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What is B2B? [2021 guide]

Last Updated on July 21, 2021 by Dan Christoffersen

B2B… what comes to mind when you see that abbreviation? And no, it’s not another R&B boys’ group from the 2000s. We already have B2K and our humble take is that those kinds of B2’s are best left in the 2000s together with tape cassettes, oversized shirts, and blockbuster cards.

B2B (business-to-business) has nothing to do with a 2000s R&B boys’ group; rather, it’s a transacting arrangement between businesses such as the one involving a wholesaler and retailer. We’ll delve deeper into its definition a little later. B2B businesses are not so different from the much-hyped consumer-based startups – B2Bs have multiple clear-cut advantages that set them apart from other business models. If you sell products or services to other businesses, you’re a B2B! 

Does this business model excite you? If yes, let’s look at everything there is to learn about it from the basics to in-depth concepts such as the different types of B2B, the difference between B2B and B2C as well as some practical examples of B2B marketing. And since close to 50% of B2B businesses conduct their marketing in-house, we’ll also tell you how to stay ahead of your competition without breaking the bank. 

Ready to jump in? Let’s get the basics out of the way!

Table of Contents

  • What is B2B?
  • Types of B2B
  • Why Use a B2B Platform?
  • B2B Platform: How to stand out from your competition
  • The difference between B2B and B2C platforms in online sales
  • Examples of B2B Marketing

What is B2B?

B2B means “Business-to-Business”. It encompasses all businesses that create and sell products and services for other businesses such as manufacturers for wholesalers and wholesalers for retailers. It describes transactions for orders between businesses – B2C on the other hand, allows businesses to sell directly to consumers for personal use.

When B2B orders are executed online, manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors benefit from purchasing efficiency. A 2020/2021 B2B market analysis survey indicated that about 61% of the B2B market has shifted online, meaning wholesalers, manufacturers and distributors are now generating more business online – thanks to the B2B e-commerce concept.

The e-commerce space has evolved allowing the conventional B2C businesses to incorporate the B2B aspect into their operations giving rise to the so-called B2C2B. The vice versa (B2B2C) has also become quite common today.

Key takeaways

  • Business-to-Business (B2B) e-commerce occurs when businesses such as a distributor and a wholesaler transact online.
  • Unlike B2B, B2C companies serve consumers directly.
  • Today, more than 60% of the B2B market is online.
  • Both B2B and B2C firms have evolved to B2B2C and B2C2B respectively to accommodate the latest e-commerce advancements. 

Next, let’s dive into the existing types of B2B.

Types of B2B

B2B can take many forms. Below are some common types of business-to-business e-commerce.

1. B2B2C

Business-to-business-to-consumer e-commerce can take several formations, however essentially, it involves simultaneously transacting with other businesses as well as consumers. In other words, it eliminates the need for a middleman usually linking businesses to consumers; instead, it enhances a direct interaction of businesses with customers. An example of this could be a printing house that sells roll-up banners for businesses and business cards for consumers.

Alternatively known as business-to-everyone (B2E), business-to-x (B2X), and business-to-many (B2M), B2B2C wholesalers and manufacturers serve the final consumer either directly or through a B2B partner. In a B2B2C model, business transactions take place entirely online usually through e-commerce platforms, apps, and storefronts.

 While from the face of it the B2B2C concept might sound like a complex business model, most consumers interact with it daily. Uber Eats is a perfect example – while it sells its services to restaurants, it also directly delivers food to consumers.

2. Wholesale

Wholesale is a popular form of B2B. Wholesale businesses normally sell their products bulk at reduced rates to retailers. The wholesale business is usually a manufacturer or distributor. This is how the wholesale business works – it implies selling goods to other businesses in larger quantities.

A typical wholesale business could be one selling raw materials to a manufacturer. Turis, for example, is a wholesale B2B platform as it is designed to help businesses to build e-commerce stores to improve the ordering experience for their retail clients.

Digital wholesale and B2B e-commerce could mean the same thing because essentially, they both involve bulk selling to other businesses online.

