January 8, 2017, 7:34 PM

The ever-widening range of B2B online marketplaces

Two new portals take divergent routes: One is global with 29 industry categories; the other lets businesses preview potential customers.

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The online business world continues to churn out new online marketplaces, each attempting to build a profitable niche by product category or geographic region.

Two web portals still in beta test form—Touch4Biz.com and ContractorsCustomers.com—take widely different approaches. But that’s not surprising at a time when dozens of B2B online marketplaces have popped up in the past couple of years, with dozens listed in a special report B2BecNews produced last year.

Touch4Biz.com is positioning itself as a global marketplace for seemingly everything and anything under the sun across 29 broad industry categories. Products range from solar panels (as featured today in the main image on its home page) coal gas and crude oil in the Energy category, to baby clothes and women’s fashions in Apparel, and surgical instruments and diagnosis equipment in Health & Medical. Other categories include Agriculture, Food & Beverage, Office & School Supplies, Toys & Hobbies, Home Appliances and Transportation.

Each category breaks out suppliers by such groupings as manufacturer, distributor/wholesaler, trading office and agent; and by the number of suppliers available across the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe.

Touch4Biz says on the site that it offers buyers and suppliers free basic memberships for conducting buy and sell transactions. It also offers premium membership for a fee, and offers such features as language translation services, marketing assistance and customized profile pages for buyers and sellers. The company, which is based in the United Kingdom, did not immediately return a request for additional information on the fees it charges or the number of buyers and suppliers participating on the site.

ContractorsCustomers.com, also still in an early phase of operation, bills itself as an “Angie’s List/Yelp” for businesses, president Scott Carzo says, referring to the ratings and reviews sites where consumers can check the reputations of contractors and restaurants.

Carzo, a landscape contractor, says he launched the site last year to fill what he figured was a need of contractors, manufacturers, distributors, professionals and other small and medium-sized businesses to learn from their peers about how reliable potential subcontractors as well as customers have been in business transactions. The site provides forms and tips on how to write reviews.

Carzo admits it’s a challenge to build up review content, and he declines to provide figures on the number of site users or posted reviews. But through nationwide marketing efforts to businesses through paper mailers, and online ads on Facebook and through paid and natural search listings, the site has been building a following, with most members from the states of Texas, Massachusetts, Florida and California, he says. Although he doesn’t elaborate on why those states have the strongest membership, he notes that once activity begins in an area “word of mouth is extremely strong” as a marketing tool.

“The membership is growing at a strong pace, and we will start charging a fee in the next 60 to 90 days,” he said last week, without offering more details.

Sign up for a free subscription to B2BecNews, a twice-weekly newsletter that covers technology and business trends in the growing B2B e-commerce industry. B2BecNews is published by Vertical Web Media LLC, which also publishes the monthly business magazine Internet Retailer. Follow B2BecNews editor Paul Demery on Twitter @pdemery.

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