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B2B vs B2C marketplaces

What’s the difference between dedicated marketplaces for businesses and consumers?

A procurement professional uses a laptop while augmented images of shopping carts pop out of the screen

You wouldn’t hold a team meeting in a nightclub – it’s not designed for doing business. So why would you use a consumer marketplace to take care of your procurement needs? Here, we take a look at the difference between B2B and B2C marketplaces and explain how those designed specifically to serve businesses make good business sense.

What’s a B2B marketplace?

An online business-to-business (B2B) marketplace is a solution where organisations can get the products and services they need, often in bulk, with procurement functionality, scalability and flexibility built in. Designed specifically for business procurement, it enables buyers to order and transact online, streamlining procure-to-pay (P2P) processes.  

Procurement professionals engaged in a conversation around a table
B2B marketplaces provide businesses and public sector organisations with professional products to meet their specific needs

What’s the difference between B2B and B2C marketplaces?

The key difference is a B2C marketplace is designed for individual consumers, while a B2B marketplace is set up for businesses to deal directly with suppliers, including manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors. 

Typically, B2B marketplaces have multi-vendor capabilities and self-service functions; are user-friendly, secure and customisable; and can integrate with your other ERP or procurement systems, streamlining internal processes. 

We’re all familiar with B2C marketplaces. Some offer a wide array of products, while others have a niche – like books, clothing or insurance. B2C marketplaces have transformed the way we shop. But their B2B equivalents tend to be fragmented and less understood. 

Why does it matter which we use?

Lots of start-ups and some SMEs still turn to B2C sites when buying business supplies. This could be a mistake, particularly if your business has multiple cost centres and complex purchasing needs (beyond a few basic stationery items) and depends on supply chain resilience. Knowing where your money is going is critical to managing cash flow. As is being able to ensure continuity of supplies, particularly when global trade faces so many challenges. 

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Why choose a B2B marketplace for procurement?

From a more relevant assortment of products to making it much easier to manage purchase orders and payments, here are six reasons you should choose an online B2B marketplace to support your growing business needs.

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1. The assortment is B2B focused

We all love choice, but managers also want their teams to be able to buy compatible, compliant products quickly and competitively. They don’t want them distracted by irrelevant items, consumer offers, or adverts.

Three people sort warehouse consignment

2. The suppliers are vetted

Not all suppliers on B2C sites can provide the service that business buyers expect, particularly when they are micro-resellers. Conscientious B2B marketplaces conduct pre-vetting, including credit checks, to ensure suppliers meet your fulfilment needs.

A calculator is being used to compute purchase orders

3. You can easily set up and manage purchase orders and payments

Some B2C sites and sellers cannot handle system-generated purchase orders or provide standardised tax-compliant invoices. You might also have to set up multiple creditors on your accounts system, adding to administration costs and increasing the risk of manual errors.

Three procurement professionals crowd around a desk to discuss high-value procurement orders

4. You can manage multiple users with different permissions

B2C sites often lack the functionality that enables managers to control spend efficiently. If your business frequently places multiple high-value orders from different cost centres, you need a marketplace that lets you stay in control of the budget.

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5. The marketplace can scale with your business

There comes a point where a fast-growing business cannot rely on ad-hoc buying from B2C sites for essential supplies, not least because compliance becomes more important. B2B platforms support a more strategic, scalable company-wide approach to spending. You benefit from greater visibility, efficiency, and control of decentralised purchasing processes, whether you want to grow nationally or enter new markets.

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6. Your team benefits from clearer procurement processes

Most people prefer certainty at work, especially those tasked with buying products and services for a company. With a good B2B marketplace you have a single point of purchase, improved functionality, clear user rights and rules, and buying transparency.

How can Unite make a difference?

From our hundreds of vetted suppliers and Single Creditor payment option to contract and catalogue management, the Mercateo Marketplace and Procurement Portal from Unite are B2B solutions designed to meet the spend management needs of businesses. 

We can even help you customise Mercateo and integrate it with your existing business models. And as the first platform business to secure the Fair Tax Mark, you can rest easy knowing we’re committed to ethical and transparent tax practices.  

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Want to learn more?

Find out more about the Mercateo B2B Marketplace and Procurement Portal and discover how we can support your procurement needs.