Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) ecommerce platforms share common features and functionalities. However, they are not entirely the same. While most B2C platforms support functionalities that can help with B2B selling, solutions designed for B2B selling have distinct and extra features necessary to run successful B2B operations.
B2B transactions are also often larger in scale, requiring specific features to help you process them differently than you would the typical B2C orders.
If you want to learn more, continue reading through this guide on the main differences between B2C and B2B ecommerce platforms.
B2B vs B2C: A quick overview
Before diving into what makes B2B ecommerce platforms distinct from B2C solutions, let’s do a quick recap of the difference between the two business models.
From a 30,000-foot view, B2B ecommerce is when companies, often wholesalers, manufacturers, and service providers (among others), sell to other businesses, such as retailers and resellers. B2C ecommerce is when a business sells products or provides services to end-consumers directly.
Generally, B2B consumers have more complex requirements and buying processes than B2C customers, since B2B buyers tend to buy in bulk. Also, each B2B client has specific payment, ordering, and pricing (among others) requirements, making it crucial to find the best-fitting ecommerce platform for your business model and operations.
Main differences between B2B and B2C ecommerce platforms
Below are some of the significant factors and features that differentiate B2C from B2B ecommerce platforms.
1. Payment options
Most B2C ecommerce platforms allow payment via PayPal, credit and debit cards, digital wallets and other online payment systems and merchant services. The payment options can be built into the platform or integrated through third-party apps and online payment systems.
On the other hand, B2B ecommerce platforms offer a greater variety of integrated payment options, because B2B transactions are more complex. The payment process often involves more than paying a fixed amount for a product.
For instance, most B2B ecommerce platforms include features that allow buyers to check their Accounts Receivable (AR) record and invoice histories. The features can also allow volume-based discounts or customer-specific pricing based on the buyer’s needs. Additionally, B2B ecommerce platforms can handle pricing updates due to ship-to or bill-to changes and provide the information to customers accurately and almost instantly.
Essentially, B2C ecommerce platforms offer traditional online payment options. B2B solutions provide more flexible and tailored payment methods to accommodate many unique pricing constructs required in B2B transactions. On the other hand, overlaps do exist. For example, while “buy now pay later” (BNPL) solutions were once only gaining in popularity in the B2C sector, today they’re becoming widely adopted in B2B as well.
2. Price tiering
B2C ecommerce platforms allow you to set up your product pages and include the appropriate prices, based on your pricing strategy, in ready-to-fill fields. Customers see each product’s set price and usually pay for the same amount every customer does. However, the final amount can vary depending on taxes, shipping, and other applicable fees.
In B2B ecommerce platforms, you can offer product or service prices in multiple plans (or tiers). Most B2B buyers require custom pricing and often negotiate prices based on the order volume, specific terms and other arrangements. As such, B2B ecommerce platforms let you set up price tiering and offer features that allow your customers to see their custom pricing when they login to your website.
Other B2B ecommerce platform pricing features include dynamic pricing calculators based on customer groups, business rules, and even integrated logic with third-party enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
3. Order workflows
B2B orders are bigger in volume compared to B2C purchases. Most B2C ecommerce platforms’ order processes allow customers to place an order, pay, and the items are dispatched promptly with minimal checks. In contrast, since B2B orders are bigger, these usually require checking and approval among multiple buyer-side stakeholders before they are ready for production and dispatch.
That said, most B2B ecommerce platforms include check and approval workflows and quick reorder features to streamline bulk ordering. These features help make the ordering process and fulfillment easier for B2B buyers and sellers.
B2B buyers have unique pricing, ordering, billing, and payment requirements. For example, most B2B purchases require a manager’s or supervisor’s approval if an order exceeds a specific amount. B2B ecommerce platforms provide checkout workflow features that prevent business customers from placing orders without approval.
4. Production tools
B2C companies usually pick, pack, and dispatch order by order, while most B2B sellers group and prepare orders in bulk for efficiency.
B2B ecommerce platforms offer features more focused on allowing seamless interactions between the production and commercial teams to optimize the production process.
With more advanced production tools, B2B ecommerce platforms can streamline processing massive production and order demands efficiently.
Many modern B2C ecommerce platforms are designed to be more flexible and scalable than before. However, most B2C solutions can’t compete with the flexibility and customization levels offered by B2B solutions. For instance, some B2C platforms don’t offer ERP, customer relationship management (CRM), product information management (PIM), procurement systems, and warehousing integrations.
While there are B2C ecommerce platforms that allow third-party extensions and add-ons, some require technical expertise and complex configurations. These can also cost more money to run and maintain. When not set up properly, these third-party apps can become inefficient and slow down data exchanges and performance, ultimately impacting operations and the bottom line.
However, B2B ecommerce platforms are designed to be highly flexible, robust, and scalable. The solutions often come with built-in systems and tools to handle the dynamics and necessary workflows in B2B operations. In the case of B2B platforms that allow third-party apps, integrations with ERPs and CRMs are often easier.
Make the distinction between B2C and B2B solutions
While the lines between B2C and B2B buyers are blurring together, you’ll still need distinct ecommerce platform functionalities and features to attract the right customers and operate your business seamlessly.
B2B ecommerce platforms can have all the features B2C solutions offer, but B2B platforms include so much more to help you accommodate your business buyers’ needs. Whether you operate in a B2C or B2B company, or some kind of hybrid, find a platform that can support your business operations, boost your efficiency and productivity, and ultimately improve your company’s profitability.