B2B in eCommerce: What’s the Same, Different vs. B2C

When people hear the word eCommerce, a certain vision often comes to mind – Amazon, eBay, and other very successful, very veteran brands have helped define what an eCommerce experience should look like. But when it comes to the focus of B2B in eCommerce, there’s some aspects that have picked up the baton from B2C eCommerce that are common to both, whereas there’s other elements that are specifically designed to improve the B2B buying experience.

At its foundation, there is a different goal for each: B2C eCommerce is designed to be browsable, encourage shopping, and encourage cart growth. B2B eCommerce is designed to be quick, functional and transactional. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t common ground to be found between both.

So today, let’s take a look at what aspects of B2B eCommerce can be shared with the B2C experience, while noting what is more unique to the B2B experience. We’ll look at 5 things that are the same or similar, and 5 things that are more specifically B2B.

B2B in eCommerce: 5 Aspects Similar to B2C

Let’s start by looking at 5 ways that B2B and B2c eCommerce have common ground. The exact implementation may differ, but the general concepts will be the same.

Self-Service Ordering

B2B buyers have already generally had extensive familiarity with placing their own online orders for themselves on websites like Amazon. But historically, B2B purchasing has been a path most often supported by a human being on the other side, whether ordering through a catalog, calling up on the phone or working with a sales rep in person or via email.

But self-service ordering is quickly becoming important to many buyers. A McKinsey survey conducted in 2019 indicated that more than 60% of buyers prefer to research, order and re-order in a self-service model, compared to a minority of buyers who preferred a directed approach, and this was before the pandemic helped a lot more people get acclimated to online purchasing.

Specific to B2B self-service ordering is the need to see customer-specific pricing, catalog, shipping and billing information. However, once that information is properly surfaced, a self-service purchase can be enabled in similar ways.

My Account: Order Tracking and Customer Management

Buyers have become used to being able to review existing orders and manager customer information on B2C eCommerce websites, and so that expectation has quickly become something expected of B2B eCommerce as well.

At a minimum, your buyers should be able to check the status of their open orders, update their billing and shipping information, update payments saved on file (when allowed) and make other basic changes that let them keep their account information current and know what’s happening with their orders.

The My Account section will get expanded in a B2B eCommerce environment; when we get to what’s different we’ll delve into that aspect of things specifically.

Discovery Element to Your Entire Catalog

Generally speaking, B2C customers will look around at what a store has to offer more often than a B2B customer will. But just like your printed catalogs would convey information to those looking to get more information, your B2B eCommerce website or order portal is now the modern equivalent of this, and so when your buyers need to look up information or learn what other products are in your catalog, this is the way they’ll accomplish this.

As such, B2C-centric opportunities like recommending related products, along with more B2B-centric catalog presentations such as a table view approach, will help surface information. You can also offer product attachments with non-image product information like spec sheets for more detailed product information on the website.

Zoey customer Manamed uses the opportunity to present recommended products as a way of educating about other offerings to existing customers:

Erik Lorenz ManaMed“Most of our customers only buy 2-4 products out of our 58 products because they would previously only buy what they are directly sold. Now, while they are in Zoey, they can see our entire product lineup as well as recommended products and related products. This has opened the door to more sales conversations which is a big advantage to us.”

Erik Lorenz, Chief Information Officer, ManaMed

Public-Facing Website Opportunity

Some B2B eCommerce businesses will build a public-facing B2B website, while requiring registration to see pricing or make purchases. This allows a balance between exposing your offerings to new potential buyers, while keeping proprietary information private.

This is a careful balance of having an SEO-driven approach that uses your product catalog as a way of getting deeper tentacles into search engines like Google, while encouraging potential buyers to create accounts.

Direct to Consumer Segment

Many B2B eCommerce businesses are accepting direct to consumer orders, effectively running a hybrid of B2B and B2C on a single website. In this format, the public-facing website is augmented with consumer pricing as opposed to B2B pricing.

