At first glance The Boeing Co. and Freund Container and Supplies would seem to have little—if anything—in common.
But Boeing, a global manufacturer of commercial jetliners and defense, space and security systems, and Freund Container and Supplies, a small packaging components manufacturer and business unit of Berlin Packaging LLC, do share lots of common ground when it comes to business-to-business e-commerce.
Both Boeing and Freund have spent copious amounts of time, money and effort building successful B2B e-commerce sites—and establishing the business, technology, customer service and marketing best practices to grow them.
Boeing has been in the B2B e-commerce market since 1996 when it launched the Part Analysis and Requirements Tracking, or PART, website, which processes more than 70,000 transactions daily. That includes customer orders as well as inquiries about shipping status, inventory levels and pricing, Boeing says.
In contrast, Freund only has about 10,000 products on its B2B e-commerce site. But sales in the fourth quarter of 2017—the company’s biggest and busiest—were up nearly 12% year over year while conversion rate nearly doubled, says e-commerce director Rebecca Gummerson. “We’re getting good traction from our recurring customers but also very pleased with the number of new orders we are getting online,” she says.
Today, B2B e-commerce in the United States is a $900 million market that is expected to top $1 trillion in 2019, says Forrester Research Inc. There are 251,774 manufacturers, according to the estimate of the National Association of Manufacturers, and a growing number of them want in on e-commerce.
Currently about 40% of manufacturers have an e-commerce site, suggests a recent survey of 138 manufacturers from B2BecNews. But within two years, 69% of manufacturers without a B2B e-commerce site expect to launch one, including 55% that plan to go live within one year and 34% in six months or less, the survey found.
Manufacturers have compelling reasons to build a B2B e-commerce site—or expand their existing site, per the B2BecNews survey.
Among the objectives of manufacturers planning to sell online, according to the survey, are:
- New sales channel: 71% of manufacturers list generating more sales as their top priority for building or expanding e-commerce.
- New customers: 54% of manufacturers want to sell online directly to consumers.
- Diversified sales: 45% of manufacturers see B2B e-commerce as a new way to sell over the web to retailers, dealers, wholesalers and distributors.
- Better branding: One in four manufacturers sees B2B e-commerce as a tool to build broader brand recognition.
“E-commerce for business-to-consumer companies has driven many of the features and functions we’re starting to see become the standard for B2B websites as well,” says Mark Bartlett, chief experience officer for FPX, a developer of online configure, price and quote tools for manufacturers such as Honeywell International Inc., The Cummins Engine Co., Hitachi Data Systems and others. “But B2B e-commerce is far more complicated than B2C and requires manufacturers to introduce complex product configuration, pricing, discounting and bundling features that go well beyond the capabilities of basic consumer e-commerce sites.”