Each eCommerce project begins with a question: do we need a B2C (Business to Consumer) or a B2B (Business to Business)? A watershed into two worlds that are thought to be completely different and separate.
“You take the blue pill, the story ends; you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” Cit. Matrix
But, are B2B and B2C really two different pills?
B2B commerce can learn a lot from B2C because every commercial buyer is also a consumer: business customers expect their B2B e-commerce experiences to reflect their consumer e-commerce experiences. Attractive design, simple navigation, clear and concise content, the ability to search and compare products, and transparent pricing all play roles in enhancing the experience and meeting expectations. A happy customer who feels cared for is, in all likelihood, a repeat purchaser.
Like B2C, the B2B journey is becoming more complex because buyers are no longer undertaking that journey on a single device: the usage of mobile devices to access the Internet is a well-known trend in B2C. According to the latest research, there are also a growing number of B2B users using mobile devices to place orders electronically. The convenience factor of mobile access is becoming increasingly important. Enabling easy content and product management, in addition to mobile capability and accessibility from the start, will save money and add profit while making life easier for customers and staff.
Like B2C, the B2B buyer is no longer just one person. Marketers get so caught up in leads and numbers, but they’re really selling to a group of people: personalized B2B sites are increasingly important for B2B retailers. A B2B site must address various types of users with quite different needs. The supplier should tailor their B2B site to their clients’ needs, which mean understanding their business needs and purchasing attitudes. B2B suppliers can tailor what they display to their clients based on previous purchases and behaviors. In addition, they can offer simplified repeat orders-functionality or provide favorites or multiple-user accounts. Capturing user identities, presenting onboarding opportunities, and further customizing the user experience by understanding their preferences, are some ways to engage and build customer loyalty.
Like B2C, showing price and availability on a B2B e-commerce is a way to achieve the client’s trust: how much an item costs seems to be one of the key questions clients ask themselves in the purchase decision. Knowledge of a product’s availability is another factor demanded by clients as well, on the whole if the product presents different variations. This information, particularly the price, conveys whether the client is in the right product category, is a key feature in the products comparison, and is needed for planning future purchases as well.
Like B2C, the website should support the many stages of the buying process—including the post-sales stages, which are crucial to customers’ long-term brand loyalty: order-processing is a key element to make the purchase happen online. The engagement starts here by delivering a great user-experience and giving the customer reasons to move online. In many instances, a centralized purchasing function may be ordering for multiple locations, ordering large volumes of products, or may need to manage other buyers within the organization. Giving customers the ability to control access, manage an order, track order status, and make changes on the fly, eliminates phone calls and frees up sales staff time for more productive purposes.
Like B2C, B2B customers now use multiple channels to research and buy products and services. They determine where, when, and how to execute a purchase based on a variety of factors such as price, convenience, and quality — and often mix and match channels to optimize their experience: providing an omni-channel experience means to supply an efficient buying cycle as well as delivering the right information throughout every touch point in order to offer a seamless transaction that improves client satisfaction. Many researches state that clients who buy across multiple channels spend more money and are more loyal than single-channel clients. Embracing an omni-channel strategy offers clients an approach focused on their preferences and business needs.
Like B2C, B2B companies that put the brand at the heart of the business outperform their rivals – because they connect better with customers and staff, they do things better and more efficiently, and they do it differently: having an own-brand identity consists of a set of elements such as colors, typography, and iconography that together helps people to identify the company and its products. Providing a good B2B brand identity has a positive effect on perceived quality, builds a company-power in the market, and helps construct client fidelity, in addition to improving the usage on the client side. In a B2B e-commerce, a well-defined brand identity can add value to both company and brands offered.
Of course the differences between B2B and B2C are there, but are much less than what you may think.