing the complexities of B2B transactions. However, Shopify's B2B features are reserved for merchants on the Shopify Plus plan ($2000 per month). For standard Shopify subscribers, you'll need to use a third-party app like Wholesale Pricing Discount from the Shopify app store to add B2B functionality.
Advantages of Shopify:
- Efficient in processing bulk orders and providing automated fulfillment solutions.
- Solid inventory management tools support real-time tracking and management across multiple locations.
- B2B-focused features include wholesale pricing and customizable catalogs.
- Known for its user-friendly interface, making it accessible for various business sizes.
Disadvantages of Shopify:
- The cost of advanced plans may be a factor for consideration, especially for smaller enterprises.
- Some B2B-specific integrations require third-party applications, potentially increasing overall costs.
- Customization options may have limitations, requiring additional resources for certain modifications.
- Many features not unlocked unless you're on a higher-tier pricing plan.
WooCommerce, an open-source ecommerce platform, integrates seamlessly with WordPress, making it a favorable choice for many small to medium-sized online businesses. Its compatibility with WordPress is a significant advantage for those already familiar with the CMS.
Advantages of WooCommerce:
- WooCommerce offers extensive customization through themes and plugins, allowing businesses to tailor their online stores to specific needs.
- The platform has a wide range of plugins, enhancing functionality for various business requirements.
- There is strong community support, providing resources and assistance for users.
Disadvantages of WooCommerce:
- Setting up and customizing WooCommerce requires some technical know-how, which can be challenging for beginners.
- Exclusive to WordPress websites only.
- The platform can slow down with extensive plugins and high traffic.
1. What are the key features to look for in a B2B ecommerce platform?
Look for platforms offering bulk order capabilities, custom pricing options, and dedicated trade categories. Essential features also include scalability, user-friendly interfaces, detailed analytics, and integration capabilities.
2. How important is scalability in a B2B ecommerce platform?
Scalability is crucial. As your business grows, you need a platform that adapts to increased demand without requiring costly upgrades or transitions. Platforms like ShopWired offer scalability across all pricing plans, ensuring smooth growth with a 99.9% uptime guarantee.
3. Can I find a platform that combines both B2B and B2C functionalities?
Yes, platforms like ShopWired, BigCommerce, and Shopify offer functionalities catering to both B2B and B2C sectors. However, the availability of these features can vary based on the pricing plan. ShopWired offers B2B and B2C features on all price plans, including the cheapest option, whereas BigCommerce and Shopify require you to subscribe to a higher-tiered pricing plan.
4. What should I consider regarding platform costs and pricing plans?
Consider both the initial cost and long-term value. Some platforms, like Salesforce and BigCommerce, may have higher costs or require upgrades for full B2B functionality. ShopWired stands out for offering comprehensive B2B features across all pricing plans.
5. How do integrations and customization capabilities impact my choice?
Effective integration with existing systems (like ERP and CRM) and customization options are vital for tailoring the platform to your specific business needs. A platform with a strong API and an extensive app marketplace is preferable. ShopWired reduces the reliance on inteagrations with native B2B functionalities built in to the platform.
6. Is technical expertise a requirement for managing a B2B ecommerce platform?
It varies. Platforms like WooCommerce require some technical knowledge, especially for customization. In contrast, ShopWired and Shopify are known for their user-friendly interfaces, making them accessible even to those with limited technical expertise.