The epic battle: B2B vs. B2C ecommerce

Victoria Seymour
January 15, 2019
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House Lannister vs. House Stark; cats vs. dogs; Marvel vs. DC – the struggle is real. And in business terms the new rivalry is B2C vs. B2B ecommerce.

When it comes to ecommerce, you’re always selling products to a person – yet there is a difference when it comes to the type of market and business model you are serving. Read on to find out the differences between B2B and B2C ecommerce are.

Nailing terminology

Business-to-Consumers (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) are two forms of commercial transactions that differ in complexity, scope, scale, and cost. By definition, B2C is a process for selling products or services directly to consumers and B2B is a process for selling products or services to other businesses. As such, B2B and B2C are corresponding to different business model.

Getting down to business: Understanding key differences

B2B and B2C ecommerce are distinct in a number of ways. Their main degrees of separation are: 

#1. Purchasing behavior & rationale

B2C customers buy products or services for personal use. Their purchases are often made in the moment, driven by desire or motivation, happen in short sales cycles, and are due to an emotional and less rational and thought-out response, making the whole process transactional.

B2B customers, on the other hand, make their purchasing decisions based on logic B2B customers will spend a lot of time conducting online research prior to buying products or services and exploring the fine details of a long-term deal, making their sales cycles lengthy and more complex. Their purchasing process is rational and involves frequent re-orders. In fact, according to a recent B2B Ecommerce Trends survey, B2B buyers do an average of 12 Google searches before starting the buying process.

#2. Ecommerce infrastructure

B2C ecommerce involves selling products to consumers directly from a website and requires a simple and straightforward infrastructure to operate. A B2C business system needs a mechanism for:

* displaying products and prices on an ecommerce website to enable customers to browse product information pages
* recording customer details each time they select products and provide information such as their address, and
* accepting payments via credit or debit card upon checkout, and offering different delivery options

B2B ecommerce requires a more advanced and complex business system that is personalized to different customers and capable of:

* displaying only relevant products when a customer logs in to avoid browsing a complete catalog
* providing pricing (eg. offers and discounts) and payment options (eg. bank transfer, PayPal and credit, etc.) per customer
* integrating orders with other systems so that customers can manage purchasing, stockholding, and distribution efficiently, and
* capturing data and generating business reports that provide insights on a customer’s purchasing behaviour

#3. Privacy

While B2C ecommerce provides customers with the same level of access to all products and price points, B2B ecommerce offers more customized privacy settings. B2B ecommerce providers can restrict the per customer visibility of certain:

* product categories
* products (including product variants and options)
* price points, and
* payment options

#4. Pricing

While some B2C customer purchases have high price points, such as cars or luxury products, the majority of B2C price points are much lower than the monthly or annual price points charged by large B2B enterprise software or services businesses, where contracts are routinely in the six or seven figures. As a matter of fact, the average B2C order value is $147, while B2B averages $491 per order.

The higher price point and the longevity of a deal is the reason why B2B customers need more time when making a decision. The latter also involves building consensus among multiple stakeholders at a company.

In terms of the actual price point and payment options, B2B businesses offer customers more flexibility and variety depending on their needs, while B2C businesses follow more standardised and static methods.

Different, yet closer than what you may think

Yes, B2B and B2C ecommerce are significant different in mindset and philosophy, they still share a couple of similarities. Overall, according to research there are a few things that any B2B or B2C business owner needs to provide for their customers when it comes to online ordering.

For example, a user-friendly storefront that makes it easy for them and find products, a platform that allows for promotions and special offers, and a mobile-optimized website, rank among the most valued shared capabilities between B2B and B2C ecommerce.  

What’s more, B2B and B2C audiences may make their purchasing decisions driven by different motives, yet people are still people. This means that both B2B and B2C marketers and salespersons need leverage psychology so as to build a connection with their target audience.

Ready to explore B2B ecommerce

Sign up for a free trial account on B2B Wave to get accustomed with the ecommerce universe and explore all the benefits our user-friendly wholesale ordering platform can offer to your B2B customers.

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