Wholesale and distributor buyers can log in and be shown their own pricing and terms, and can even be presented with a B2B-centric order portal while your B2C customers can be shown a more traditional website.

Many traditionally B2B-focused businesses are adapting to offer direct-to-consumer options because research has shown more than half of potential B2C buyers research at brands’ or manufacturers’ websites, and a similar number have shown interest in buying there too.

For some brands it’s an opportunity to build a deeper, and more direct, relationship with their core audience. As such, having a solution that can support such an option can be an added bonus.

B2B in eCommerce: 5 Aspects Unique to B2B

Now that we’ve looked at The ways B2C and B2B eCommerce can overlap, let’s look at areas of B2B in eCommerce that can be more specific to the wholesaler, brand and distributor relationship.

Salesperson-oriented tools

The most obvious, and something mentioned earlier, is the ability for a B2B eCommerce solution to support salespeople and their ability to work with their buyers. This can be in simple ways, like ensuring proper attribution of orders to salespeople, and the ability for salespeople to be focused specifically on their customer list in an administration area.

More comprehensively, this can be tools like a mobile-specific sales rep app that allows them to take orders wherever they are, on the device of their choosing. This can also be being able to create Sales Quotes that are sent to their buyers for approval, simplifying the ability to build and get confirmation and payment for orders, with accuracy verified in real time as part of the approval process.

Multiple buyers on one account

In a B2B eCommerce environment many businesses have multiple buyers that need to be able to place orders on behalf of a single account. This means having a more complex company/account structure that allows for an administrator to add/update/remove buyers, as well as the ability to approve orders created by those buyers to ensure it meets company standards.

This is where a My Account section will evolve to be more functional for B2B eCommerce, by having areas to approve orders, manage buyers and other B2B-centric information. This still means having a self-service approach for those who want it, and similarly having salespeople and customer service support for those who’d prefer a more directed approach.

Unique payment methods, including Buy Now Pay Later

While credit card payments reign supreme regardless of eCommerce type, B2B businesses tend to manage payments in other forms, whether it be Purchase Orders, Net Terms or other Buy Now Pay Later opportunities, or even accepting checks in the mail.

A B2B eCommerce solution will allow more granular control over payment options, and even which customers are given which options. It may also allow for credit limits on orders with Buy Now Pay Later opportunities, and tools to restrict orders when invoices go past due. This could be supported by Accounting integrations such as to QuickBooks Online, or managed internally within the eCommerce solution itself.

Bulk buying capabilities

B2B orders tend to be larger and more transactional, so having easy ways to build large, complex orders is a bread and butter capability of B2B eCommerce solutions. This can be done in a number of ways:

  • Quick Order forms can allow easy entry of SKU/quantity combinations in a speedy fashion, whether typed in or pasted from a CSV.
  • Table view can allow for a catalog-like presentation of a category or product variations for easy entry of quantities of multiple items to be added into a cart at once.
  • Another product display option for complicated products is a matrix view, showing the various combinations a product can be purchases (best when two options differentiate one variation from another) and then the quantities can be entered into the matrix, and added to the cart all at once.
Regular/recurring reorders of same SKUs

Another standard feature of B2B eCommerce for many businesses is that they sell SKUs that are regularly ordered and reordered by the same customers. Given that scenario, making reorders and recurring orders simpler is a key way B2B eCommerce can prove successful. This can include:

  • Reorder buttons to quickly recreate a previous order
  • Recently ordered lists that let buyers see the SKUs they most recently ordered, for easy access to reorder
  • Recurring options, where it makes sense to have automatic reorder and delivery of items ordered on a cycle

Zoey Can Help You Deliver B2B in eCommerce

Zoey’s solutions are built to empower brands, wholesalers and distributors to deliver a modern, fully-featured B2B Commerce experience. Talk to our Success Team to see how we can help you move your business forward:

Talk to the Zoey Success Team

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