B2B eCommerce: An Introduction for SMEs

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In a nutshell, business-to-business (B2B) eCommerce is how businesses manage and carry out their relationships with each other in an online setting. But it’s evolving rapidly. To stay ahead of the game, here’s what your business needs to know.


A B2B relationship simply refers to commercial dealings between two or more companies. Most consumer products in the modern world are created through a whole network of B2B relationships.

The supply chain is one of the most common forms of B2B collaborations. For example, in the vehicle manufacturing industry, many different companies are involved in manufacturing inventory. These companies come together to produce, assemble, and co-ordinate parts for a whole vehicle – everything from the internal upholstery through to the tyres, seatbelt, and headlights. The company selling the final product might never have sole responsibility for manufacturing inventory.

However, modern businesses operate in a more varied, different, and technologically-advanced environment. Examples of newly-emerged product classes are:

  • Volume: Especially in the bricks-and-mortar or bulk retail area, these are goods that business order in bulk, are simple, and usually inexpensive
  • Subscription: Businesses themselves demand the more modern software-as-a-service (SaaS) and other digital subscription-based services. This category diverges sharply from traditional commercial products
  • Configuration: In the Internet-of-Things era, businesses sometimes require multiple products that communicate and are compatible with each other, including networking, manufacturing, or telecommunication devices.

eCommerce and B2B

The eCommerce part of this term refers to how the relationship is managed. These electronic or online platforms and service delivery portals have been an area of rapid and ongoing innovation. In fact, in some industries and market segments, B2B has even grown faster than traditional B2C sales.

In keeping with the changing demands of businesses, eCommerce has developed four main types of transactions:

  • The company’s website that offers browsing, log-on, and online ordering features
  • Open online marketplaces like the ones Amazon Business and Alibaba Group have developed
  • Web procurement software that is more integrated into the client’s business, and often has a business facing portal that connects with the customer’s resource planning system
  • Vertical market networks are also increasingly used by businesses who each require a highly-specialised product. This accommodates growth in niche markets

B2B portals: Embracing B2B eCommerce solutions

B2B portals offer an integrated platform for any particular business-type, can be wholly automated, and offer security in making and processing purchase orders.

This level of control and customisation complements the rise of businesses requesting more complicated and targeted product specifications. Often, these businesses need visibility of an entire supply chain, whether they are manufacturing inventory, pulling the end product together or the ultimate customer-facing entity.

The solution also allows ready information exchanges – real-time updates are listed alongside orders and advertising, videos, and other graphics can also be included in the online catalogue.

As a B2B eCommerce solution, a B2B portal can make business relationships smoother by automatically applying trade policies, pricing calculations, and currency adjustments to orders. The software can contain granular information about products and manufacturing specifications. This makes ordering complex products quicker, easier, and more accurate.

And finally, businesses that own B2B portals have access to a wealth of new information and data about how client businesses are engaging with the products and buying channels. This allows data-driven business optimisation that would otherwise not be possible.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

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