Better customer experience for digitally-native buyers.
Reduced cost to serve.
Increased agility in volatile market conditions.
Just a few of the reasons why B2B business owners worldwide are increasingly moving their operations online.
The global B2B ecommerce market was valued at over USD $7,900 billion in 2022, with a projected Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 20.2% from 2023 to 2030.1
Rapid digital transformation in this market is a result of various factors, including the Covid pandemic, changing buyer needs, and fast-evolving technological advancements.
B2B food and beverage ecommerce trends
The B2B food and beverage ecommerce industry in particular is no exception, with the market set to reach nearly USD $800 billion by 2030 (that’s a CAGR of almost 17%).2
Here at Swanky, we have noticed an increasing appetite amongst food and beverage brands to learn more about the benefits of an online B2B model and understand the growth potential this could unlock.
Perhaps you’re a B2B food and beverage retailer wondering if the move to online B2B sales is right for your business?
Or maybe you’re clear on the benefits that ecommerce can bring, but you’re not sure which platform can help you best realise these?
Leveraging our experience as the go-to Shopify Plus agency for food and beverage brands, we hope this article will provide clarity on the advantages of B2B ecommerce in this industry, whilst demonstrating how Shopify’s B2B features make the platform a viable choice for B2B food and beverage retailers.
9 benefits of B2B ecommerce
Let’s consider some of the benefits that an ecommerce model can unlock for B2B food and beverage brands:
1. Better meet the needs of your buyers
Firstly, an online B2B model means that food and beverage retailers can meet the evolving needs of the buyer market.
Over 60% of today’s B2B buyers are Millennials or Gen Z’ers.3 They are digital natives who prefer to do business online, rather than in-person. In fact, according to research, 44% of millennials prefer not to interact with a sales rep at all during their B2B purchasing experience.4
Modern buyers are looking for simple, convenient, self-service options. With the rise in flexible working, they don’t want to be confined to the hours of 9-5 if they need to make or amend an order. Instead, modern B2B buyers want to be able to log into an ecommerce portal at any time of the day (or night) to browse and buy. This can be particularly pertinent in the food and beverage industry with its non-typical working hours.
Buyers also expect personalised ecommerce interactions at each stage of the customer journey, more akin to a DTC shopping experience. Think tailored product catalogues, price lists and payment terms. An ecommerce solution like Shopify can deliver this sort of personalised experience natively, with third-party apps opening up even more possibilities.
Fail to meet the changing needs of your buyers, and you risk no longer being relevant. By embracing B2B ecommerce, you can connect with your buyers in the way they prefer – and expect – to do business.
Providing a seamless buying experience is central to converting and retaining clients – and cultivating your reputation as a trusted B2B supplier.
We talk in more detail about B2B buyers’ expectations in this article on how to improve your B2B customer experience.
2. Improved operational efficiency & reduced costs
With the high level of competition and short shelf life of many products, speed and efficiency are essential in the food and beverage B2B space.
There are plenty of increased efficiencies to be enjoyed with a B2B ecommerce channel. For one, it speeds up the order process for buyers, allowing them to place an order in a matter of clicks.
Furthermore, incorporating automation via an ecommerce solution reduces the risk of manual errors from your sales team, which can often damage relationships with your clients.
Automation also cuts order processing costs and streamlines admin tasks. This allows B2B businesses to take on more market share – selling to smaller, historically less profitable clients due to the reduced operating cost B2B ecommerce provides.
3. Greater visibility & understanding of buyer behaviour
A B2B ecommerce site gives you the opportunity to collect and interpret data that wouldn’t otherwise be captured through interpersonal sales. For example, by leveraging Google Analytics and other data platforms, you can gain much better visibility of buyers and their purchasing patterns.
Not only does this help you understand your buyers better and become well-acquainted with the typical buyer journey, this data will form the cornerstone of your ecommerce strategy. It will help you identify opportunities for improving your online store and measure the impact of any changes you make as part of a conversion rate optimisation strategy.
Having this data easily available will mean you can navigate the complex and competitive food and beverage industry with more confidence, backed by figures and trends rather than intuition and anecdotal evidence.
Data is also crucial for penetrating new markets if you’re considering international expansion (more on this later).
4. Frees up time for business growth
Moving your B2B food and beverage business online will mean that customers can self-serve, which frees up time for your sales team.
“Rather than manually taking orders and sending invoices, your sales staff can instead concentrate their time on new buyer acquisition, managing existing buyer relationships and progressing exciting growth opportunities,” explains Sean Clanchy, MD of Swanky’s Australian office.
In such a crowded industry, having more time to invest in these areas could prove a competitive advantage, making a significant difference to your growth trajectory.
5. Increased product awareness & discoverability
Another benefit of a B2B food and beverage ecommerce website to consider is increased awareness of your full product catalogue. Buyers would be able to browse your entire offering online and could discover products they didn’t know you offered.
Sean discusses this enhanced product discoverability:
“It’s common for sales teams to simply sell what they’ve always sold if they’re used to being in an ‘order taking’ mindset all day, everyday. With an online B2B model though, you can let your site do the talking.
“You can accelerate product discoverability with ecommerce techniques like upselling and cross-selling. Product recommendations can be automatically personalised based on account history and previous purchases – which speaks to buyers’ need for more tailored retail experiences.”
6. Easier to scale internationally
Having a B2B ecommerce website makes it easier to scale across markets and start selling to buyers in other regions and countries. You can localise the online buying experience to meet language, currency and cultural expectations – all in just a few clicks.
