Home Virto Commerce blog The Complete Guide to B2B Marketplaces: Unlocking Success in the Digital Era

The Complete Guide to B2B Marketplaces: Unlocking Success in the Digital Era

During the last five years, the number of B2B marketplaces in Europe and all over the world has grown ten times bigger. If you’ve been recently interested in B2B ecommerce marketplaces, you’re on the right track, as owning a marketplace is not a “nice to have” anymore but is a must if you want to disrupt this market.

Virto Commerce experts have been studying B2B marketplace markets along with building some of them for large players, and we have some tips to provide for those who want to join. Here, we present general guidance on B2B marketplaces, B2B marketplace definition, info on their success, and kinds of marketplaces. Read on to find some great examples.

What Is a B2B Marketplace, and How Does It Work?

A B2B marketplace refers to a B2B ecommerce platform that unites both B2B buyers and sellers. In contrast to a single-vendor B2B ecommerce platform, in a B2B marketplace, there are typically three involved parties such as a marketplace operator or owner, B2B buyers, and sellers. Unlike B2C, where the buyers are consumers, in a B2B marketplace, both buyers and sellers are businesses, such as wholesalers, distributors, or retailers. Most B2B marketplaces tend to be multivendor marketplaces.

Usually, the composition of the B2B marketplace includes buyers and sellers. While buyers search, select, negotiate, and order (for this, they need a payment and fulfillment model), sellers must manage listings and inventory, work with the storefront, and provide all the necessary fulfillment functionality. All this means that the platform must be able to cover the needs of both sides. Marketplaces facilitate relationships between buyers and sellers, which means that the platform where marketplaces are created must support the creation of any possible feature needed.

What is the difference between B2B and B2C marketplaces?

B2B is often compared to B2C; however, in B2C, a business sells products or services to a consumer rather than a company.

In B2B, the involved parties typically have equal negotiating power, which often includes legal counsel to arrive at an informed decision; in B2C, on the contrary, decisions are affected by information asymmetry. Unfortunately, however, economic equality within B2B is not a ubiquitous phenomenon: larger companies tend to have commercial and informational advantages over smaller players.

Read more about the difference in our article on B2B vs. B2C marketplaces

B2B and B2C marketplaces are usually similar in functionality and capabilities, but their capabilities are used in different ways.

The Difference
B2B Marketplace
B2C Marketplace
Driven by Needs Expectations
Users Businesses Individuals
The scale of purchases Big, contract-based, bought in accordance with needs Smaller, spontaneous
Decision making Many decision-makers, a long time to decide Fast decisions, one decision maker
Strategies Long-term partnership, separate meaningful sales Emotional connection, as many sales as possible
Payments Document-based, complicated process Here and now
What is sold Software, professional services, technologically complex goods Mostly daily used products

In case you want to learn more about the B2B business model, reach out to our teams or read our article B2B vs. B2C: Definition, Differences, Examples.

Learn more about Virto Commerce B2B Marketplace Solution

How do B2B marketplaces make money?

The main task of the B2B marketplace KPIs is to facilitate transactions between businesses. As there is a wide range of transactions and relationships B2B marketplaces support, the monetization model deeply depends on what the marketplace offers. Here are some examples:

1. Marketplaces charge transaction fees

Each transaction that occurs is paid. Usually, it is some percentage of the transaction value (and, in this case, it grows exponentially together with the business). Still, sometimes it works as a flat rate: more precise and cost-efficient for users, though less worthy for marketplaces.

2. Subscription-based model

In this case, businesses pay a regular subscription, which is transparent for marketplaces and convenient for companies, mainly if the market offers additional services.

3. Listing / Product page fees

Businesses with this model usually pay a flat fee per listing on the creation or on the duration it exists.

4. Lead-based model

Standard in service-oriented marketplaces, this fee comes after the business generates some leads on the platform; as for the services industries, it is common to transact out of the platform.

