Defining B2B Marketing Channels & Strategies—How To Sell...
Use these 8 essential strategies to boost the success and profitability of your wholesale ecommerce site.
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The increasing growth of B2B ecommerce has spurred many wholesalers to move their catalogs online. But while B2B websites have adopted the features and functionality of ecommerce websites geared toward consumers, it’s important that your wholesale site - and the wholesale ecommerce platform it’s built on - also address the unique needs of B2B buyers.
Whether you’re building an online wholesale store for the first time or are refining your existing site to make it more effective, this article will give you an overview of the state of modern B2B sales and guide you through the elements necessary to create a thriving wholesale ecommerce website.
Wholesale ecommerce is a sales model where one business uses digital channels to sell products, in bulk quantities and at a significant discount, to another business. The buying business then sells those products on their own website at a higher price, typically to general end consumers. For instance, a wholesale B2B ecommerce company offering consumer packaged goods might sell snacks, toiletries, and other items to grocery stores or pharmacies.
In addition to traditional wholesale methods, wholesale ecommerce allows businesses to leverage online B2B ecommerce features to streamline their sales, marketing, and distribution.
Wholesale ecommerce is a type of B2B ecommerce business model. The most common wholesale ecommerce model is one where a manufacturer or producer sells products to a retailer. However, online wholesalers may also sell to other wholesalers or to sellers who occupy an intermediary space between a manufacturer and distributor in the supply chain. It’s also becoming more common for online wholesalers to sell directly to end consumers by adding a DTC channel to their business.
Using a wholesale model offers many benefits for your business. Selling items in bulk often results in higher order volume, lower expenses due to lower cost-per-unit, and increased profit margins. Adding a wholesale channel also allows you to attract new customers and significantly expand your reach through the growing B2B market.
Your business can benefit even further by moving your wholesale channel online. By selecting the best wholesale ecommerce platform for your business, you can create a wholesale ecommerce website that helps you:
Businesses can no longer assume that wholesale buyers aren’t interested in ecommerce. On the contrary, a recent study by McKinsey showed that two thirds of corporate buyers now rely on digital and remote sales channels. Combine that information with the fact that millennials and other tech-friendly generations are aging into purchasing roles, and you can start to paint a striking new picture of the modern wholesale buyer.
Today’s wholesale buyers are often digitally connected and knowledgeable about technology. They’re used to shopping on digital marketplaces, conducting research online to find new products and to compare options, and connecting with brands on social media. These buyers will look for wholesale ecommerce experiences that mirror their online B2C or DTC shopping while meeting their business buying needs—meaning personalized, seamless, and user-focused websites with an emphasis on customer education.
To appeal to the modern wholesale buyer, you’ll want to build your wholesale ecommerce site to provide a one-stop, self-directed purchasing experience with all the resources necessary for buyers to convert and return. The details of how that experience should be structured relies upon the type of wholesale buyer and their unique needs in the marketplace.
The 4 main types of wholesale buyers are retailers, manufacturers, distributors, and agents. The best way to think about each type of buyer is to consider what kind of consumer they are purchasing or negotiating prices for.
Whether you’re adding an online wholesale channel for the first time or are looking to improve on your existing B2B website, these 8 actions will enable your wholesale ecommerce website to grow, scale, and thrive.
B2B ecommerce has exploded over the past few years. 2021 research from McKinsey shows that ecommerce is responsible for over 18% of all revenue for the average B2B company, and that B2B sellers are now more likely to offer ecommerce than in-person sales channels. And while this growth presents online wholesalers with stunning opportunity, it also presents them with stiff competition. All this means that you can’t afford to wait for buyers to come to you—instead, you’ll need to make the first move with your audience.
To increase the likelihood of buyers finding your site, start by selecting a wholesale ecommerce platform which supports search engine optimization (SEO). Implementing ecommerce SEO best practices such as adding unique titles and meta tags for each of your products and keeping your site speed up, can help increase traffic to your site and drive conversions.
A strong social media strategy can also go a long way toward attracting buyers to your site. Nearly half of wholesale B2B ecommerce buyers use social media at the beginning of their purchasing journeys to assess and compare solutions, so maintaining an active social presence can lend your wholesale brand visibility and legitimacy.
Since B2B buyers are typically motivated by logic, education, and expertise, a strong wholesale ecommerce business will emphasize content in both its marketing strategy and its customer-facing website - and that’s where selecting a full-featured wholesale ecommerce platform comes in. Educational content such as blog posts, whitepapers, case studies, infographics, and more can position your wholesale brand as a visible and trusted authority, address any customer needs or objections, and guide prospective buyers on their path to conversion. The best ecommerce platforms act as stage from which to present this content to the public.
A new twist for B2B sellers is the use of content marketing techniques which were once thought of as reserved for retail selling. This is no longer the case, as B2B content marketing has sharply increased in popularity and usage in recent years, with only a tiny 7% of B2B marketers reporting that they aren’t developing currently content marketing strategies. To stay competitive, B2B businesses need to prioritize content which speaks to wholesale buyers at every step of the buying process.
