Wholesale 101: B2B eCommerce Platform vs Traditional eCommerce Site, Which One Do You Need More?

eCommerce websites are proving to be the preferred platform for most wholesale business owners. The challenge of improving sales efforts has become crucial to surviving today’s market since the overall business landscape is changing with B2B shopping behaviors turning more and more toward the trends that consumer eCommerce purchases have established. A recent study by Forrester shows that in the US alone, the B2B eCommerce industry is headed for a $1.8 trillion net worth by 2023. This presents wholesale brands, manufacturers, and distributors, who want to quickly scale their businesses, an opportunity for exponential growth within the next 3 to 4 years.

There are three types of eCommerce websites out there. Each have their own benefits and features, which tend to leave business owners—much like yourself—asking: “Which one works best for my company?”

Do you need a website mainly to showcase products? Or perhaps you want your website to support direct consumer purchases when they visit? Maybe you want a wholesale-specific website where retailers can place and pay for orders in bulk?

Asking these questions can give you a better idea of which type of eCommerce website offers the best value for your business and a reasonable return on your investment.

In this article, we'll help you go through the 3 types of websites that are currently available in the market which could potentially help you manage your wholesale eCommerce needs.

1. Simple Marketing Website

This kind of website is straightforward: it showcases your products, your company story, and some contact information. It directs interested buyers to reach out via email or call, providing contact forms that collect customer information and offer a personal touch to transactions.

This type of website does not provide options for customers who want the convenience of making a purchase on the spot. Simple marketing websites usually transact through bank transfers or automated clearing house (ACH) methods after the request for an order is placed.

However, if you want to give your customers multiple options and also generate more sales, the next type of eCommerce website might do the trick.

2. Traditional eCommerce Website

Unlike a simple marketing website, traditional eCommerce websites allow your customers to make transactions on the site itself. These transactions may include product update subscriptions, a shopping cart option, various payment methods, and even tracking for orders shipped.

These websites are great for wholesale businesses that want their consumers to sample the product first before buying in bulk. However, your wholesale business may not have the proper fulfillment strategy to support smaller consumer purchases. Therefore you may need to set up a different fulfillment method than the one you use to cater to your typical larger, wholesale buyer.

Another challenge of using a traditional eCommerce site for wholesale is that they are unable to fully support negotiated, customer-specific pricing where Customer A gets one price for Widget 1 , and Customer B gets a different price for the same Widget 1 product. This is often supported through a “Price List” feature.

Today’s market is increasingly customer-centric. Giving your customers the ability to influence the prices of your goods based on the value they perceive it tends to have a positive impact on the increase of your sales. While some traditional eCommerce sites can have this pricing feature available, it’s mostly there as an add-on at an extra cost. This is not an ideal for wholesale distributors who try to cater to as many retail stores as possible.

Let’s take a look at the third option...

3. B2B eCommerce Website

Much like a traditional eCommerce website, the ones designed for business-to-business (B2B) allows your customers to place orders and make payments on the site itself, but with additional features specific for wholesale distribution. Some features include recognition of delayed terms and easy reordering. This makes it ideal for businesses that handle distribution for multiple retail stores, small distributors, and the like.

Here are some of the benefits of a B2B eCommerce website for wholesalers according to Insite:

  • Tailored for wholesale
    Custom product catalogs and price lists to support negotiated pricing are “table-stakes” for a B2B eCommerce website, as are order-approval workflows, custom pages, and customizable account request forms.
  • Scalability
    A good B2B eCommerce site allows your business to grow and meet the changing market demands. As your customers increase, your website also should have the ability to scale without too much fuss.
  • Improved efficiencies
    In the current customer-centric market, customer experience can make or break a business. The more convenient it is for customers when visiting an online store, the higher the chances of them actually purchasing from you. Most B2B eCommerce sites offer features to fully automate the buying experience.
  • More customers
    With integrations that bring your business to your customers' mobile phones, B2B eCommerce platforms now have the ability to reach intended consumers wherever they are. According to a study, almost 40% of all eCommerce purchases during the 2018 US holiday season were made on a smartphone.
  • Improved brand awareness
    As a business owner, you want your brand to be recognized across borders. B2B eCommerce websites can help you achieve this is by developing pages that can be indexed by search engine crawlers and get your products to rank better on search engines.
  • Increased sales
    It’s a given that an increase of customers mean a higher cash flow. B2B eCommerce sites can easily implement automated sales processes and advanced algorithms which can suggest products based on customer behavior. This again presents more opportunities for you to make a sale.
  • Analytics
    B2B eCommerce also provides the perfect platform for a business to launch a comprehensive analytics campaign. With it, you can easily measure and evaluate marketing campaigns, sales effectiveness, product mix, inventory turns, customer sales effectiveness, and customer engagement. Google Analytics offers eCommerce tracking, but integrating analytics with your enterprise resource planning (ERP). It also provides a more robust data with actionable insights.
  • Customer-centric experience
    As mentioned earlier, today’s market leans towards a more customer-centric approach. While there are certainly differences in experiences for retail shoppers and B2B buyers, wholesale distributors still need to implement intuitive design, rich content, and interactive functionality in their websites to improve user experience.
  • Exceptional customer service
    Making and losing a sale can often be attributed to how well you provide customer service. That said, B2B eCommerce sites can provide access to self-serve portals with account, order, history, and tracking information. Some even integrate their clients’ ERP system and allow for customer specific products, services and pricing to be displayed based on login credentials. This adds another layer of convenience for consumers.
  • Improved sales engagement
    Being available to your customers 24/7 is tough even if your business might have the manpower to spare. A wholesale eCommerce site or portal will provide your sales team with better insights into what your customers are looking for, what they purchase and when, as well as how better to strategize pricing and sales.
  • Multi-site capability
    B2B eCommerce sites are capable of allowing the launch of channel-specific or co-branded eCommerce microsites for each of your distributors or key clients. It also allows for sites that cater to a specific international audience by presenting content in alternate languages or currencies.

In conclusion, as a wholesaler, choosing the right type of wholesale eCommerce website all boils down to how you intend to use your chosen online platform and what type of customers you’re selling to. It’s also important to consider the value a platform can add to your sales process, keeping in mind the current trends for consumer behavior and technology.

Sweet is a cloud-based inventory and order management platform specifically designed for wholesale distributors. We've built Sweet to help you keep up with the non-stop nature of running a business in today’s market. We can help you sync orders coming in via email, calls, texts, etc., and then ensure your production, accounting, and customer service all have the same information throughout.