Ecommerce for Distributors: Everything You Need to Know

Your B2B Shopping Experience. Introducing BigCommerce B2B Edition

Business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce is one of the fastest growing areas in the ecommerce space. Statista estimates that B2B ecommerce will grow to $3.1 billion in the U.S. by 2027. Thanks to ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon and other successful B2B sellers, distributors are under immense pressure to transform their operations and offer more direct-to-consumer-like (DTC) ecommerce experiences that meet quickly evolving customer expectations.


To meet and exceed these expectations, B2B buyers expect up-to-date product and pricing structures. They expect an omnichannel buying experience that allows them to make purchases across channels. And they expect a purchasing experience that allows for easy approvals, order management, and payment. 

If you’re a B2B distributor looking to grow your business, it’s time to invest in ecommerce technology that allows you to create the kinds of experiences that your customers will reward. This article will help you navigate the B2B distributor ecommerce landscape, and discuss key considerations and ecommerce strategies to help grow your business. 

Advantages to distributors advancing their digital or ecommerce strategy

Adopting a new ecommerce strategy for your business (or adapting your current digital strategy) can have a huge impact on your bottom line. Here are a few ways your B2B distributing company can benefit from revisiting its digital strategy.  

Room to scale.

Perhaps you’ve outgrown your current ecommerce platform, or maybe you’re looking at entering the ecommerce space for the first time. Whatever stage of your growth journey, reevaluating your B2B ecommerce platform could provide massive opportunities when it comes to growth and scalability. 

New capabilities could allow sales or digital teams to shift focus to new acquisitions. A modern platform could also help provide your customers with a more DTC-like experience, giving them the tools and features they want.

Endless innovation.

Legacy technologies may prove to be more of a hindrance than anything else. Adopting a new ecommerce platform may help open new doors for your internal teams, allowing for more data collection, more testing opportunities, and more ability to meet your customers rapidly changing needs. 

Improved efficiency. 

By adopting more modern ecommerce technology, businesses have the opportunity to not only increase efficiency from a customer perspective by improving the buyer experience, but also by improving internal operations. 

Modern ecommerce technology can take away from operational inefficiencies presented by older platforms and give your company the opportunity to do — and sell — more.

A New Approach for New Expectations

BigCommerce’s B2B ecommerce platform enables you with powerful features to readily meet — and exceed — your buyers’ expectations.

B2B Solutions

6 must-have capabilities for distributor ecommerce

Advanced search capabilities.

Distributor and industrial ecommerce sites often have thousands of SKUs: different sizes, shapes, colors…the list goes on and on. Considering 69% of consumers go straight to the search bar when they visit an online retailer, it’s an essential feature for the user experience.

Equipping customers with advanced search functionality, such as faceted search, can lead to happier B2B buyers and ultimately, higher sales. Search functionality should be at the top of every distributor’s list when searching for the best B2B ecommerce platform.

Customer-level pricing.

BigCommerce research found that inaccurate pricing was the number one pain point buyers felt during the B2B ecommerce purchasing process. And it’s understandable why. B2B sellers can have complex pricing models with different agreements, customer levels, and more. Not to mention the myriad of factors that play into shipping.

Taking into account that some products will be available in certain markets online — or to some customers only — and that shipping costs and options will vary based on location, it’s imperative for distributors to have an ecommerce solution that provides an excellent customer experience.

Content-tech specs and resources.

To compete with Amazon, B2B distributors will need more than the shopping cart functionality. The only way to build loyalty is to provide customer-centric experiences that add value throughout the buying cycle. 

Besides technical product information and spec sheets, your buyers may want other helpful content resources that enable them to evaluate the product and better understand how to use it after the purchase. Not to mention the SEO benefits that assist customers in finding your online store in the first place.

To keep all your product communications relevant and up-to-date, you’ll need a simple way to modify, replace and share the content through the commerce platform. Choosing an easy-to-use ecommerce solution will help you streamline your online sales channels and create compelling user experiences.

Leveraging AI for personalisation.

The AI boom is advancing technology in a number of ways. When it comes to ecommerce businesses, they’re finding that AI can be a powerful tool that helps with product recommendations, search, and descriptions. Forbes Advisor found that 33% of all ecommerce companies were leveraging customer data AI for product recommendations. This allows companies to learn which kinds of products customers want based on their past purchase history. 

In an environment where customer-centricity is the name of the game, taking advantage of these kinds of cross-sell opportunities can have a huge impact on the final sale amount. They can also help boost conversions by giving customers a final push to make a purchase they’ve been considering.

