B2B marketplaces & the B2B buying experience

Category: Data & Insights
B2B marketplaces

In this guest post today, Roland Palmer, General Manager of UK, Benelux & Nordics, Alibaba Group discusses how B2B marketplaces are revolutionising the B2B buying experience:

How B2B marketplaces are revolutionising the B2B buying experience

Faced with ever-changing economic challenges, it is more important than ever for businesses to ensure they can stay competitive and drive business momentum. To do so, businesses are increasingly looking inwardly to determine how they can do business better – driving time and cost efficiencies and ensuring order fulfilment and customer satisfaction. A key area of focus that is undergoing a digital revolution is sourcing.

In the B2B arena, following in the footsteps of B2C, technology has rapidly evolved the procurement process for UK buyers. In recent years, the marketplace model has turned the B2C buying experience on its head, with 68% of online purchases now occurring via marketplaces. This trend has been echoed in the B2B buying experience, with dedicated B2B marketplaces providing businesses with access to hundreds of thousands of suppliers from around the world.

In 2022, according to Wunderman Thompson, 44% of UK businesses used online channels to source – a figure set to increase to 51% in five years’ time. I believe it’s a trend that has spearheaded a revolution within B2B buying for three main reasons:

1) Sourcing on an international stage

With pressures from global supply chain disruption continuing into 2023, building resilience is a key focus for many UK businesses. According to research from RSM, 38% of UK businesses that have experienced supply chain problems said they have seen an overall decline in customer satisfaction. 28% of those businesses even said they’d lost one or more key customers due to unanticipated supply chain pressures.

With B2B marketplaces, UK buyers can browse millions of products and unlock a network of international suppliers at the click of a button. By establishing global networks with virtual sellers, UK buyers can secure a range of supply options for their businesses and minimise the risks associated with relying on one supplier.  

2) Sourcing better products

To continue to stay top of mind for their customers, businesses constantly have to review their product range to find the most innovative and exciting products

On marketplaces, as opposed to with traditional suppliers, buyers can browse from millions of new products from suppliers across the globe. This enables them to access a much greater variety and enables them to source more cutting-edge products to surprise and delight their customers.

Product customisation is also a rising trend in this area. Powered by technology, buyers are able to build their own personalised products with 2D and 3D design tools on B2B marketplaces. This presents a significant growth opportunity for B2B buyers to differentiate their offer.

3) Driving efficiency

One of the key reasons why B2B marketplaces are increasingly popular is because they help businesses become more efficient. Long gone are the days of expensive and time inefficient sourcing trips to factories around the globe. Instead, B2B marketplaces are leveraging technology to enable buyers to make educated decisions about their sourcing needs, actioned at the click of a button.

At Alibaba.com, one of the world’s largest B2B ecommerce marketplaces, buyers are able to take augmented reality tours of factories around the globe.  This provides buyers with greater transparency and a deeper understanding of the suppliers they choose, enhancing buyer confidence.

During the first week of Alibaba.com’s March Expo, its annual virtual event aimed at connecting international buyers and sellers, over 700,000 B2B buyers watched more than 50,000 ‘LIVE’ events on the platform, evidence of the desire to adopt new technologies amongst B2B buyers.


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