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B2B vs B2C E-Commerce – What Are the Differences?

Sep 14, 2021

B2C may be leading the way in digital commerce, but B2B sellers need to catch up. What are the real differences and similarities between B2B and B2C businesses in digital commerce?

Buyers demand the same easy, convenient and efficient buying experience regardless if they’re buying for private needs or in their profession. 

Think business-to-consumer (B2C) digital commerce and business-to-business (B2B) sales don’t have much in common? It’s time to think again.  

The buying experiences that customers have in B2C are increasingly shaping their expectations for B2B commerce as well. Much of this is down to the growth of digital in B2C commerce. 

Think about this - B2B buyers are digitally savvy customers in their own right. In their everyday life, they’re used to shopping through digital channels from eCommerce sites to social media to chatbots. This has shifted their expectations about B2B buying journeys. In fact, evidence suggests that B2B buyers might actually prefer a digital buying experience.

B2B commerce companies need to embrace this and put in place the technology needed to create a future-proof digitally-enabled B2B business

This is easier than you might think, especially if you work with the right partner. It’s also vital if you want to keep your customers. 

Digital Is Changing B2B Buying Journeys 

B2B commerce has always been about the human relationship between the buyer and the sales rep. This is still true. But buyers are now coming to those conversations at a later point in the B2B buying journey. 

According to Gartner, B2B customers are already 57% of the way down the purchase path before contacting a sales rep.

modern b2b commerce

If more than half of the B2B buying journey is already complete before the buyer speaks to anyone, how are they getting to that point? Often, it’s through self-directed digital interactions. Clearly, it’s critical that B2B commerce businesses offer buyers the digital features and experiences they expect. If not, they risk losing sales to a competitor that does serve those needs. 

Digital B2B buying experiences also feed into a buyer’s desire for efficiency. The better the initial purchase experience is with a B2B commerce company, the more likely the buyer is to become a loyal customer. Consider how much of your eCommerce business is from repeat customers – can you afford to lose them? 

Repeat Purchases in B2B vs B2C E-commerce  

It’s important to remember that increasing sales can take place in the B2B market without any human involvement at all. 

Modern commerce B2B businesses use API standards to allow their customers’ systems to communicate with them directly, improving customer service. This means that orders for things such as spare parts can be fully automated with the buyer’s procurement system sending the order to the vendor as soon as it detects a need. 

This highlights the need for B2B commerce businesses to put in place the right technological framework to enable these automated digital buying journeys. 

Vendors should make it as easy as possible for buyers to get what they need – not just the first time, but with every return purchase as well.

This type of repeat purchases is already common in B2C where consumers can sign up for a subscription on every day products such as groceries, diapers or contact lenses. The technology and best practice processes are available in B2C, now it’s up to B2B businesses to apply these to the B2B buyer journey.  

Overlooking digital could see B2B businesses lose out on valuable aftersales and repeat business by making it more difficult for buyers to repurchase. 

A Future-Proof B2B Buying Journey 

The key is for B2B vendors to carefully consider the requirements and expectations of their customers, which do often differ from B2C, and build a system that meets those regardless of the route a buyer takes to make a purchase. 

Future-proofing is also a consideration when looking at digital buying journeys. There are ways that B2B commerce companies can approach digital commerce that make it easy to accommodate change – as others have already proven. 

As such, there are really no excuses for ignoring the digital buying experience in B2B commerce.