The popularity of online marketplaces has grown by leaps and bounds among buyers and sellers in both B2B and B2C recently. While marketplaces were already quickly gaining steam before 2020, COVID-19 underscored their importance and accelerated their adoption across the board.
B2B businesses—many slow to digitally transform prior to the pandemic—found that online marketplaces offered them a quick and fairly easy way to get their products or services online during COVID-19 restrictions such as stay-at-home orders. And B2B buyers, who were now working from home, flocked to marketplaces because they make it easy to find, compare and purchase the items they’re looking for.
Today, customer expectations are continuing to spike. Reliability, transparency and trust are more important than ever for any business relying on marketplaces as a substitute for long-established customer relationships.
In a webinar “Driving Marketplaces: Experiences and Adoption,” TreviPay CEO Brandon Spear talks with guest Allen Bonde, who at the time was a Forrester VP, Research Director, about why marketplaces make great selling channels for B2B businesses and how companies can reduce friction in the buyer’s marketplace shopping experience.
Why marketplaces are hot now
In 2019, Forrester1 forecasted that eCommerce will make up 17% of the $11 trillion B2B sales market in the U.S. by 2023. This level of growth isn’t surprising. In addition to offering customers a fast and easy way to find products and price-compare, marketplaces also offer sellers myriad benefits.
“The platforms and the tooling have just gotten a lot better.Twenty years ago when folks like Dell were launching their marketplace, it was really early, and only buyers were fully ready,” Bonde explains in the webinar. “Seller certainly didn’t see the demand there, and the platforms were relatively immature.”
Fast forward two decades, Bonde says a lot has come together to make put marketplaces front-and-center now, such as more full-service buyer tools. “It’s a one-stop shop in a lot of ways in terms of researching products and how you contract and how you can purchase,” he adds.
Marketplaces also offer more seller tools. “There are better tools for listing [products or services,] and creating and syndicating your content,” Bonde says. “There are more options in terms of just the range of capabilities.”
And there are a lot more options across all categories through SaaS and infrastructure vendors, retailers, distributors and industry associations—making it easy for buyers to research, find and purchase what they need—all in one place.
Level-up the marketplace experience
Access to marketplaces today is straightforward. Getting a B2B company up and running can be done fairly easily. It But having the right technology in place will provide a better marketplace shopping experience for the customer.
Successful SaaS marketplace consist of several key components.
- Availability: The marketplace provides a mix of sellers, assortment and localization.
- Buyer interface: Search is easy to use. Buyers have access to adequate product content, as well as customer reviews and ratings. And they can compare and configure products with built-in tools.
- Transaction: Transactions should accommodate the unique and complex B2B buying experience. Pricing information should be customizable to the specific B2B buyer. Free trials and buying permission capabilities should be in place. And the marketplace must have the ability to offer B2B payments options—such as net terms.
- Contract terms: Negotiate group-buying terms specific to the marketplace to increase stickiness and loyalty.
- Due diligence: The marketplace should vet sellers and ensure security processes are in place to protect buyers.
- Management console: An easy-to-access dashboard to provide usage data and keep track of agreed-on terms
- AI and automation: With artificial intelligence and automation support, product recommendation capabilities should be in place and chatbots available to help customers through their shopping journey.
Supplementing the marketplace experience with add-ons
As a marketplace seller or operator, how you select and use add-ons for promotions and payments will be critical to meeting the needs of current and potential new customers.
“This is where co-innovation partners really fit in,” Bonde says in the webinar. “Companies can find a partner to basically accelerate the marketplace by creating functionality, creating experiences and creating add-ons that customers not only value, but also, in some cases, require to participate fully.
To get all the marketplace insights covered in “Driving Marketplaces: Experiences + Adoption,” listen to it here.
1 Forrester, US B2B eCommerce Will Hit $1.8 Trillion By 2023, January 2019