5 key requirements and features of a B2B marketplace
Confidentiality is one of the main rifting points between B2B marketplaces and their B2C counterparts. Sellers must be able to protect sensitive information about their products. Their appearance (fashion industry), their tech specs (electronics) to avoid copycat, and of course their price. It is also useful from a brand equity perspective. Sellers should be able to select buyers depending on their positioning. A premium fashion brand might try to avoid being distributed by a discount retailer. From that perspective, filling exhaustive profiles, and having them duly checked by an operator, is the key to building trust between both sides of the marketplace.
Pricing is another key topic for B2B actors. It is indeed a sensitive information in the B2B world. Or better yet, a critical set of information. When we talk about price in a B2B context, we might refer to a wholesale price of course… but also of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), an information that is most useful to buyers.
In a B2B context, price is also dynamic. Bulk pricing is a standard requirement for this kind of transaction. Seller should therefore be able to select the threshold above which certain discounts apply, and the amount of discounts (percentage of order value, or absolute amount). Of course, price should also depends on the various options you add for your product (material…).
If we were to push even further in terms of personalization on the pricing aspect, we could offer tiered pricing by customer segments. Those segments could be created based on their transaction history (volume or number of transactions).
In a B2B environment, prices can be very complex to manage. Because suppliers (for example distributors) deal with multiple buyers on a B2B marketplace, it is common to have different sets of prices depending on the customers. The prices can depend on the location of the buyer, his profile type or even the relationship the seller has with him. For example, a seller may have special prices for European wholesalers or for long term customers. To simplify the management of multiple prices and make sure each buyer sees the appropriate prices, Uppler has developed a feature: price lists. Sellers can create as many price lists as they want. Then, they can decide to affect a pricelist manually to each customer or directly to groups of customers.
Payment related features are also really important in a B2B context. This includes payment methods, namely cash, cheque, credit card, wire transfer… Of course those payment methods should adapt to the needs and requirements of both actors, and should therefore be potentially discussed and amended dynamically on the platform. Flexibility is a feature that B2B actors hold dear, and that’s why it is critical to allow purchase orders to be edited until the very last moment. Not only are we referring here to payment methods, but also to delivery method, shipping address etc...
In addition to payment methods, payment terms are also critical. Tiered payments are frequent, and the number of installments, and eventually an interest should be open for discussion. Whenever tiered repayment is involved, the marketplace operator should integrate safety nets. Indeed most of the merchandise sold will be shipped before total repayment of the purchase amount, and sellers need protection from idiosyncratic risk. Credit insurance is a good option that all marketplace providers/creators should consider. Not to mention escrow payments or factoring.
Product navigation and display
In addition to the transaction linked features previously mentioned, the way products are displayed and organized on a B2B marketplace slightly differs from a traditional B2C setup. In bulk orders, products are often sold in indivisible packs; sellers should therefore have the opportunity to quickly select the products and quantities to be integrated. As previously mentioned, the ability to have different product options, with an independent price each, can be crucial. This is especially true for electronic components (where product assortment is large), or in the fashion business, where the fabric/leather type might influence the price of the goods. In addition to this, the platform should accept B2B specific ways of purchase, like requests for proposal (RFPs) and quotations.
Industry specific features
Those features are just some of the broad requirements every B2B marketplace ought to integrate. This list is by no means exhaustive, and each sector has its own specificities and requirements. In the fashion industry, showcasing products without making them available to purchase (even for accepted buyers) is a useful feature to consider. Think of fashion brands who want to generate awareness for an upcoming collection... Another example would be food trade, where sellers are legally bound to display certain features of the product (origin, conservation methods), for the sake of traceability and freshness. The same could be said of other tightly regulated sectors (consumer health…).