3. Manufacturers

Manufacturers of bulk goods from raw materials sell their products to other manufacturers or wholesalers. An example of a B2B manufacturer could be in the auto space, where manufacturers make parts and sell to other manufacturers to assemble and sell complete cars to their wholesale or retail customers.

B2B buyers are nowadays looking to encounter the B2C buying experience with both manufacturers and wholesalers taking note of the evolving online business environment. And with the B2B market expected to soar to about $20.9 trillion by 2027, businesses transacting online are bound to realize a steady rise both in revenue and consumer uptake.

4. Distributors

Manufacturers work closely with distributors to help bring their products to the consumers and end-users. Distributors also play a crucial role in boosting products’ visibility as they engage in a lot of marketing activities.

Most manufacturers partner with distributors to boost revenues with the online arena providing an even greater opportunity to reach their target wholesalers and consumers. B2B distributors are keen on increasing efficiency while shortening lead time from the point of sale to delivery.

Key takeaways

  • B2B2C e-commerce makes it possible for businesses to serve both consumers and other businesses, eliminating the need for a middleman.
  • When a business sells products to other businesses in large quantities, it engages in the wholesale business. Wholesale is a type of B2B, usually a manufacturer or distributor.
  • Wholesalers and manufacturers typically buy raw materials and parts from other manufacturers. An example is a car parts production company that sells its merchandise to other companies to assemble the cars and sell to their wholesale and retail customers.
  • Manufacturers partner with distributors to disseminate their products to the consumer level. It’s safe to say that distributors do most of the leg work when it comes to the actual marketing and selling of goods on behalf of the manufacturers.

Why Use a B2B-platform?

The B2B space has seen massive growth in recent years. 

In its recent study, Forrester Research noted: “B2B eCommerce growth shows no sign of slowing down. In 2018, the United States hit $1 trillion in online B2B sales, up 17% from $969 billion in 2017. These numbers will continue to climb, reaching $1.8 trillion by 2023.”

So regardless of your industry, here’s why you might want to be a part of this new wave of doing business online.

Benefits of a B2B-platform

24/7 availability anywhere, anytime

Gone are the days when B2B customers requested physical sales visits, long phone calls with their suppliers, and numerous emails to restock their shelves. 

Instead, the B2B customers of today want to order exactly when it’s convenient for them. They are demanding 24/7 availability and access. And by allowing your customers to order your products via a B2B platform, you are ensuring just that.

B2B eCommerce knows no boundaries – whether you’re US-based or in Europe, your customers can now order your products at any time from anywhere. That’s practical for both your customers and yourself. 

Provide client-centric support

Listen – “74% of business-to-business customers and 63% of consumers will pay more for a great experience,” this is according to a study by Salesforce. The truth is that unlike their predecessors, today’s businesses and consumers are more informed and less loyal, which is why conventional incentives like discounts no longer move them as much.

And providing good service with a big smile can’t cut it either. The study found that close to 90% of customers would rather be treated like a person and not just a number if you’re going to win their business.

But of course, you’re familiar with the idea of ‘putting the customer first’. With the help of B2B platforms, you can personalize interactions and customer experiences in special ways. You could do this by assisting your customers with the required knowledge and support about their potential purchases to the point of their first buy, as well as each moment of the journey in between. 

Streamline order fulfilment with cloud-based B2B platforms

Online selling boosts order fulfilment for B2B businesses, and here’s how: B2B tools offer a contemporary cloud-based e-commerce arena for an end-to-end ordering process. With built-in order management functionalities, businesses can process and track orders using a method called the Modern Order Management Systems (OMS). 

Now, OMS presents the entire supply chain process as an integrated ecosystem used by manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors to automate customer orders from the start to the satisfaction level.

For instance, Turis allows brands, wholesalers and distributors to create customized e-commerce stores that allow for inventory and order management, customer support, plus a range of other supply chain functions under a single platform.

Want te learn more? Then read this blogpost on the secret benefits of a digital wholesale platform.

Make the most of your business data

Gaining access to a range of data-driven business tools for CRM, procurement, ERP, and more gives you a real-time bird’s eye view of your company. Using these tools, not only is arriving at important business decisions made easier, but B2B platforms also ensure that all your business moves are backed by verifiable, accurate and informative data.

