Amazon Business: a viable alternative to B2B e-Commerce?

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By Michiel Schipperus, CEO of Sana Commerce.

In April Amazon's growing business offering officially opened its doors in the UK. Although the online marketplace has been eyeing the B2B market with intent since the launch of Amazon Supply in 2012, the arrival of Amazon Business represents its biggest step yet to appeal to corporate procurement.

Properly vetted business suppliers, an appropriate approvals system, reporting and analysis, procurement integration and 30 days payment terms are all part of the package.

Many UK manufacturers and wholesalers may be comparing the merits of Amazon Business alongside their current B2B e-commerce solutions and other sales channels, and asking the question "which do we need?" But in my view, Amazon's step into the market is positive and complimentary for us and our customers.

Amazon Business gives companies offering standardised B2B products a great opportunity to increase market reach and sales quickly. However, for the thousands of manufacturers selling niche products at the top end of a supply chain, understanding customer requirements and delivering a strong buying experience is key - and this is where deeper B2B e-commerce capability is really essential.

Although Amazon Business offers procurement system integration it isn't fully integrated with the user's ERP system and this is also essential when processing bespoke and complex B2B sales – an environment typical to many manufacturers.

However there is a great opportunity to run the likes of Amazon alongside a core B2B webstore, where the dedicated e-Commerce platform remains the principle place for complex product purchases with repeat customers and marketplaces act as a secondary channel for simpler ad hoc transactions.

While Amazon Business definitely has a role to play, the focus of e-commerce in B2B, such as supporting complex sales and rich back office integration are different to B2C. Only using a consumer-designed generic storefront with a few B2B features, may limit a company's ability to really understand and engage B2B buyers.

For many manufacturers and wholesalers Amazon Business represents an opportunity to increase revenue and market share by adding a new channel to the mix. However, organisations should consider marketplaces as another channel to market not their only or principle channel. To evaluate the role marketplaces like this should play it's important to consider the following:

  • Be strategic by considering your options in line with your overall sales and customer relationship strategy.
  • Make sure that any webstore whether dedicated to you or a larger marketplace supports your business objectives and demonstrates your USPs.
  • Consider your sales strategy to decide which channels are the most effective. Think about customers' needs and map channels that help to reach each audience.
  • Keep an eye on market and customer developments, adapting your sales and customer activities accordingly.

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