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Does Your B2B eCommerce Vendor Treat You Like a Small Fish in a Big Pond?

Big B2B eCommerce vendors may push aside SMBs that don’t have huge budgets. Learn 6 ways smaller, nimble website partners accelerate your eCommerce success.

As a small or medium-sized manufacturer or distributor, navigating the treacherous ocean of eCommerce can be a daunting voyage. This challenge is exacerbated when you work with a B2B eCommerce website partner that doesn't prioritize your business because of your limited size or spend with them. If you feel neglected by your big-name eCommerce vendor, that can have dire consequences for your eCommerce sales and bottom line.

The Risks of Being a Small Fish in a Big Vendor’s Pond

As a smaller distributor or manufacturer, partnering with a large B2B eCommerce website company can seem like a smart move. Their size and reach can help you scale your business. They have lots of experience and best practices.

However, there are 5 key risks that come with being a small fish in your vendor's big pond:

  1. Inadequate Customer Support: When it comes to support, larger customers with bigger budgets often receive preferential treatment. That means that when you need help the most, it may not be readily available. Imagine a situation where your eCommerce platform fails during a critical sales event or product launch, and you're left waiting for support while larger, big-name clients get immediate attention.
  2. “Answers” that Don’t Fit your Reality: Being a small or mid-sized company means that you probably don’t have the big IT teams or resources that enterprise organizations have. This can be hard for big vendor’s to understand, and their “solutions” to your problems may be completely unrealistic for you to execute. For example, they may recommend you change lines of code on your site, but your staff doesn’t have that skillset. So, you’ll have to spend money on website edits and updates that you likely didn’t budget for.
  3. Longer Wait Times: Priority matters in the eCommerce world. When your business is not prioritized, you’ll face longer wait times for routine tasks, bug fixes, or feature requests. This not only hampers your productivity; it undermines your competitiveness in the market.
  4. Little Influence Over the Relationship: Big website vendors hold the cards in your relationship. They'll dictate terms, policies, and timelines. As a small fish in their big pond, you'll lack negotiating power or sway. This can put you at a disadvantage when it comes to contract terms, pricing, and other important aspects of your partnership that have an impact on your operations.
  5. Higher Risk of Channel Conflicts: Large partners work with many companies, including your competitors. This creates a risk of channel conflict if your unique strategy, data and insights are shared, and any market advantages can quickly erode in such a scenario.

Additional Risks with Private Equity-Owned Website Vendors

The risks above can be compounded when your B2B eCommerce website vendor is owned by private equity firms. These entities are primarily focused on operational efficiency and profitability, often at the expense of personalized customer service. In other words, it’s all about the bottom line and not the relationship: Private equity companies may harshly streamline to cut costs, which can negatively impact your experience in the following ways:

  1. Customer Service Erosion: The quality of support services and any extra attention you were getting could evaporate under the pressure to maximize profits. This means that your B2B eCommerce vendor may be less likely to invest in customer support resources or provide the high-quality support you expect.
  2. Decline in Product Innovation and Improvements: Platform innovation investments will be directed only toward the most lucrative enhancements for the biggest customers. Large platforms use more rigid, one-size-fits-all solutions that limit a smaller industrial business's ability to cater to the needs of their customers. Your feature requests will go ignored, as R&D budgets are scrutinized and directed to the needs of the large clients, while smaller client needs are sidelined.
  3. Escalating Costs: Smaller clients often face higher costs due to a lack of negotiated discounts and volume-based pricing. Large customers benefit from economies of scale, which means they can negotiate lower prices.
  4. Technology Gaps: Smaller manufacturers and distributors miss out on cutting-edge technology because the features are first rolled out to the vendor’s larger clients and their requirements. Staying competitive in the ever-evolving world of B2B eCommerce sales requires access to the latest features that your customers expect and your business requires.

You can be a Big Fish with the Right B2B eCommerce Partner

Smaller eCommerce website partners may not have the most recognizable brand names, but they do have the expertise, flexibility, and company culture that prioritizes treating each of their clients with respect and service. You’re not just a number to them; you’re an essential part of their business that supports their teams and their families. Your success is their success. Here are a few other reasons working with right-sized eCommerce partner is beneficial:

  1. Personalized Support: B2B eCommerce partners that actually value your business will provide personalized support and technical expertise, ensuring that your needs are met promptly and effectively. This can be a game-changer when dealing with urgent issues or unique configuration requirements.
  2. Focused Solutions: Smaller, customer-centric partners that are focused on serving your specific industry can provide solutions that are distinctly designed for and aligned with your business realities and requirements. This level of concentration gives you an edge in the market.
  3. Competitive Pricing: Smaller partners may offer competitive pricing and incentives, ensuring that you get the most value for your investment. This is especially important for smaller distributors and manufacturers looking to maximize their budgets and profits.
  4. Faster Innovation: Working closely with a partner that values and understands your business deeply can lead to quicker access to new features and technologies. Your business can remain agile and responsive to market changes, pushing your site ahead of the competition.
  5. Have More Influence Over the Relationship: Because they are more nimble, smaller B2B eCommerce partners can be more willing to listen to your feedback and accommodate your requests. This means that you can have a more significant influence over the terms of your partnership and how the platform or services are built to your needs.
  6. Lower Risk of Channel Conflicts: Working with a smaller vendor typically means fewer channel conflicts, as they are less likely to work with your competitors. This can safeguard your business's unique position in the market.

Avoid Being the Little Guy

As a small to medium-sized business in the distribution or manufacturing space, partnering with a large B2B eCommerce platform may seem like a smart move. The big brand name, resources, and wide reach can be appealing. However, there are real risks that come with being a small fish in a very big pond. From poor customer support to misaligned expectations and longer wait times, these risks can have a significant impact on your business.

Additionally, when your B2B eCommerce partner is owned by private equity firms, the risks can be compounded. Worsening customer service and declining innovation are just some of the challenges you may face. Therefore, it's crucial to be aware of these risks and consider a right-sized partner that truly values your business and supports your growth goals.

In the fast-moving world of B2B eCommerce, the risks of being a small fish in a big pond are real and significant. As you evaluate B2B eCommerce partners, remember to consider not only their size and reputation, but their proven commitment to personalized service and your business's unique needs. Choosing to work with a partner that truly values your business can mitigate risks while offering tailored support, competitive pricing, and faster innovation. Ultimately, your business can thrive when it's a bigger fish in a smaller pond; where your needs are recognized and prioritized.