More often than not, retail and supply companies typically make a conscious decision early on in their organization’s lifetime:
Should our focus be on B2B or B2C sales?
To be sure, there are many differences in how B2B and B2C companies operate. This goes for both the inner workings of such organizations and the customer-facing aspects of such.
That said, it definitely makes sense that a company’s owners and managers would want to make an “either/or” decision, here.
However, in some cases, it can be beneficial for an organization to serve both B2B and B2C clientele. This is especially true for companies that mainly operate via eCommerce.
Of course, deciding to go this route requires that you put extra effort into catering to the specific needs and expectations of both types of customers. In this article, we’re going to discuss the main ways in which you can serve both B2B and B2C consumers through your eCommerce website.
Start with Proper Segmentation
As we said - and as you surely know - B2B and B2C consumers are very different from one another.
So, if you’ve committed to catering to both types of customer, your first order of business will be to create separate audience segments as appropriate.
With BigCommerce, you can set up separate customer groups to ensure that your B2B customers receive the B2B experience and B2C customers get the B2C experience your company offers.
Proper customer segmentation is, of course, important for any business - but it’s essential for organizations that cater to both B2B and B2C consumers. Without taking this step, accomplishing any of the other things we’re about to discuss will be near-impossible.
Create a Marketing Plan for Both Types of Customer
The way in which you market your brand’s products or services (and its overall value) to your B2B and B2C customers differ wildly.
Your B2B customers - that is, those who are purchasing products specifically for business-use - are mainly interested in how your offering will affect their company’s bottom line.
These customers typically know what they’re looking for in terms of outcome from a specific product or service, so your marketing materials should focus on differentiating your offering from that of your competitors (in terms of specifications, cost, “bang for your buck,” etc.). To do so, you’ll want to focus on the quantitative benefits your offering brings to the table.
On the other hand, your B2C customers - those purchasing your products for personal use - will want to know how your product or service brings value to their life in some way or another.
These customers typically have some sort of pain point or obstacle in their life - one that they may or may not truly understand in the first place. Your B2C marketing content should, then, focus on educating them in terms of the many ways your offering can help them overcome the issues they’re facing. Rather than focusing on the concrete, quantitative benefits your product will bring to their life, you’ll want to focus on showcasing how your product will improve their overall quality of life in one way or another.
Before we move on, it’s also worth reiterating that you want to be sure the right message is being seen by the right customers - which is one of the reasons creating separate customer groups is so important.
Create Separate Ordering Processes
The other major overarching difference between the B2B and B2C worlds are the way in which orders are placed, processed, and fulfilled.
To clarify all of this, we’re going to break this section up into three parts:
- Order options
- Pricing and payment options
- Delivery options
Let’s dig in.
You probably don’t need us to tell you that B2B customers typically place much larger orders than B2C customers do - even when buying the same exact product.
Additionally, B2B customers often make repeat purchases much more often than their B2C counterparts.
All this being said, you want to make it easy for both types of consumers to get exactly what they need when placing a specific order.
On the B2B side of things, this means providing multiple bulk order options that cater to multiple businesses of various sizes.
That is, while one company might consider buying 500 widgets ordering “in bulk,” a larger company might see “bulk ordering” as 5,000. And, since B2B consumers typically place the exact same order repeatedly over time, you’ll want to provide these customers the option of making repeat purchases with ease.
On the B2C side, you’d actually want to hide your bulk order options (despite the fact that they probably wouldn’t utilize them, anyway).
Reason being, you don’t want to blatantly showcase your retail markup per item to your retail customers. Still, you may also decide to offer discounts to your B2C customers who purchase multiples of the same item in order to incentivize an increased order value.
At any rate, to do all this, you’ll need to create separate portals for your B2B and B2C customers. That way, you can showcase the same exact items to both while showcasing only the order options that work best for each.
Pricing and Payment Options
B2B and B2C consumers also differ in their expectations with regard to pricing and payment options.
As we alluded to above, B2B consumers typically work under the assumption that they’ll be provided a per-item discount when ordering in bulk. So, you’ll definitely want to make sure they understand just how much they’re saving per item while they go through the ordering process:
Additionally, you may decide to personalize your pricing for specific B2B customers based on a variety of factors (such as the length of your business relationship). In other words, you might consider giving your long-term customers an even steeper discount, with the understanding that they continue giving you their business for a long time to come. Again, you’ll be able to set up this individualized pricing through your individual B2B customers’ login portals.
For B2C customers, your product pricing will typically remain steady across the board. That is, it really wouldn’t benefit you to offer individualized pricing to each of your B2C customers.
Instead, you’ll want to focus on providing blanket discounts during certain times of the year via promotional sales and the like. That said, you might also consider creating a loyalty program in which individual customers can earn discounts based on their level of engagement with your brand.
With regard to payment options, you essentially want to identify the preferred methods for each type of consumer.
For B2B customers, this may mean offering options to pay by purchase order, check, or company credit card. You also might want to consider offering lines of credit to your long-term B2B customers.
For your B2C customers, you also want to provide numerous options, from personal credit or debit card to PayPal, Stripe, or any of the other modern purchasing methods. Of course, since there are certainly a ton of options available, you’ll want to narrow down your provided options based on your audience’s expectations.
Finally, you’ll want to provide different delivery options for your B2B and B2C customers.
On the B2B side of things, the big issue is delivery customization. That is, since these customers typically need your product in order to function as a business, they’ll expect the product(s) to be delivered where they need them, and when they need them.
Especially for your long-time customers, it can be incredibly beneficial to provide such personalized service as a means of keeping your clientele on board.
For your B2C customers, you don’t necessarily need to provide individualized delivery services - but you still want to provide a variety of options to them.
Essentially, this involves providing a “trade-off” option of sorts, in which your customers can opt to receive their order sooner in exchange for additional fees, or to receive them in due time for little (or no) cost of shipping.
While you definitely want to be sure that providing these options doesn’t negatively affect your company’s bottom line, you do want to be wary that not providing such options can be just as detrimental - if not more so.