B2B versus B2C eCommerce
Traditionally when you think of eCommerce you think of Amazon and other major retailers like Wayfair. What most people don’t realize is that actually far more eCommerce is transacted to businesses than to consumers online and it’s not even close. According to Digital eCommerce 360 B2B, US eCommerce sales surpassed 1 trillion dollars in 2018 and are now much beyond that. B2C eCommerce sales were only 540 billion in 2018, barely more than half of B2B online sales.
I would bet that some of this is underestimated since there are probably many small businesses that simply buy on Amazon etc but those sales get counted as B2C sales.
Larger B2B companies like Watsco are starting to evolve and turn more and more sales over to eCommerce.
So What’s The Difference?
Businesses expect a lot more than consumers do when it comes to buying from a vendor. They might have purchase orders, many different people buying, want special delivery options, special pricing, and much much more. The complexity of business buying is far more advanced than consumer buying because of the volume and scale. Major retailers like CSV are going to demand a lot from vendors in terms of how they get product and simply asking them to buy via basic retail pricing on a website is not going to cut it.
Key B2B eCommerce Features
So what are the key B2B features? Many of these are somewhat exclusive to B2B and are far more complex than the normal B2C site. Here are some key examples:
Personalized Pricing: You can’t just offer retail prices. Some B2B companies go as far as to offer complex tiered pricing, one to one customer discounts, and complicated customer group discounts. Pricing can get super complex when you are talking about many customers with different prices and hundreds of thousands of products.
ERP & Back Office Integration: ERP systems are integral for B2B. Back office processing is typically much more complex and requires much more tight integration into eCommerce. You can’t simply download orders etc. It might require many touchpoints that make integrations become a massive undertaking and process.
Request a Quote: Often times B2B buyers want a special quote and price. They might want to add to the quote and submit a quote and then get a number back. Then they can buy that quote through eCommerce. Cart 2 Quote has done a good job of this.
Requisition Lists: Requisition lists are essentially B2B wish lists. A buyer might be out to build a list and price out a list that needs manager approval. Think of this as B2B wish list for buying larger orders for say a future job in the future like construction.
Corporate Accounts: Having a basic user account is not enough. Your customers might have 100 users and they all need to roll up to one corporate account.
Freight Shipping: Simply shipping as if its a small retail package won’t work most of the time. These might be pallets and huge orders. Shipping and estimating shipping in real time becomes much more complex.
Multiple Payment Methods like Purchase Order: You can’t simply offer payment by card. Companies will expect to be able to pay with credit lines, PO’s, credit cards, and much more.
Credit Lines: Many B2B customers will expect credit lines and credit terms. It’s important to be able to offer this as a payment method. Ideally, you want them to be able to pay down credit lines online too.
Massive & Complex Catalog Support: B2B catalogs are often much larger than B2C and supporting them is harder. Often times they need to get data from many different sources and aggregating this all for eCommerce is challenging.
Personalized Catalogs: Some B2B customers might want specific catalogs. You may need to personalize catalogs to certain B2B customers.
Order Approval: B2B purchasing is complex. You might have customers creating orders but they can’t actually make them. Their manager might have to approve them. You may need customer approval ordering process as part of your eCommerce workflow.
There are many ways to grow with B2B eCommerce but you need key features like these.
Key B2C eCommerce Features
Reviews: Reviews are much more critical for B2C sites than B2B, not that reviews can’t help B2B sites.
UGC Content: Its good to have some user generated content to show off your brand in use.
Customization Capabilities: Customizing products and allowing for selection to be based on size, color, and even personalized via more advanced means such as the Nike shoe customizer can help drive more retail sales.
Personalization: Some level of personalization might help drive more sales such as catering to gender, age, clothing size, past purchases etc.
UI & UX: The design and story telling of a site is much more important for B2C than B2B. B2B sites can be very effective with a more basic design that functions well.
Wishlist: Wishlist can be critical to have customers find what they want and save for later. A lot can be done to use wishlist to grow sales.
Rewards & Promotions: Rewards & promotions are often key drivers of B2C sales.
Email Marketing: Email marketing such as abandoned cart, transactional emails, etc are critical for growing trust and brand loyalty.
Social Media & Google: The reality is a lot of B2C eCommerce is influenced by Facebook and Google. Most B2C companies do not do well if they can’t get these platforms right.
As you can see B2C is typically much simpler and more about building a brand. Typically the success of B2C is more about marketing and building a strong audience than all the operational challenges B2B has. Not to say that B2C isn’t hard but a B2C site can easily do millions of dollars without many complex features. In the B2B world, this is often not the case.