In B2B manufacturers and distributors convert customers as a priority as opposed to acquiring new customers, an analyst tells attendees at the IRCE 2018 B2B workshop in Chicago.

B2B e-commerce is still relatively new and many manufacturers and distributors are still finding out the best way to do e-commerce right.

But in the quest to go online for the first time, or to expand an existing B2B e-commerce operation, B2B website operators can’t be afraid to try new ways—then fail, learn from the experience and keep moving forward, an online distributor and an e-commerce consultant told attendees during the B2B Workshop Friday at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition 2018 in Chicago.

My dad after 40 years in business has about 1,000 customers after 40 years, and after one year I have about 45,000 customers.
Sean McDonnell, CEO

“I hear from customers all the time ‘I don’t know what I don’t know’ about e-commerce,” said Justin King, founder of e-commerce resource site and CEO of consultants B2X Partners. “It all comes down to having the right people and resources in place.”

In online retail, merchants have established programs and procedures in place but B2B is more disjointed. “Not all systems are out there,” King said. “Many B2B companies are just learning the basics.”

In B2B commerce, many manufacturers and distributors place a priority on converting visitors to buyers as opposed to acquiring new customers, King said.


Sean McDonnell, CEO,

The key to success for, a year-old B2B e-commerce site that carries an inventory of about 8 million products for forklifts including parts, is in both acquiring more customers and converting them with ease and convenience of purchasing online. Sean McDonnell, founder and CEO, launched TruPar to complement his family’s decades-old distribution business.

“My dad after 40 years in business has about 1,000 customers and after one year I have about 45,000 customers,” he said during the workshop presentation.

TruPar has disrupted an established industry rooted in offline distribution with an e-commerce site that aims to carry more than 20 million SKUs. It ships throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. For shipments to other countries, it provides information on how customers can find and work with freight forwarders. lets visitors choose among versions of the site available in the English, Spanish and French languages. was built with a “B2C” feel but the website also has the specialized website features business buyers want such as the ability to request a quote, McDonnell said.


McDonnell and TruPar have come a long way. Since launching in 2012 in his one-bedroom apartment near the ski mountains of Aspen, he has grown it into an international business selling millions of parts for forklifts and other equipment used to move heavy materials in such facilities as warehouses and shipping terminals.

The B2B site does “seven figures” in web sales annually although, McDonnell wouldn’t disclose actual revenue.

Going forward, will grow by acquiring new customers that want to make business purchases online. “We find customers that want to buy now and helping them do it online, McDonnell said. “It’s a different focus on customer conversion.”

Justin King will also speak at the B2B Next conference in September in the session, WORKSHOP: Selecting the E-Commerce Platform That’s Right for You. 

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