AI can also be used to help personalise other areas of your site, including:

  • Product page optimisation with related products

  • Homepage optimisation with personalised featured products

Account-level controls.

Another important requirement for your B2B ecommerce platform is access to account-level controls. When selling into a business, you’ll likely need to juggle multiple stakeholders, different departments, and even different locations. This means having multiple people from the same organisation logging in to see order history or track down other information. 

Additionally, different purchasing needs often necessitate different purchasing scenarios. Some of your clients may insist on purchasing via 30-day invoices with a sizable credit limit, while others may have to place orders via credit card payments. A suitable B2B ecommerce solution will enable you to accommodate different payment terms and support account-level controls for the best user experience.

A solid foundation for innovation.

Many wholesale distributors know the pains of being on a legacy technology system. With the weight and additional costs of maintaining the outdated platform, it becomes more and more difficult to innovate, deploy new features and keep up with customer expectations. In the meantime, our research shows that B2B customers value detailed product information, custom pricing and discounts, account management, and efficient reordering above all else. 

When choosing an ecommerce platform, think beyond your immediate needs. It’s no longer enough to sell products online. Wholesalers and distributors must think about how to create digital experiences that meet customer needs and keep them coming back. Finding the right ecommerce software is a critical step towards laying the right foundation for future scalability.

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Steps for distributors to build an ecommerce site

Now that your B2B business is up to date with how ecommerce can boost your sales, let’s see how to set it up for success. 

1. Develop your project requirements.

To make sure your project is a success, you first need to identify your target audience. Are you building an ecommerce channel for your existing customers, new customers, or both? Don’t forget to leave time and space to craft different messaging for each audience you want to reach.

Learning from competitors

Take a look at your competitors. What do they sell? How do they sell it? How do they advertise online? Search for your products on Amazon and cheque out the competition on omnichannel marketplaces like Amazon Business. Consider how your product compares to others online, and determine your added value proposition that’ll help you stand out from the crowd.

Picking your bestsellers

Uploading your entire product catalogue online at once may lead to many complications, especially if you don’t have your ecommerce site set up properly yet. So it’s better to start with a few products you can learn from, and expand over time. Consider starting with products with a high margin that can make the sales reps' lives easier. This can increase customer satisfaction and lead to better customer relationships over time.

Structuring your catalogue

Even before you upload all your products, you need to decide how you’ll structure it to make it easier for customers to browse and find items online. You may choose to narrow the products by size, width, colour, brand, shape, price, etc. Finding an ecommerce solution that allows for this kind of deep-level filtering can be extremely helpful when it comes to product structuring.

Accounting for taxes

You need to develop a sales tax strategy that’ll grow with your ecommerce business. For peace of mind, use services like TaxJar or Avalara, to calculate taxes in real-time at checkout.

Planning for fulfilment

To speed up fulfilment, consider integrating your ecommerce platform with an ERP. It’s the lifeblood of any large cooperation, and when integrated successfully can bring many financial and other benefits.

Considering your payment options

Look for a platform that will support multiple payment gateway options for a smoother user experience. For example, BigCommerce, integrates natively with more than 55 global payment gateway options. Plus our B2B buyer invoice portal makes B2B purchases simple and easy, giving buyers all the B2B tools and options they need to make a successful purchase.

Create clear goals

Start with a revenue target for the first year. Clear ROI goals will help you measure the success of your ecommerce channel.

2. Identify potential obstacles.

Like with any change, there will be some growing pains to overcome at the beginning. Every business runs differently, and there is no one-size-fits-all ecommerce solution. But there are a few things you can prepare for in advance, that’ll make the transition easier.

Account creation

Make sure your team is equipped to deal with scenarios where internal review processes prevent customers from completing orders automatically. 

Shipping costs

Sometimes shipping costs are calculated after the order is placed, meaning customers don’t know the order total until they go through checkout. And, as buyers have indicated their frustration with pricing more and more, it’s important to be upfront about potential costs like shipping as soon as possible.


There are government industry regulations that may affect how your products are purchased or shipped. List any issues in your requirements, because those should be addressed during the implementation process of your site.

3. Build your ecommerce team.

You’ll need people on your team that have launched an ecommerce site in the past. Their experience will help you navigate the launch with confidence. You may already have people on your team with experience or you can outsource these roles to your agency partner. If you’re looking to build a team in-house, here are a few teams to keep in mind.

An experienced marketing team

Chances are you have been doing some sort of marketing for your B2B business, but marketing your products (and reaching the right audience) from an ecommerce perspective is vastly different than traditional means. 

