Global B2B ecommerce reports gross merchandise volume (GMV) worth $10.6 trillion in 2018, and estimates are the figures to grow to over $12 trillion in 2019. A large part of this huge merchandise volume is made of wholesale contracts. This means that adopting a wholesale platform becomes a business-critical endeavor for any enterprise involved in wholesale trade.
Growth of Global B2B Ecommerce
When you look at the figures, you should be aware that there are multiple types of B2B wholesale companies covered by the above market statistics. The market for B2B wholesale services is part of the larger market for B2B services. There are basically two types of B2B wholesale companies:
- Big-box retail: These are companies that deliver products and services to big and small retailers by making a profit from the margin originating from the purchasing price and the price at which they sell to retailers. As they purchase very large volumes, they actually generate profits by the discount they get from manufacturers.
- Direct-to-consumer (DTC): These companies sell directly to the end-user via B2B wholesale software, while a growing number of digitally native vertical brands (DNVBs) are also maintaining their own production and distribution networks.
Both big-box retail and DTC wholesalers are doing business through a sort of a B2B wholesale platform. Some of these platforms are designed to allow access only to registered retail users such as a big retail store chain. Other B2B ecommerce software solutions, especially in the DTC segment, are being developed with selling to the end-user in mind.
For instance, B2B ecommerce platforms such as BigCommerce, Magento or Shopify enable wholesalers to implement both a big-box retail, DTC and DNVB business models although usually at a smaller scale.
Before you opt for adopting such an ecommerce platform for wholesale, we need to define the very basics of what makes an ecommerce solution suitable for ecommerce.
What is a Wholesale e-Commerce Platform?
Wholesale ecommerce software solutions are basically online platforms that connect a wholesaler to retailers or end-users. A wholesaler may provide goods or services to its customers and the business model does not change except for the volume of deals and deliveries completed.
Thus, we have one kind of B2B wholesale solution aimed at large retailers such as store chains of Walmart’s type in the United States or Kaufland in Europe and wholesale platforms targeting the end-user market segment. These market segments differ as retailers such as Walmart and Kaufland also act as wholesalers for many small retailers and family-owned businesses.
That being said, there is no single best platform for wholesale ecommerce. It all depends on your specific business, overall market reach and number of existing customers as well as your business expansion plans.
In any case, you need your ecommerce platform to support features such as:
- Easy inventory and order management
- Multiple pricing options
- Bulk purchasing discounts
- Different catalog options
- Product and service re-ordering, recurring purchases
- Price comparison
These and other features are at the core of a viable ecommerce platform. The absence or presence of a single major feature makes all the difference between a platform that gives you a competitive advantage and a platform that prevents you from developing further your wholesale operations.
Benefits of an e-Commerce Platform in Wholesale
Look at the figures for the estimated growth of ecommerce sales at a global level. You will find that ecommerce platforms evidently introduce huge benefits for both B2B and B2C seller companies.
While China and the Asia/Pacific region still lead the pack in the projected increase of ecommerce sales, both the United States and Europe are close behind, especially bearing in mind that Asian ecommerce is still underdeveloped as compared to Europe and the U.S.
In addition, to enable companies to reach a broader pool of customers and generate more leads, wholesale ecommerce platforms offer a number of specific benefits to wholesalers.
Increased Sales Volume and Enhanced Brand Visibility
A top ecommerce platform for wholesale can markedly boost a wholesaler’s brand visibility, which in turn results in greater sales volume.
Once you establish your presence as a reliable wholesaling company on a B2B ecommerce platform, you increase your brand awareness by reaching out to more retailers that in turn deliver your product to their respective end-customers. Building a reputable brand is easier and cheaper on a B2B ecommerce platform since you save money on advertising to the customers while retailers take a part of the financial burden for publicizing your brand.
Better brand recognition leads to increased sales volume and higher average order values and not only over a single merchandise channel.
Multi-Channel Market Reach
B2B wholesale solutions allow companies to sell using different sales channels and synchronize their unique product offering across all channels. What is more, wholesalers can offer their range of products on multiple wholesale ecommerce platforms such as Amazon or Alibaba and take full advantage of all available options to reach a wider audience.
Integrations that Enhance the Wholesale Cycle
Like in a B2C business scenario, B2B sales do not involve only the stages of reaching out to customers and then closing a deal.
The entire B2B sales cycle includes stages such as researching your market niche, collecting data from prospective clients, creating product catalogs and product offerings as well as onboarding new retailers. Elements of the post-purchase experience include processes such as cross-selling, upselling and customer retention by offering specific discounts or promotions.
B2B ecommerce software solutions cover most of these processes through built-in functionality, but many wholesalers use third-party software for their specific business processes. Any top ecommerce platform for wholesale offers third-party integrations through APIs or webhooks to customize it to your particular needs.
This way, wholesalers can integrate other business applications such as:
- Logistics platforms
- Inventory and order management systems
- Warehouse management platforms
- Enterprise resource planning systems
- Customer relationship systems
- Platforms for content and advertising management
By integrating one or more third-party apps into the B2B platform, a wholesaler can boost overall performance while taking advantage of personalized customer experiences. You can, however, improve the customer experience inside your B2B ecommerce platform as well.
Customized and Personalized Customer Experience
Today’s B2B clients are much like a typical B2C customer, looking for customized and personalized purchasing experiences that meet their specific requirements and make the buying journey shorter and easier.