5. Membership fees

Usually, in addition to other models, marketplaces often charge a membership fee for the capabilities the marketplace offers.

Besides all these standard models, marketplaces also earn from placing advertisements, offering value-added services, and so on.

B2B Marketplace vs. B2B Platform

Let’s dive into B2B platform meaning. A B2B marketplace is essentially a B2B ecommerce platform that's designed to accommodate an enterprise marketplace business model. A B2B marketplace can be either an extension to an existing B2B ecommerce platform or a full-service B2B marketplace solution out of the box.

While seeming to be the same for those who need to establish their own marketplace, these kinds of solutions significantly differ from each other. Let’s discover how.

The key difference lies in their scope and functionality. First, a B2B ecommerce platform is a comprehensive solution where you can create many ecommerce tools. For example, with Virto Commerce, you can build customer and vendor portals, websites, and so on.

A B2B marketplace is the ready solution, or an extension usually based on the B2B ecommerce platform. In essence, B2B marketplace can be based on the platform (and it usually does), but B2B platforms are more powerful tools to create core ecommerce functionalities.

10 Types of B2B eMarketplaces

There are different taxonomies of business-to-business marketplaces, depending on the business type and business model they utilize. The type of business often depends on the kind of communication between parties, information accessibility, and so on. Here are some examples:

  1. Vertical B2B marketplaces. They concentrate on trading in products of a particular niche or industry, such as construction materials, pharmaceuticals, or automotive parts. CheMondis is a prominent example of a vertical B2B marketplace for the chemical industry.
  2. Horizontal marketplaces. These ones do not boast of specialization and sell products of varying industries instead. The most notable example of a horizontal marketplace is Amazon, which offers many products across different categories and industries and serves a wide range of buyers.
  3. B2B Marketplaces for Wholesalers and Manufacturers. These platforms connect manufacturers and the businesses where they source their products to create new ones. Good examples are Alibaba and DHgate.
  4. Technological marketplaces. This kind of marketplace sells software or wider technical solutions. For example, you can enter GitHub and get some useful code there. Common for SaaS solutions offering additional services like Salesforce.
  5. Finance services marketplaces. These are the platforms offering loans, insurance services, and so on. Stripe Capital is one of the clear financial marketplaces.
  6. Procurement and purchasing marketplaces, often based on B2B ecommerce platforms like Virto Commerce, are tailored to sell and purchase the products from different suppliers in one place. Among good examples is SAP Ariba. However, your own B2B ecommerce marketplace is always better.
  7. B2B services marketplaces often specialize in offering services to B2B companies. Usually, they include many freelance workers like Upwork, Fiverr, and so on.
  8. Talent marketplaces are different from the previous category. These platforms are not tailored to engage with freelancers but are a kind of B2E (business to employee) service: here, you can find an employee, and employees place their CVs.
  9. Multivendor B2B marketplaces. These online platforms embrace potential sellers with potential buyers: imagine a digital mall where businesses can find each other to cooperate.
  10. Open and private marketplaces. The open ones, like Alibaba, are accessible to everyone from the largest to the smallest businesses. At the same time, the closed ones are meant for certain categories of buyers.
 

Depending on the business model, B2B marketplaces are typically distinguished as product, service, and hybrid marketplaces. This way, B2B product marketplaces connect many businesses for product supply fulfillment, B2B service marketplaces connect companies for the exchange of services, and hybrid marketplaces involve the sale of both products and services.

The global consultancy firm Roland Berger, in turn, recognizes four marketplace models, such as the ‘one-stop-shop,’ business model transformation, procurement networks, and B2B after-sales. Since we’ve covered the above models in detail in our previous piece, The Marketplace Revolution, we’ll just brush over them here.

One-stop-shop broadens a company’s activities (either vertically or horizontally) and enables a smooth transition from an online shop to a B2B ecommerce marketplace. One-stop shops typically monetize on subscription, transaction, or marketing fees.

