Review of the Best B2B E-Commerce Websites

It is natural to look at what other companies are doing to gather the best b2b e-commerce websites and even replicate what they are doing.  I am constantly searching Google and Twitter recording URLs and asking these questions:

  • What are examples of great B2B E-Commerce websites?
  • Why did they choose to do what they did?
  • What kind of ROI did they benefit from?
  • Who is innovating in our space?

What are the top companies focused on?

These great B2B e-commerce websites have a number of things in common.

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  • From Grainger to Office Max, they are investing heavily into their customer experience.
  • They have large complex catalogs, and are focused on getting their customers to the right product in as few clicks as possible.
  • Their product content is rich and detailed, and improving everyday.
  • Their account management features are enabling their customers to become more and more efficient.  They understand the “Secret to B2B E-Commerce
  • These site exhibit the best of  B2B E-Commerce Best Practices.

While these sites are great, they are also constantly changing, which makes it hard for me to stay current on my comments.

This is Chapter 3 in The Guide To B2B E-Commerce. If this is your first visit, consider checking out the guide first.

Best B2B E-Commerce Websites

I started with the low hanging fruit.  Just great b2b e-commerce sites overall. All are in either Office Supplies or Industrial Supply (MRO), but each have something unique to offer you as you look to great examples of B2B e-commerce. I have plans on adding to this list going forward in other categories including manufacturing, high tech and other distribution categories.

quill-com-logo

Quill.com is owned by Staples.  Staples.com is actually the #2 e-commerce site in the world only surpassed by Amazon.com.  While Staples sells about 80% to B2B, the Quill.com site is intentionally built for B2B e-commerce.

Quill executes flawlessly on all of the B2B and B2C best practices.  They have complex products

They have focused on taxonomy, guided navigation, and search to make this a fantastic site.

I like how Quill merchandises as you hover over a category on their home page. Then as you go deeper into their site, they use product attributes to enable the customer to filter the search results.

Want more?  Check out my comprehensive review of QUILL.COM

grainger-logo

Grainger was one of the first big B2B e-commerce sites in the U.S. Most hail the site as one of the best (if not THE best) B2B e-commerce site out there.  Grainger is No. 13 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, which ranks companies on the annual web sales. Internet Retailer reports that for the full year 2013, e-commerce sales accounted for $3.11 billion out of total sales of $9.44 billion, as e-commerce sales grew 16.0% and total sales grew 5.5%% over 2012.  That is 33% of the companies total revenues flowing through their e-commerce site.

SEARCH AND NAVIGATION

Starting with SEO, Grainger executes very well on their long tail search. Search for something like “marson fastener rivets” on Google, and Grainger.com comes up consistently in the first couple results. When you click on the link it as if you navigated on Grainger.com to fasteners | rivets | marson.
grainger-marson
Grainger has long been admired for how they deliver search and navigation across their millions of products. The search box enables the customer to type in any word, description, part number, and model number among others.  Navigation and Search are very much tied together so that you can search then navigate, or navigate then search. They also use a mega menu style type ahead for merchandising while searching.

PRODUCT DETAIL

The product detail pages improved dramatically over the last 12 months.  Rich product descriptions, ad-hoc product availability, technical specs and image zoom highlight the product detail page.  Attributes like contract pricing, manufacturing model, shipping weight, country of origin, and application represent the B2B business.
grainger-product-detail-single
Further down the page, related products and products other customer have purchase are displayed

What gets really interesting about the product detail page is the use of tables showing variants of the product. This hammer drill has 4 different variations, and it is easy to compare the differences between products to make sure you are selecting exactly what you are looking for.
grainger-product-detail-multiple1

One customer who uses the site said this

[…]Easy to navigate, organized browsing (alphabetically by part or application), and secure checkout, Grainger.com has everything you’d expect from a professional and efficient site. Shipping is fast thanks to locations in several states and packing lists accurately reflect the items you have purchased. When you need it, need it right, and need it soon, use grainger.com. It’s a site you can count on.

And that’s just a small snapshot of the great features of Grainger.com.  They are all about giving their customers the tools to make their job easier.

msc-industrial

MSC Industrial is one of my favorite sites. MSC Industrial Supply is one of the largest direct marketers and premier distributors of Metalworking and Maintenance, Repair and Operations (“MRO”) supplies to industrial customers throughout the United States. MSC employs one of the industry’s largest sales forces and distributes over 500,000 industrial products from over 2000 suppliers to over 300,000 customers. During Q2 of 2014, E-commerce rose dramatically at about 26% to $309.59 million from $244.45 million a year earlier.

They have spent a tremendous amount of time on customer experience and optimizing their site for their customer base. Searching is extremely robust, and they have recently moved to a visual catalog navigation like Fastenal and McMaster. Like the Grainger example above, MSC employs most of the B2B customer experience best practices.

SEARCH TYPE AHEAD

I love when typing in part numbers into their search box, type ahead matches to MSC numbers, competitor numbers, and manufacturing numbers for easy cross reference searching. Check out the type ahead below.
msc-search-type-ahead
The refinements and guided navigation options are crazy good and detailed.  Check out this experience with the level of refinements and product facets available.

mcmaster-carr-logo

Long considered a standard in B2B e-commerce, McMaster features visual navigation and lightening fast response on all pages. Outside of providing a great experience, one of my favorite parts of the site is the inline add to cart and the responsive message you get after adding to cart. It tells you where it will ship from and that you still can get it shipped today.

mcmaster-add-to-cart

fastenal

Over the past 47 years, Fastenal has grown from a small-town fastener shop, to a thriving regional business, to North America’s largest fastener distributor, to the world’s most efficient supplier of OEM, MRO, and construction products.
Like McMaster, Fastenal has a product centric and visual home page. The imagery is centered on the products and categories, directing customers directly into their catalog. Great search and very rich and detail refinements in navigation. Instead of vertical navigation and refinements, they have instituted horizontal refinements in order to maximize the screen.

PARAMETRIC SEARCH & NAVIGATION

Fastenal displays their navigators horizontally, and like the others above, their facets are very detailed. Engineers to find this type of navigation (seen below) very intuitive to use.
fastenal-guided-navigation-refinements
Fastenal is a great example of a b2b e-commerce website.

carolina

Since starting in 1927, Carolina Biological Supply Company has grown to become a leading supplier of science teaching materials. Today, from our headquarters in Burlington, North Carolina, we serve customers worldwide, including teachers, professors, home-school educators, and professionals in health and science-related fields.

Carolina is not what you think of when you think B2B E-Commerce, and yet they embody all of the B2B best practices.  Their talented digital / e-commerce staff has continuously improved the user experience making it easy for customers to do their job. All of the most-used features are all one click away on the top right corner: My Account, Service, Lists, Quick Order and the Cart.
carolina-biological-home-page
Searching brings back both merchandised products and resources like how-to documents, videos and multimedia.

Personalization

Carolina segments their customers and gives them a different experience based on that segment.  For example, an elementary school buyer gets this home page.

carolina-elementary-page
Meanwhile, a college buyer gets this home page

carolina-college-home-page
Another way Carolina personalizes the experience is by providing pre-configured shopping lists created by their on-staff scientists and educators.  With one click, institutional users can fill their carts with everything they need for a particular area of study.

carolina-pre-configured-lists
In addition, Carolina.com has punchout with Ariba, SciQuest, ESM and many more.

This is Chapter 3 in The Guide To B2B E-Commerce. If this is your first visit, consider checking out the guide next.
Chapter 4: The Secret to B2B E-Commerce

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