B2B wholesale solutions enable companies to create personalized client experiences depending on the user’s roles or the company they are purchasing for. Purchasing on mobile plays an increasing role in B2B sales, so wholesale ecommerce platforms and marketplaces allow seamless user experience on both desktop and mobile devices.
In order to take full advantage of all these benefits, you need an ecommerce platform for wholesale that offers at least a number of major features.
5 Must-Have Features of a Wholesale e-Commerce Platform
The list of the mandatory features for a B2B wholesale platform is closely tied to the benefits you get from such a platform. For instance, you need to synchronize your product offerings, promotions and delivery terms across all sales channels if you are to get satisfactory multi-channel sales results. Therefore, synchronizing is a must-have functionality for a B2B wholesale software to consider a solution worth investing in.
What you need to look for in a wholesale ecommerce platform is not limited to core features such as order and inventory management or contract fulfillment. You should also look for a few other business-critical features.
Customizability and Scalability
Customizing a wholesale ecommerce platform to meet your and your customers’ needs requires built-in customization capabilities and options to integrate with as many third-party apps as possible.
A scalable B2B wholesale platform enables you to grow seamlessly when you are expanding your business. When you scale up, you once again need personalization and customization options to reach your customers in the right way and on the right channels.
Content Marketing Capabilities
Creating content and marketing this content to customers plays a vital role for successful sales in B2C and B2B alike.
Business-facing campaigns by wholesalers are no less important than customer-facing campaigns run by retailers. Thus, all of the top ecommerce platforms have content marketing capabilities that help boost brand visibility and build brand awareness. You want and need to create custom-made catalogs, loyalty programs, product videos, and the like and then market them to your clients.
The age of search engines and their role in popularizing products and services among both retail and end-customers definitely requires your B2B ecommerce solution to have built-in content marketing tools.
Customer Support Tools and Integrations
A weakness of B2B companies and wholesalers traditionally is their inability to address customer inquiries and problems in a fast manner. The problem is that modern-day B2B customers, your retailer clients, are getting increasingly accustomed to a very fast support service that can respond to issues or inquiries within minutes, not in hours or days.
Hence, you need to reach back to your clients and prospect customers in a fast and reliable way. This in turn presupposes that wholesalers need to use support tools such as real-time chats, automated bots, and various messaging solutions to be in close and constant contact with their customers.
You need to have a wholesale ecommerce platform that supports both built-in messaging as well as integrations with third-party tools such as Skype, Slack, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Meetings.
Mobile B2B Ecommerce Features
Mobile ecommerce is not a distinctive feature of B2C sales anymore. B2B customers are on mobile as well, especially bearing in mind that enterprise platforms such as ERPs and CRMs are available on mobile.
You may have your own B2B sales website optimized for mobile, but you also need a responsive B2B wholesale platform, which your clients can easily open and explore on mobile devices, including small-screen smartphones.
Simple Ordering and Purchasing Process
In the past, the B2B purchases process required between 5 and 8 steps to complete an order. It is totally unacceptable today when customers are looking for as short as possible purchasing process.
Your ecommerce platform may offer integrations with ERP and purchase planning software for automated purchases but you still have to fulfill many one-rime orders that go through all the purchase steps. One of the leading ecommerce platforms for wholesale, Magento, was one of the first to shorten their five-step buying process to three steps, and it took them much time and effort to optimize their platform.
It is only one example of how the top B2B wholesale platforms compete to simplify the entire ordering process.
How to Pick Your Wholesale e-Commerce Platform
Once you are acquainted with the benefits of wholesale ecommerce platforms and their must-have capabilities, you are ready to start researching which wholesale software solution best fits your requirements.
You start with the pricing tiers on offer by each solution provider as they vary from platform to platform and specific charges and discounts are available depending on your sales volume and other factors. Your further research should take into consideration factors like:
- Flexible pricing and payment options
- Automated tax adjustments for different countries
- Easy to use interface of the administrative panel
- Easy to use by customers
- Short ordering and payment process
- High-level of transactions security
Overall, a B2B wholesale software should meet all your present business needs and specific requirements and be scalable to enable you to grow painlessly.
10 Best Platforms for Wholesale e-Commerce
Based on the above criteria and available B2B ecommerce features, you can select your best platform for wholesale ecommerce while bearing in mind that there is never a single top ecommerce platform for wholesale. You may want to look at how Gartner analysts see the current digital commerce landscape as of August 2020 to get an idea of the leading market players.
Your personal top choice depends on factors we have listed before and on other specific requirements for your business. Hence, you can find that one of the platforms on the list below is not your preferred choice. You should also know that the list of reliable B2B wholesale solutions is growing rapidly as new players are entering this lucrative market. Below you can find an expanded list of top B2B ecommerce platforms that can help you grow your business. The platforms are listed alphabetically.
Top Ecommerce Platforms for Wholesale
- 3D Cart
- Elastic Path
- IBM Digital Commerce
- Magento (Acquired by Adobe)
- NetSuite SuiteCommerce
- Shopify Plus
You should be aware that some of those B2B ecommerce platforms are suitable for small wholesalers or specific tasks such as bulk ordering only. Others are more appropriate for large wholesaling companies and come with added features but at a price.
Whether you are a starting up B2B wholesaler or an established brand, adopting a wholesale ecommerce platform is a matter of when and not if.
A reliable and full-fledged ecommerce platform can turn into a centralized hub for all your wholesale operations, especially when you integrate it with your other business systems. Thus, you get multi-channel and omni-channel in one place while being able to scale up your operations without hassle.