Big U.S. manufacturers and wholesalers certainly aren’t one-trick ponies when it comes to conducting business-to-business e-commerce. In fact the biggest 100 B2B companies ranked in the newly published 2016 B2B E-Commerce 300 use as many as four different forms of web-based e-commerce to sell online to their business customers.
E-commerce for manufacturers of all sizes takes multiple forms and can take years to implement, says Heather Ashton, research manager with consulting firm IDC Manufacturing Insights. Manufacturers may operate an e-commerce site that is open to all or they may create a password-protected site only for approved customers. And many manufacturers sell online in other ways: via web-connected procurement software linked directly to a customer’s enterprise resource planning system, through a commercial vertical market network such as the one operated by Ariba Inc., over industry web exchanges such as Covisint for vehicle makers and Exostar for defense and aerospace manufacturers, and through online marketplace sites operated by eBay Inc., Alibaba Group and others.
Of the 100 largest companies ranked in the 2016 B2B E-Commerce 300, 75% use four types of programs to sell online to their business customers, compared with 18% with just one channel and 7% with three channels. The top 100 includes 87 manufacturers, six distributors, six retailers and one wholesaler.
While practically every good-sized retailer sells online through its own e-commerce site, that’s not the case for companies focused on B2B e-commerce. Of the 100 biggest companies ranked in the 2016 B2B E-Commerce 300, 93% of companies operate an e-commerce site or a private, password-protected web portal, while 82% also sell through commercial networks, e-procurement software or through a marketplace or industry exchange.
ExxonMobil Corp. (No. 1) maintains a diversified approach to selling online to corporate energy buyers. Exxon generated B2BeCommerceWorld-estimated e-commerce sales of $43.45 billion in 2015. Of that total, an estimated 75%, or $32.59 billion, was generated by web-based e-procurement and ERP links Exxon has to its corporate energy buyers, compared with 15%, or $6.52 billion, from a password-protected e-commerce portal, and 10%, or $4.34 billion, from commercial networks and industry exchanges.
Though the company isn’t talking publicly about its B2B web plans, it’s clear that Exxon is in the process of upgrading its e-commerce program, including hiring more B2B e-commerce specialists, and developing and launching a commercial e-commerce platform from hybris Software. Based on job descriptions and executive profiles compiled on LinkedIn and other Internet career and professional networking sites, Exxon since 2014 has been working to integrate a hybris e-commerce platform into its supply chain and ERP systems to build a global B2B e-commerce network. Hybris is a unit of business software supplier SAP SE.
Exxon also is typical of the increased attention more manufacturers are and will be paying to B2B e-commerce, Ashton says. “In five years e-commerce will be a fundamental part of the basic infrastructure for many manufacturing companies and very mainstream,” she says. “For the manufacturers that want to compete more effectively in the global market, they can’t afford not to be digitally connected to their customers.”
The B2B E-Commerce 300 is available in print, digital and database formats includes the following:
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