As the “Amazon” effect has effectively permeated B2B wholesaling and distribution space, many folks have begun or have fully implemented a B2B ecommerce solution to better meet their customers’ buying preferences. Rightfully so, just as consumers, business owners expect to be able to purchase goods easily and on their own timeline.

Take a successful contractor who is working on HVAC projects all day for example, they may only have time to reorder the parts, tools and items they need for their business outside of traditional business hours. This is a perfect example of when a distributor with an established ecommerce site could win their business over a competitor who only offers the traditional brick-and-mortar, call or fax order process.

Implementing B2B ecommerce offerings is not a new practice, according to a recent survey of 100 B2B buyers led by Digital Commerce 360. The survey noted that newcomers to B2B ecommerce accounted for the smallest percentage of respondents – in fact, only 10% participated in ecommerce for only one or two years, while 20% were in the ecommerce business for more than 10 years. But the crucial question to ask is: are B2B businesses using the channel to their fullest potential, or making some common mistakes that delineate its power of differentiation and customer-centricity?

Read further to learn more about some effective strategies for making the most of your wholesale or distribution B2B ecommerce site.


The #1 mistake I see with distributors who deploy ecommerce is not integrating it with the ERP system within their ecosystem. If an ecommerce site is not connected directly to the source of their business, it can be equated to a “glorified fax machine.”

Now that might sound a little harsh, but the core benefit of implementing ecommerce as a B2B business, aside from improving customer experience, is to save time and money within your own organization. Staff will no longer need to spend time on non-revenue generating activities, such as answering a customer questions such as: what is the status of my order, did this line ship, do you have something in stock, etc. If your ecommerce site is integrated properly, embedded automation tools should be able to take actions such as alert the appropriate parties of the sale, directly queue the sale based on priority, and automatically adjust inventory counts.

Next-generation tools such as business insights and predictive analytics can even recommend price adjustments or shopping trends, maximizing efficiency, and further boosting your bottom line.

While product manufacturers and online distributors can bypass distributors and go direct to customers, traditional distributors can leverage their unique strength in the supply chain to grow and to reinvent their businesses and relationships, to become platforms or marketplaces for customers.


Now with all the benefits of ecommerce I’ve mentioned, it’s important I note that while ecommerce is a great tool, it is not an end-all-be-all sales solution and should be balanced amongst other sales channels. An omnichannel approach to sales ensures distributors maintain a well-rounded customer-centric model, meeting expectations for customer bases who prefer traditional sales models as well as more modern approaches to purchasing. A B2B distributor’s omnichannel approach could look like a split between Mobile Sales Tools, ecommerce, physical stores, sales representatives, channel and more.

Why? Well, B2B customers are increasingly expecting to be able to discover, buy, receive and return products seamlessly across multiple channels: in short, they want to fully benefit from the omnichannel experience.

For distributors, this creates both opportunities and challenges. While product manufacturers and online distributors can bypass distributors and go direct to customers, traditional distributors can leverage their unique strength in the supply chain to grow and to reinvent their businesses and relationships, to become platforms or marketplaces for customers.


To become a high-growth company, distributors need to invest in technologies that boost productivity and increase their teams' capacity, allowing them to scale while maintaining cost control. That said, business decision-makers who have embraced B2B ecommerce should ensure they’re getting the most bang for their buck and use it as an opportunity to upskill their workforce.

Take your best salesperson for example, rather than having them manage smaller deals that can be handled efficiently through self-service ecommerce, with your ecommerce integrated with your ERP, they can focus all their efforts and talents on securing high-value deals. Or, if you had an office assistant manually entering data into an ERP system to push forward a sale, an integrated ecommerce solution with automation capabilities can allow them to play an even more valuable role within the company – perhaps managing the data and recommending more data-informed decisions for the business on pricing, supply chain trends and more. Your data tells a story, and it would be a misstep to not invest time into building your team’s ability to understand and recommend actions based upon the invaluable customer data collected from your ecommerce site.


With a traditional B2B eCommerce platform, you purchase a license fee, and your dev team builds a solution on top. You maintain complete control over your code, and the sky’s the limit in terms of what you can create. It sounds great, but developing your solution is a supremely technical endeavor. You need a skilled IT team to build and maintain the solution, which is a significant drawback compared to modern alternatives, such as a SaaS ecommerce solution with low-code/no-code capabilities.

SaaS B2B eCommerce platforms are the go-to choice for mid-sized distribution/wholesale enterprises because they’re cost-effective and easy to use. Most people adjust to the various dashboards and drag and drop tools in minutes and even tackle custom coding tasks with practice. With SaaS, you can launch your eCommerce store in a matter of weeks and instantly generate revenue. A traditional B2B eCommerce platform, on the other hand, takes months or even years to develop.


On a final note, I want to emphasize that ecommerce is not a replacement for complex sales, but complimentary, and ultimately in place to help businesses cut down on non-revenue generating activities and focus their efforts on complex sales. B2B ecommerce is additive, allowing you to better serve your customers and your business simultaneously.