Companies like Grainger, Amazon Business and Alibaba have boldly embraced the B2B marketplace business model with great success to become a one-stop-shop for their target audiences. So, what does it take for you to do the same with your business? Ryan Lee of Nautical Commerce offers a technology roadmap.


Ryan Lee

It’s no surprise that B2B ecommerce is growing and will continue to grow as long as humans are glued to technology (which I expect to continue to be the case). The real question is what will the future of B2B ecommerce look like? 73% of B2B buyers want a B2C-like experience, but we all know that seamless buying experiences in B2B aren’t quite that simple.

I have seen the difficulties that B2B businesses face firsthand during my time working in logistics and payments, and have a lot of empathy for the complexities of a business sale. There are a variety of factors you have to worry about like product specs, paid terms, configure-price-quote (CPQ), purchase orders, discounting, reordering, and more. These complexities haven’t held back traditionally high-friction businesses from attempting to shake up the space. Companies like Grainger, Amazon Business and Alibaba have boldly embraced the B2B marketplace business model with great success to become a one-stop shop for their target audiences. So, what does it take for you to do the same with your business?

What to look for in multi-vendor marketplace technology

To bring these high-touch sales online, manufacturers and distributors need tools that can remove friction and create a seamless buying experience. This task unfortunately isn’t as straightforward as setting up a traditional ecommerce site. There are a few things to look for when evaluating multi-vendor marketplace technology.

Self-service Vendor Onboarding
Find an ecommerce platform that removes the legwork of onboarding your vendors. They should be given access to your tool to make edits and add new products themselves. Your marketplace is another channel opportunity for your partners that will allow them to better understand their market.


Catalog Depth and Pricing Flexibility
Why does everyone use Amazon? Because they know they can find anything they need in one spot. Your marketplace technology should allow you to quickly and easily add products from a multitude of vendors with a few quick clicks. If your marketplace platform offers catalog integrations, bulk editing tools, and advanced product metadata, this will be a breeze. Further, your catalog must have built-in pricing flexibility to support volume discounts and product bundling.

Unified Vendor Reporting
All of the information about your products and vendors should be found in one place. Streamline your back office with the power of multi-vendor OMA and IMS so you can audit and manage your orders and payouts in a single unified system.

Customizable Product Descriptions
Each industry is different. While one marketplace may simply need a picture and weight of the product, others require dimensions, multiple diagrams, and instructions on how to use it correctly. To instill trust in your product offerings, you need to share the value of your products online in the way that is best for your customers—not just in the way that everyone else is doing it.

Enhanced Payment Capabilities
Your multi-vendor marketplace technology should allow customers to pay in the way they’re used to paying—even if that is a purchase order, or invoice, with an assisted workflow to validate, authorize, and invoice effortlessly. Additionally, unlike traditional commerce, in marketplaces, multi-vendor, or B2B businesses, you not only have to accept payments in the commerce world, but you also have to pay partners. Your platform must support traditional payment acceptance but also subscriptions and vendor payouts.

Multi-Vendor Order Management
More and more, we’ve seen order management pushed to third-party apps that are “better” than the core commerce systems built decades ago, yet order orchestration is one of the core functions of commerce. Order management is ingrained in commerce from checkout to fulfillment and returns and is a key capability that your multi-vendor marketplace must-have.


Multi-Vendor Native
There are lots of ecommerce platforms out there offering plug-ins to create a Frankenstein of apps to arrive at marketplace capabilities. Look for technology that has multi-vendor weaved into the fabric of the platform—this will help you scale the marketplace of your dreams.

Build your marketplace network

As a manufacturer or distributor, it’s important for you to create streamlined transactions for both sides of the marketplace. Your sellers want to quickly and easily share their products through your distribution channel and increase revenue for their business. Your buyers, on the other hand, are going to be looking to you as a consultant who can help them find the right products to satisfy their needs. Ensure your marketplace delivers the efficiency both sides want to see, and you’ll be a revenue-generating machine in no time.

Ryan Lee is the Founder & CEO of Nautical Commerce. Nautical is a multi-vendor marketplace platform enabling B2B companies to grow their customer base and strengthen their channel relationships.