E-commerce and B2B in USA: a winning combination

Internet allows a low-cost relationship between very distant SMEs, so e-commerce increases in B2B


Internationalisation SME International marketing International marketing

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Digital transformation has significantly changed the traditional buying habits of companies and consumers. E-commerce, in fact, is revolutionizing both the B2C sector, which targets the final consumer directly, and the B2B sector, designed to sell products and services to companies and professionals.

Therefore the growing importance of e-commerce is a source of enormous potential for small and medium-sized businesses. In fact, e-commerce represents an alternative approach to foreign markets able to mitigate the lack of adequate distribution and investment capacity of companies, deriving from dimensional factors. An instrument that is becoming increasingly strategic also for those companies operating in the industrial goods and components segment.

An analysis of the main Italian trading partners of a basket of industrial goods composed of valves, boilers, motors, pumps and compressors shows how the market share of Italian companies is systematically higher on neighboring markets than on distant ones.
With an average share close to 8% held by Italian companies in neighboring markets, Italy holds a share of just 3% in distant markets, as shown in the graph below. The result could be the indicator of the greater competition that companies face on distant markets. E-commerce might be a strategic instrument for gaining greater market shares, overcoming critical issues linked to the lack of adequate investment and distribution capacity of SME’s.

Italian market share for a basket of industrial goods

Italian market share in neighboring and distant markets
Fonte: ExportPlanning.com

The United States , where the B2B sector is increasingly present in e-commerce, is well aware of this. For years, the web has been a marketing lever for American business companies, in fact, many entrepreneurial realities have landed in e-commerce in the USA .
More and more companies are relying on suppliers who provide an online catalog of products, inserted in the back end of a website by competent personnel in CMS - Content Management System - such as Wordpress and related plugins like Woocommerce; moreover, internal resouces in companies are increasingly digital.
An example of this is UPS, which at the end of February 2019 announced the introduction of the eFulfillment program for small and medium-sized businesses that sell their products online or through a marketplace, providing a platform that allows storaging, packaging and shipping through a simple registration.

The causes for a turnaround in companies are to be found in a change that is involving human resources. Why is it so natural in America to use the web for business? What is the main difference with a country like Italy? People.

The changes in human resources

Since a few years ago, decision makers belonging to the 20-30 age group - the generation born with the Internet and smartphones, the so-called "digital natives" - have entered the American labour market. The mere fact that these people are now a fundamental part of the companies determines an obvious change in business: their digital-based modus operandi is reflected in the way they work in business processes.
American companies keep in touch through offices where the professionals know and use digital for everything. The factor of change at the base of American companies is new generations that are "digitalizing" distant sectors from e-commerce, like the industrial ones. It is a much slower phenomenon in Italy, where marketing offices still count many human resources belonging to previous generations, less accustomed to the speed of technological learning.

For all these reasons, companies that want to successfully sell to American industries, must keep in mind that they need to deal with a context in which digital logics that involve the entire business sector are present. This means that communication changes, even the B2B one, increasingly based on email, instant messaging, video calls and online chats. Today is the Millenials, tomorrow will be the iGeneration and so on.