Recently I did a post on B2B Marketplaces 2.0. In it, I asserted that one of the reasons that B2B marketplaces might be seeing a resurgence is that B2B marketplace infrastructure can now be bought, rather than needing to be built from scratch. After a little more research, I’m glad to say this is true, but the market for such technology (except payments) is still nascent.
Searching for True B2B Marketplace Infrastructure Vendors
A client recently asked me to help them find vendors of B2B marketplace infrastructure. In searching for vendors to recommend I found many of the vendors have better marketing than products. (Big surprise, huh?!) Many vendors just slap the term B2B on their websites but offering little of the functionality B2B marketplaces need. Most of the offerings were just B2C with a little window dressing.
B2B marketplaces need to be able to accommodate three different types of users:
- Business buyers: need “Amazon-like” search, ability to receive invoices, support for spot buys or RFQs, workflow, and even payments. These buyers ideally need connections to their procurement and/or ERP systems.
- Business suppliers: need to be able to upload complex catalogs and pricing structures that are private to each buyer. These suppliers also need connections to their order management system, PIM, and/or ERP systems.
- The marketplace operator: needs to monitor the marketplace, manage content, take commissions, manage taxes, and integrate to logistics providers The operator also has its own financial system to connect to.
It’s a tall order that AmazonBusiness has only recently, and barely, met. And AmazonBusiness is a vendor, not a software provider.
The Usual B2B Marketplace Infrastructure Suspects
I looked a few places for vendors who could handle the special needs of a marketplace operator who works across buyers and suppliers, but is distinct from them, and yet participates in the transactions. This is the unique requirement of a marketplace.
- E-procurement vendors. I’m sure Oracle, SAP, Coupa, Jaggaer and others could support a marketplace operator, but it is not their primary business. And working with a large vendor outside their primary offering is dangerous. I did find several smaller e-procurement vendors who understand the use case and have customers that look like a marketplace (e.g., franchisees).
- Digital Commerce vendors. I looked at the Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce Vendors 2019 by Gartner. It looks like Magento B2B gives you a toolkit on which to build a marketplace. One or two of the vendors looked interesting, but most of the offerings, including Shopify+, the Shopify B2B offering is a little light on B2B functionality.
- Marketplace vendors. There is a category of marketplace vendors on G2, but most of these are B2C vendors. The one vendor who I thought would stand out, Mirakl, does have a great solution for the back-end of the B2B marketplace operator, but not the front-end buyer shopping experience. You would need to add Magento to make it work.
A “New” Vendor: Uppler
In my search for B2B marketplace infrastructure vendors, I ran across one that I had lost track of, Uppler. It’s a small company out of France, so that will concern US operators, mais je suis un francophile! Uppler has specialized in B2B marketplaces for several years and now has branched out into all three of the above segments–adding e-procurement and digital commerce. This is the opposite of almost every other vendor in the space. Uppler has built marketplaces for a produce marketplace outside of Paris, as well as one for the wine industry in France. They claim to support more than 30 marketplaces across Europe and the US. Uppler now has an office in NY as well.
What I like about Uppler is that right from the start, their materials and products are geared to B2B use cases and the three user types that a marketplace has to address:
Uppler also specifically addresses some of the “table stakes” needs of B2B marketplaces which even AmazonBusiness only recently started tackling: workflow, invoices, non-card payment methods, RFQ, etc.
Uppler is not a client of mine, nor am I an investor. I just think it is fascinating that there is a company out there specializing in a true B2B marketplace offering, as opposed to adapting an e-commerce or e-procurement approach. Am I missing others?