Business-to-consumer (B2C) describes the direct relationship between businesses and their end-users. It involves the sale of products and services directly to consumers, bypassing any intermediaries. B2C companies prioritize delivering a seamless and personalized shopping experience, ensuring that consumers receive the utmost value from their offerings.
Why the expectations for B2Bs have changed
By now it’s somewhat old news that B2B customers are looking for B2C-like experiences when dealing with suppliers. Yet, many B2B merchants resist adapting their eCommerce setups — or even adding one! In fact, only 65% of B2B companies are selling online. That’s because many B2Bs are stuck in their traditional roots; they have been in business for decades and have kept the same partnerships and sales channels for years, with orders and transactions being carried out over the phone, fax and email. Many B2Bs haven’t seen a need to transform digitally.
So, what’s shifted? The answer is the customer base. Nearly 50% of B2B buyers are now millennials. And these millennials are digitally savvy shoppers who encounter amazing B2C online experiences all the time. They expect the ability to order, self-serve and fully transact online, and are likely to be frustrated by manual processes. The influence of this demographic means that frictionless commerce is no longer a “nice-to-have” but a basic expectation. They’re used to it in their lives as consumers and expect it in their roles as B2B buyers.
The century-old American manufacturer and distributor of baked goods, Dawn Foods, found itself in this exact situation. A new customer base of younger clients wasn’t too keen on having their orders taken down on paper and began requesting a new digital ordering process and catalog that was easier to use. Using commercetools’ Cart and Checkout functions, Dawn Foods’ customers can see their order history, pick the order and then reorder — three clicks, and they’re done. Plus, with the new eCommerce functionality, customers can view the entire product catalog online for the very first time. This was never possible before.
The resulting eCommerce solution from Dawn Foods was met with a resounding, “What took you so long?” from their customers, who welcomed the new online commerce system with open arms — online orders now account for over 25% of all orders with an average of two never-before-ordered products per cart.
How to create customer-centric digital experiences for B2B buyers
One common trait of traditional B2B companies is that they often forget to keep their customers at the core of their digital experiences. The easiest way to get around this is to:
Directly ask your customers what they want and iterate your eCommerce system based on their feedback. Surveys, interviews, focus groups – it’s up to you. Use as many methods as possible to understand your prospect’s and customer's needs and pain points.
Speak to your customer contact team, too — they’ll have a good idea of common issues and complaints.
Next, map content ideas to the questions that buyers have at each stage of the purchase journey.
Don’t forget about existing customers! Keep talking to them and ask them to test your ideas as early in the process as possible. Make sure you have plenty of time and resources to act on their feedback.
lf all of this seems like a lot of work, just remember: 87% of B2B buyers would pay more for a supplier with an excellent eCommerce portal and 74% of millennial B2B buyers switched vendors for improved consumer-like experiences.
Improving digital experiences based on gathered customer feedback is imperative to the success of Vistaprint (a Cimpress company), a B2B retailer that creates custom marketing materials for small business owners. This is thanks to its backend being on commercetools Composable Commerce, which gives the company the flexibility to manage customer requests on the fly. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, buyers requested a new product line consisting of masks, which Cimpress was able to offer on their online shop in a matter of weeks.
Overcoming B2B purchasing pain points with the right technology
When building an eCommerce solution, B2Bs need to prioritize building frictionless commerce experiences that streamline customer journeys across purchase and post-purchase, including omnichannel and personalized customer preference data. You should also keep in mind that, if your B2B product catalog is complex, B2B buyers still need to find the right product with ease. Search functions, correct product data and post-purchase experiences are common B2C commerce pillars that B2B companies can use to automate sales and increase revenue.
This is where commercetools — and the many benefits of composable commerce built on a MACH™ (Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, Headless) foundation — comes in to deliver everything a B2B eCommerce system needs and take it to the next level. By providing an open, flexible and composable environment, new features can be added easily and updates made quickly. Plus, you’ll be able to tailor a digital shopping experience that both meets your business requirements AND your customers’ B2C-like purchasing expectations.
Personalize recommendations, enable repeat ordering, offer loyalty programs and integrate real-time inventory updates, and you will increase customer satisfaction. And with an eCommerce solution that gives your customers access to your entire product catalog, increasing product visibility and customer reach, you’ll be able to drive higher sales. Furthermore, commercetools’ headless architecture decouples your commerce system’s frontend from the backend, allowing you to truly customize the shopping/purchasing experiences to your specific end buyer's needs. Plus, adding new products and updating pricing is super easy, which makes integrating new features seamless, so you can experiment with upselling and cross-selling opportunities.
Having commercetools in your corner, your customers will never again think about comparing your B2B eCommerce portal to their last great B2C shopping experience — because it will be just as good, if not better!
Learn more about how B2B companies succeed on commercetools by reading 4 success stories that showcase how B2B leaders boost revenue streams and discover all the benefits of a one-portfolio solution with How B2B businesses leverage B2C and D2C models on commercetools.