B2B Portal? Why It’s A Must-Have For Wholesale Businesses


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In an effort to serve customers better, many companies have developed their self-service B2B portal for their key clients. While it’s not a new term in the wholesale realm, it could be understood with different meanings. So what’s exactly a B2B portal?

In this article, we want to introduce you the definition of B2B portal and other related terms.
After reading this post, you’ll know:

  • Difference between B2B trade portal and B2B ordering portal (or B2B ecommerce site)
  • Benefits of B2B ordering portal for business as a whole and sales reps in particular.

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What is B2B Portal?

B2B portal definition

A portal is defined as any common website regarded as an entry point or a gateway on the Internet, usually with many links to a broad source of information, data, services, and resources.

In broad meaning, a B2B portal is an online platform where buyers and sellers come together, communicate and carry business-to-business commerce with each other.

As you can see from millions Google search results of B2B portal, you could find that there are different meanings referring to this term. Some people would consider a B2B portal as a marketplace, others regard it as a custom ecommerce site for a specific business.

Well, both views are right because a B2B portal is all about the meeting place that allows businesses to sell products & services online to their B2B buyers.

There are usually 2 terms referring to 2 types of popular B2B portals: B2B ordering portal and B2B trade portal.

So let’s see how they differ from each other.

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B2B trade portal vs B2B ordering portal

  • B2B trade portal as a B2B marketplace

An online B2B trade portal is a platform for exporters, importers, traders, brokers, manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers to meet and fulfill trading demands.

In other words, B2B trade portal (aka B2B trading platform) is regarded as a digital marketplace for business-to-business commerce.

Some significant examples of B2B trade portal that you can think of are Alibaba, & Amazon.

The B2B ecommerce marketplaces can help businesses display their products and offer trade deals. They are also designed to facilitate use by all registered users including both sides, sellers and buyers. On the platform, sellers can use tools to set up the profile, showcase products attribute, price and promotion details to buyers. On the flip side, buyers can contact with suppliers, finalizing the deal and making payment occur online with little or no physical interaction.

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  • B2B ordering portal

Different from marketplace model, B2B ordering portal is a direct gateway to the products and services of a seller. This is a place where the business can highlight the value of its offering and provide answers to the questions of buyers more directly and instantly, compared to the marketplace type.

If you have your own portal, it’s like your house and you can do anything as you want. Imagine you are not forced to change pricing conditions and photo specifications according to any rule. Although you have to depend on a tech provider to build your portal, you still have a full ownership of providing service to customers.

As a method to control every interaction with your customers, it allows you to give your buyers the experience you define for them, which could be consistent with the brand you want to build. Whereas in the marketplace, it’s impossible to tailor purchasing experience and message to each type of customer, it’s easy in the case of the direct model, a B2B ordering portal.

B2B portals can be open or not.

They could be B2B ecommerce sites running publicly like B2C counterparts allowing every type of customers to check out & make payments. Or simply just a place to showcase products specifications & pricing lists to buyers.

For many businesses, B2B portal software could be gated, which means they only open to the clients who have already established a relationship with a B2B seller. Even more sophisticatedly, some wholesale businesses even make branded customer portals to create a personalized experience to their key dealers, based on their login credentials. These B2B customers are invited directly to access the portal to see what the sellers want them to see, re-order and maintain the inter-business communication.

Although the ordering portal requires more effort from wholesale companies, it’s more beneficial than the marketplace in terms of controlling over the customer experience and business relationship, which are key succeeding factors in the B2B arena.

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B2B ecommerce portal vs B2B Sales portal

Many businesses mistake the two terms: B2B ecommerce and B2B sales portal. So we’d like to differentiate them here to help you understand the distinction between the 2 kinds of tools for a wholesale business.

Differentiator B2B Sales portal B2B ecommerce portal
Target user Sales reps B2B buyers
Definition Online interface that contains info and tools useful for sales team and staff to sell products & services to clients. Online website allows B2B buyers to buy products or services from a wholesale business.
Significant features Search customer orders

Search for product info & collateral

Restricted catalogs

Place sample request

Request a quote

User registration

Search features

Real-time inventory

Product catalog

Pricing tailored to customer

Quick order

Order management

Pros
  • Help sales reps access all of sales collateral & tools in one place.
  • Save time in communication & collaboration with team members
  • Transparent & consistent info for customers
  • Easy to drive customers with SEO effort.
  • Open to the public or gated to a specific type of customers.
Cons
  • Sales portals rely on marketers to update info -> require a strong marketing team
  • No impact on the sales team if sales reps don’t know how to take advantage of it
  • Not highly customized as a sales portal
  • Harder to tailor to specific clients.

