We’re seeing the business-to-business (B2B) world constantly changing and in many ways becoming more like the business-to-consumer (B2C) eCommerce model. A high percentage of businesses fall under the B2C category, where they sell products and services directly to the end consumer. B2B organizations, on the other hand, target other businesses. When it comes to setting up an eCommerce website, the requirements are vastly different.
The average B2B customer now wants to purchase goods online and they expect a similar B2C-like buying experience. As a result, B2B eCommerce platforms are adapting and offering an experience similar to that of an Amazon-like shopping experience. These eCommerce solutions offer traditional easy-to-use B2C features such as search functionality and the ability to apply discount codes at checkout, however, they have expanded to fit the complex requirements of the B2B world. For example, B2B manufacturers and distributors have a need to manage complex pricing, multi-warehouse inventory allocation, and advanced product configuration orders.
If you’re considering investing in an eCommerce platform, it’s important to understand the differences between a B2B and B2C platform—especially if your business operates in both arenas. While some digital platforms specialize in the complexities of B2B or B2C eCommerce functionality, other solutions have the ability to provide both. It’s important to understand the key differences between B2B and B2C before selecting a solution.
So let’s take a look at the 5 key differences between B2B and B2C eCommerce:
B2B customers are typically more complex than B2C customers because they are businesses making purchases in bulk. B2B customers need to be able to be assigned to multiple accounts and often require products to be shipped to and from different warehouses. B2C transactions usually involve the buyer purchasing directly from the merchant, and that’s the end of the transaction. This is a far simpler process than it would be for a B2B customer who may need to research the product, manage shipments, and consider multi-ship-to and multi-bill-to combinations. Therefore, a B2B eCommerce platform needs to be able to handle the additional requirements and challenges of B2B buying.
B2C payments are generally made via credit card, but B2B customers need a far greater variety of payment options. B2B buyers need to have the ability to check their invoice history and AR record, as well as being able to select from multiple integrated payment options. B2B customers often have customer-specific pricing or volume-based discounts, which a robust B2B eCommerce platform is equipped to deal with. If pricing is changed or updated due to bill-to or ship-to information that has been provided, then the customer needs to receive this information quickly and accurately. A B2B eCommerce platform must be able to handle numerous unique pricing constructs in a way that is not required for B2C, so it’s important to choose the right B2B eCommerce platform provider that can build you a platform capable of handling this.
B2B products tend to be far more intricate, with more product variants and customizations. Products can range anywhere from simple consumable products to highly technical and configurable products. Not all products are sold to an end consumer. Sometimes the product that is being sold is a product that is needed to make another product or system, which means that there are often multiple sizes and dimensions to choose from. The customer needs to be able to access information about bundles, dimensions, additional accessories, specification details, warranty information, and so much more to ensure that they are fully informed about the purchase they’re wishing to make.
4. Search Functionality
Advanced search functionality is essential to any B2B or B2C eCommerce site. B2B customers require a search function that allows them to search, filter, and sort search results to help them to find their desired product. The search function makes the customer buying experience far simpler and easier to use, rather than customers having to search through pages of unrelated products. Although both B2B and B2C often use a search function, more advanced search capabilities are usually required for a B2B, due to the number of search results a customer could be presented with. Due to the number of variations of some of the products of a B2B, customers could be presented with a large number of search results, so having the ability to filter if they have ordered that product before, or searching for specific sizes and dimensions, for example, could be extremely beneficial for a B2B customer. Other features such as powerful ElasticSearch, auto-complete and spelling suggestions can be really helpful when customers are searching for a specific product, as well as the use of synonyms to avoid customers from being presented with a ‘no results found’ page.
5. Checkout Experience
The B2C checkout processes tend to be fairly straightforward—you hit the checkout button, enter your shipping address, enter your card details and you’re done! B2B checkouts tend to have far more to consider than this, with multiple-order approvals, billing and shipping complexities, and credit limits all needing to be considered at the checkout stage. The B2B shopping cart needs to be far more sophisticated to allow for the additional requirements of a B2B eCommerce platform while ensuring that the checkout process doesn’t become too challenging or overwhelming for the customer. Customer-specific pricing and discounts need to all be in order at the checkout stage to ensure the customer is being presented with correct pricing, and sometimes custom orders may need to be quoted. Customers should be able to provide as many details as possible, making it easier for a sales or customer service representative to respond quickly, via the B2B eCommerce platform so that the customer can return to the platform to retrieve the quote and simply add it to the basket if they would like. The checkout needs to allow for multiple shipping options and locations, and also offer multiple payment options, which is different from the usual B2C checkout.
Connect B2B and B2C eCommerce in One Centralized Platform
Although the B2B world is becoming more B2C-like, there are still many differences between the requirements for a successful B2C and B2B eCommerce platform. The complexities of a B2B eCommerce platform are far greater and there is a lot to be considered when going digital, so be sure to choose an eCommerce vendor that can accommodate these demands. At commercebuild, we specialize in building scalable, reliable ERP-integrated eCommerce platforms that connect both B2B and B2C operations. With over 15 years of experience successfully creating 400+ sites for both B2B and B2C companies, our eCommerce experts understand the differences between the two and recognize that the platforms require different functionalities and features. Take a look for yourself by checking out some of our customer success stories.
If you’re considering investing in a digital B2B and B2C platform, it’s important to choose an eCommerce platform that has the out-of-the-box functionality you need to be successful online. Our turnkey B2B and B2C eCommerce software is designed to integrate with your current ERP software and includes a personalized customer portal for accurate payment and order management from anywhere. Book a demo below to find out how we can enable seamless online buying and selling in 60 days or less!