The takeover of two iTeam system houses by Cyberport at the end of October highlighted a trend that is not all that new: Almost all major electronics mail order companies not only have end customers in their sights, but have also been serving business customers for years. And the increasing online competition in the electronics segment, where competition is no longer just Amazon but increasingly also MediaMarktSaturn, is increasing the relevance of B2B business. A solid business transaction makes it possible to cushion fluctuations in the B2C area – or even to make yourself completely independent of the highly competitive end customer business.
Cyberport is not that far yet. The electronics mail order company makes a large part of its 2020 annual turnover of 620 million euros (source: EHI Retail) in the B2C sector. Cyberport was also able to benefit relatively well from the Corona sales boom with an increase of 10 percent. But especially during the pandemic, the online retailer’s 16 stationary branches are likely to have become more of a burden. The fact that three locations are shop-in-shops at the troubled warehouse group Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof should not have really been helpful either. It is therefore convenient that Cyberport has been operating a separate business customer area for many years, with individual contact persons, net prices and preparation of offers. The takeover of the two iTeam system houses now further strengthens this B2B pillar. “Together we want to build a leading IT services player for small and medium-sized customers in Germany in the coming years,” says Cyberport parent company Burda. The fact that the electronics mail order company recently announced that it would be strengthening the service business with Kai Hollensteiner, who has just been appointed to the management board, from April 2022, further underscores these ambitions.
Notebooksbilliger.de (NBB), still the largest real electronics mail order company in Germany with sales of 812 million euros in 2020, is already at least as advanced in the B2B business as Cyberport. Under the direction of co-founder Sascha Crocoll, the company built up its own business customer area as early as 2000, first in Karlsruhe and later also in Potsdam. “The B2B business accounts for a relevant share of our total turnover, which has remained stable for years,” explains Martin Schwager, COO at NBB. It quickly became apparent that there were various B2B requirements: In order to win large business customers, you had to take part in tenders, sometimes create individual connections to their SAP and provide long-term, close support with key accounts.
Small and medium-sized business customers are no less interesting for NBB due to their size, explains Schwager, but they are listed as ordinary online customers who, after registering, can buy at net prices in the business customer area of the shop. “There are definitely differences to B2C customers when it comes to the payment options,” reports Schwager. “We offer business customers our own invoice purchase solution as well as leasing options.” As part of the current switch to a Shopware shop, NBB is also planning additional functions for business customers. This included features such as the creation of several customer accounts for one customer, the creation of collective invoices and, in general, the display of different product ranges for B2B and B2C customers. “In the future, we also want to open up the topic of e-procurement for us,” explains the COO of Notebooksbilliger.
Not only the major electronics mail order companies, but also Europe’s largest electronics retailer has recently started targeting business. Two years ago, MediaMarktSaturn announced for the first time that it wanted to target business customers in a targeted manner. The focus is primarily on small and medium-sized companies, but also on educational and health institutions and public administration. The business partners should receive advice on tailor-made solution packages directly on site from specially qualified B2B managers in the Media Markt and Saturn stores, supplemented by specially trained nationwide customer advisors. “There is an enormous need for new technology solutions and solution-oriented advice – for example, a medium-sized company that wants to equip its conference rooms with modern video technology or the school that is getting ready for digitization with new technology. That is why we are pushing ahead after a successful test phase Expansion of our B2B business and create our own, nationwide professional advisory service “, explained the then Germany boss of MediaMarktSaturn Florian Gietl.
These ambitions were underlined by a prominent personality: In May, Telefonica manager Alexander Rupprecht came to the retailer as B2B manager. He is to expand the B2B activities of Media Markt and Saturn across Germany. “” MediaMarktSaturn Germany has already laid a strong foundation in advising business customers over the past few years. I’m looking forward to being able to build on that, “said Rupprecht when he took up his new position.
The example of Conrad Electronic shows what dynamism the B2B business can assume for a retailer primarily focused on end customers to date. While the modernization steps in B2C business such as the digital pilot branch in Berlin-Schöneberg only sparked off to a limited extent, Conrad’s B2B online marketplace, which was launched in 2017, developed into a real success story from the start. Ralf Bühler, who joined Conrad in 2019 as Chief Sales Officer B2B and has been CEO of the electronics retailer since the beginning of the year, made a name for himself as a clear advocate of a new “business first” orientation: “Trading in the B2B segment has always been one for Conrad important mainstay. Since there was a change in procurement behavior towards online procurement channels on the part of our B2B customers, we adjusted to this early on in order to meet the demands of our B2B customers. “
In the meantime, over 300 vendors sell more than six million items from more than 5,000 brands on Conrad’s B2B marketplace. “We offer our customers detailed search filters that are not available on a non-industry-specific marketplace. We have also created connections for B2B customers who do not buy via our website but via e-procurement solutions,” says Bühler, explaining some of the advantages of the B2B marketplace. More than 2,000 business customers are already connected with e-procurement purchasing systems. This also makes the Conrad marketplace attractive for manufacturers who do not even have an online shop. “By appearing as a seller on our marketplace, you get access to a very high target group-relevant range – and that without the infrastructure costs for your own online shop,” says Bühler.
The Conrad example shows how far a company that was previously geared towards end customers can move in the direction of B2B. For a highly specialized system house, this may not be of great importance. For IT service providers, however, who are mainly focused on hardware and low-threshold services, the threat situation looks very different. In the future, you will have to deal more and more with new competitors such as Notebooksbilliger and MediaMarktSaturn – not to mention the new Cyberport system houses.