B2C or B2B e-commerce. What’s the difference?

Why all this talking and writing about Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and the differences between them? Isn’t online simply, or at least mainly, P2P? Person-to-person? The guy who is a buyer for his company is also a person, right? And in the evening at home he buys online for himself as well, right?
Fair enough. It’s about people. Yet we have observed that that are absolutely differences between the way consumers and businesses buy.

In this blogpost we’ll go through some of the main differences between B2B and B2C. At the end we give some recommendations as to how to adapt your B2C webshop to maximize results.

One-off vs Repeat Purchase

B2C is often characterized by the quick one-off buying of smaller or larger goods. That is why the best B2C webshops are geared towards a quick decision making process. One-click-buying. Is it the product you’re looking for? Is the price OK? Will it be shipped in-time? Then buy it now. Amazon is huge because of exactly this. One-click ordering. And once the customer bought it, he doesn’t have to buy it again. Obviously.
We’ll look at some other differences below, but here we want to focus on the ‘one-off’ aspect that is normally not true for B2B buyers. Of course they too need ‘the right product, the right price and the right delivery time’. But there’s more. The B2B buyer wants to be sure that the company he’s about to buy it from can be trusted. Not just for this one order, but can they deliver again next month? And next year? And will it be easy to repeat this order? Or does the whole process need to be repeated?
Following this different interest of the B2B buyer, the way the B2B webshops works and communicates should be different than the classic B2C. Simply ‘click here to buy’ won’t do. Yet, the B2B buyer does prefer to use a website rather than a salesrep (read our other blogpost on this: What about the Sales Rep).
You can read our recommendation on this below.

Single vs Multiple Contacts

B2C e-commerce is often ‘1 person buying from one company’. So, for the selling company there’s just one contact person they have to work with. One name, one address, one email address, one phone number. Simple.
Again, B2B doesn’t work that way. Often there’s a team of buyers within one company. And even more often there are multiple addresses; one PO Box address for the invoice, one office address to send a sample to, one warehouse address to send the goods to, or even multiple address worldwide to ship to.
Needless to say, your B2B company should be able to handle that. But the question is, can your e-commerce platform handle it as well? Can you handle multiple contact persons in your website’s backend? And what about the different addresses?

Standard vs Custom Products

As said before, B2C e-commerce is mainly about ‘find the right product for the right price with the right delivery-time and buy’. So, it’s about standard products. The selling company might have a (virtual) warehouse full of products-in-boxes and merely has to print out a label with the customer’s name and address before it can be shipped. All standard, hopefully all automated.
Generally speaking, B2B is different again. B2B might require the product to have a different colour, a custom logo printed on it, a specific way of packing it, and so on. And these specific demands suddenly turn standard products into a custom-made product. Oh, and by the way, next time it is ordered it might have some different specs again. To make it easier…
Again, is your B2B company able to handle this, and does your e-commerce platform help?
We have some recommendations about this as well, please stay with us.

Assistance, Service and Warranty: Trust

Because there is a difference in repeated orders, there is a different relationship between B2C and B2B suppliers and customers. Though most B2C webshops would give some assistance, service and even warranty to their customers, B2B really needs to go some steps further. And even though most of the communication will be done online, still there has to be some sort of personal connection, a good base for trust. And that not only after the buying is done, this plays a big part in the decision making process.

Prices vs Conditions

Obviously the price is important, for both B2C and B2B buyers. However, where the B2C buyer is interested in the one-off best deal here and now, the B2B buyer is interested in the price and the other conditions. Packaging, shipment, tier-prices, these are all equally important for the B2B buyer. Because he does not only buy a product, he buys security, predictability, stability, for today and the future. Often there’s some sort of contract or NDA that has to be signed, and buying conditions have to be met.
For the B2B seller, this is really different to the classic B2C way of doing e-commerce where the selling companies have their Terms and Conditions that are leading.
Are you ready to serve your customers well?

