One of the emerging trends in B2B commerce over the past 18 months has been the rise of B2B marketplaces. Many B2B brands have woken up to the fact that a marketplace is a highly effective way of supercharging their way of doing business, creating wider ecosystems and tapping into new ways of generating revenue.
But it doesn’t stop there. Marketplaces generate customer data that can be invaluable. Even the very presence of a marketplace can be a powerful marketing tool in terms of how a brand differentiates and positions itself in a market.
Given this potential, what’s the best way to approach setting up a B2B marketplace? And how can B2B marketers maximise return from it?
The rise of the B2B marketplace
Marketplaces are by no means new. From Amazon to Etsy, there are dozens of B2C marketplaces in operation whether managed by traditional retailers or set up purely as a platform for third-party vendors. Despite being slower to uptake than her counterpart, B2B marketplaces are undoubtedly on the rise.
There has been an acceleration in online long tail items that, taken alongside the growth of niche markets, has been a hugely significant development for any B2B business. Gartner has predicted that by 2023 at least 70% of enterprise marketplaces launched will serve B2B transactions – 2022 represents a real window of opportunity for B2B companies to utilise marketplaces.
According to Point Nine Capital, in 2020 there were more than 300 B2B marketplaces in Europe – a stark increase from 20 in 2010. But in fact, it’s likely that there are many more. The very nature of B2B marketplaces – mainly focused on niche sectors – means that there is little widespread awareness of them beyond those in that sector.
Case and point with Saitow. Despite dominating the German tyre market, few have heard of them. Saitow runs Germany’s most successful online marketplace for tyres, wheels and other automotive parts, Tyre24. It has an online inventory of more than ten million items, is used by +2000 connected sellers and 40,000 verified commercial buyers and completes 100,000 transactions per day.
So, how does one get to a place where every second tyre in your country is sold via your B2B online marketplace and connected shop network? Here’s some guidance.
Follow marketplace best practices
Before B2B marketers can get to work, any marketplace must follow industry best practices. This includes starting with vendors and sellers willing to cooperate with you to build a marketplace framework, creating a compelling technical proposition to keep this cohort on board, and properly managing the balance between vendors and sellers. If there are too many vendors and not enough demand or vice versa, a marketplace will collapse.
Establish the brand
This is where B2B marketers can play a vital role in creating a strong (and marketable) unique selling proposition for a marketplace. Whether the marketplace trades under the parent brand name or as something different, such as Saitow and Tyre24, there’s an opportunity to dominate a sector. The Tyre24 marketplace is now so well established within Germany that it’s almost pointless for other tyre vendors or buyers to consider creating a D2C product service themselves.
Tyre24 owns and dominates this market, and other B2B marketers who create a strong unique selling proposition for their enterprise marketplace will likely help it become the dominant player in that country.
Support the vendors
The vendors that supply goods for a B2B marketplace also play an important role in its marketing. Most B2B sectors are structured like the tyre market, with a few thousand users and usually only around a dozen vendors.
Thus, the majority of B2B enterprise marketplaces, if they are set up well with a win-win proposition for vendors and sellers, will be successful. Ensure the vendors are always engaged and able to support what you want to achieve with any marketing campaigns.
Own the data
Data is a precious commodity in most forms of marketing. And B2B marketplaces are no exception. Creating a marketplace will see large volumes of data generated – customer names, contact details, buying patterns, preferences and more. By also including marketplace functionality such as product comparisons, this will generate data on products too.
B2B marketers should ensure they are in control of this. That requires direct customer access and establishing this is vital to ongoing success in marketing around a marketplace.
The relationship between marketing and commerce is one of the most important in business. Without a successful commerce function, no organisation will succeed, and marketing plays a significant role in commerce. This becomes even more true as firms turn to B2B marketplaces to drive commerce.
B2B marketplaces will be huge in 2022 and are becoming transformative for many brands.B2B savvy marketers will be essential to their ongoing success.