Home Virto Commerce blog B2B eCommerce for Distributors and Dealers: Challenges, Best Practices, Examples

B2B eCommerce for Distributors and Dealers: Challenges, Best Practices, Examples

Jan 16, 2024 • 4 min

Busy manufacturers prefer selling most of their products to partners who care about further distribution rather than dealing directly from producers to customers (DTC). B2B distributors are the perfect fit for those who need it all out of the box, from marketing to further reselling. While other businesses, like wholesalers, resellers, dealers, and more, primarily aim to get profit separately from the manufacturer, distributors always work as a team with the producer.

Let's peep into the difference between B2B ecommerce distributors and other business models and discover the best strategies for building B2B ecommerce for distributors. We will share insights on what the perfect B2B ecommerce platform for distributors should look like and compare popular solutions. 

Distinguishing Distributors, Dealers, Wholesalers, and more

The terms "distributor," "dealer," and "wholesaler" all refer to some B2B businesses that purchase large amounts of goods to sell further. However, they are entirely different participants in the sales chain. Let's discover what is the difference between these roles in the context of B2B ecommerce for distributors. 

Distributors

Distributors are, basically, the companies that act as a manufacturer's representative in the market. They usually offer their partner marketing services, after-sales support, and product customization. The manufacturer handles the products, and the distributor does the rest, promoting and selling them to either wholesalers or retailers (e.g., supermarkets that sell these goods to the end customer). Usually, they are responsible for one particular region. 

Wholesalers

The main task of a wholesale ecommerce vendor (e.g., FMCG B2B wholesale) is simply purchasing products in bulk and reselling them to other businesses (retailers). Mostly, they do not care where to buy these goods: from a manufacturer or distributor; their goal is to satisfy retailers with the amount of goods needed. They get their profit as they purchase at a cheaper price and sell the goods in parts at a higher price. As retailers often need products ready to sell and do not want to care about branding agreements and so on, wholesalers prefer buying from distributors who did this job for them already, so the retailers get ready-to-sell products. 

Dealers

Often called "retail distributors," dealers are a very specific type of vendors. They can buy either from the retailer or distributor but do not sell to further retailers but sell directly to customers as a part of their own business. While distributors prefer working with one manufacturer and building their marketing around it, dealers work over their own business and marketing but base their sales on the brands of many manufacturers they buy from. A good example is the electronic goods shop that sells Samsung, HP, Xerox, and other brands of printers directly to customers, purchasing them from these brands directly or their distributors. 

Understanding B2B eCommerce for Distributors

Of course, some producers sell the most significant part of their goods to dealers and wholesalers: this is a quick way to get rid of vast amounts of goods and get their revenue. However, most manufacturers prefer working with distributors, as only distributors would invest in making these products well-known and selling them more efficiently, relieving the manufacturer from doing the marketing job.

This is why many manufacturers dream of a united platform or distributor portal software that will attract more distributors, make communication easier, and provide more transparency in processes. To find the perfect platform for your distributors, you must first understand their needs. This is what distributors usually expect from the B2B distributors ecommerce platforms: 

  • Comprehensive and accurate product information. Each distributor must be able to see and manage order-related specifications, images, and pricing. Easy access and role-based permissions make the process easier and help distributor CX grow.  
  • Capability to get personalized info. Distributors often require the ability to see customized pricing that reflects their specific agreements with manufacturers. Moreover, they might require getting their specific conditions or some data related to the exact market where they work.  
  • Distributors will need to place and track orders and manage the inventory. Suppose you choose the platform that provides them access to your stock (role-based and limited, obviously). In that case, they will know what's available, and the inventory and procurement process will be significantly shortened.  
  • They would appreciate it if your platform would allow them to connect to their own systems related to your goods, as this will improve the workflow from their side and let them avoid many manual tasks.  
  • Not an obvious feature, but with the right software, distributors can share their statistics, analytics, and reports providing manufacturers with valuable insights. But to provide this, you must first automate data collection and analysis on your platform and enable this feature for your distributors. McKinsey's piece "Industrial Distribution Shakeout" highlights challenges for distributors due to digital commerce growth. Learn more.

Key Capabilities of B2B eCommerce Platforms

To satisfy distributors, the manufacturer should first ensure that the platform is capable of supporting all these needs. Here, we will discuss the capabilities ensuring that the platform can grow and adapt along with the business and provide everything necessary:

  • The modularity of the platform makes any change easier. 

Each module serves a specific function in a modern innovation-ready B2B ecommerce platform for distributors. This means that every capability can be added, removed, or updated independently. Virto Commerce made this approach even better and developed a Virto Atomic Architecture principle that can deliver the same efficiency while reducing some of the poor sides of traditional modularity.

For instance, a distributor might start with basic features and later need to add advanced analytics or CRM; instead of trying not to ruin the platform with massive changes, you can just create this option separately and add it to the code: it will fit perfectly.

  • The readiness of the platform to stick to the market needs. 

Adaptability is the ability of the platform to adjust to changing business processes and market demands. For distributors, this term is about growing together with customer expectations and regulatory changes and adapting the platform capabilities as needed.

