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The Difference Between a B2B and B2C eCommerce Buyer

by Matt Johnson, on Apr 28, 2021 8:28:48 AM

Are you thinking about building an eCommerce website for your traditional distribution business? Pump the brakes! Before you touch one line of code, let's make sure you know who you're building it for.

B2B ecommerce simplifies the shopping experience for sellers. Instead of placing orders by phone or email during specific business hours, buyers can place orders online at any time.

In fact, 74% of B2B buyers say that buying from a website is more convenient than placing an order with a sales representative, and 57% of B2B customers want access to their accounts online, according to Forrester.

It may seem like an obvious question, but do you know who your customers are?

Many traditional distributors are business-to-business resellers. Meaning, you purchase items directly from a manufacturer or wholesaler, and you sell those items to other businesses.

However, some distributors sell directly to consumers (business to consumers), while others sell to both consumers and businesses.

So, what's the big deal?

You need to understand the fundamental differences between B2B and B2C eCommerce customers. Both customer types are unique and have distinctly different requirements. It is important that you choose the right path for your business based on your customers’ needs and not some fad or slick marketing message.

Off-the-shelf eCommerce platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce might be inexpensive, but they fall completely short of sophisticated B2B buyer requirements. A bad customer experience is a huge waste of your time and money. Not to mention, it's a terrible hit on your reputation.

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Professional Buyers vs. Amateur Buyers

The first of the two types is B2B (Business-to-Business). B2B customers are professional buyers. They’re not randomly walking through the aisles of their local big box retail store trying to find the right part for their project. They are typically purchasing or operation managers who have a lot on their plate. Traditionally, they don’t have time to shop, compare, and price-check every purchase.

Large B2B buyers, which are the kind of accounts that most distributors want, are not buying your products because they want to. They’re buying your products because they are critical to their company’s operations or safety. It’s their job!

On the other hand, B2C (Business to Consumer) Customers are amateur buyers. Despite the fact that purchasing equipment and supplies for their business is important, it is NOT their primary responsibility. Often, this means they are either an end-user or a very small business, such as a contractor or DIY’er.

These buyers might purchase a few items from you occasionally, but because they only need low volume and typically expect a fast delivery, they have a penchant for ordering from the fastest, cheapest source possible (a battle you will may not want to win).

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B2C customers typically don’t value the “personal touch” such as in-person customer service, breadth of products, on-site walk-throughs, and documented cost savings.

As you can imagine, building your website for B2B versus B2C will present two unique sets of challenges. The direction you choose will be up to you, but you should be mindful that most distributors want to build for B2B first, since that is the bread and butter of their business.

Can't you sell to both?

In some cases, it makes sense for a distributor to choose a hybrid approach. This methodology helps when focusing on a specific vertical such as public safety or a horizontal niche like retail plumbing.

If you are going to target this buyer, you will need to create a separate digital branch with it’s own systems, processes, marketing, and even customer support staff. You can share inventory and supplier relationships with your traditional branch, but be advised that this model requires dedicated leadership with a commitment to constant change and organization.

Determining your channel’s focus is the first step in developing a world-class eCommerce website.

Learn more about how to develop a B2B (or B2C) eCommerce website that gets results below!

ecomm-wheel of growth ebook download

Topics:eCommerce

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