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What Is B2B Ecommerce?

B2B is changing.

The last two years have seen rampant growth in the ecommerce space, with nearly two-thirds (65%) of B2B companies offering a sales experience that’s fully online.

And they’re not just offering it. They’re seeing real results.

More than 18% of the total revenue earned by B2B companies now comes from ecommerce sales, and 32% of those companies say that B2B ecommerce is their most effective sales channel — more than any other single channel available to them.

It’s a staggering expansion, and it’s not slowing down.



“The global B2B ecommerce market is expected to reach $33 trillion by the year 2030 — up from $6.9 trillion in 2021.”

—     Grand View Research Inc


More and more companies are launching their own ecommerce ventures in the B2B space. And if you’re one of the companies on the outside looking in, you might not be sure how to get started — or why.

So what is B2B ecommerce? What makes it different, and why are so many B2B businesses investing in it?

Let’s get into it:


How is B2B ecommerce different from B2C?

At a simple level, both B2B and B2C ecommerce have the same goal:

To make buying easier and more attractive to your customers.

(And as a result, to make selling easier and more cost-effective for sellers like you.)

But when it comes to B2B, there’s a whole other aspect beyond the sales themselves:

It’s about making your company indispensable to your customers.

There’s a complexity in B2B buying that you don’t see in B2C. Your customers have different teams in multiple locations, placing orders that need to get the right approvals and stick to specific budgets.

They need reliable processes to help them manage that complexity. And if you become the seller that provides the tools they need — with a B2B ecommerce platform that’s designed to make complex buying easier?

You become a part of your customers’ processes.

You’ll be an essential component of the way they run their business — and that means they’ll stick with you for as long as they can.

Here’s how a B2B ecommerce platform makes your company indispensable:


1.  Personalised customer pricing

B2C ecommerce platforms (B2C) usually come with a single price list that’s shown to every customer.

Just like a retail store that’s open to the public, every customer is treated the same — with the same offers on display, and the same discount codes available to them.

That’s great for consumer ecommerce and retail stores.

But when we’re talking business-to-business, things aren’t so simple. And a B2B ecommerce system needs to reflect that.

Most B2B sellers have different pricing arrangements with different customers. They might have a long-term contract with a negotiated discount — or price breaks that kick in when they order in higher volumes.

With a traditional website, there’s no solution for that. Most sellers end up hiding their prices, and asking their customers to ‘get in touch for a price’.

It’s clunky and frustrating. It’s adding resistance to the buying process, and it’s removing the transparency that builds trust with your customers.

But with a B2B ecommerce platform that’s designed with advanced price controls, your customers can log in with their own profile and see the exact deals and discounts that are tailored for their business.

There’s no need for extra steps, and no need to hide anything.


“With a B2B ecommerce platform, you’re giving your customers a personalised buying experience — with prices and discounts that are made for them.”


Pricing Feature

B2B Ecommerce

B2C Ecommerce

Universal pricing

Pricing based on contracts

Multiple pricing tiers

Pricing based on site or location

Quantity breaks

Vouchers and discount codes



2.  User-specific product catalogues

When you shop online on a B2C platform, you’re treated the same as any other shopper.

You’ll see the complete range of products that the seller has on offer, regardless of whether they’re relevant to you.

But with B2B, things are little more nuanced.

Each business you sell to has its own internal structure — different departments, teams, branches, and individual users.

They all need different things. And if you show everyone everything, the buying experience becomes clumsy and challenging.

But with an advanced B2B ecommerce platform (like our own here at Apparatus), you can hide or highlight products to create a tailored product range that’s relevant to each user at each location of each of the businesses you sell to.


Product Range

B2B Ecommerce

B2C Ecommerce

Universal product range

Tailored for each business

Personalised for each user

Products by branch or location

Custom products (e.g. branded uniforms)



3.  Buying controls for customers

With a regular ecommerce platform, buying is simple. People buy for themselves using their own money — and they don’t have to answer to anyone else.

But with B2B ecommerce, that’s rarely the case.

