"The core difference between B2B and B2C is that in B2B, the individual researching and buying has a job to do. They don't want to be there, necessarily — they have to be there. It is their job."
— Justin King, General Manager of B2B at Salsify, Former president of B2X Partners
Isn't ecommerce just ecommerce regardless of business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B)? This question comes up a lot when laying out the differences between B2C and B2B strategy.
To address it, you must first look at the differences between these two types of customers. The B2C customer is looking to solve a problem — or maybe just buy something they want.
The B2B customer is an individual that is on your site because they have to be there. They may not want to be on your website — it's their job to be there.
Make B2B Customers' Jobs Easier
It's a job they do every day, nine to five. In his book "How to Win at the Sport of Business," American entrepreneur Mark Cuban said that in the workplace — more than anywhere else — people look for the path of least resistance.
Cuban means your ecommerce strategy needs to be about making your customer's job easier. If your customer can do their job easier with you, they will come back — and if they come back, they will spend more.
This distinction is why a B2B strategy looks very different from a B2C strategy.
A recent B2X Partners survey asked electricians in the U.S. what they consider the best website to research and purchase electrical products. Surprisingly, the majority prefer the Rexel site Platt.
Platt looks like it was built in the early 2000s. It's very basic and looks elementary. But the utility of the site is an A+. It's effortless to find the information you are looking for (i.e., search), and the product content is excellent.
For B2B customers, utility trumps user experience and design. "Focus your B2B strategy on helping your customer do their job, which means focus on utility first," said King.
Complexity Is the Customer Context
Customer differences are essential. But B2B organizations and their buying cycles are also different, as they're typically more complex.
Compared to B2C brands, B2B organizations have:
- Purchase by committee: Seventy percent of B2B purchase decisions include at least two decision-makers, and 28% involve more than five.
- Complex organizations: Organizations can have distributed and central contracts, multiple departments, business units, locations, and users.
- Contract pricing: Each customer can have different and complex pricing per product.
- Custom catalogs: Many contracts dictate more than just price, down to the exact products that employees are allowed to purchase.
- Customers and buyers are different: One user finds the right product to fit the application, while a different user is responsible for buying and approving the purchase.
- Additional tools: Customers need to view and pay invoices, set up users, and check order status.
- System complexity: B2B customers average more than three enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, six-plus order capture systems, and two-plus product data management (PDM) or product lifecycle management (PLM) systems.
- Multiple languages: B2B companies average more than seven operating languages.
- Punch out: While not quite as cool as the game, customers purchase through electronic data interchange (EDI), yet want to shop through traditional methods.
Companies that operate with a B2B model should take the complexity of their business and their customers' jobs into context when building a digital strategy.
What Is the Difference Between B2B and B2C?
Many people think there might not be any difference between B2B and B2C, but the reality is there are significant differences. Watch below to hear King outline the distinctions.
B2B vs. B2C: Different Approach and Strategy
B2B is different from B2C and therefore needs a different approach and strategy. As you and your organization put together a B2B digital strategy, here are a few questions you ask of your organization:
- What segments or industries do we serve?
- Who are my customers in each segment?
- What job(s) are they trying to perform?
- What job(s) could be digitized?
- How can we make it easy for our customers to do their job?
Here are a few resources to learn more about customer journey mapping:
Watch our webinar with Vivian Chang, VP of Growth at Nutranext DTC, to learn more about the pitfalls, the wins, and the strategic lessons of bringing D2C strategies to life.