For example, the CRM section could show you whether or not your content marketing strategy is working optimally; the ERP will pick out any areas of wastage while the shipping wing could reveal order fulfilment inefficiencies. In essence, as Turis likes to put it, a B2B platform is your one-stop-shop for selling professionally and error-free.

There’s a lot more to B2B platforms than these four fundamental trump cards. Be sure to check out more right here.

Key takeaways

  • Online B2B platforms have made it easy for B2B customers to order conveniently anywhere, anytime.
  • E-commerce is helping businesses redefine customer support. Research suggests that 84% of businesses and consumers are willing to remain loyal to businesses that offer personalized support as opposed to the usual incentives including price cuts/discounts.
  • With cloud-based B2B platforms, wholesalers and distributors can now manage orders from the customer acquisition point to the satisfaction stage, under a single platform. Seamlessly attract, convert, close, and delight customers with B2B integrations such as Hubspot – all within your e-commerce store.
  • B2B platforms realize that data is ‘king’ in today’s business environment, which is why your e-commerce store will grant you access to key analytical tools for customer management, resource planning, procurement, and more to help you make data-backed business moves.

As promised at the start, below’s how to navigate cut-throat competition in the B2B space and stand out from the crowd.

B2B Marketing: How to Stand Out from Your Competition

1. Content Marketing: Know Your Customers – And Create Valuable Content That Benefits Them

A sea of rubber duscks to indicate what B2B is compared to wholesale

Content marketing is crucial because it helps answer your customers’ questions. But don’t just create content that showcases your general understanding of their fields or pain points – you want to delve much deeper and resonate with whatever it is they seek answers for. As per HubSpot’s State of Inbound report, 53% of marketers are now prioritizing content marketing as a way of generating new business. 

When creating content, avoid sounding aggressively salesy; instead, you want to clearly demonstrate how your product or service solves their problems. 

So what type of content delivers results both for you and your customers: create content that actually benefits your customers and their customers – in so doing, you won’t just end up building trust with your potential customers but you’ll also be showing them that you genuinely care about them as humans.

2. Make It Personal – and Be Easy to Reach

Have you ever visited an e-store and liked their offerings only to spend five minutes trying to find their contact information? Well, if you haven’t, count your lucky stars because most buyers are instantly turned off by the super-hard-to-reach wholesalers and distributors. The point is – your customers need not sweat it when it comes to reaching you. Set up clear contact information including contact forms, email, chat sections, phone number, etc. 

Have a dedicated support team on standby ready to offer timely solutions to the potential, new, and existing customers. Additionally, understand that a detailed and genuinely helpful FAQ section is nowadays a must-have and not a nice-to-have.

3. Make It Easy

You’ve worked hard to bring your wholesale or manufacturing business online and most certainly, the last thing you want is to sabotage your own company. If that’s the case, then you might want to avoid making it difficult for other businesses to buy from you! But how do you do that? You might ask. Simple: cut out any complexities, be responsive and accessible, and drive the sales process forward, professionally.

Other things to consider include making your webshop navigation easy and fast while keeping it intuitive at all times. 

4. Reward Loyalty

Keeping your business afloat requires that you focus on attracting new business while retaining your existing clients. And what better way to do that than having a reward program for your clients? For a while now, loyalty programs have proven viable for customer retention as they regular augment brand engagement. Rewards can be in the form of gifts, discounts, points and they help improve customer experience by establishing an emotional connection between your business and its clients.

Every time your customer gives you repeat business or subscription, these benefits further cement your brand’s trust and as a future-looking wholesaler or manufacturer, you shouldn’t take this for granted. Look: we’re not asking you to blow away a chunk of your sales to please your customers, that’ll be sending you out of business; but perhaps you might agree with us that it isn’t the worst of ideas to spend some money to keep making some.

5. Integrate eCommerce with Other Sales Channels

E-commerce is one of the fastest-growing sectors – in America, an average household spends about $5,200 annually online, denoting a 50% increase from just five years ago. And the same trend is seen in B2B eCommerce as well. As an e-commerce store, you’re probably positioning your products and service for the ballooning global e-commerce spend by establishing multiple sales channels, and that’s fabulous! However, with more separate stores comes the challenge of effective management. So, what if there was a way to get rid of that hurdle and let you concentrate on pursuing your fair share of the big cake?

