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B2B vs B2C Ecommerce: What's the Difference?

Ecommerce businesses rely on online tools and platforms to find customers and make sales. Depending on who they sell their products and services to, we can divide them into two groups. Businesses that sell to other businesses, called B2B, or businesses that sell to end-users, called B2C. However, they vary in more ways than just that. In this article, we will take a look at B2B vs. B2C eCommerce and the difference between the two approaches.

What is B2C

B2C implies businesses and companies that focus on selling to the end-user. Both large and small businesses can focus on B2C sales. Even micro-companies have a place in the eCommerce world due to the help of online tools. The internet has helped them find new customers and expanded their reach beyond the local market. We’ve seen that small businesses can become great if they use the right strategy and adapt to current trends. Therefore, whether a business is B2C has nothing to do with its size, just who they sell to.

What is B2B

These are companies who mainly sell their products and services to other companies, who can then use the products themselves or sell them to other end consumers. When looking at online marketing strategies, most people would assume they are intended only for B2C businesses, but B2B eCommerce has seen tremendous growth. Good examples of giants in the B2B field would be Alibaba and Quill.

Online shopping, exchanging money for goods through computers.

There can be overlap

Of course, there are going to be businesses that are hard to categorize into one of these two camps. B2B will often sell to users if asked, even though that is not their primary way of attaining revenue. And on the other hand, B2C goods can be purchased and then resold. Before we dive further into B2B vs. B2C eCommerce, let’s first look at their common denominator. Any eCommerce business owner will tell you that the core idea is to sell your products with ease through website sales. Having an online storefront and making website sales is the definition of an eCommerce business.

B2B vs. B2C eCommerce: what's the difference?

Some companies might not care who they sell to, but their approaches and tactics will differ depending on who they are marketing to. We are going to be focusing on 5 key aspects where the B2B and B2C approaches diverge.

1- Size of the purchases

B2C businesses often base most of their sales on individual orders. The purchases made by end-users are usually cheaper and in small quantities. This leads to B2C orienting their entire sales strategy towards facilitating smaller purchases and trying to incentivize impulse buys. Spur of the moment and impulse purchases are usually tied to cheaper or lower-end products. Unplanned purchases are easier if the customers are spending small amounts of money. Contrary to that, B2B mainly consists of planned purchases of a larger volume.

2-Relationship to customers

Due to the size of the purchases, it is more important to nurture a strong, almost partner-like relationship with customers in B2B businesses. That isn’t to say that customer satisfaction isn’t important for B2C. They rely on customer reviews and spreading word of mouth, which are less important in B2B.

While B2B often aims to develop an almost personal relationship with customers, B2C has shown an increasing trend of relying on chatbots. Due to the success of having an integrated chatting service on your website, developers have found innovative ways to apply AI chatbots to eCommerce stores.

Black marker writing audience on a whiteboard.

3-Repeat business

Most company owners will tell you that there is nothing more valuable than having a loyal customer you can rely on for repeat business. However, due to the sheer volume of B2B sales, repeat business is hugely important for that business model. The lifecycle of customers shopping with a B2B can last for years, so a lot is invested in customer support. B2C tries to ensure repeat business through its policies for product returns and by handling customer complaints. Here, customer support is usually available after the transaction in hopes of assuring satisfaction, which could lead to future sales.

4-Finding customers and how the sales funnel works for B2B vs. B2C

Both B2B and B2C start their search for future customers by informing them of the existence of the company and its products. That is where their paths begin to diverge. B2B eCommerce businesses often rely on demoing their products and services to potential future customers. From there, it’s not uncommon for the company to give a proposal, which can be met with a counter-proposal by the other business they are trying to sell to. 

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In B2C, it is very rare for the customer to be able to give a counter-offer. Instead, businesses try to incentivize customers by offering promos and discounts. Extensive communication between the company and the customer during the sale is rare in the B2C model. Customers usually communicate before the sale if they need more information regarding the product or means of finalizing the purchase. Communication can also happen after they have made the purchase in case of complaints or returns.

Photoshoot of a woman in front of a red background.

5-Advertising and brand approach

Every business wants to make the most out of its marketing campaign, but there are many different approaches. To reach users in an over-saturated market, advertising often tends to push the envelope. However, B2B marketing has its own set of trends, which are a bit more down-to-earth and muted. After all, the marketing is geared towards businesses, which will make their final decision after extensive research and calculating the bottom line by making comparisons to the competition. The approach to marketing and branding can be a lot more playful for B2C. They do this in order to stand out and catch user attention.

The bottom line

As you can see, when looking at B2B vs. B2C eCommerce and the difference between the two models, we can notice that there are also plenty of similarities. Many modern eCommerce companies can learn from these types of sales models by picking and choosing which approach to adapt to their business. There are often no strict rules - the trick is in finding what works best for your company.

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