B2B eCommerce, a growth opportunity for Italian SMEs

Business-to-business e-commerce is growing at a fast pace in our country. Here's how SMEs can take advantage of it

Maybe the start was slightly delayed, but also in our country B2b eCommerce has now reached considerable volumes. From the data of the 2019 report of the eCommerce B2b Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano, it can be seen that of the 2,200 billion euros generated by exchanges between companies, about 20% is the result of online purchases.

That is to say that, to date, about 500 billion euros of turnover of Italian companies is generated thanks to online sales with other businesses, both of our country and of foreign countries. And, obviously, these figures are destined to grow over the next few years: according to the data reported in the Polimi report, from 2012 to 2018, the turnover has grown by 80% for the national market alone: in fact, it has gone from 200 billion exchanges in 2012 to 360 billion in turnover in 2018.

How much is B2b eCommerce worth to Italian companies?

Specifically, B2b eCommerce turnover between Italian companies has reached about 360 billion euros (16% of the total), while that with foreign countries has reached 136 billion euros (5% of the total). Encouraging and growing figures: during the last 7 years (period 2012-2018), the value of e-commerce between Italian and foreign companies increases with average rates of 10% per year. And, even if the progression is slightly decreasing, it is easy to assume that in the coming years the slice of e-commerce turnover compared to the total is destined to grow further. In short, the electronic commerce is destined to become one of the main sources of profit (if not the first absolute) for the productive sector of our country.

How to make eCommerce B2b: extranet, portals and marketplace

In this scenario, e-commerce platforms acquire an increasing importance. In order to reach customers (i.e. other companies), companies must rely on a platform that allows them to "expose their merchandise" and sell it. On this front the possibilities are various, but referable to three macrocategories: extranet, portals and marketplace B2b.

The first two ways foresee the creation of a site of e-commerce ad hoc, where the company puts on sale its goods, products and services. A solution indicated mainly for large companies, with an important budget available: it will be necessary to set up the platform (and, perhaps, buy the license for the platform itself), to have some staff that deals exclusively with the management and maintenance and invest in advertising and marketing, so as to get traffic on the site.

Choosing instead to use an existing marketplace, it will be easier and cheaper to go online. A solution suitable for SMEs, therefore, who would like to start selling their products online and, in addition, aim at the internationalization of their activities. A marketplace for B2B eCommerce reproduces the same user experience of an eCommerce portal for "private individuals": there will be a bulletin board, a search engine and dozens and dozens of "listings" to choose from.

In addition, there will be no need to invest in marketing and advertising to promote the platform: a marketplace will already have a dedicated team to improve its online visibility and indexing. You just need someone to create the ads and upload them to the platform, waiting for the first customers to "find" them in the marketplace database. And, in case you don't have time (or you don't have the technical skills) you can always turn to specialized agencies.

Thanks to Italiaonline, for example, you will have the opportunity to publish your products on the B2b marketplace of Alibaba.com, Chinese e-commerce giant active in 190 countries, 18 million buyers and with support for 16 different languages. IOL offers Italian SMEs two different plans, Standard and Premium, which vary according to the needs and characteristics of the company that would like to start selling on Alibaba.

In this way, companies will have access to one of the largest online marketplaces in the world, with the possibility to interface with buyers from all over the world. Not only: the SMEs will have the opportunity to negotiate directly the sale prices with the various Buyers and have a direct relationship with them, without intermediaries.

Italiaonline, on the other hand, will make its specialists available to create an evolved company showcase on Alibaba, devising an "ad hoc" marketing and communication strategy to promote products on the Chinese marketplace. Depending on the plan chosen, then, you can take advantage of value-added services such as page promotion, data analysis and much more.