Once your audience has converted, you can continue to leverage wholesale ecommerce software features to nurture buyers with content like product information, onboarding documents, industry resources, and other compelling pieces that serve to support your customers and elevate your brand.3. Create a Personalized Buying Experience
In one survey of B2B buyers, 46% of respondents said they receive a better user experience when web content is personalized. By adding more personalized features to your wholesale ecommerce website, you can provide unique value to your B2B buyers that they wouldn’t find shopping with a traditional paper catalog.
To enable this high level of personalization, you should configure your wholesale ecommerce platform to allow for individual customer accounts - a key way to personalize a wholesale website. When a buyer logs in to their account, they should instantly have access to custom pricing, discounts, shipping information, and product recommendations based on customer criteria such as industry and geographic location. Buyers should also be able to use their accounts to easily access their order history for delivery tracking and streamlined repeat purchasing.
Wholesale buyers typically arrive at a B2B ecommerce site already knowing what products they need to purchase, and if they can’t find those products easily they may become frustrated and jump to a competitor’s site. Configuring a B2B wholesale ecommerce platform to implement robust search features and interactive ecommerce tools can help your customers find exactly what they need at the moment they need it.
Similarly, your wholesale customers will likely expect your website to reflect up-to-date product information and on-demand availability. An integrated B2B wholesale ecommerce site that syncs with your inventory and back-end will ensure that your buyers have access to the products they need.
Although the digitalization of B2B has changed the role of sales reps, your sales team is still an integral component of your wholesale ecommerce strategy. Your sales reps have a unique understanding of the problems your buyers are facing and the solutions they’re looking for, and can play a valuable role in determining how your business can best provide those solutions. Wholesale B2B ecommerce systems leverage the speed and visibility of digital data to empower a sales team with up-to-the-minute information needed for successful selling.
Likewise, ecommerce automation technology streamlines the B2B sales process and typically reduces the need for manual labor. The increased efficiency delivered by a wholesale ecommerce platform can free up your sales team to take on an expanded role in your ecommerce experience, from assisting customers through digital and in-person channels to prospecting new accounts and strengthening existing client relationships.6. Incorporate Flexible Payment Options
Offering your buyers flexible options for payment is just as crucial in wholesale as it is in consumer spheres. While some B2B payment systems still rely on manual processing, digital B2B payments are becoming more and more common, and if you don’t accept a buyer’s preferred payment method you may risk losing them to a competitor who does.
To appeal to a wide range of buyers and to further optimize the path to checkout, your wholesale ecommerce site should accept common B2B payment types such as credit cards, ACH transactions, wire transfers, and digital wallets. You may also consider offering buy now pay later solutions for added flexibility. Finally, B2B quoting software makes it easy for customers to purchase from your wholesale site.
If you think mobile commerce is only for consumers, think again. A study from Frost & Sullivan found that 91% of B2B buyer searches were completed on a mobile device, and that a quarter of B2B wholesale ecommerce buyers bought their end product on a mobile device.
Your wholesale ecommerce website should provide easy mobile access to your product catalog and customer order histories, allowing your buyers to purchase and reorder no matter where they are. To accomplish this, focus on optimizing your website for responsiveness across multiple devices.
Operating a wholesale ecommerce website isn’t a one-and-done task but an ongoing initiative. A great B2B wholesale ecommerce platform should offer some valuable insights beyond your regular transactions that shed light on crucial customer data and trends.
As you grow and scale your wholesale business, you’ll want to use your website to monitor key metrics to help you continually adapt to any changes in your buyers’ behavior. The ability to collect granular reporting data is a key feature of wholesale ecommerce software. Be sure to measure marketing campaigns, inventory, conversion rates, and customer engagement to identify any areas for improvement. Likewise, remember to gather regular feedback from both your customers and your internal team to determine what additional functionality or features would best support them.
With these excellent wholesale ecommerce strategies in mind, you’re ready to embark on the process of selecting the best B2B platform to support your business and customers. While we continue to see a growing fusion of B2B and B2C features, wholesale businesses still have many specific requirements which should be reflected in the capabilities of the ecommerce platform upon which the business is built. Here are some important questions to consider when comparing platforms to help identify the primary goals for your B2B business and determine which ecommerce partner is the best fit.
With the recent growth of online B2B, it’s more important than ever for wholesalers to take advantage of wholesale ecommerce platform features to build strong websites which support and evolve alongside their businesses. The elements listed above will help you meet your buyers’ expectations for a convenient online purchasing experience by creating a digital wholesale storefront which drives profit and positions you for future success.
For a deep dive into more B2B ecommerce strategies that will boost your wholesale and consumer channels, download our free whitepaper.This blog was published on September 20, 2019 and updated on December 16, 2022.
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