There has never been a better moment to sell products and services online. Today’s sellers have an abundance of new opportunities to establish partnerships and use technology to reach new audiences. And while ecommerce has traditionally been associated with consumer products and services, the new possibilities for B2B sellers are quickly catching up: B2B ecommerce sales totaled $1.63 trillion in 2021, representing a 50% increase over just two years.
One of the most critical catalysts for this growth in B2B ecommerce has been the rise of B2B marketplaces, which grew at seven times the rate of overall B2B ecommerce in 2020. This opportunity isn’t restricted to marketplace operators: by selling on B2B marketplaces that align with a business’s brand statement and goals, companies can tap into a larger customer base and benefit from the platform’s more significant marketing efforts and brand reputation.
Beyond just reaching a broader audience, marketplaces make it possible for businesses to work together in streamlining their supply chains and producing stronger financial results with increased profitability. And as the number of vertical marketplaces grow, B2B sellers have a tremendous opportunity to find new sales channels that are focused on delivering high-quality customer experiences.
With B2B marketplaces poised to continue their rapid growth, what do sellers and operators need to know to seize the moment?
For sellers: dive in with both feet
The prospect of joining forces with a significantly larger entity like a marketplace can be intimidating. Every seller has gone through the process of defining their brand identity and their audience, and teaming up with a marketplace could cause that identity to get lost in the shuffle. Here are some key points for sellers that are unsure of when or how to get started:
- Don’t wait for the invite: A successful B2B marketplace strategy requires sellers to be proactive at every stage. Instead of waiting to be contacted by a B2B marketplace, sellers should identify marketplaces that align with their brand and reach out directly. Many marketplace platforms include a page dedicated to seller recruitment, making it easy for potential sellers to get in touch.
- Look for multiple marketplaces: Choosing to partner with a marketplace demonstrates your interest in reaching new audiences, so why limit yourself to just one? Selling on multiple marketplaces allows you to increase your potential revenue and create a safety net for your business — if one marketplace underperforms, other platforms could make up the difference in revenues. Each new marketplace also offers unique opportunities for partnerships, including product bundles or combinations that deliver added value to the customer. Additionally, you can opt into different marketplaces that each target unique geographies and unique customer segments. A multi-marketplace strategy allows for wider exposure and can be leveraged to increase geographic reach.
- Align with marketplaces that invest in the seller experience: Not all B2B marketplaces are alike. When choosing a potential partner, sellers should carefully evaluate what the marketplace operator brings to the table. What are the terms of its Service Level Agreement (SLA), and how does the operator report on a seller’s performance? Do they empower the seller to establish their own promotions, or does the operator limit potential campaigns and creativity? A marketplace is only as strong as its sellers — look for those that invest in each seller’s success. In addition to campaigns and creatives, how does the marketplace treat the seller’s brand? For example, do they offer highly customizable brand pages, or are all brands presented in a uniform way? Is there opportunity to differentiate from competitors on more than price?
- Take advantage of seller-friendly tools and technology: While it makes sense to sell on multiple marketplaces, it isn’t always a simple process. Selling across several marketplaces requires sellers to navigate the different taxonomies and requirements of each individual platform. However, seller integrators make it easier to streamline multi-channel management by automating the connections between a seller’s system and those of multiple marketplaces. Seller integrators can also provide help with account management and content management, allowing the seller to focus instead on developing the brand-aligned assets needed to increase sales.
For operators: opening doors and adding value
As operators look to take advantage of the growing opportunity for B2B marketplaces, they must also consider how they can maximize results. A marketplace will only ever be as strong as its seller base, and operators should prioritize attracting high-quality partners and
making it easy for them to onboard and begin selling. The first step for a new marketplace operator is to develop a digital engagement strategy, including identifying or establishing relationships that sell complementary products. The right partnership will be financially beneficial to both parties and will have values and brand tenets that align with the operator.
Marketplace operators have every incentive to make it as easy as possible to gain the attention of sellers and begin the conversation. Parts Town, a B2B marketplace for food service equipment, showcases sellers on their website to demonstrate the value they provide to each partner. They also provide an online Marketplace Seller Application, which facilitates screening and engagement. A smooth onboarding process will not only establish credibility with new third-party sellers but will also allow the operator to build a reputation that will attract other potential partners.
Leveraging partners to complement existing catalogs with third-party products and services also allows operators to offer more complete solutions tailored to their customers’ needs. Customers no longer want to get their equipment from one seller, replacement parts from another seller, and installation and support from a third entity. Marketplace partnerships enable manufacturers and distributors to offer fully integrated, one-stop buying.
Finally, marketplace operators need to find ways to bring value to the partnership in order to retain sellers in an increasingly competitive space. Marketplace operators should look at seller relationships in the same way they look at customer relationships, investing in value-added services that will give their marketplace a competitive advantage. Operators can choose from any number of services, including fulfillment and shipping partners for more efficient logistics, marketplace-wide marketing and advertising tools, and real-time performance data that can inform seller decision-making.
Enterprise marketplaces will continue to reshape B2B ecommerce in the months and years to come. If they haven’t already, sellers and potential operators should begin creating their marketplace strategy, looking to align with partners with which they can grow together. Over time, B2B marketplaces will become a crucial pillar in the sales strategies of most B2B organizations, facilitating positive, efficient, and high-value customer experiences.
Oliver Siodmak is a managing director at Deloitte Digital, where offers services in such areas as digital strategy, ecommerce and marketplaces. Prior to Deloitte, Siodmak served in leadership roles at Accenture, IBM Global Servicers and Infosys. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
Angela Troccoli is senior director, product marketing, global B2B, at Mirakl, a global marketing services firm where she leads B2B marketing initiatives. Prior to Mirakl, Troccoli worked at computer products manufacturer Hewlett-Packard Co. and pharmaceuticals distributor McKesson Corp. Connect with her on LinkedIn.Favorite