As announced as part of Summer 2023 Shopify Editions, when retailers use B2B on Shopify and Shopify Markets, they can adapt their store design with context-specific pages for wholesale and international customers, right from the Online Store editor.
Read more about expanding your business cross-border in our guide to internationalisation on Shopify Plus.
7. Opportunity to embrace SEO and PPC
Online B2B selling lifts the lid on more modern marketing channels, such as SEO and paid advertising. An easily discoverable B2B website will enable you to reach more of your target audience, increase brand awareness and acquire new clients – all without increasing your sales team headcount.
As the B2B food and beverage industry continues its digital transformation, marketing techniques like these will be crucial for your business to develop a strong online presence.
8. Provides a route into DTC ecommerce
A B2B ecommerce store gives you the opportunity to easily start experimenting with DTC sales. In fact, with B2B on Shopify, you could handle both sides of your business seamlessly from one intuitive admin.
Being able to quickly pivot to a new business model opens up significant potential for increased revenue and accelerated growth – not to mention future-proofs your business.
This agility is particularly sought after in volatile industries like the food and beverage sector. Take the Covid pandemic, for example, when B2B food and beverage businesses were heavily impacted by decreased footfall in their retailers’ stores and hospitality venues. For those who already had an ecommerce presence, being able to adapt quickly and start selling directly to end consumers online provided a lifeline in extremely challenging conditions.
9. Boost for key business metrics
Ultimately, all of the benefits discussed above could unlock a huge opportunity for business growth – increasing order volumes, revenue, loyalty and customer lifetime value.
“The ability to address a broader market at a lower cost has never been more readily available than it is right now,” describes Sean.
B2B on Shopify: Key features for food and beverage ecommerce
Shopify’s B2B functionality underwent a significant upgrade in 2022. As a result, B2B retailers can enjoy all the hallmark benefits of Shopify’s powerful and scalable DTC offering.
Significant upgrades to Shopify’s built-in B2B features announced in Summer 2023 Editions have enhanced the B2B ecommerce experience even further.
Core B2B features on Shopify include:
- company profiles with distinct contact permissions, payment terms, price lists, tax exemptions etc.;
- powerful customisation functionality, including custom store themes, discounts and Functions;
- a customised and automated checkout experience with net payment terms, payment methods and wholesale discounts;
- self-serve customer portal where buyers can manage their account;
- B2B analytics for a clear view of your wholesale business;
- seamless integrations;
- vaulted credit cards;
- volume pricing, powered by quantity price breaks;
- quick order lists; and
- company account requests for prospective buyers.
You can read more about these features in our article about the evolution of Shopify B2B.
Let’s dive into some of these in more detail to see why B2B on Shopify makes a good fit for retailers in the B2B food and beverage sector:
Flexible integrations with other platforms for ultimate efficiency
As we’ve touched on already, fast and efficient ordering and fulfilment is particularly important in the food and beverage industry. Restaurant buyers will likely be working to strict delivery timelines in order to be able to provide a specific menu, whilst your supermarket clients will be conscious of the perishable nature of your products.
With this in mind, an ecommerce platform that seamlessly integrates with your ERP, CRM, PIM, logistics and other systems is crucial. Shopify is well-known for its rich ecosystem of third party apps and integrations that allow automated and efficient ecommerce management.
At Swanky, we work with various market-leading integration platforms (iPaaS) to connect Shopify to third-party applications. We can do this on a stand-alone basis, or as part of a wider Shopify migration project. Find out more about our Shopify integrations service here.
Unique buying experience for different types of buyers
As a food and beverage supplier, you’ll more than likely offer different products, prices and payment terms to different companies, depending on what type of business they are, what their typical order volume is, and how often they place orders with you.
Whilst this may have traditionally been a concern when going digital, Shopify allows you to set customer-specific prices, payment terms, discounts, tax exemptions etc. – and assign them to a central company profile.
You can also tailor the experience on a more granular level and assign multiple buyer contacts to a single company profile, each with different permission levels.
Easy reordering for buyers placing regular orders
According to research, B2B buyers in the food and beverage industry place business-critical orders every day.5
Those using a Shopify site can easily place a reorder using the ‘Buy Again’ functionality in the order history page. This simplifies and improves the customer experience, and is especially useful for buyers placing regular orders.
Self-service purchasing & easy account management
As discussed earlier in this article, for today’s B2B buyers, being able to manage their account and place orders with self-service functionality is a major draw.
On Shopify, once they’ve been authenticated, buyers will have access to all their pertinent account information – enabling them to manage their account, edit buyer information, view personalised product catalogues and price lists, view order history, place orders and more.
It pays to move online as a B2B food and beverage retailer
Ultimately, it’s the B2B retailers who are able to adapt to changes in technology and meet modern buyers’ expectations who will survive and thrive in the food and beverage industry.
As we’ve explored in this article, embracing an ecommerce model can bring benefits for your buyers, your team, and your business metrics. Shopify is a compelling solution for B2B food and beverage ecommerce retailers thanks to its powerful functionality that is transforming the way B2B transactions are conducted online.
Grow your B2B food and beverage business with Swanky
If you’re a B2B food and beverage retailer looking to either implement a brand new ecommerce channel or improve your existing online presence, Swanky’s in-house team of experts can support you with bespoke Shopify development, internationalisation, optimisation, digital marketing and more.
Reach out to our solutions team today to see how we can unlock your B2B ecommerce potential.