There are two main categories of customers in digital commerce: consumers and businesses. Some businesses sell only to one class, while others may cater to both types of customers. Let’s explore the differences and similarities between B2B & B2C customers and discuss creating a customer-centric ecommerce business.
B2C & B2B – Similarities & Differences
In B2C commerce, a customer is an individual consumer. He has many choices, just a click away. Consumers could be exploring the latest fashion or want to open a new bank account. They always expect great design, marketing content, optimized checkout, promotions, and flexible returns. In many cases, B2C shopping is fun; it is entertainment.
On the other hand, B2B customers come to your site with a very different objective – they have a job to do. They want to accomplish their tasks fast and without mistakes. Productivity is essential to them. The B2B buying process involves collaboration between multiple employees and departments. Digital commerce in B2B requires many special features like a request for a quote, bulk order, customer-specific prices, and approval process. B2B Commerce Canvas explores them in more detail.
While there are many differences between B2B & B2C Ecommerce, they also have a lot in common. B2C commerce has developed many good practices that could and should be adopted by B2B merchants. B2B buyers also appreciate good design and usability, search as you type, filtered navigation, detailed product information, and having access to relevant content.
Here are several examples of modern and well thought through B2B sites.
Quill (a provider of educational and office supplies) and 3DXTech (a 3D printing company) offer good examples of modern B2B ecommerce implementation. They implemented free shipping, loyalty programs, coupons, social media integration, and product-related content.
Customer Accounts and Registrations
On many B2C sites, a consumer can use a guest account and purchase goods or services without registration. Offering a guest checkout brings several benefits:
- Reduces cart abandonment rates.
- It is much easier for mobile users. Each extra form field or step can be a chore for mobile shoppers.
- It gets shoppers straight into payment forms. Without registration, potential customers aren’t presented with a point that makes them stop and think about continuing.
- It makes checkout seem like less work.
There are also some drawbacks, as it is much easier marketing to registered customers to generate repetitive business. We will discuss this topic in more detail in the Checkout section.
B2B commerce has a different approach to anonymous users. Quite often, a guest user cannot do much on a B2B site. For example, a customer could browse the catalog but could not see prices or buy products without login. Some B2B shops require customers to have a contract in place before their employees can buy online. For example, CheMondis, the leading B2B online marketplace for chemicals in Europe, does not show prices and makes a potential customer request an agreement. Pistor, a swiss supplier of fresh produce to restaurants and bakeries, requires customers to register before buying. If you are implementing a B2B site, this is a topic to discuss with your business stakeholders – what unauthenticated users can see and do?
B2C vs. B2B customers’ other difference is that a B2B customer is an organization with a hierarchical structure and different user roles. For example, a manager may have a right to approve purchases done by her subordinates. In the Spryker B2B Commerce solution, B2B customers can recreate their organizational structure and create user accounts for employees with different roles.
Everything you build needs to be focused on customer needs. The company should develop a deep understanding of customer personas, their use cases, their preferred ways of interacting with your business. The customer-centric business should have one goal in mind: excellent customer experiences.
Many companies start the digital commerce journey by replicating their internal processes online. That is a recipe for failure. The way you organize and describe your products for your employees is not sufficient for presenting them online.
Your customers need a different, more user-friendly way of discovering products, placing an order, and tracking its status. Don’t force your internal business processes on customers; rethink every step of the customer’s journey from the customer perspective.
To develop a deep understanding of your customer base, you need customer data, vast amounts of data.
For a data-driven company, customer data is a cornerstone of business success. An organization needs to collect a myriad of data points through every part of the customer journey. Data is an important asset that helps to improve and personalize the customer experience.
Customer data fall into several categories:
Information that identifies an individual or business – name, address, email, login details, phone number, credit card, etc.
In this category, we have some additional data that add to customer profile while not providing unique identification – gender, age, location, job title, etc.
Engagement data tells us how customers interact with your business, includes the customer’s behavior on the website, paid ad engagements, interaction on social media, customer service requests, etc.
Behavioral data includes all transactional data like previous orders, membership in loyalty programs, abandon carts, customer journey through your site (heatmaps -clicks, scroll, mouse movement data), subscriptions, product usage, and so on.
Attitudinal data measure customer feelings and emotions towards your brand and products. You measure that with surveys, focus groups, product reviews, customer complaints, etc. That is mostly subjective and qualitative data that needs to be analyzed when combined with other quantitative data points.
You need to combine multiple sources of customer information: website analytics, social media, tracking pixels, customer registration information, feedback & surveys, and transactional data.
Data are only valuable if we know how to generate business insights from them. That brings us to Big Data technologies and data analytics. Big Data is one of the buzzwords in IT that refers to using statistical and machine learning techniques to analyze large data sets to reveal patterns and trends in customer behavior. Your development team should include data scientists to do it.
Based on customer data analysis, you can define multiple customer segments to personalize the shopping experience. There are various approaches to customer segmentation.
- Behavioral data: how a shopper engages with your brand and products on your site, through social media or other channels.
- Geographical data: postal address, IP address
- Psychographic data: lifestyle, personality, social class, values, and so on.
- Demographic data: gender, age, religion, education, income, marital status, and occupation
- Membership: shopping club, loyalty programs, etc.
- Firmographics (the B2B equivalent of B2C demographic data): business size, company location, industry, and so on.
- Customer tiering: how much revenue you can expect from them or the best sales and marketing strategies you use to reach them.
- Based on Needs: what they are looking for in your products.
- Customer Sophistication: customer awareness of the problem your products solve.
Personalizing Customer Experience
Customer segmentation allows you to personalize many aspects of customer experience: product assortment, prices, promotions, marketing content, available payment, and shipment methods.
Shopify recommends considering seven personalization tactics:
- Leverage intelligent Product-Detail Page recommendations
- Show continuous shopping for returning customers
- Create Personalized bestseller lists to drive click-throughs
- Integrate User-Generated Content
- Retarget In-Session based on behavioral triggers
- Time social retargeting with smart recommendations
- Automate personalized emails
- Read more about ecommerce personalization in the excellent blog by Barilliance
Courses for Professionals Building Ecommerce of Tomorrow
Digital Commerce for B2C Business
Digital Commerce for B2B Business
Mastering CX in B2B Ecommerce
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