Business model transformations are marketplaces that initially started off as B2C but expanded their offering and partnership network to include B2B ecommerce.

Procurement networks are member-only clubs with a limited number of partners and subsidiaries that unite their efforts to support one or more procurement processes.

B2B after-sales marketplaces are marketplaces that provide after-sales support such as maintenance, repair, warranty, etc.

5 Challenges of B2B Marketplaces

Just like in any other industry, B2B Marketplaces face challenges and strive to resolve them through achieving B2B marketplace metrics. Here are some examples of such challenges:

  1. Technological Development. To keep pace with competitors, B2B marketplaces must offer seamless integration capabilities for both suppliers and buyers. This way, platforms must support integration with existing ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems, providing real-time inventory updates and ensuring data security. Besides this, marketplaces must always track innovations and implement them, requiring a robust B2B ecommerce platform tailored to innovate constantly.
  2. Payment Services. B2B transactions are usually more expensive and induce longer payment terms and more complex financing options than B2C transactions. This is why marketplaces must offer flexible, secure, and efficient payment solutions.
  3. Driving Change. Again, about innovations. Convincing businesses to shift from traditional procurement and sales processes to a digital marketplace model is a significant challenge. Marketplaces must demonstrate clear value to both suppliers and buyers, always offering new convenient capabilities.
  4. The Need for New Skills. Marketplace employees must constantly grow in their knowledge of digital marketing, data analysis, customer service, and more to offer the latest practices.
  5. Supplier Maturity. The success of a B2B marketplace heavily depends on the quality and reliability of its suppliers. Marketplaces need to invest in educating and supporting suppliers, always aiming at common values.

B2B Marketplace Features and Requirements

Besides providing goods and services to business buyers, B2B marketplaces offer a valuable platform for businesses. Here’s the list (by no means exhaustive) of the important features and requirements B2B marketplaces imply.

Key features for buyers

  1. Advanced search and filtering. Most users need an accurate search with many filtering options like industry, personal specifications, and more. Try to ensure your users get what they need.
  2. Bulk order functionality. Ensure that your business-for-business platform allows companies to buy and sell in big bunches. Add functional capabilities like streamlined quoting, negotiation, and payment processes.
  3. Provide secure payment. Ensure that your marketplace offers safe invoicing and payment and offers various payment services.
  4. Inventory and warehouse transparency. Up-to-date info about inventory will attract more users with the need to control the stock level.
  5. Management of supplier relationships. The modern marketplace platform must offer the capability to manage multiple vendors and collaborate with several of them simultaneously.
  6. Logistics control and management tool. Ensure your marketplace guarantees freight, shipping, and tracking of bulk orders.
  7. Analytics and reporting tools. Your marketplace must be able to analyze purchasing trends and understand the trends of the market.

Key features for sellers

  1. Modern marketplaces offer comprehensive product listing capabilities. Businesses need to place all the details about their products correctly, so make sure your listing capabilities include technical specifications, certifications, and variant management.
  2. Ensure your marketplace platform can offer dynamic pricing and negotiation tools. B2B businesses differ from B2C first because businesses can offer personalized pricing.
  3. Marketplace inventory management. Ensure your customers can track what they sell to control their stock level.
  4. Marketing tools in your marketplace. Businesses need to promote, and they inevitably will find the tools to do this. So why don’t you offer them your own platform?
  5. Secure communication channels. Of course, businesses need to have their data secured and safe. Make sure your platform agrees with the general safety rules.

