Today, ecommerce plays a larger role in sales than ever before. We’re beyond the age in which an online store is a nice addition to a physical presence. Now, selling online has become a necessity for just about every industry. This isn’t just for B2C sales, either. B2B—or business to business—transactions are increasingly happening online too. Creating the best online shopping experience for business clients means making buying simple, fast, and complementary to the unique needs of B2B sales.
Whether you’re wading into the world of ecommerce for the first time or are looking to upgrade your current online operations, there are plenty of B2B ecommerce platforms out there to consider. Many B2C ecommerce platforms offer a B2B environment, while others are B2B-specific.
With so many options available, finding the best B2B ecommerce platform can feel like a daunting challenge. With the right tools, rubric, and understanding of your needs, however, you can make the process of sifting through the best B2B ecommerce platforms easier.
Odds are you’re already familiar with the basic tenets of ecommerce, whether you’ve established a robust B2C digital sales network or merely made a purchase online yourself. The essence of a well-functioning ecommerce environment is speed, reliability, and ease of use for the client. Letting prospective customers find what they’re looking for, add items to their shopping cart, and make their payment quickly and easily is the name of the game.
This is true for B2B ecommerce as well. Business customers have come to expect the same purchasing experience as retail clients. They want the purchasing process to be straightforward, seamless, and reliable. Cumbersome, friction-laden portals no longer cut it.
To make the most of your company’s B2B ecommerce potential, you’ll want to make sure you go with a provider that can offer a platform that blends form with function. Some of the best B2B ecommerce platforms have the same look and feel as a client-facing option would. They’re sleek, easy to navigate, and provide plenty of ways to pay for goods.
That’s not the only criteria you need to make the right choice, however. You’ll also want to go with a B2B ecommerce platform that gives you plenty of room for customization, including being able to hide pricing from retail clients, create custom experiences for specific clients, and offer different shipping options depending on their location or level of business.
Of course, you’ll also want to consider pricing, particularly as most products are priced in correlation to the level of service and features available. If your business does a high volume of B2B sales, you’ll need a more robust (and likely more expensive) option than a company that only does a fraction of its sales to other businesses.
There are a host of B2B ecommerce platforms available that can help small businesses excel. Some are decent and inexpensive in exchange for basic-level service, and others shine in terms of their versatility and features, even if they’re more expensive. Here are our top picks based on where each of these ecommerce platforms shines, and other important factors like pricing and customizability.
First up, OpenCart gets consistently high marks among the best B2B ecommerce platforms. The software is completely open-source and free to download. Better still, OpenCart is free of monthly subscriptions and fees, which can save small businesses a considerable amount of cash if the software’s offerings match their needs. Keep in mind, though, open-source software requires some degree of developer knowledge to use and maintain.
The OpenCart B2B Multi Vendor Marketplace add-on (which costs $299) supplements the core platform’s ecommerce solutions with a tailored interface made to work for B2B sales specifically. Buyers and sellers can send requests and request price quotes for a business’s existing products or for custom orders on new or unlisted product packages as well.
Sellers can use a variety of spreadsheet file formats to upload multiple products at the same time, too. The platform accepts CSV, XML, and XLS files with multiple entries, making it easy to manage inventory and data entry without the hassle of uploading one product at a time or converting to a file format that may not play nice with the rest of your company’s technology.
In short, OpenCart is a great ecommerce option for most businesses, be it for retail or B2B selling. The free software is filled with helpful features and add-ons, making it a formidable contender.
Adobe’s Magento Commerce platform is designed to offer a comprehensive ecommerce solution for businesses that do retail and B2B sales online. Users can customize their Magento online store to reflect their brand’s look and feel, as well as display their ecommerce pages with personalized copy and promotion opportunities. The tool also includes a page builder that makes it easy for business owners to create customized ecommerce pages, all with a drag-and-drop interface that takes the hassle out of designing web pages.
Magento Commerce isn’t just for retail sales, even if this component of the software takes precedent in its branding and advertising. The platform also provides support for B2B ecommerce that includes support for multi-brand ecommerce sites, channel partners, and key accounts. B2B clients can manage their own company accounts within your Magento setup, even including different tiers for buyers and custom permissions to accompany each of them.
Magento Commerce includes everything you need to manage B2B ecommerce sites for multiple brands, channel partners, or key accounts. Your business-to-business customers can self-manage their company accounts and set up multiple tiers of buyers with specific roles and permissions. They can also track quotes, view detailed order histories, and manage their credit online, reducing the need to call you for support. Magento also supports custom catalog creation, order management, inventory, and a speedy checkout process for B2B buyers.
