Which is the best B2B marketplace

B2B marketplaces and online sales platforms - an opportunity away from shops

Do you really need a web shop to sell our products online? The short answer: Nope! Not even in the business customer area. B2B marketplaces and similar models are an attractive alternative or addition to your own B2B e-commerce platform.

In the following we give an overview of the operating forms / business models, advantages and disadvantages as well as common and not so well known B2B marketplace providers. Like our overview of B2B e-commerce software solutions, this list will continue to grow - but not always regularly.

Content:

How do B2B marketplaces work?

Let's first look at the transaction models in e-commerce and how a marketplace model differs from the shop. You can safely ignore the technical differences, because in principle online marketplaces can also be implemented with any classic shop system.

(You can find more about B2B e-commerce on our focus page.)

In contrast to your own shop, you appear as a supplier / seller on online marketplaces together with other competitors towards the customer. For example, the customer can choose from drilling machines from different manufacturers. The marketplace operator itself can also be represented with its own products (such as the Contorion platform with its own brand Stier or the parent company Klöckner & Co. with its steel products on the marketplace of the subsidiary XOM). This is a hybrid approach between trading platform and marketplace. In the pure marketplace model, the pure player lives only on the transaction commission or registration fees. In contrast to wholesaling, the products are not resold, only mediated.

In contrast to supplier / procurement platforms such as Onventis, where individual supplier catalogs are compiled for customers and orders are placed via eProcurement, marketplaces are an open offer that can be obtained via a classic ordering process via checkout. The offer from "Wer Liefer Was" is therefore not to be understood as an online marketplace, but as a mediation platform between B2B buyers and B2B sellers, as no transactions are carried out through it. But the brokerage service is also not free of charge for providers.

B2B marketplaces - dissemination

The most important players with the largest global share of sales in the B2B area are certainly Alibaba and Amazon Business. Alibaba is a pure marketplace model. Accordingly, despite the significantly higher transaction volume in the 2017/2018 financial year (850 billion US dollars), sales were only around 35 billion dollars, which are mainly generated through service fees. Marketplace sellers on Amazon reportedly sold around 160 billion worth of goods in 2018, from which Amazon earned around 40 billion US dollars in “seller services”. (Figures from marketplacepulse.com and alibabagroup). Amazon is therefore much more economical - or more expensive, as you might think.

In addition to Alibaba and Amazon, there are a number of other B2B marketplaces active in the DACH market that do not offer the same range of products, but a greater depth in their segments. For example Staples for office supplies, Mercateo with a focus on C-parts, factory equipment and tools or AERA-Online as a specialist for dental and dental technology products.

Procurement platforms are also becoming increasingly important in online sales. According to a 2019 survey of 500 companies by the industry association Bitkom, around 45 percent of those surveyed saw sales platforms as an opportunity for their business model. So it is not surprising that more than a third of the companies surveyed wanted to invest more in digital platforms in 2020. The corona crisis is likely to have further intensified this trend. It is also interesting that 96% of the respondents who are responsible for the platform topic have had such positive experiences that they recommend other companies to use it as well. This is also reflected in the distribution: If you look at studies on marketplace development in B2B trade, it becomes apparent that the number of platforms rose by around 150 percent from 2015 to 2020.

Advantages of the B2B marketplace sales model

As with an online shop, providers generally benefit from digital market access. Buyer groups who cannot or can no longer be reached via analogue channels can be tapped in this way. Added to this are time and cost advantages. Entry into online trading is relatively quick and possible without investing in shop development, setting up the associated infrastructure and ongoing operations. Instead of a 12-month e-commerce project and a 6-digit amount, you can get started in a few weeks. Depending on the marketplace, there are also no expenses for order processing or setting up your own shipping logistics. An online marketing budget is not required, at least for promotion and business initiation via the marketplace. Nevertheless, the company has access to a respectable clientele who are in principle willing to buy. The large reach of the procurement platforms is a curse and a blessing at the same time, because it is becoming more and more expensive for many manufacturers and B2B dealers to use their own SEO measures to counter the good ranking of the platforms.

