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e-Commerce Industry News

July 3, 2017
B2B and B2C eCommerce: What's different and why it matters
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July 3, 2017
Business buyers and consumers: Are these truly separate types of audiences, or merely different sides of the same coin? This is a relevant question as eCommerce sellers get more specialized and targeted in their outreach. Furthermore, it inspires a host of follow-ups: Are there some practices that work in the B2C sector but not B2B? Is the opposite true? Should merchants in the two markets be emulating one another? The questions about best practices become even more complex when companies operate in both spheres.

Looking into the specific demands of buyers in the B2C and B2B sectors brings a little clarity to eCommerce best practices. As will all kinds of commerce, the audience is the key variable. Companies would be nothing without their consumers. Organizations that fail to take evolving demand into account may lose their relevance.

B2C becomes a B2B template
When merchants have taken their consumer-centric sales operations online, they've harnessed the online environment to collect and use as much data as possible. This lets eCommerce companies target their shoppers with extreme precision and deliver experiences and products that suit individuals' interests.

According to Martech Series, this approach provides a great template for improving B2B sales online. Because people are shopping for companies instead of themselves, personalization seems less natural, but it's still people doing the shopping, meaning good customer experience is a relevant consideration.
ECommerce's role in the B2B world is expanding - and so is the market. ECommerce's role in the B2B world is expanding - and so is the market.

Instead of just copying the B2C playbook in the B2B sector, Martech Series called for marketers to alter the processes for their own ends. That means targeting a host of buyers at various roles within companies. Making a B2B purchase often takes more than one person, as opposed to the B2C model of simple transactions. Furthermore, the source emphasized that it's especially important for B2B sellers to track buyer behavior across many different digital channels, forming a complete picture.

The opportunity grows
The above focus on using B2C targeting tactics in a B2B environment fits in with a pattern observed in data from the market. As The Manufacturer pointed out, Forrester polled B2B customers in 2015 and found that 59 percent would rather not primarily deal with a salesperson during the research process - this subverts the long-held model of making calls and getting nurturing leads. The same study found 93 percent of buyers would like to close deals online.

These numbers mean that taking on a friendlier and more focused approach to eCommerce in the B2B space, one based on tactics nurtured in the B2C world, is not just one potential track for marketers and sales teams to follow. It may become a survival strategy, a way to deal with shifting preferences that have begun to reject old-fashioned models. The Manufacturer pointed out that businesses in the manufacturing sector, deep in the B2B supply chain, should embrace easy and positive customer experiences, giving the same excellent service that has become expected in the consumer world.
Are B2B eCommerce buyer habits different from those of their B2C counterparts? Are B2B eCommerce buyer habits different from those of their B2C counterparts?

Comparing the scale
The above examples show what eCommerce businesses can do in the years ahead - make B2B experiences friendlier and more customized, following the lead of B2C trailblazers. The market they're stepping into by making these changes may be historically large, underlining the importance of the moves. According to Customer Think, B2B eCommerce is set to be a bigger market than the B2C equivalent by 2020, at a total valuation of $12 trillion.

While the headlines from the early days of eCommerce have shown it to be focused mainly on the consumer - with Amazon being the poster child for born-online merchants and Wal-Mart serving as the example of a brick-and-mortar business making a serious internet push. That said, all of the innovation that has gone on so far may be a mere prelude to the massive B2B opportunity to come.

Time to adapt
What have we learned? While it's apparent that the B2C world has come further in the quest to serve positive and data-driven experiences to customers, altered versions of these priorities will soon take hold in the B2B world. In the end, B2B and B2C buyers are all people with individual preferences. Companies that sell to other businesses or serve both sides of the equation have a period of evolution ahead of them.