Report: Trends and insights in the growing B2B e-commerce market

Although the majority of research and news coverage about the e-commerce market has, until recently, been focused on B2C retailing, B2B manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors have been building a contiguous e-commerce network for nearly as long. That market now dwarfs that of traditional B2C e-commerce.

The rapid growth and expansion of the B2B e-commerce market, which Forbes recently predicted will grow to $6.7 trillion by 2020, brings into question what companies are doing to capitalise and develop alongside.

Industry expert Forrester Research recently released a report, Benchmarking B2B E-Commerce: 3rd Annual Sell-Side Survey, presented in conjunction with Internet Retailer, which details where B2B companies are lagging and where priorities lie. Forrester found that while e-commerce spending is increasing, online buying is rising and business priorities are shifting, most B2B companies are still falling well short of ‘Amazon-like’ experiences. This research inspired our own look into what B2B companies are doing, or not doing, in the e-commerce world.

Our comprehensive analysis of the e-commerce channels of 73 major B2B companies from the 2015 Internet Retailer B2B 300, as well as a sampling of clients, highlights emerging trends in features and functionality, and identifies how business leaders are competing in the digital space.

Key areas of focus included software platform and presentation decisions, such as leveraging responsive design and mobile apps, user experience enhancements, such as tiered pricing, newsletter promotions and product ratings and reviews, and back office functionality, such as “punching out” to a 3rd party procurement system and RFQ/CPQ.

Among other data points, our research found that 63 per cent of e-commerce businesses surveyed were built on in-house commerce platforms. The remaining websites were spread across a variety of packaged commerce solutions, with Magento and hybris leading the pack. Responsive design, or the ability to present intentional cross-channel experiences to customers through a single site instance on various screens, was found on just one quarter of surveyed sites, and just 18 per cent had mobile apps.

In terms of design direction, nearly one third of companies surveyed used a shade of orange for their ‘Add to Cart’ buttons, similar to the color Amazon uses, and more than one quarter of companies had translated their sites to enable internationalisation. Of those with multilingual sites, Spanish is the most common language, followed by German and French.

The exclusive report, intends to do more than simply identify best practices. It aims to give leaders on both side of the aisle additional insight towards identifying best practices and creating competitive advantage. Much has changed since the modern era of e-commerce began, yet there is still a long way to go, particularly for B2B brands and businesses working in an inherently more complex environment targeting business customers shopping by need.

Meredith Guetig, Marketing Associate at Gorilla Group