B2B eCommerce is quite different to B2C but that is changing fast. To the regular digital customer it is less understood. Mainly because it is inherently business to business model and thus less visible. So what is B2B eCommerce then? It is sales of goods online between businesses. Chinese, eCommerce giant Alibaba should spring to mind. The target B2B customer profiles are also inherently quite different so what would work in B2C might not apply. With that being said, 2020 showed that the demands of B2B and B2C customers have begun to merge. However, there is a limit to this merger. 

As B2B customers are a different clientele, there is a high level of planning in purchasing decisions required. Indications are the average number of searches by a B2B customer is 12. Many of these customers likely engage with B2C online stores in their personal life. They expect the same customer friendly platform they are accustomed to. A customer friendly website is important regardless of the complex nature of the business.

Supply Chain is a major factor in all of eCommerce but it can be more costly for the B2B customers. These customers often need a B2B transaction for a specific time period that is just in time for production as an example. Products arriving too early or too late can be especially disruptive to the operation of this type of business.

Key difference between B2C and B2B

To make a distinction, it is important to note some features are more vital to B2B and B2C. However the line between both is becoming more blurred as eCommerce has exploded. As noted regardless of the convergence in user habits, B2B and B2C eCommerce in many ways remain quite different. The distinct difference comes in the user experience but in other areas as well. The homepage of B2B sites aim to attract businesses for longer term relations. As opposed to B2C who aim to quickly convert visitor traffic to customers.  A B2B homepage will often contain running carousels that display products and their features. For many, the homepage also tries to redirect audiences to demo’s.

Notably, customer support for B2B eCommerce is also different as B2B businesses will make larger orders. For this reason they opt for a First Contact Resolution which means providing a satisfactory resolution before the end of the call. They are often equipped with 24/7 customer service, live chats and video chats for business queries. More uniquely to B2B is the ability for customers to create quotes. Business can then review, modify, provide discounts, cancel and approve the quotes.

Order Management

B2B Order Management is one of the major features of B2B eCommerce and also distinguishes it. There is a certain requirement that is more important in a B2B system, like the ability to adopt effective multichannel or omnichannel strategies. This gives business the flexibility to manage orders on all available sales platforms. This makes for a much more cost effective system.  Centralized inventory data gives managers enhanced abilities to track global orders and deliveries. This is important in keeping customers satisfied and courting long term business vital to B2B. 

B2B customer purchase on all multiple platforms, on and off line can mitigate logistic issues with a centralized order management system. Even with today’s technology, B2B operations still rely on face to face meetings to a large extent. However, the name of the game is that order management is used to facilitate a faster fulfillment process. Getting orders out as fast as possible. Offline processes are necessary but can be time consuming for both employees and customers.

More robust systems

However, with a more complex order management system, managers can automate many normally time consuming processes. For example, shipping information,  warehouse routing, inventory updates and importantly, fulfillment. This aids the speed of the process and gets order to customers faster and cheaper. One of the unique requirements of B2B is the need to make orders in face-to-face meetings. Platforms like BigCommerce can facilitate cloud-based order management systems. Those with offline mode capabilities, allow an omnichannel approach that enables orders to be taken on the road seamlessly. 

However, SAP‘s order management system is arguably one of the most advanced and robust on the market. It has most of the capabilities mentioned above and some more. For enterprise level businesses it allows them split orders in multiple warehouses which is important for larger or global online operations. It also allows for pick, pack, label, and confirmation of shipments through the Backoffice Order Fulfillment Cockpit. It gives managers the flexibility to create and manage returns, refunds, view fraud reports, payment details, and customer information. 

Volume Purchase and Bulk Discounts

Volume purchase and bulk discount are another unique part of the B2B eCommerce experience. B2B operations often offer clients discounts on bulk orders or features facilitating buying on credit perhaps. B2B online stores must reflect this. DigiCommerce partner Elastic Path recognized this when designing it’s platform. Its channel gives growing businesses an easy way to expand. With these managers can create a responsive online wholesale store with no need for extra development or coding.  For volume purchase and bulk discounts there are some key features businesses must be mindful of. 

Elastic Path also offers B2B managers features like automated wholesale sign up to checkout, wholesale-specific pricing, automated account signups, and order review controls. This makes the process a lot less time consuming. Automating the wholesale process changes also makes business much more adaptable. The goal is for managers to have the freedom to create custom pricing, percentage discounts, and volume-based pricing for customers or groups. An effective B2B operation must also enable customers to purchase, track and reorder products using recurring orders or with the use of the quick order feature. Likewise, it is important for them to review wholesale orders before invoicing.

B2B eCommerce might be complex but customers still need a simplified set up. It must be fast and simple to set up accounts. Some of the major eCommerce platforms gives larger customers this advantage as they can easily use inventory and customer data to make a secure store for your wholesale customers. With an existing online store customers can sync inventory, orders, and customers data. It also allows businesses to set minimum, maximum, and quantity increments by product. This gives managers the tools to order higher order value and volume. They can also apply minimum purchase amounts and integrate 3PL, OMS, ERP, and CRM.

Restricted Access

Restricted access is another important feature especially for larger businesses. From an overall operational efficiency and human resource point of view, it is important to understand it. Restricted access allows only registered customers to access an eCommerce portal. Businesses have control over what information the customer can view. It can give customers a sense of security over their personal data. This feature is used in a number of ways and extends to hiding cart and guest pricing. Ideally, B2C clients want a system that allows prices to be displayed based on the logged in account. This is key for companies that practice customer segmentation based on price. 

Restricted access capabilities extends to catalog restrictions on B2B sites. Product catalogs can be created with items that only present to segments of customers based on customer group assignments. Sellers of different product lines, different customer bases can assign each customer to a group that displays just products that are relevant to them. Catalog restrictions allows B2B businesses to hide products based on who they deem eligible to buy them. Products are made specially for certain customers or provide special edition products that go to specific group of accounts.

Payment and Shipping Type Restriction Access

Payment type restriction access gives the ability to set up different payment types including credit card, PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay, Net Terms, and others. This increasingly is a requirement for B2B online stores with the myriad of payment options available today. Payment type restriction allows managers to decide which customer segment has access to each payment type. This gives them power over how each customer type pays. It also prevented taking any unnecessary risk with the payment aspect of merchandise. Furthermore, allowing businesses to pay on account and having the ability to manage the account maximum or minimums are also important features.

Lastly, restricted access also extends to shipping type restriction access. Different customer types need various shipping options. Some might need popular logistics services like FedEx, UPS and DHL. Others might need more sophisticated options like LTL (less than load) Freight. To guarantee merchants will show the right options to the right buyers, eCommerce platforms facilitate shipping type restrictions.

In conclusion, B2B eCommerce is growing significantly fueled by innovation. However, it is important that B2B businesses whether off or online how eCommerce can boost operations. The features listed above are the major ones that B2B operations enquire about from agencies like DigiCommerce. Perhaps, a mix of customization, configuration or third party application integration is part of the arsenal of DigiCommerce. B2B eCommerce integration is complex and it is important to rely on experts like DigiCommerce.