Platform requirements

Based on all the features mentioned, we can surely say that all the B2B marketplace platforms have to offer particular capabilities. Let’s make a checklist to save this for your future decision-making. The perfect platform must feature the following:

  • High level of security
  • Scalability and great performance
  • Customization capabilities and flexibility
  • It should comply with all the local regulations
  • It should be able to integrate via API
  • The platform must offer great customer support

Additional considerations

Besides obvious features and capabilities like industry-specific approach, mobile accessibility, or AI, here are some more considerations on what the great B2B marketplace platform must be capable of:

Curation of supplier

A B2B marketplace software refers to a B2B ecommerce platform that unites both B2B buyers and sellers. In contrast to a single-vendor B2B ecommerce platform, in a B2B marketplace, there are typically three involved parties, such as a marketplace operator or owner, B2B buyers, and sellers. Unlike B2C, where the buyers are consumers, in a B2B marketplace, both buyers and sellers are businesses, such as wholesalers, distributors, or retailers. Most B2B marketplaces tend to be multi-vendor marketplaces.

Facilitation of marketplace transactions

B2B marketplaces help the demand and supply to connect and transact at the accurate market price by matching sellers and buyers automatically, allowing buyers to pick up their preferred suppliers, or by allowing both parties to discover each other independently. Moreover, B2B marketplaces facilitate payments between the parties by offering multiple payment options, including trade finance.

Support for fulfillment

Support for fulfillment, including warehousing, packaging, delivery, returns, customs handling, and inspections. While not all, some B2B marketplaces offer fulfillment services on top of their shared value proposition.

Provision of value-added services

Enterprise marketplaces can repackage vast amounts of accumulated data and sell it to interested parties. They can also open up access to it for free to incentivize the sellers, enable better transparency, and help marketplace participants to make better decisions.

Benefits of Using B2B Digital Marketplaces for Business

B2B marketplace websites offer ample advantages for all involved parties. Firstly, they improve access to both quality information and quality merchandise. This way, smaller players have opportunities to trade next to larger international corporations.

For buyers, the pressure from regional, specialized, and international players at the same time means that they can now access a better offering that would have otherwise been unavailable:

  1. By operating a marketplace, owners can reach new markets, extend their customer base, and unlock new revenue streams.
  2. By adding products from multiple vendors into their carts, and thereby minimizing the number of invoices it takes to process the order, buyers also participate in improving sales and fulfillment efficiency.
 

Since marketplaces combine the efforts of different parties, they tend to be much more efficient than if the participants had been operating independently. Such efficiency translates into more sales and revenue for both marketplace operators and sellers.

Learn more about: Top Pros & Cons of Building a B2B Marketplace

How To Start a B2B Marketplace

To create your own successful B2B marketplace, the first thing you should do is research. As part of your research, you need to define the type of marketplace you want to start and think through the business and revenue models.

During the planning stage, obtain as much information as you can regarding the software solutions on the market and choose an optimal platform that would cater to the needs of your desired business model. Here are some tips:

  1. Start with the MVP and see how it functions and performs over time.
  2. Think through your marketing and pricing strategies, attract partners and suppliers.
  3. Ensure a smooth onboarding of sellers and buyers.
  4. Ask your existing suppliers and channel partners for recommendations and referrals.
  5. Seek companies that offer logistics, employ fulfillment and shipping providers, and ensure the seamless integration of all involved third parties.
  6. Launch the marketplace and monitor the performance closely.

Unlocking Success in the B2B Marketplace Implementation

To make the B2B global marketplace model work for your business, it’s worth adhering to a few common-sense principles. The most important thing is to choose the right B2B ecommerce platform. It has to be an API-powered, headless, composable, and extensible solution for you to enjoy all the benefits of ecommerce technology and ensure your marketplace performs at its best. Let’s look at the best practices offered by experts here:

  1. Invest time and money in good user experience, design, and localization if necessary.
  2. Think of monetization strategies, such as subscription, transaction, or marketing fees.
  3. Develop internal procedures for partner onboarding and provide vendors and buyers with extensive information on how to use the marketplace.
  4. Verify sellers and buyers whenever necessary to ensure solvency and accountability.
  5. Employ reliable shipping and fulfillment providers.
  6. Integrate with third-party systems, including internal systems of your own and those of your sellers.
  7. Provide a variety of payment methods, including trade financing options.
  8. Engage in continuous feedback loops with both buyers and sellers to improve the efficiency of your marketplace.
  9. Be flexible and adaptive to market changes.