B2B customers work to strict budgets. They need the approval of their managers to place their orders — and those managers need full visibility over their teams’ spending.

And if you have an ecommerce portal that makes that part of their jobs easier, you’re already halfway to winning over your customers.

The best B2B ecommerce platforms come with their own customer controls for approvals and budgeting. The businesses you sell to can set limits on spending for each branch or department, and get automated communication for approvals and notifications.

And the result?

You’re ingraining your company into your customers’ processes.

You’re becoming an essential part of the way they run their business. They’re relying on your service (and the ecommerce platform and tools you provide) to help them follow their own processes and succeed in what they do.

And when you become a concrete part of their operations — with a place on their process maps and your name in their manuals — your customers become more sticky than ever before.

Their employees can buy with confidence inside the rules their company sets, and their management teams get full visibility over the spending and buying habits of each department or branch.

You’re adding value to your service that goes beyond the products or the sales themselves, cementing your position as part of each customers’ processes — and giving new prospects more reasons to choose you over your competitors.


“The best B2B ecommerce platforms make it easy for your customers to manage their money. And that means they’ll keep coming back to spend it with you.”


Buying Controls

B2B Ecommerce

B2C Ecommerce

Customer-controlled budgeting

Automated rules for budgets

Customer-controlled approvals

Automated approval comms

Notifications for approvals



Which B2B ecommerce platforms are out there?

There’s a huge range of options when it comes to ecommerce platforms — and there’s often some overlap between B2C and B2B.

Some providers have taken their B2C offering and expanded it with a B2B option. And some providers (like us here at Apparatus) focus exclusively on business-to-business ecommerce — with a platform that’s built specifically for the needs of B2B sellers like you.

Here are some of the most popular options for ecommerce platforms:


Ecommerce Platform

B2C and B2B

B2B Specialists



















How much does a B2B ecommerce platform cost?

There’s no single answer that works for every seller. Before we can talk about the cost of a B2B ecommerce platform, you’ll need to know:

  • The size of your business — how much ecommerce revenue you expect to be making
  • The number of brands you operate — how many unique online storefronts you’ll need
  • The number of users you need — how many employees need their own access
  • The number of integrations you’ll need — with your ERP, your CRM, or your PIM
  • And how much help you’ll need to get started — from onboarding and web design to training for your teams.

Here’s what you need to think about:


Monthly subscriptions

Most sellers moving into the B2B ecommerce space are looking for an off-the-shelf platform. That usually means a monthly subscription — which could be anywhere from a few hundred pounds a month to tens of thousands of pounds per month.


Set-up costs

With an off-the-shelf ecommerce platform, you’re not paying hundreds of thousands for a bespoke system that’s custom-made for your business.

But there are still some initial onboarding costs, such as:

  • Integrating your ERP and PIM with your ecommerce website
  • Planning and project management for your move to ecommerce
  • And product photography for your new ecommerce site.

That covers the essentials. But in practice, your set-up costs can vary, depending on the depth of your ecommerce website, and how much you need to outsource. So beyond the bare essentials, you should also be thinking about the potential costs of:

  • Web design
  • SEO
  • Content writing
  • Marketing strategy
  • And web development.


Training and support

B2B ecommerce is a brand-new venture for lots of businesses. And that means your teams might not have the expertise they need to see success straight away.

So if you’re moving to ecommerce for the first time, you’ll need to think about the costs of training, and any ongoing support you might need after launch.


Transaction fees

Some providers charge a fee on every sale you make through their ecommerce platform. Some might even charge you a percentage of your revenue with each online sale.

Even worse: some providers charge an additional fee for orders processed by card — and your card provider might add their own additional transaction fee on top of that.

With so many additional costs stacked on top of every sale, it becomes difficult to keep track of your profitability. Those extra fees can lead to an increase in your prices, making you less competitive in the eyes of your customers.


Ready to learn more about B2B ecommerce?

If you’re looking to take your B2B business online, we’re here to help.

Find out how Apparatus can make ecommerce selling and buying easy — or talk to one of our experts to see what we can do.


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