The global B2B e-commerce industry was worth US$12.2 trillion in 2019 and according to Statista, that was six times more than the worth of B2C e-commerce1. These numbers suggest that the future of e-commerce, at least the near future, is B2B. But are you familiar with the top five B2B marketplaces? As it stands Amazon Business and Alibaba.com lead the pack, but let’s take a deeper look at the top 5 B2B marketplaces.
Their tagline says it all, “Everything you love about Amazon. For your business2.” That means businesses simply register and can start using the platform to purchase business supplies. Employers are also allowed to add multiple users to buy on their behalf. “Workflow Approval” allows buyers to create carts to send back for approval and build a list of preferred suppliers and products. Amazon Business also provides “Spend Visibility” where the account admin has an overview of what is being spent on what.
- Price savings. Offers exclusive price discounts, price breaks or quantity discounts and provides access to millions of products.
- Shipping. Has four fulfilment options: Business Prime (same day, one-day, two-day shipping depending on eligibility), Amazon Fulfilment (user’s choice), free shipping (on orders of $25 or more of eligible items) and pallet shipping (dock or doorstep delivery).
- Payment. Offers purchasing via card or line of credit, plus tax exemption for convenience and savings.
- Sponsored ads. Helps shoppers find brands at every stage of their journey, such as the first page of search results or product detail pages3.
- Enhanced product content. Helps businesses improve their listings by providing key product information such as CAD files, images, and videos, application and user guides, manuals, etc.
Amazon Business claims that “third-party sellers make up +50% of our $10 billion annualized sales run rate.” Additionally, because it’s a one-stop destination for both on-the-spot and strategic purchases, it boasts that it helps businesses control their spending4.
What was originally a yellow page directory, Alibaba.com is now an end-to-end trading platform “to make it easy to do business everywhere5.” Its focus may be on Chinese manufacturers, but it serves millions of buyers and suppliers worldwide. Often referred to as the “Amazon of China,” Alibaba acts as a middleman between two parties. Businesses can list their products for free on Alibaba.com or pay for greater exposure on the site much like how Google does it for brands.
- Product verification. Inspects products for quality and when a product is successful, it gains a “Verified Main Product” designation.
- Trade assurance. Refunds businesses enough to cover the initial deposit in the event of delayed shipping or if a wrong item is sent.
- Payment. Offers security and flexibility via Alipay (similar to PayPal), bank transfers, letter of credit, Western Union and Escrow.
- Customs data. Provides U.S. retailers access to public trading records of the foreign suppliers they’re dealing with on Alibaba.
Aside from access to countless numbers of suppliers, businesses can buy at extremely low prices and sell at premium retail prices. Equally important is that, unlike Amazon, Alibaba doesn’t compete with its customers and doesn’t require them to invest in warehousing and logistics as their business model is software driven. Their philosophy is to facilitate business between two entities.
Dubbed as the “Amazon of Japan,” Rakuten Marketplace was primarily a Japanese marketplace until it acquired Buy.com and started to compete with Amazon and eBay. To strengthen their game in the US, Rakuten acquired Ebates.com allowing customers to earn Super Points or 1% of the product’s price which they can use on the next purchase. Sellers must be approved by Rakuten to sell.7
- Personalized storefront. Allows brands to mimic their website, enabling them to showcase and control their identity and messaging.
- Custom product pages. Enables brands to provide rich product content such as detailed product information, images and demo videos.
- Customer support. Provides sellers with training and guidance, as well as a dedicated e-commerce consultant (ECC).
- Email marketing. Offers R-mail, a newsletter-like tool, allowing sellers to send existing customers updates and offerings.
Much like Alibaba, Rakuten doesn’t compete with its customers. On Rakuten, the competition is strictly between merchants. Big on providing great experiences, it encourages merchants to compete on hospitality and customer service, not just on price.
With the tagline “To make doing business easy,” it sounds very similar to Alibaba. It’s India’s largest B2B marketplace boasting over 98 million buyers, 5.9 million suppliers and 66 million products & services9.
- Two-way discovery. Facilitates buyer-supplier location on its marketplace via email or SMS query or through IndiaMART.
- Payment protection program. Offers reliable and secure transactions through their free service IndiaMART Payment Protection10.
IndiaMART believes that its unique selling points against other marketplaces are “reach, brand recognition, breadth and quality of suppliers and product listings, pricing and customer service.11”
According to their LinkedIn page, “Global Sources is a leading B2B media company and a primary facilitator of trade between Asia and the world using English-language media such as trade shows (GlobalSources.com/exhibitions), online marketplaces (GlobalSources.com), magazines, and apps 12.” It has the same goal as Alibaba, which is to facilitate global trade. However, Global Sources’ close ties with Hong Kong trade fairs ensures it doesn’t encounter issues with counterfeit products.
- Verified supplier system. Helps suppliers build a reliable image by running their registration details through independent third parties.
- Supplier capability assessment. Enables buyers to audit suppliers based on production facilities, capabilities, and product quality.
- UI/UX. Facilitates easy navigation with a user-friendly interface, provides convenience with a flexible search engine. Provides insight via a built-in tool to compare suppliers and their products14.
Global Sources' main highlight is its reliability guarantee. It may only have 15,000 suppliers compared to Alibaba’s one million, but all of those underwent a strict selection process.
In summary, B2B marketplaces are on the rise. They are good testing grounds for businesses who are just starting with e-commerce or are looking for something to support their webshop. It’s worth noting that each of these top B2B marketplaces has its own unique selling points that may work for some but not for others.