TOP-10 B2B Marketplaces Examples in 2024

Despite the increasing popularity of B2B marketplaces, the number of successful B2B marketplace sites is not that many. We’ll run a quick overview of the few prominent marketplaces (B2B) below.

Alibaba

Alibaba is a Chinese multinational ecommerce technology corporation that provides C2C (Taobao), B2C (Tmall), and B2B (Alibaba) sales services. Alibaba is also named the fifth-largest AI company, one of the biggest venture capital and investment corporations in the world, and unsurprisingly, one of the leading global marketplaces. The organization operates a diverse and global portfolio of businesses across different industries. To put it simply, Alibaba is a sprawling network of sellers, service providers, manufacturers, logistic companies, and marketers that leverage machine learning technologies to better serve their respective customers.

DHgate

DHgate is another Chinese B2C and B2B cross-border ecommerce marketplace that primarily links Chinese small and medium companies to different businesses and individuals globally. As of June 2020, DHgate had more than 2 mln sellers from more than 200 countries and regions, had more than 30 mln buyers, and listed over 30 mln products. DHgate also operates physical locations where buyers can inspect products before purchasing. Following the pandemic, DHgate was instrumental in the digitization of some of its sellers and connecting global buyers with virtual exhibitions.

Amazon Business

Amazon is an American multinational technology company and one of the most valuable and well-known brands and global marketplaces. Despite being accused of tax avoidance, demanding work culture, and anti-competitiveness, Amazon is still considered an influential economic and cultural force. Amazon Business is specifically tailored for business purchasing and includes a unique set of features not available with a regular Amazon account. Although Amazon Business is free to join, there’s a membership fee that unlocks additional benefits for subscribers.

GlobalSources

GlobalSources is a Chinese B2B wholesale marketplace that connects (approximately 1.5 mln) buyers from around the world with verified vendors from Asia. Besides being one of the online B2B commerce platforms, GlobalSources offers its vendors integrated marketing solutions including 13 vertical marketplaces, 13 geographic portals, electronic magazines, private catalogs, and trade shows.

Tradeshift

This is a cloud-based business network and platform for supply chain payments, marketplaces, and apps. The platform emphasizes automation and integration. Tradeshift generates $119.2M in revenue annually. The company specializes in e-invoicing and AP automation.

IndustryNet

IndustryNet serves as a vast industrial marketplace connecting buyers with suppliers. It offers a detailed directory of manufacturers and distributors, along with product and service listings, helping businesses find the right suppliers and solutions for their needs.

ECplaza

The platform provides various trade services such as product promotion, search optimization, and trade alerts. In the last year, ECPlaza's revenue was around 6.5 million USD. The solution provides multi-category products and easy access even to international buyers.

Maker’s Market

Maker’s Market is a niche B2B marketplace online dedicated to supporting small businesses and independent makers by providing a platform for the sale of handmade products. This sells mostly local goods and a wide variety of products.

Handshake

Handshake's estimated annual revenue is currently $174.6M per year. It is a B2B wholesale marketplace designed to connect suppliers with retailers in a wide range of industries. The solution offers many great basic features and a nice support.

MFG.com

MFG.com is a specialized online marketplace B2B connecting buyers and suppliers in the manufacturing industry. The platform offers tools for RFQ (Request for Quote) management, supplier discovery, and project collaboration, aiming to streamline the manufacturing procurement process.

Overview of Marketplace B2B Platforms

What is a USA or European B2B marketplace platform? In reality, this is more than a simple set of marketplace capabilities. This is comprehensive software that allows you to control products, inventory, orders, and more. Another name for B2B marketplace platforms is Marketplace Operation Application (MOA) because it is a solution that doesn't only build marketplaces but also helps manage them.