Well, in fact, there is a way to manage all your sales channels under a single e-commerce platform. Turis is one such tool that allows you to integrate multiple sales channels including Shopify, Amazon, WooCommerce, and many more. Your digital presence is an extension of your business so here’s the deal: don’t think of the two as separate – use one to benefit the other.

Key takeaways

  • Content marketing has proven to be a working strategy for B2B businesses looking to generate leads and build a loyal following and client base. Companies should focus on creating content that goes beyond the obvious – selling their products – they should publish content that genuinely solves customers’ needs while demonstrating the role of their goods or services in dealing with their clients’ pain points.
  • E-commerce platforms help your customers to easily gain access to your products and services. A good B2B e-commerce will have a clear contact section with a contact form, email, chat, and phone number.
  • B2B eCommerce is all about making it easy for your customers to buy from you. They offer an intuitive, quick and straightforward ordering ecosystem for your customers.
  • As part of a strategy to appreciate your customers, consider establishing a reward loyalty program. Through such initiatives, you’re able to incentivize your customers using gifts, discounts, and points as a way of evoking an emotional connection with them.
  • Consider consolidating all your sales channels under a single B2B e-commerce tool. Whether you own a brick-and-mortar store, an Amazon or a WooCommerce e-store, you’ll want to integrate it with your e-commerce platform for easier management and accountability.

The Difference Between B2B and B2C-platforms in Online Sales

There is a huge difference between selling to a business and a consumer. That is why it might not be such a great idea to sell to other businesses using your online B2C store. B2B platforms come with loads of complexities compared to the B2C ones.

And even cost-wise, B2B solutions attract much higher costs. This cost implication has resulted in a slowed penetration by the B2B solutions in comparison with the B2C ones. But the slower implementation of business solutions for companies selling to other companies has recently gained a major boost, thanks to the entry of modern, more affordable, easy to use B2B platforms. These tools have showcased the vital benefits of taking wholesale businesses online including error elimination, better customer retention, and boosted sales volumes.

In closing, to iterate on the earlier discussed benefits of B2B e-commerce, we’ve compiled a list of three successful business-to-business startups for your perusal. 

Examples of B2B Marketing

With a surge in the number of online operating businesses owing to the recent Covid-19 lockdowns and tech advancements, thousands of companies globally are making B2B e-commerce the new normal. To put things into perspective, here are a few thriving businesses running on Turis’ platform.

Malling Living

Malling Living

Malling Living, a Danish interior design company offering stylish and contemporary furniture designs and accessories. When the B2B company partnered with Turis, they were already making revenues in the design space. 

However, they noticed that a B2B platform would help reach their full potential and serve both the local and international clients looking to spruce up their interior design with a Danish touch. We’re glad they don’t regret taking their wholesale business online!

Wilder Condiments

Wilder

If you’re a lover of mustards, you definitely ought to try Wilder Condiments‘ hot mustard. Whether you serve it with meat or simply use it as an ingredient, this paste should certainly make it to your ‘must-tries’ list this year.

Before meeting Turis, Wilder Condiments had been wholesaling this delicacy from the sunny coastlines of California entirely without a B2B platform. Now, all mustard enthusiasts can order online when it’s convenient for them

Leo Leo

LeoLeo

Leo Leo creates custom-made children clothing and accessories for those looking to play around with a bit of creativity. A while back, the family-owned brand opted to showcase their products online to their retailers by venturing into the B2B e-commerce space. 

Inspired by the pros of online wholesale trading, Leo Leo is today a happy member of the Turis family!

In closing, we hope we answered most of your questions regarding the B2B business model. If anything isn’t clear, don’t hesitate to send us a message and we’ll be happy to help out!

Until then, happy selling!

The end

That’s it. A relatively short introduction to the concepts of B2B and online platforms. If you have any questions about the blog post you are more than welcome to contact us.

If you are interested in learning more specifically about B2B platforms, we recommend you to read this blog post: The definitive guide to B2B eCommerce platforms or some of our many other blog posts on the topic.

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