The B2B marketplace seems to be in the forefront of everyone’s minds following last year’s record-breaking Alibaba IPO. Because you can’t rely on Jack Ma for all of your insights, we’ve put together a few of the trends and challenges B2B marketplaces currently face. These factors are changing the landscape of B2B commerce and they’re worth following on a regular basis if you’re a marketplace looking to stay on top of industry trends.
Here’s our breakdown of the state of B2B marketplace trends and challenges:
Specialization and Segmentation
B2B marketplaces are becoming increasingly specialized and segmented as their technology becomes more sophisticated. For e-commerce businesses looking for online storefront tools, a marketplace like Shopify provides a specialized space with the full range of relevant apps to accommodate a merchant’s specific needs. By cutting out irrelevant vendors and directing their attention to useful tools (like Shippo!), businesses can shorten the amount of time they spend tool-shopping and move on to experimenting to find the best tools to complement their e-commerce knowledge.
Greater Focus on the Customer Journey
With the proliferation of more advanced tracking tools for the customer journey, B2B marketplaces are better able to track their conversion funnel and gain valuable insights into what’s driving sales and what’s preventing potential customers from completing a transaction. By testing possible changes to their customers’ journeys, businesses can identify key success and failure areas. Armed with that information, they can make any necessary adjustments to their platform and improve their conversions. For Shippo marketplace customers, most of whom support businesses in the apparel, cosmetics, home goods, food, and electronics spaces, that means providing a simple navigation toolbar, optimizing the checkout process, and ensuring operational elements like shipping are automated and streamlined.
Simple Pricing Tiers
As B2B marketplaces become more advanced, they are conversely presenting services in a cleaner, simpler format. While many B2B products offer clients a broad range of tools and features, marketplaces are taking caution not to overwhelm potential clients with overly-complicated packages. By letting buyers narrow their search along simple, straightforward, tiered pricing guidelines, marketplaces let decision-makers identify the best partner and close a deal in a reasonable time-frame, rather than wading through pages and pages of options.
While B2B marketplaces may be growing and thriving in terms of pure growth numbers, we know there are roadblocks preventing some businesses from staying competitive. Let’s take a look at two of the biggest obstacles B2B marketplaces face:
Data Analysis and Personalization
With the massive growth in B2B marketplace participation comes an equally substantial growth in the accumulation of customer data. For a marketplace to remain competitive and retain its user base, it needs to continue to add relevant suppliers for its buyers.
While increasing the supply base is often a matter of outreach and partnership building, giving customers the tools they need to parse through those options and find the right match for their needs is another story. That requires a strong back-end matching algorithm that can crunch the data to pair buyers with relevant providers based on their query or past transactions. For marketplaces that plan to expand, they’ll need to keep this challenge at the forefront of their minds.
Sales Hurdles & Comparison Features
While the B2C marketplace offers a relatively simple sales cycle, B2B enterprises are plagued by long sales cycles that require them to satisfy a number of complex variables before closing a sale. The simple click-and-submit payment formula of a B2C e-commerce business might solidify some impulsive purchases, but that casual consumption is rarely, if ever, a part of B2B sales.
B2B marketplaces need to provide a comprehensive comparison feature to allow buyers to compare potential suppliers side by side. By giving shoppers a clear, easy-to-follow comparison feature within the marketplace, buyers don’t need to visit external resources to quickly make an educated decision. If marketplaces can provide that, they can increase their conversion rate and keep buyers satisfied.
Shippo plays a specific part here, focused on automating the shipping operations of B2B (C2C) marketplaces via shipping API. Our API serves as a central multi-carrier tool for marketplaces to offer their sellers and buyers a wide range of shipping services at lower costs. The API streamlines the entire rate generation and label creation processes, providing marketplaces with a frictionless way to integrate with multiple shipping carriers and flexibly create a customizable UI for their checkout and shipping screens on top.
Shippo is a multi-carrier API and web app that helps retailers, marketplaces and platforms connect to a global network of carriers. Businesses use Shippo to get real-time rates, print labels, automate international paperwork, track packages and facilitate returns. Shippo provides the tools to help businesses succeed through shipping.