Conversely, the buyer benefits from a large assortment on one platform (one-stop shop), a good market overview, high price transparency, mostly lower transaction costs or shipping costs than with the individual supplier (if it is an indirect supplier relationship) as well as the performance, stability, Security and service offerings on a continuously evolving platform. In short, the use of online marketplaces is convenient for the buyer and the offer is reliable.

disadvantage

With regard to the disadvantages, it should be mentioned above all that, first of all, the margins are of course worse. However, from a realistic perspective, in many cases the investment for your own shop and your own marketing measures must also be offset. Second, there is a lack of opportunities to communicate your own portfolio - especially the USPs and services. In fact, only the price counts - and that is the rather unattractive list price on many platforms. As a rule, individual prices can be set for existing customers, but - as with your own shop - only become visible after logging in. Special features, quality, customer service and personal contact, e.g. B. in the case of requests for quotations, have hardly any relevance for converting prospects to new customers. Thirdly, there is also a lack of opportunities to sensibly sell products that require explanation. Your own product configurator or the advice tool cannot be placed at Contorion & Co. B2B marketplaces are particularly suitable for simple merchandise.

Get into B2B marketplaces

As we have seen, there can be several reasons for getting started. As with all sales decisions, however, the basis should not be gut instinct, but a cost-benefit analysis based on reliable figures. What do you save compared to setting up and operating a high-reach e-commerce solution? Of course, taking into account the lower margins, the lower development potential of the customer relationship and the resulting lower sales per customer as well as the costs incurred for logistics and customer service. Since this can of course only be a matter of assumptions and a company has to gain experience with the new channel, it is usually advisable to start with a reduced range. However, with some procurement platforms such as Simple System or Mercateo, the operator will also want to have a say. After all, he is interested in further developing the attractiveness of his offer in a meaningful way.

Get into the platform economy

Marketplaces and online sales platforms are also exciting as strategic instruments for digitally expanding a strong market position. The addition of complementary products to your own range or, conversely, closer ties to your own suppliers or even competitors secure your own pole position. Good examples are Würth's Wucato Marketplace or the XOM procurement platform for the materials industry, behind which the Duisburg-based steel and metal trading company Klöckner & Co stands. This is no longer about optimizing the trade margin. The establishment of B2B marketplaces by established retailers and manufacturers is also a defense strategy against potentially disruptive online pure players.

Whatever the goal, evaluating the chances of success and the necessary investment when entering the platform economy is extremely complex and associated with many imponderables, so that there is always a high residual risk even with a huge budget. This starts with the decision whether to act as a generalist or with a specialized portfolio. What is there more of a target group and what does it really value? Difficult decisions when there is no experience because you are the first in the market.

Online sales platforms: Small overview of the B2B marketplaces

In the following we would like to give you a small overview of the most popular marketplaces

Amazon Business:

The offer from Amazon for commercial customers. They can access the regular range as well as special B2B offers. The most important features compared to normal Amazon shopping are certainly the purchase on account, the B2B-compliant display of sales tax and bulk prices. Registering an Amazon business account (commercial register number and VAT ID are of course required) is initially free of charge - as are orders of 29 euros or more. Additional users can also be created via a Prime service, plus premium shipping, delivery on the desired date and discounts.

Conversely, as a seller, you can also set certain business customer prices and volume discounts yourself, as there are no regulations. When purchasing on account, Amazon also takes care of the credit risk, billing and collection of payments. The fees for sellers are at least € 39 once and a commission - usually between 7 and 15 percent. Amazon Business also supports various eProcurement procurement platforms (Onventis, SAP Ariba, etc.) and allows cost centers and purchasing limits to be stored. Most B2B functions, however, are on a more basic level. Amazon Business is particularly interesting for manufacturers of classic B2B merchandise and brands - both as a platform and as a competitor.

