Online marketplaces have transformed the way the vast majority of consumers shop, but the same isn’t true for business buyers — yet. Change is coming with emerging B2B marketplaces, and businesses that don’t adapt are going to be left behind.
Early B2B marketplace adopters are rapidly seeing their efforts pay off. They’re increasing revenue, expanding product catalogs or service offerings, and reaching more customers. Some 72% of B2B companies that launched marketplaces attracted more business in 2021, as B2B buyers continue to seek more purchasing channels online.
In this blog post, we provide real-world examples of pioneering B2B marketplace models and what businesses should look for to create their own company-operated marketplace.
There are many different kinds of marketplaces for B2B companies to leverage, including both vertical (dealing in a specific product or service category) and horizontal (one-stop-shops). Many creative examples only cropped up in recent years, underscoring the tremendous opportunity that still exists for others.
Here are seven examples of innovative B2B marketplaces:
In this vertical wholesale B2B marketplace, whose name means “do” or “make” in French, boutique retailers are the buyers and independent brands and makers are the sellers.
The B2B marketplace platform eliminates the need for trade shows, which often have high admission costs and involve travel. Unique shops and creative brands can instead find each other on Faire, which charges the latter referral fees and commission.
Sourcing ingredients from suppliers is time-consuming for chefs or restaurateurs, who often must order directly from several different sources. Suppliers, meanwhile, are burdened with bookkeeping and collecting payments from many different clients with highly specific orders.
Rekki is an app-based vertical marketplace that streamlines this process by connecting chefs and suppliers in one place. Chefs can browse ingredients, place orders, and communicate with multiple suppliers on the app, which is free to use for both groups (Rekki charges suppliers commissions on sales).
Amazon is known as The Everything Store for its virtually unlimited selection of products, from waffle makers to pre-fabricated homes. With Amazon Business, the ecommerce giant takes its familiar horizontal model — an extensive catalog paired with fast, reliable shipping — and expands it to meet the needs of business buyers.
Anyone with an Amazon Business account can shop for items in bulk from an exhaustive list of suppliers while receiving access to wholesale pricing and quantity discounts that you won’t find on the consumer-facing Amazon platform.
A vertical platform for shippers, carriers, and drivers, Convoy works similarly to ridesharing apps Uber or Life — it’s been dubbed “the Uber for trucking” — but it facilitates trips for goods rather than people. Interestingly, there is an Uber for trucking (literally) called Uber Freight which is a competitor to Convoy.
Convoy’s online freight marketplace uses algorithms to replace physical brokers and sales reps, who have traditionally matched shippers with carriers and their truck drivers (while taking a substantial cut). Due to load-matching automation and other tech, the company offers shippers pricing at a fraction of what a regular broker would.
This is a B2B multi-vendor marketplace for buyers and sellers of metals who previously relied on manual processes to trade these commodities.
Before Metalshub’s vertical solution, a foundry may have purchased scrap metal for manufacturing from a recycling company only after multiple calls or emails and receiving an agreeable quote. But with the commodities-trading platform, buyers and sellers can enter into a bidding process, not unlike eBay’s.
Shippo is a marketplace that provides services for other marketplaces (and traditional single-seller ecommerce stores). The logistics marketplace positions itself as an end-to-end vertical shipping platform.
It links retailers, marketplaces, and other ecommerce platforms with multiple carriers globally. By aggregating high-volume demand for shipping goods, Shippo negotiates discounts with major carriers.
As a destination for professional touring musicians, studios, and entertainment venues, GearSource specializes in lighting, audio, video, and stage equipment.
The vertical music-industry marketplace carved out a niche by helping production companies sell gear once the tours or events it was purchased for were over. GearSource charges commissions on completed transactions.
🔵 Learn more on how GearSource scaled their marketplace 🔵
From scrap metal to culinary ingredients, it’s clear there’s a world of opportunity in B2B marketplaces. Here are three key market elements to look at when brainstorming ideas:
1. Market Size: The best ideas for B2B marketplaces have considerable growth potential, even if they’re niche. The bigger a market’s dollar value, the more room there is to grow. Metalshub has a specific focus — material used for steel production — yet even these materials, called ferroalloys, represent a $42.7 billion global market.
2. Inefficiencies: Industries that rely on manual processes are often ripe for disruption. Convoy, for example, upended an expensive, inefficient manual brokering process (and in an $800 billion industry, nevertheless).
3. Assets: Consider B2B marketplace models that address the untapped potential of existing assets, which is something many one-time startups have done on the B2C side.
While Uber and Lyft own vehicles today as they develop self-driving cars, their primary business model (ridesharing) still relies on unlocking other people’s cars for commuters. Commercial industries have plenty of similar asset-based opportunities to explore, from underused industrial kitchens to available capacity in manufacturing facilities.
You can look at B2B marketplaces in two ways:
While either scenario presents challenges, only one provides an opportunity to increase customer reach and revenue. The time to harness B2B marketplace models is now. Don’t wait for competitors to disrupt your industry. Instead, leverage your network and build a B2B marketplace today with Nautical Commerce. Contact us for more information.