In June 2021, BigCommerce launched its B2B Edition, a global software-as-a-service e-commerce platform designed especially for business transactions. As 2022 winds up, the company continues to focus on growing its B2B e-commerce offerings.
“We are continuing to bet big on B2B,” Marc Ostryniec, chief sales officer for the company, told Modern Shipper at the recent National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City. “There is more B2B e-commerce than all of B2C.”
A 2021 white paper from DHL Express said that by 2025, 80% of all B2B interactions between suppliers and buyers will take place in digital channels. The company cited the introduction of tech-savvy millennials into the workforce and the rapid acceleration of digital trends because of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced large segments of the global workforce to shift to remote work.
“What is predicted for the future of the B2B sector has already been visible in the significant B2C e-commerce rise over the last years, where DHL Express experienced high growth rates particularly during the holiday peak seasons (e.g., Easter, Christmas) and mega shopping days (e.g., Black Friday, Cyber Monday),” the report said.
According to a PwC survey released in May 2021, 66% of businesses said implementing digital marketing and sales over the next two years is a business priority; 40% said it is a top business challenge. Few manufacturers, though, have robust e-commerce platforms. Robert Bono, industrial manufacturing practice leader for PwC, said the challenges are nearly identical whether it is a B2B or B2C manufacturer.
“It’s not new, we’ve been talking about this for several years, but the pace of adoption is different for different companies,” Bono told Modern Shipper in an interview. He said that the survey confirmed conversations he has been having with manufacturers in recent months. The survey found that some industrial companies are making plans to accelerate e-commerce sales growth from near zero today to 60% over “the next several years.”
BigCommerce predicts B2B e-commerce will reach $1.8 trillion by 2023, accounting for 17% of all B2B sales in the U.S.
Ostryniec said the growing prevalence of channels for e-commerce shoppers is leading more merchants to adopt solutions such as BigCommerce (NASDAQ: BIGC) to handle their platforms.
“The merchants are all looking at those [channels] as avenues,” he said. “Social was a big push for us in the last year. There will continue to be big investments for us.”
BigCommerce’s B2B Edition connects previous e-commerce features into a platform designed specifically for businesses that can integrate them with point-of-sale and enterprise resource planning systems. This includes price quote management tools, multiple purchase order management, client address books, multiple payment methods and customer account management by sales agent.
“We are advancing B2B digital experiences through enterprise functionality, platform openness and flexibility to enable a modernized ecommerce experience for B2B merchants and their customers,” MaryAnn Bekkedahl, senior vice president of business development at BigCommerce, said at the time. “B2B Edition gives sellers a distinct advantage of a B2C-like shopping experience that helps businesses sell faster, convert at a higher rate and create repeat purchasing and loyalty.”
In the more traditional B2C e-commerce space, similar trends are taking place.
“Retailers expect purchases to be made on social channels,” Ostryniec said. “Big companies want transactions to take place on these [sites].”
To accomplish this, though, brands need better insight into inventory data and product substitution options, especially given the supply chain issues that currently exist.
“It’s often less about the look and feel [of the site] and more about bringing modern capabilities [to the customer],” Ostryniec said.
These capabilities can run the gamut of options and often differ based on the retailer.
“The key is flexibility,” Ostryniec said. “A merchant may care about shipping … or their aim is to offer a full platform of options. The same [desired variety] exists with payments.”
It’s about creating a platform that offers this flexibility, and importantly, one that can be quickly and easily integrated with third-party systems “so merchants have their choice” of options, Ostryniec said.
The typical BigCommerce customer is one that requires this flexibility.
“Shopify is great if you stay within their rails, stay within their ecosystem,” Ostryniec noted. But for the BigCommerce customer, which is often a small or midsized brand and may not necessarily have a physical storefront, there is often more complexity to its business. The customer may have multiple needs, including real-time inventory tracking, multiple fulfillment possibilities such as ship from store or pick up in store, or even marketing requirements that BigCommerce’s software stack can assist with.
“As we’ve started growing that business, one of the hallmarks of our platform has been openness and transparency,” Ostryniec said, so that BigCommerce can serve the SMB with “turnkey e-commerce sites.”
Additionally, because the B2B and B2C e-commerce worlds have unique characteristics, and about half of all companies using BigCommerce’s platform conduct business in both worlds, the platform needs to be accommodating for both customer sets. Ostryniec said common differences may be in pack size— a retail customer may require only two boxes of an item whereas the business customer may require two pallets.
“The B2B piece often has some interesting complexities,” he said. “We allow businesses to do both B2C and B2B with our catalog [of options].”