You’ll need a content team to draught your ad copy, product descriptions, and more; designers to create beautiful imagery for your site, compelling ads, and update your branding for the digital space; and you’ll also need a digital marketing expert that can ensure the ads that you create are getting in front of the right prospects. 

Technical experts 

Whether you’re using enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, customer resource management (CRM), fulfilment, or product inventory management (PIM) systems or not, you’ll need an expert technical team to integrate and manage these systems with your new B2B ecommerce ecosystem. Creating these API integrations will take technical background, so ensure that your team is adequately staffed. Front- and back-end developers can also help improve the customer experience on your site. 

Leadership buy-in

Getting your leadership team to buy-in to a digital transformation can be challenging. Despite B2B ecommerce’s rapid growth trajectory, many B2B business owners or executives find it hard to find value in the shift to digital. 

It’s important to have buy-in from all levels of leadership to ensure a smooth digital transformation.

4. Select your ecommerce technology.

Picking the right ecommerce platform is a critical step in the journey. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to investigate the available options and consider what’s important to your business.

Here are some things to consider when looking for new ecommerce technology.

  • How much will the platform cost now, and what about as you scale?

  • Are there any pre-built functionalities, integrations, or automations that might save you money?

  • How easy or difficult will it be for you to maintain your ecommerce website? 

  • Will you need to manage security, patches, and other updates yourself?

  • Does it come with the B2B features you need?

  • Will the platform allow your business to keep up with industry trends and changes?

There are many aspects to consider when it comes to a B2B ecommerce platform. Take the time to educate yourself on the best fit for your business.

BigCommerce Customer: Walton’s

Case Study Device Laptop Waltons

BigCommerce customer Walton’s began selling online in the 2010s, but migrated to BigCommerce in 2022 after looking for a more stable foundation for future growth. BigCommerce’s ease of use and customisation options were exactly what industrial B2B supplier Walton’s was looking for, but they also loved the fact that BigCommerce came with so many B2B features natively. 

As more of their business moves online, they are confident that BigCommerce will be able to adapt to their needs and provide a solid foundation for future scalability. 

“We have an old school customer base, mom and pop butcher shops or facilities who probably aren’t comfortable placing a $50,000 order online. They want to talk to somebody over the phone. But as the younger generations start to take over, we’re seeing offline sales turn into online sales. As this happens, our customer service agents can focus on solving problems, while our sales team can focus on creating new relationships with customers instead of handling incoming calls. We will continue to push both our commercial and our retail customers that route because ecommerce is more cost effective for us, and it frees up resources to be used to grow the business.”

Jonathan Tremblay Media Manager, Walton’s

Preparing your site to serve your ecommerce customers

Launching into the ecommerce space means adhering to the industry standards and expectations. It’s not just about selling online, but also about helping B2B buyers purchase your products in the most efficient way possible.

Train your internal team on using your website.

Don’t launch your ecommerce site to customers until your B2B sales reps know it in and out. Training the team in advance will give you enough time to test various purchasing scenarios, catch any remaining bugs and prepare the sales team for a different kind of sale. They should be able to answer customers’ questions and guide them through the self-service buying process, if needed.

Plan communication to your existing customer base to introduce them to your new site.

While the primary goal of your new ecommerce initiative is to attract new customers, you don’t want to ignore the existing client base. Get ready to communicate about the launch through your usual channels, such as email or social media. To help with the onboarding, you may want to think about creating educational content like videos, webinars, or how-to guides to explain the new processes and opportunities that lie ahead.

Make sure your customer support team cheques emails frequently.

Timely customer service is one of the most important aspects of an ecommerce business. If you’re just getting started, customers are bound to have questions and concerns. Promptly following up on customer support enquiries will boost your brand’s trustworthiness and encourage customers to shift to online processes.

Consider setting up live chat on your ecommerce site.

On-demand chatbots have changed the game in ecommerce. Instead of having to arrange a call and wait for an answer, consumers can now ask quick questions and get immediate answers right where they need them.

Customers have more freedom to share feedback and voice their concerns, making communication easier and more effective. To really understand your customers’ pain points, look at your site’s search statistics to pinpoint what they’re searching for and not finding. You can also review and consider obvious friction points that prevent users from completing their buying journey or causing frustrations that delay the purchase.

The final word

The exponential growth of the B2B commerce market does not show any signs of slowing down. For wholesalers and distributors, it provides a unique opportunity to capitalise on a new, effective sales channel to acquire customers and provide value-added service to their current client base.

The risk of not meeting the changing buyer expectations and being left behind is much greater than venturing out into a new field. If you’re thinking about the long-term growth of your distribution business, adding an ecommerce solution to the mix is definitely something to consider.

FAQs about ecommerce for distributors

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