Despite the increasing popularity of B2B marketplaces, the number of successful marketplaces is not that many. We’ll run a quick overview of the few prominent B2B marketplaces below.

Mirakl

Mirakl is one of the best-known marketplace platforms (and perhaps, the most expensive). According to Mirakl’s website, it’s the only marketplace SaaS platform that helps B2C and B2B companies launch their own marketplaces and grow at scale. Among Mirakl’s prominent clients are METRO, LeroyMerlin, Toyota, Siemens, H&M. Besides offering a fully configurable API-powered platform, Mirakl also provides for a full team of professionals who are deeply invested in the industry and boasts extensive domain expertise.

Virto Commerce

Virto Commerce’s flagship product, the headless B2B ecommerce platform, an example of ecommerce ASP, is an open source, cloud-based, fully extensible, and composable solution that’s able to accommodate hundreds of business scenarios and customize according to the business needs of the customer. Because of the platform’s flexibility, Virto Commerce can accommodate a marketplace extension on top of its B2B ecommerce platform that can further scale depending on business needs. Among Virto Commerce’s clients are Bosch Thermotechnik, Lavazza by Bluespresso, Estate Spain, De Klok Dranken.

OroMarketplace

OroMarketplace is an open-source online marketplace management platform and B2B exchange solution for B2B businesses, which is a part of Oro Commerce ecommerce technology products. OroMarketplace is a fully integrated digital commerce marketplace solution that is capable of operating any type of marketplace and comes with built-in CRM and diverse B2B features out of the box. Among OroMarketplace’s customers are SupplyCore, PartsBase, FoodMaven.

Spryker

Spryker is a cloud-native, headless, and API-based PaaS solution with a modular commerce architecture. Spryker’s Enterprise Marketplace is a marketplace extension on top of its B2B ecommerce platform that offers marketplace-specific functionality, including catalogue management, merchant portal, and a back office for a marketplace operator. Among Spryker’s clients are Ricoh, Sourceability, Prym, Intersport.

Why Choose Virto Commerce for your B2B Global Marketplace

To create a B2B marketplace, you have to use a complex architecture that requires a flexible and adaptable technology solution. Virto Commerce, in this regard, is an ideal solution on several fronts:

It is modular, meaning that the platform is extensible and modifiable.

You can assemble the solution you want from the available modules like Lego or create your own modules and attach them to an existing solution. Modularity also plays a crucial role in future upgrades and solution integrity: if something goes wrong, you can always detach the module from the solution and work with it separately.

Virto Commerce is API based, meaning it can easily and seamlessly integrate with third-party systems.

Virto works with ERPs, CRMs, CMSes, PIMs, and internal inventory management systems, as well as recommendation and analytics (ML/AI) engines. API-first approach helps easy integration management and endless development capabilities.

  • Virto Commerce is cloud native, meaning it’s scalable by default in the cloud (not adapted to the cloud, but built in it).
  • Virto is headless, meaning you can attach as many front ends as you like to one single back-end system.
  • Virto is flexible, meaning you can create whatever business logic you need.
  • Virto Commerce comes with many out of the box B2B key features such as inventory management, pricing module, catalog and product management, workflow tools, approval and permission management, among others.
  • Virto ensures a superior customer experience with a smooth ordering process and a seamless sales cycle.

Conclusion

All in all, marketplace development is a more complicated topic than it seems to be. However, knowing enough about building them (learn about B2B ecommerce platforms here) you can create a marketplace (B2B), a wonderful solution that will attract many users and ensure you will get your revenue for years, constantly developing. Virto Commerce is such a solution that can help you to reach your goals fast and conveniently. In case you want to learn more, contact our team or request a demo.

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Elena Bekker
Elena Bekker
Elena is a deeply committed eCommerce Evangelist, bringing over three years of practical expertise in cutting-edge IT software and digital commerce marketing.
Feb 23, 2024 • 22 min
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