Consumer and Business eCommerce too often gets shoved under one umbrella when considering website design, conversion analysis, and really how to make your online business successful. Most boilerplate client intake interviews include questions like, “Do you sell anything online?” but the definitive question, “Who do you sell things to?” has just as much influence on the design of a successful solution. In reality, these two online business models besides sharing a common thread of selling online are quite different when you consider their audience & marketing challenges.

b2b ecommerce vs b2c differences for online shopping and selling

1. B2B Online Purchasing is Emotionless

Unlike consumer eCommerce, B2B online sales for the most part are completely emotionless decisions. The person authorizing the purchase will most likely NEVER enjoy or use the product, so tapping into the "I want this" side of their desires is useless. You're sale is made on quality, price, shipping speed & some other benefits such as customer service and forgiving return policies. Focus on highlighting differentiators that will make their jobs easier and you’ll have customers come back again and again.

2. Repeat Business is Your Business

If you have the best product at the best price with the best customer service you'll probably do tremendously as a B2B eCommerce business. Your website cannot help you have the best product or best price - but what a great B2B eCommerce platform can provide you is a web interface that facilitates that amazing customer experience. Having a customer feedback portal, exposing multiple channels of communication including live chat, & order tracking are only a few features that can differentiate you from your competition that might have the same exact products (maybe even at a cheaper price). Streamline the path from homepage to checkout for repeat customers so the activity of shopping for a new provider becomes a switching cost your customer’s won’t want to pay.

3. The Difference Between Shopping & Purchasing

Whether it's a 2T Seed Hopper, N95 Respirator Cartridges, or Water-filled Barricades - B2B customers will know what they want before they get to your website even if they don’t know how to find it. The success of sale depends on how quickly you can get that product in front of them with a price tag that's within their budget. This means opposed to consumer eCommerce websites that put rich browsing UI features up front & center bogging down load time - including suggestive search, OEM SKU search, and other individual-product hot navigation elements that cut to the chase saving B2B shoppers time will increase your visitor conversion.

4. B2B Customers Will Take Fast Over Enjoyable Any Day

Continuing the thought process of putting yourself in the shoes of someone whose work task is to acquire some sort of item for business, time is critical. Whether it’s the actual selection and purchasing or shipping - their business processes may hinge on receiving your product fast. Of course there is a balance when designing any interface, but for the most part B2B customers aren't shopping online because they're having fun doing it - it's part of their job which they'd like to quickly check off their to-do list and move onto other things. Do your customers a favor and factor out those awesome new product videos your social media team but together, the bulky rich media, & whiz bang javascript into supplementary page outside the purchasing experience that customers can browse if and when they have time. Take it to the next level and implement a client portal including a recurring ordering dashboard and watch your repeat business grow.

5. The B2B Online Relationship is Developed Over a Long(er) Time

In general, the purchasing lifecycle for B2B is longer than consumer based eCommerce. Most large organizations require multiple quotes or bids and approval for generating expenses. You should plan on multiple stakeholders engaging your company across a variety channels and think about how you can engage them effectively. Avinash Kaushik hit on a great theme at MozCon this year talking about the realistic channels through which visitors become customers. My takeaway - you should strive to own relationships, not just rent them which is hugely important in the B2B world.

An example of renting a relationship: a company finds you on a SERP during their research phase then have to go back to Google to find you once they’re ready to purchase - you’re effectively allowing your competition a second chance to win their business. They may have forgotten what keyword phrase they originally searched, discovered you through a referral website, or perhaps you’ve stopped bidding on a keyword phrase because it wasn’t producing sales (yet). Whatever the reason, the last thing you want to do is make it difficult for researchers to find your website for a 2nd time when their ready to buy. Incorporating a variety of choices to bookmark, email, print, wishlist your products, engage your brand increases the likelihood you’ll own that relationship lowering the barriers to people finding you again once they’ve gotten purchasing approval. Focus on building distinct relationships with B2B shoppers to maintain a contiguous connection with your brand.

For the most part it comes down to putting yourself in your customer shoes and when it comes to B2B online purchasing speed and price are what get you in the door - increasing switching costs is what keeps you there. Of course your specific online business will have to be tailor-fit to your customers and products but in general these tenants will help you explore how to deliver a valuable experience to B2B customers.

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