In Virto B2B ecommerce platform, adaptability is ensured by the cloud-native approach: the system is easily changeable and can expand easily once it's needed. API-first technologies make interconnecting between different systems and Virto possible, bringing more technological advancement to its users.

  • Instant and unlimited growth.

The same cloud-native specifics can provide another important capability named scalability. Scalability refers to handling short-term sudden growth in orders and sales or long-term growth in users, data, transactions, and traffic without lowering performance.

As distributors expand their business, they can enlarge the number of orders or goods that require catalog expansion. A scalable platform ensures that they can manage increased demand quickly and efficiently.

  • Readiness for innovation.

Most businesses plan to grow in the future. But not all business owners think about the platform capability to handle this growth. Ancient technologies cannot incorporate new technologies and innovations, such as AI, machine learning, blockchain, or IoT. This is why it is essential to choose a platform that can support the new technologies or changes to support them in the future without interrupting other functions. 

Read How to Choose an eCommerce Platform Now

eCommerce Implementation: Choosing the Right eCommerce Platform for Distributors

Surely, choosing one platform of all vendors, promising it will fit perfectly, is not easy. Here are some tips on how to approach the platform choice: 

  1. Keep analyzing your business's unique requirements and needs. Identify the challenges and limitations your current system has. This will help you ask your future vendor whether the platform can handle everything you need.  
  2. Always think about the platform users' experience— your team and your customers. The platform should also be optimized for a seamless mobile experience to attract and retain maximum users. This is why it is essential to ensure the adaptivity of the platform to guarantee it will keep enhancing CX.  
  3. Conduct demos and trials to test the platforms in real-world scenarios and gauge their suitability for your business. For example, at the Virto demo, you can ask the team about particular needs for your business and see how they work.  
  4. Before platform purchasing, understand the various cost structures that the solution offers. Think about the solution TCO and the cost of innovation rather than the cost of implementation: some solutions seem cheap but when you use them, they suddenly require a lot of money to innovate the smallest things. 

B2B eCommerce Software for Distributors

As discussed, distributors need very specific attention when building a B2B ecommerce platform for them. This is why this category of partners needs an all-ready platform with all the essential capabilities. Here, we compared some popular solutions to help you start with the analysis. While comparing the shortlisted one, always ensure that these capabilities are assessed: 

Platform Name
Ease of Use
Integration Capabilities
Scalability
B2B Analytics and Reporting
Readiness for Innovation
Virto Commerce  High High High High High
Magento  Moderate to High  High Moderate  Low  Low 
Shopify Plus  High  Moderate  Low  Low  Low 
SAP Commerce Cloud  Moderate  Moderate  Moderate  Moderate  Low 

B2B eCommerce for Dealers and Wholesalers

Though dealers and wholesalers are not close partners with a manufacturer, this doesn't mean they do not need specific software. However, as they are basically "buyers," the manufacturer will hardly want to invest a lot of money in building the platform with role-based accesses, analytics, and other features for them.

This is why building a B2B ecommerce marketplace for such partners could be a better idea. With this solution, you'll be able to provide B2B ecommerce for dealers and wholesalers with a B2C-like experience and ensure they will stay loyal. Moreover, marketplaces are easy and attract many new customers, so this is an easy way for manufacturers to get new wholesale and dealer partners. 

Best Practices for Implementing B2B eCommerce Software

Before starting any B2B ecommerce software journey, it's a good idea to understand how you can make the implementation faster and easier. Here are the Virto team's insights: 

  1. Find the best-recommended and newest software (which might have a few reviews but promises readiness for innovations). Shortlist them and start discussing your needs with each vendor personally. An even better idea is to engage with some trusted third-party expert who will be able to assess the real capabilities of a particular solution.  
  2. Always base the capabilities you are searching for on your customers' needs. For example, wholesale B2B dropshipping and direct-to customer resellers will need different features. 
  3. Ensure that the platform and its implementation methods comply with relevant industry regulations, this way your data will be safe.  
  4. Do not deploy the new platform in all your processes at once: first ensure that it works exactly as you expected.  
  5. Think over your onboarding and marketing strategies before the implementation: how you will train your users to utilize the platform and how you will attract them to join. 

Examples of Successful B2B eCommerce for Distributors

The largest corporations use B2B ecommerce software for distributors to make sales easier. One of the good examples is Virto's client, De Klok Dranken. The company fully digitalized its partnership network with Virto Commerce software. All the partners of a company are now using the platform via their personalized portals to receive unique offers, see their margins, and more.

Another good example is Heineken. They have built a convenient B2B ecommerce platform for resellers and distributors located in different regions. Each platform part is fully localized and personalized. The CX of the customers grew significantly, and now the company continues to grow. 

Conclusion

Sometimes, manufacturers prefer the D2C (direct-to-customer) model. But the bigger you grow, the more help you will need. This is why most of the big companies work with distributors. To ensure your distributors use the best B2B ecommerce platforms, follow the tips outlined in the article, or just contact our team to learn more about how Virto can enhance your relationships with distributors. 

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