Manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors used to take most orders in person, by phone or by fax. That’s no longer the case—now those B2B sellers are increasingly going online and generating more new and repeat business through ecommerce.

Last year, in fact, business-to-business ecommerce sales through websites and online marketplaces grew at the fastest rate yet and for the first time surpassed $1 trillion.

Sales transactions in the United States processed through B2B ecommerce sites, log-in portals and online marketplaces grew 11% to reach $1.08 trillion, according to data published in the 2019 U.S. B2B Ecommerce Market Report.

The analysis uses data from the U.S. Commerce Department and proprietary data collected by B2BecNews. It includes sales by U.S. manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers that sell to business customers, such as office supplies retailer merchant Staples Inc. and home improvement giant The Home Depot Inc.

B2B ecommerce sites, log-in portals and online marketplaces last year accounted for 14.3% of electronic sales and 7.2% of total B2B sales, but recent research by B2BecNews indicates those shares will rise sharply over the next few years.

Many plans to launch B2B ecommerce sites

According to B2BecNews surveys in 2018 of 276 manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, 60.7% of manufacturers and 38.1% of wholesalers and distributors do not yet have an ecommerce site. But the vast majority of those without an ecommerce site, or 75%, said they planned to launch one within two years.

Also, as companies proceed with plans to extend ecommerce site transactions in multiple ways, it will further the development and deployment of ecommerce technology. Such ways to extend ecommerce include: through websites that manufacturers help their distributors deploy, through mobile devices used by sales reps in the field, through social media pages, through integration with CRM systems, and through internet-of-things-driven applications, such as IoT-connected buttons factory workers can press to reorder replacements for an empty bin of bolts or widgets.

Moreover, 49.3% of total B2B sales, or $7.37 trillion, are still conducted manually, such as by account managers and sales reps. Another 32.5%, or $4.85 trillion, flow through EDI. To be sure, B2B sales will continue to flow through these two channels, with some types of customers and large, complex transactions still best-suited to them.

But much of the $7.37 trillion market in manually transacted sales is moving to ecommerce sites. And EDI is not growing as it had in the past. More buyers, meanwhile, are seeking the convenience of using ecommerce sites, and more sellers see them as ways to reach more customers, process more sales orders and operate more cost-efficiently.

Importantly, B2B sellers also realize—increasingly—that they must offer a modern, helpful and easy-to-use ecommerce site to keep up their competitors.

Amazon enters B2B

The biggest of those competitors—and a significant driver of ecommerce growth—is Amazon Business, the B2B marketplace launched in 2015 by online retail giant Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 1000 ranking of North America’s leading online retailers. Amazon reported in September 2018 that it had “reached more than $10 billion in annualized sales” and Forrester Research has said those sales could exceed $20 billion as early as this year.

“The 2019 U.S. B2B Ecommerce Market Report” provides a detailed look at the growth in business-to-business electronic transactions.

It includes:

● 21 charts detailing critical trends in B2B ecommerce
● Analysis of the three main channels of electronic B2B transactions, with estimates of sales and growth in each channel and critical trends.
● Exclusive data from B2BecNews surveys of manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors on their ecommerce plans and priorities, their participation in Amazon Business and other marketplaces, and the inhibitors to their ecommerce growth.
● An in-depth look at Amazon Business, including the features it offers that account for its popularity, number of sellers and how it’s impacted other B2B players.
● Articles on personalization on B2B sites and how punch-out software can boost online sales.
● Four case studies of how companies are investing in improving their B2B websites, overcome internal obstacles to ecommerce and increase online sales.