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Orderhouse Blog

Should Your B2B eCommerce Site Be More Like a B2C Retailer?

“Frost & Sullivan projects that B2B eCommerce will hit $12 trillion in sales worldwide by 2020, up from $5.5 trillion in 2012.” [Digital Commerce 360]


B2B manufacturers are going digital and there’s no turning back. The question now is — how can you build a first-rate UX for your B2B customers? Should you simply emulate Amazon and other big retail sites? After all, “80% of companies implementing B2B eCommerce believe that their customer expectations have changed due to B2C practices.”[eCommerce & B2B]

We agree…to a point. There are some similarities between your B2B buyer’s behavior and a B2C consumer’s, as well as some distinctive differences. Knowing what features to borrow from B2C eCommerce will help you grow your business. However, you should also keep in mind the different needs and expectations of your B2B customer and the average web-surfing looky-loo. Let’s explore some of the similarities between these customers, as well as some of their subtle differences.

Both B2B and B2C Customers Want an Intuitive Search Function

A B2B customer at work is also a B2C consumer at home, so some of his search needs will be the same. A Hubspot survey of online consumers reported that 76% of their respondents wanted a website that “makes it easy for me to find what I want.”

This is particularly true for your customer for whom time is of the essence. After all, your average B2B customer isn’t casually looking at a new line of customizable running shoes. He’s at work trying to quickly place an order so he can move on to his next task.

To make it even more challenging, it can be hard to predict what search terms your customer will use to find the product he’s looking for. B2B businesses often have hundreds of unique products in their catalog, so you need to include specific names, categories and features in your site’s search function.

These are some other ways you can make your search function more intuitive to help your time-strapped B2B customer:

  • Use autosuggest or auto fill to speed up the search process
  • Include common misspellings or automatic spell check to avoid the dreaded “no result has been found”
  • Offer different subcategories to help narrow search results
  • Include up selling and cross-selling options in your search box to make it easier for your customer who might want to buy more than one item in a category

Also keep in mind that your customer’s search for a product or service often begins with a search engine. According to a study conducted by B2B marketing expert Pardot, “78% of B2B buyers start with a Google search.” Therefore, making sure you have solid, comprehensive SEO for all of your web pages is crucial.

B2B Customers Also Like Personalization

"50% of B2B buyers surveyed identified improved personalization as being a key feature for suppliers they would want to work with.”—Justin King, [B2BandeCommerce.com]

Personalization is hot in B2C retail, to the point that consumers have come to expect it. For B2B businesses, personalization can be a great way to delight customers. In fact, according to Gartner, “By 2018, B2B companies with effective personalization on their eCommerce sites will outsell by 30 percent competitors without the same level of personalization.”

Since most buyers are required to login to purchase from a B2B site, you probably have a solid record of their purchasing habits from which you can start building a custom catalog. You can use the buyer or company’s contract terms to tailor pricing, use purchasing history to make product suggestions, and match industry or vertical to customized content like videos and articles. Don’t be daunted by the logistics of personalization. There are applications such as recommendation engines that can automate the personalization experience, making it easy for you to provide this custom experience for your customers.

You can also use personalization to save your customer time by offering automatic reordering options based on their previous purchases.

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Both B2C and B2B Customers Love a Good Deal

There are few human beings who don’t love scoring a bargain or getting something for free. While it’s true that B2B customers are usually spending their company’s money, most companies looking to increase their profit margins will look favorably on an employee who helps keeps spending down. If a B2B customer sees a good price and you make it simple for him to get that deal, chances are he’ll bite.

Most B2B businesses offer special pricing. You can also sweeten the deal by including free shipping terms for customers who reach a certain purchasing threshold. To entice your customer into buying your up sell products, offer them limited-time, specially priced bundles of related products. Consider including free samples of new products with your shipments along with a discount offer on the customer’s first purchase of those items in the future.

In Conclusion: Your Takeaways from the B2C eCommerce Experience

We believe you should look toward B2C eCommerce to improve your B2B online retail experience. But be smart about it by implementing the right features. Your customers are unlikely to care about some B2C attention-getting techniques like investing in a flashy home page, emphasizing a compelling brand story or offering lots of user-generated content. B2B consumers want a simple and straightforward purchasing experience from start to finish. Knowing the right features to borrow and which ones to ignore will help you build a B2B eCommerce site that inspires long-term customer satisfaction and loyalty.

For more insight on end to end eCommerce strategy visit this resources page.

Topics: ecommerce B2B ecommerce ecommerce services ecommerce solutions