B2B companies have responded to the pandemic with new online marketplace strategies to quickly expand inventory and address demand for new products like personal protective equipment.

Just as the coronavirus seems to have profoundly impacted nearly every aspect of U.S. business, the same is true of business-to-business ecommerce and B2B marketplace development, according to data and analysis in the second part of a three-part series, “The 2020 B2B Marketplace Report Series,” recently published by Digital Commerce 360 B2B.

We saw B2B sites using marketplace models to rapidly add personal protective equipment to their assortment without sourcing the inventory.
Joe Cicman, senior analyst
Forrester Research Inc.

B2B marketplaces have been driving growth in  B2B ecommerce for years. B2B and business-to-consumer marketplaces together are positioned to grow web sales worldwide to an estimated $7.1 trillion from an estimated $2.01 trillion in 2018, says London-based payments research and consulting firm iBe TSD Ltd. IBe says peer-to-peer marketplaces, including eBay and AirBnB, will reach $240 billion in combined sales by 2024.

But the area with the fastest-growing global marketplaces will be in B2B, iBe says.

B2B marketplace sales surged worldwide

Worldwide B2B marketplace sales could reach an estimated $3.6 trillion by 2024, up from an estimated $680 billion in 2018, iBe says. In comparison, B2C marketplace sales across the globe, over the same time period, will reach a projected $3.5 trillion annually from an estimated $1.1 trillion. Peer-to-peer marketplaces such as eBay and others will generate $240.8 billion in global sales by 2024, up from $47.8 billion in 2018, iBe says.

But as buyers of diverse business products scramble and search for new ways to purchase goods and services online as a result of disruption of supply chains by the global COVID-19 pandemic, they are turning increasingly to marketplaces. “In the pandemic, we saw B2B sites using marketplace models to host third-party listings, which they used to rapidly add personal protective equipment (PPE) to their assortment without sourcing the inventory, without buying the stuff wholesale, without managing the product details,” says Forrester senior analyst Joe Cicman. “All that was managed by the seller, and those listings blended in with the rest of the products listed on the website.”

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Most traditional sales channels—including submitting and processing orders by phone, mail, email and sales agents—are now slowed down or closed down entirely as many businesses shuttered offices and other facilities and shifted to a remote work environment because of the coronavirus.

Going more digital

As a result, business buyers on all levels began purchasing more goods and services digitally, including via marketplaces. A new survey of about 85 business buyers by Digital Commerce 360 B2B finds that 89% of purchasing managers are purchasing at least the same or significantly more on B2B marketplaces as a result of circumstances brought about by COVID-19. 57% are spending even more on marketplace ecommerce sites, including 22% significantly more.

“Marketplaces get the incentives right—the incentives that drive better digital experiences,” Cicman says. “We found that vertical industry marketplaces address the assortment needed for an outcome (enabling one-stop-shopping) as well as processes that are tuned for the industry.”

Sign up for a complimentary subscription to Digital Commerce 360 B2B News, published 4x/week, covering technology and business trends in the growing B2B ecommerce industry. Contact Mark Brohan, vice president of B2B and Market Research Development, at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @markbrohan.

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