Alibaba:

In contrast to Amazon, you can not only order goods directly via Alibaba, you can also request offers from many providers or you can create a request for an offer and then wait for offers. Alibaba acts as an intermediary between the dealer and buyer, comparable to WLW.de. In contrast to WLW, the focus is on the product and not on the supplier. The platform is a good source for products from Chinese manufacturers, but is also open to other international suppliers. According to the company's own information, it currently covers more than 190 countries and regions. Due to minimum order quantities, the offer is usually not for sole proprietorships - they are more likely to find what they are looking for on Aliexpress. Payment methods, shipping conditions and service providers, minimum order quantities, etc. all depend on the respective provider, but it is advisable to use the Alibaba Secure Payment service when paying and to pay attention to verified providers with good ratings and trade assurance.

One downer with deliveries from the Chinese market are the customs and import taxes. Order lab coats, e.g. B. to the value of 1,000 euros (including shipping costs), there are also 12% customs duties for textiles (120 €) and then 19% taxes (212.80 €) on-top.

Mercateo:

According to its own information, Mercateo Deutschland AG currently brings together 1.5 million commercial customers with 16,000 manufacturers and dealers who offer around 25 million items. For the direct connection of suppliers and buyers, Mercateo offers the "Unite" service, which enables suppliers to be integrated into the customers' eProcurement procurement solutions. Mercateo is both a marketplace and a procurement platform. In addition to Germany, Mercateo's service is already available in 13 other European countries. In the 2019 financial year, the company achieved sales of EUR 316 million. According to the company, this makes it the largest European B2B marketplace operator.

Compared to Amazon and Alibaba, the service is also highly professionalized. There are, for example, fully automated and standardized ordering and approval processes, rights and roles in purchasing can be mapped individually, as can the catalog compilations and views. This ensures the company's purchasing policy. If you have signed framework agreements with suppliers and are looking for a product, Mercateo preferably delivers results from your suppliers so that purchase quantities can be realized. Invoices can be provided as PDF, by post, via XML import or via an EDI interface. To save time in purchasing, the B2B marketplace also offers the BestBasket service. You can use this to automatically put together a shopping cart according to certain criteria (total price, delivery time or number of shipments). Thanks to the wealth of cleverly implemented B2B functions, Mercateo is always a source of inspiration when developing your own e-commerce strategy.

The industry platform is a mixture of marketplace, shop, brokerage and procurement platform and is aimed primarily at buyers and sellers in materials management - from wholesalers to steelworks to processing companies for aluminum or plastics. The platform is a subsidiary of the Duisburg steel and metal trading company Klöckner & Co. and has been on the market since 2017. At the end of 2019, 50 dealers were already represented on the platform, through which 600 registered customers can purchase 20,000 different products. There are numerous classic B2B functions such as individual prices, reorders or the creation of their own article numbers by the customer. Payments are processed directly and centrally via the B2B marketplace. In the case of orders from several dealers, the order is split; each supplier then only sees the part that is relevant to him. Quotation requests can be made using a quote tool.

Fun fact on the side: Since in the case of XOM the parent company and competitors should be represented on the platform from the start, the Federal Cartel Office has sanctioned the operation of the platform with some conditions. The express goal was not to further increase price transparency. ... that also seems to apply to the service fees, about which nothing was known at the moment.

Conclusion

As always, you should first get an overview of features, advantages and disadvantages and possible candidates. If you've made it this far, you can check it out. After you have familiarized yourself with the subject, it is now important to consider the cost-effectiveness of a possible entry. What and how much do you want to sell and what margin is still acceptable for you? Ideally, you start the sales channel first with individual products or only part of the range.

In order to narrow down the possible candidates further, it is advisable to ask your customers about which platforms they already use to cover their needs for general and industry-specific consumer goods. It is only logical to also be present on these platforms in order to enable customers to shop as conveniently as possible without media discontinuity. Our clients are always surprised at how far their customers' purchasing has already shifted into the online area and has also become more professional.