In terms of pricing, Magento Commerce is quote-based, so you will need to reach out to their sales team directly to find out what it will cost your business.
The next B2B ecommerce platform on our list is NetSuite, which is dedicated to providing top-tier ecommerce solutions designed to work for retail and B2B applications. Although the company tends to focus on midsize companies, many larger small businesses may find NetSuite’s set of tools to be an excellent fit for their needs.
The platform makes it easy for businesses to provide customers with custom pricing, credit limits, and purchase terms, which is ideal for B2B applications where negotiated pricing is the norm. New and prospective customers can also ask for price quotes directly from a NetSuite-enabled ecommerce page and turn the quote directly into an online order without having to hop on the phone.
NetSuite users can also connect their existing product catalogs into their customers’ procurement systems, though this relies largely on third-party add-ons that may be available between you and your clients’ software tools.
Billing and invoicing is easy with NetSuite. Users can view their outstanding balances as well as additional funds, existing credit memos, and negotiated terms with existing accounts. The system also lets users view all of their invoices in-depth, and to input partial or full payments against those that still have a balance due. The software also allows for invoice billing, credit limits, and ACH processing.
Like Magento, NetSuite’s pricing is quote-based.
A perennial ecommerce favorite among small businesses and online shops, Shopify is easy to install and set up, and accepting payments from customers is a breeze. Even the most modest ecommerce ventures can benefit from Shopify’s tools, all without having to spend a ton of time (or a small fortune) in the process.
The Shopify system isn’t just for retail transactions, either. Shopify B2B ecommerce takes the best of Shopify and rolls it into a platform designed specifically to meet the needs of B2B sales. With Shopify Plus, businesses can automate common sales processes across retail, direct-to-consumer, B2B, and wholesale customers alike. This removes the need to run parallel ecommerce platforms for B2B and retail sales channels, making it easier to keep tabs on your sales in one convenient location.
Shopify Plus, which starts at $2,000 per month, enables users to create custom interfaces for B2B and wholesale customers that can be password-protected and complete with pricing that’s specific to each business client. And, like with other B2B ecommerce platforms we’ve mentioned, you can easily manage inventory and keep track of existing B2B client purchases at a glance.
Next up, OroCommerce is designed with B2B ecommerce in mind first and foremost, particularly for mid-market businesses. The platform also offers support for B2C and DTC sales as well, making it a one-stop-shop for each of your business’s sales channels. With OroCommerce, you can build and manage your own ecommerce website, create customized customer portals, and scale unique sales environments for wholesalers as well. Better still, you can opt to run OroCommerce from the cloud or locally on your own servers, depending on what works best for your existing tech infrastructure.
With OroCommerce, businesses can build out vital B2B ecommerce features like corporate account management, unique pricing catalogs per business client, custom workflows, and more. There’s also a versatile API that makes integrations easy to set up—whether that means looping OroCommerce into your current technology or making it keep up with new additions to your business software.
OroCommerce Community Edition is a free open-source version of the software best suited for smaller businesses. If your business is larger or requires more functionality than Community Edition can provide, there is also OroCommerce Enterprise Edition, pricing for which is quote-based.
Lastly, 3dcart has everything you need to serve B2B customers and offer them the shopping experience they’re looking for. Whether you’re a wholesaler, reseller, manufacturer, or any other B2B supplier, you can build the perfect site to appeal to B2B buyers—and if your business model requires, even sell B2C at the same time from the same website.
In fact, 3dcart even claims to offer a B2C-like experience for B2B sales as well. The platform prides itself on delivering the same convenience for wholesalers and business clients as one would expect from a direct-to-consumer or retail operation. That means reducing the hurdles most B2B sales come with—and even making the whole process have the look and feel of a retail experience as well. 3dcart still offers all the essential capabilities one would expect from a B2B platform, though. This includes specific client pricing, wholesale pricing, and custom portals.
Like most B2B ecommerce platforms on this list, you’ll want to reach out to 3dcart directly for pricing information.
Whether you’re looking for a B2B ecommerce platform for the first time, or want to switch providers, there are a wealth of options available. Each of these platforms offers pros and cons that may vary depending on the size and scope of your business. Some are better for larger small businesses, while others may be perfectly sized for more slender operations.
Choosing the right B2B ecommerce platform for your business comes down to knowing your needs, budget, and where you see your B2B ambitions going in the months and years ahead.
Christine Aebischer is an editor at Fundera.
Prior to Fundera, Christine was an editor at the financial planning startup LearnVest and its parent company, Northwestern Mutual. There she wrote and edited on topics such as debt, budgeting, insurance, taxes, investing, and retirement. She has written for print and online on topics ranging from personal finance to luxury real estate.