Now you can distinguish different kinds of B2B portals. In this article, we will focus on the direct model that you have a full handle on customer experience since it is one of the must-have self-service portals for any wholesale business today.

Why having a B2B ecommerce portal is a must?

Arming your business with a self-service portal is critical because nowadays B2B buyers’ behaviors have changed towards online self-researching and discovering. Thanks to search engines, buyers can find info and reviews about products, services or brands easier. The B2B decision makers now expect the same digital experiences and features that they encounter as consumers.

A research from Gartner shows that 83% of surveyed customers accessed online channels even in the late purchasing stages. That means it’s necessary to design strategy to help buyers through the early, middle and late stages of the purchase process.

The most popular digital channel for customers across every stage of the purchase journey is often the website of the company. Customers primarily take advantage of information from the websites to help them learn more about the companies and its products or services. Unfortunately, many websites couldn’t meet the expectations of customers in the buying process. That’s why having a B2B portal with rich ecommerce features is the must-have tool of today modern businesses.

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Benefits for B2B Buyers

With the use of B2B ecommerce portal, customers would gain some benefits such as:

  • They can learn about products, check inventory and place orders in 24/7 mode.
  • They can save a lot of time communicating with sellers about product specifications, stock status, prices lists and other related info.
  • They can update fresh info about their order status.
  • They can manage their own accounts, have control of purchasing limits, budgets and billing status.

Now you see the very fundamental reason why every wholesale business should have an ecommerce website. It starts with the demands of B2B buyers. But it doesn’t stop there. B2B ecommerce sites even have more benefits for managing an online business that we will discuss as below:

Benefits for Wholesale Business

For overall business operations:

  • Reach more customers

A B2B dealer portal with public-facing catalog pages would help wholesale businesses reach new customers. Since B2B buyers prefer to go online to find the best prices and compare products, wholesalers and distributors can take advantage of ready-to-index pages of their site to attract new visitors and turn them into leads.

  • Enhance brand awareness

Many businesses now use SEO techniques to boost the ranking of their site on search engines’ results. As usual, the higher their rank, the more awareness their brand could get.

  • Boost sales

A very common function of an ecommerce website is products recommendation program. With this capability, many businesses can implement their cross-sell and up-sell campaigns, offer relevant suggestions to customers on the site.

  • Improve customer experience

As B2B buyers prefer having digital buying experience as they have when buying household items, they would find self-service portals useful for completing their purchasing task.

Many B2B portals are even having personalized views for different types of customers. That means different levels of clients will have different displays of products, services, and pricing. All are based on their login credentials.

  • Increase productivity

As many business process management such as order management, fulfillment processing could be done in many robust B2B portal ’s backends, wholesalers and distributors are enabled to automate their tasks and reduce manual workload. Therefore, they can eliminate more human errors and save more working time, rather than using paper, worksheets as they did in the past.

For sales reps and customer service agents

As sales reps play an important role in B2B selling, they could reap a lot of benefits from a B2B ecommerce site, such as:

  • Allows staff to access real-time data such as customers’ order, pricing, history to act more strategically, and quickly.
  • Reduce numbers of phone calls, emails or faxed orders.
  • Enhance inter-business communications between sales reps and customers.

Final thought

We’ve broken down the differences between the two types of B2B portals so that you can better understand them in the concept of wholesale ecommerce.

It might a bit confusing at first when you heard different terms related to B2B portal. We know that you need time to consume all of the knowledge we state here.

We’d love to hear your take in the comments below. And if you are running a wholesale business, we‘d also like to learn about what you expect from a B2B portal. It’s always powerful to see companies doing great things out there.

In case, you want to discover more about how wholesale businesses today adopt technology to automate their operations,  please visit our overview about B2B e-commerce solution here for more info.

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