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E-Commerce for Business-to-Business: Un-Tapped Gold Mine?

Can B2B Companies Truly Bolster Sales Using E-Commerce?

b2b e-commerceMany business-to-business companies have found the Internet to be a terrific sales tool when it comes to making a great first impression, providing information, and nurturing prospects.
The smart ones have also figured out that adding e-commerce to the mix, can bring in millions of dollars in additional revenue – and that’s just the half of it!

Let’s explore this exciting subject:

Adding e-commerce to a business-to-business (“B2B”) website provides many benefits, including:

  • An increased online presence;
  • Lower operational costs;
  • Additional channels for brand-awareness;
  • Increased conversions and sales; and
  • Better informed customers.

It’s obvious … e-commerce is the “gold key” to spectacular sales, and it’s easy to see why B2B companies are switching over to it or at least adding it as an important sales channel. The following companies have all utilized e-commerce to boost their businesses and push ahead of their competitors.

US Foods

US Foods stands tall as the second largest food service distributor in the USA, with annual revenues of more than $23 billion. It became a public company in 2016. It partners with approximately 300,000 chefs, restaurants and foodservice operators, and has nearly 25,000 employees and more than 60 distribution centers.

The key to developing this market-share is an advanced business-to-business e-commerce platform that allows customers of all sizes to place orders for food delivery and view the pricing for its entire catalog of over 350,000 items. Its customer base consists of restaurants and institutional cafeterias ranging in size from fortune 500 corporations to small “mom and pop” restaurants.

Formed in 1853 to sell provisions during the California Gold Rush, US Foods launched its first e-ecommerce website in 1999.  It recorded an over 30% increase in sales from 2014 to 2015 due to e-commerce, underscoring how significant a role e-commerce plays when B2B companies implement and optimize it. With its improved ordering operations and the introduction of mobile apps, the e-commerce activities have been optimized, causing US Foods to bolster more sales.

Grainger Industrial Supply

Grainger is a business-to-business distributor of industrial products, and a manufacturer that focuses on Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) to keep a manufacturing plant going. Grainger is North America’s leading broad-line MRO supplier. More than 4,500 key manufacturers supply Grainger with 1.5 million products.

Grainger positioned itself well by investing millions of dollars into its e-commerce offerings and setting the standard for the entire industrial supply industry. Grainger optimized its e-commerce website to suit its clients’ search habits, introduced the mobile app that helps with product listings, and included the personalized content feature that displays content in line with clients’ record of purchases.  Also, with the ease of placing an order and a checkout option for “guest,” Grainger averts the common problems some other B2B e-commerce websites encounter.

Over the past ten years, foot traffic to the physical Grainger stores has decreased dramatically, as more clients have moved their purchasing online due to its efficiency and time-savings. Last year, Grainger hit a record $2 billion in e-commerce sales, and stated that its online sales have been growing at twice the rate of its other channels. This year Grainger attributed 60% of its massive sales to e-commerce, and company CEO D.G. Macpherson stated, “I would be surprised if five years from now it’s not 80 percent.”


OfficeMax is a leading supplier of office supplies, services, and technology, and has consumer, business-to-business and international divisions. The company places over 100,000 products and services at its customers’ fingertips, via its e-commerce platform

To deliver faster, more personalized search and recommendations, upgraded its e-commerce search and recommendation engine. It also improved the content and navigation features to ensure customers can purchase what they need quickly and easily. These tactics, along with reorganizing the shopping categories to align with customer’s shopping records, enabling type-ahead texts, and adding several other features such as secure access to their purchase history and product preferences, improved the overall procurement experience.

OfficeMax’s systems now meet its stringent business requirements, including the need to accommodate unique merchandising rules to ensure that the right product assortments and promotions reach every online shopper. These improvements produced a huge increase in sales for OfficeMax. ranks among the top 5 e-commerce retailers worldwide. Last year the company had annual sales of approximately $11 billion, employed approximately 38,000 associates, and served consumers and businesses in North America and abroad with its award-winning e-commerce websites.

B2B Companies Should Tap the E-Commerce Gold Mine

Need more convincing? Here are a couple of additional exemplary B2B companies that discovered this fact: e-commerce is the “mother lode” when it comes to bolstering sales and profits:

Ferguson, the top-rated wholesale supplier/distributor of commercial and residential plumbing supplies, is another favorite in the B2B e-commerce gold rush. It launched its first e-commerce website in 2008. They enhanced its functionality, including adding mobile optimization and other advancements aimed at allowing customers to get information about products more easily and make purchases online without the help of a sales rep. Thanks in part to e-commerce, they grew from a local distributor to a thirteen-billion-dollar company.

Ferguson is singularly focused on the combination of great content and great products. Specifically, their focus on content marketing helps target their customer groups (builders, commercial mechanics, facilities supply, etc.) and highlights their more popular product categories.

MSC Industrial Supply, one of the largest industrial equipment distributors in the world, is enjoying a fantastic increase in business thanks to online sales, with 60% of sales acquired through their e-commerce website so far this year. They spent a tremendous amount of time on the user-customer experience and optimized their website for their niche customer base. MSC plans to continue investing in e-commerce, including the addition of about 150,000 product SKUs this year.

Bottom Line

Over the past decade, the enhancements in high-speed Internet connectivity technology and adoption, and the optimization of e-commerce platforms, has resulted in a massive increase in the number of B2B buyers and suppliers who use e-commerce almost exclusively. As such, the case is made for business-to-business companies to adopt e-commerce with a plan to make it not just “an additional sales channel,” but potentially the #1 sales channel! E-commerce is today’s “gold standard” for business growth – in the USA and internationally. Don’t fall further behind your competitors. Do it now! Offer online-ordering capability (e-commerce) to your website, and reach for your share of the pot of gold!

Contact us now and we’ll quote you on a new e-commerce website for YOUR business!

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