Payment, Invoice and Tax

Most e-commerce platforms work like this: agree to the price, buy, pay and then we will send the invoice and the products. Typically B2C.
B2B really is different in that the order of steps is different. A typical B2B buyer first wants to be absolutely clear on the product, specifications and conditions. Only after that is clear and agreed, he’s ready to click a ‘buy now’ button. But that’s not when he pays. Or at least not the full amount! Normally a B2B buyers pays within an X amount of days (30, if he’s nice) after the goods and the invoice are in the house. Oh, and the invoice needs to be clear on tax too.
This messes with a whole lot of standard e-commerce platforms! But it’s something that needs to work smooth in order for B2B to be done online in a good way!

Our B2B E-Commerce Recommendations

One of our passions is that B2B e-commerce is done well, and we want to help you to succeed!
So, here are some recommendations to do it better. Just to make it easier we’ll stick to the headings we have used before:

    One-off vs Repeat Purchase

: We recommend that you choose a platform for your B2B webshop that enables you to handle CRM (Customer relationship Management) well. Ideally your customers would have their own login names and passwords to, for example, have access to their company’s order history. It would be good if you could assign different types of customers as well. Most B2B companies work with customer-groups with specific conditions (discounts etc). Often, your customers don’t buy straight away, they need a custom quote first. Propoza helps you with exactly this. This RFQ (request for quote) functionality will keep all the present and past quotes visible for you and your customer so it’s easy to repeat quotes and orders.
When you consider a B2B e-commerce platform, please have a look at Magento, Prestashop and WordPress with Woocommerce. These platforms are solid and offer many plugins that will help you to do your CRM in a decent way.

    Single Vs Multiple Contacts

: Does your B2B e-commerce platform enable your customers to have different (shipping) addresses and multiple contact per company? We think that is quite key for a successful B2B webshop. We recommend that you don’t pick the cheapest platform but the platform that not only meets your needs but your customer’s needs as well!

    Standard vs Custom Products

: If you want to do B2B e-commerce well, this is one of the things you should really pay attention to. Make sure that you customer can configure the product entirely to his specific needs. And not only that, enable him to ask for a quote before he has to hit the ‘buy now’ button. Again, Propoza enables you to handle the RFQ process in a smooth way across multiple platforms. That way you can specify specs and conditions before the sale is done. A great way to build trust!
On a sidenote; when you use Magento as your B2B e-commerce platform, you might want to look into Cart2Quote. These guys offer a similar RFQ functionality, just a bit more advanced than Propoza.

    Assistance, Service and Warranty: Trust: Again, B2B depends hugely on trust. Can you deliver, what happens if something goes wrong? We recommend that you have all information online; your T&C’s but also a decent FAQ list. Having some quotes of satisfied customers helps as well, of course, but don’t make it OTT. We think you should make good promises and stick to them. If your product is really that great then you should be confident enough to give a decent warranty, right?

      Prices vs Conditions

    : We recommend that you enable your customer to nail down all the conditions he finds important before the sale. B2B e-commerce needs that, a RFQ functionality helps you both to agree prices and conditions online. As we wrote before, also B2B buyers want to close the deal rather online than through a salesrep.

      Payment, Invoice and Tax

    : Many standard e-commerce platforms are great, but mainly great for B2C. We recommend that you spend the time and money that is needed to change the workaround to suit your B2B customers! If you don’t, they won’t be able to buy online and that will keep them away from your website and potentially your company. Not good. It may cost a bit more to make the process smooth, but it’s definitely worth it!


    Although both B2B and B2C buyers are both human, your B2B webshop really needs to offer more than the standard B2C functionalities. B2B buyers are not only interested in prices, they also need the right specifications and conditions, and preferably a quote before the deal is closed! We have pointed out that Propoza can be of help with a quote functionality, but choosing the right B2B e-commerce platform for your company is obviously the main thing. We recommend that you have a look at Magento, Prestashop and WordPress with Woocommerce. Any of these will help you get started with a great B2B webshop.

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