Beginners Guide to the Top 10 B2B eCommerce Business Models

10 B2B eCommerce Business Models

You already know that eCommerce offers a bevy of built-in advantages, like freedom from geographical boundaries, lower operating costs compared to brick-and-mortar outfits, opportunities for bespoke communication and more possibilities for niche products and services. Broad as it may be, though, eCommerce is not one-size-fits-all. So, what types of eCommerce business models can B2B companies leverage to reap those benefits? 

10 B2B eCommerce Business Models

Keep in mind that the innate flexibility of eCommerce allows businesses to hybridize these models or use them in tandem with one another, and that not all eCommerce business models are exclusive to B2B companies. With that, let’s explore 10 viable options. 

1. For-the-Masses

You won’t be surprised to learn that the for-the-masses eCommerce business model caters to B2B businesses with extensive product catalogs. For-the-masses operations lean heavily on digital marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and loyalty programs, and most often deal in generic products. This model is commonly used in both B2B and B2C (business-to-consumer) marketplaces.

2. Wholesale Marketplaces

In this familiar B2B model that has long since transitioned from brick-and-mortar to eCommerce, companies sell products directly to their users in bulk. Because of the bulk nature of orders, wholesalers can usually offer their products at a significant discount compared to other businesses. 

3. Dropshipping Markets

These markets may function similarly to a variety of other B2B eCommerce models, but there’s one key difference in their operations: dropshippers do not keep the products they sell in stock. Once an order is received, dropshippers purchase the stock directly from manufacturers, wholesalers or third-party retailers and then sell them to the buyer.

4. Supplier-Centric

Common in the B2B world, supplier-centric models often deal in customized solutions. In a supplier-centric B2B marketplace, a business not only offers tailor-made, custom solutions for sale directly to other businesses, they can also price and scale their products specifically to the needs of their clients. 

5. Customer-Centric

Customer-centric eCommerce businesses place equal value on customers before and after the sale. The goal here is to retain existing customers for future sales, and to do so, a customer-centric model prioritizes customer engagement and loyalty. Also called a customer-relationship-focused model, this type of eCommerce often allows B2B companies to deal in niche or specialized products and services.

6. Buyer-Centric

Buyer-centric eCommerce primarily caters to large companies with very high purchase rates or high-volume transactions. Commonly, buyers set up an account that details their requirements and a variety of sellers respond with quotes or bids. After negotiations, buyers choose which quote to accept.

7. Intermediary-Centric

As the name suggests, intermediary-centric models offer a blend of customer- and buyer-centric marketplaces. This popular B2B model creates a marketplace where buyers and sellers can interact; these marketplace platforms are created and maintained by intermediary businesses, which typically take a percentage of sales made on the platform.

8. White Label (and Private Label)

White label eCommerce is a customer-relationship-focused model that sells generic products to multiple retailers, but customizes the product (and the price) to the buyer’s target market. While this term is often used interchangeably with “private label” eCommerce, private labeling is when a product line is sold exclusively via a single retailer.

9. Direct-Connection B2B

In a direct-connection B2B model, businesses connect directly to their trading partners with no middlemen or intermediary facilitators. This eCommerce business model works via the direct transfer of electronic documents from one company to another, putting much of the day-to-day operational responsibility on the IT department.

10. Network B2B

Network B2B operates in much the same way as direct-connection B2B, but rather than placing the responsibility of managing communications — which can include document tracking, translation, mapping, tech support and more — on internal IT teams, this model farms the transactional communications out to a service provider, also called a Value-Added Network (VAN).

Hybrid Marketplaces

In the eCommerce sector, B2B marketplace models are not always binary, and that’s where the hybrid marketplace comes into play. Though the term often refers to a middle ground between for-the-masses and customer-centric models, hybrid marketplaces can leverage various elements from virtually any type of eCommerce business model in combination — and whatever that combination may be, Zoey’s agile, cross-platform tools are here to help take your orders. Let us show you how with a free demo:

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Dan is a small business owner and freelance writer based in Dallas, TX. In over a decade of experience, he’s been fortunate to write and collaborate with business-facing brands including The Motley Fool, Chron, Office Depot, Fortune and more.

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