A rapidly changing market demographic is driving growth in an ever-expanding digital economy, with more business buying decisions now taking place online.
The experience of the B2C shopper now sets the standard for B2B eCommerce and represents a major strategic opportunity for businesses selling to other business. Therefore, it is necessary to look at the contrasts between B2C order fulfilment and B2B order fulfilment so that businesses can effectively meet B2B customer expectations.
B2C order fulfilment
With a larger volume of individual customers, B2C eCommerce generally has a lower average order value than B2B eCommerce. Success for B2C typically is predicated on the growth of a broad customer base.
Your B2C customers will normally purchase simple products that have fewer ascribed components and they will expect some basic product information and instructions. B2C customers possess greater purchasing choice, having the ability to buy any product they choose, within their means. The buying decision is ultimately based on personal preferences and emotional wants or needs.
B2C eCommerce typically has set pricing and will display the same price for all customers, excluding segmentation-based promotional activities. B2C payment processing is also simplified and more streamlined, typically occurring during the online checkout process via credit or debit card.
With B2C customers you are generally dealing with one-off purchases by the end user and this may be all that is required from your eCommerce website. B2C eCommerce has very low barriers to entry and customers are typically buying different products each time from various sources.
For B2C order fulfilment, you are shipping to a customer rather than a business. This makes the shipping process simpler because there are fewer rules and regulations to contend with. B2C order fulfilment focuses on speed and accuracy of shipping.
B2B order fulfilment
B2B eCommerce, unlike B2C, generally involves fewer, larger clients requiring highly customised processes, with business clients also tending to make bulk purchases.
Business customers often require more customised solutions with multiple attributes. Lead times can be much longer without the necessity of immediate B2B order fulfilment. Due to larger, more substantial order values and stricter approval processes, B2B buyers will generally seek greater information. This can include detailed product descriptions, specifications and potentially schematics, brochures and manuals before a buying decision can be finalised.
The B2B sales process differs from B2C because it usually involves personalised pricing negotiations that are subject to price quotes and contracts. The larger B2B customers will typically have a much greater bargaining power than individual consumers.
In comparison to a B2C customer, B2B clients will generally seek more flexible payment options, such as lines of credit and some scope for partial payment of invoices. There is less likelihood in B2B sales, for an individual to make autonomous purchasing decisions. Equally, payment can be subject to various levels of approval with B2B procurement often subject to workflow and order approval, resulting in a much a much longer buying cycle making B2B order fulfilment a more complex task.
For B2B customers, procurement is planned, logical and based entirely on the business needs and functional requirements.
The B2B industry caters strictly to shipping items to other businesses and that generally requires shipping in bulk because businesses usually buy products in advance not usually daily.
Challenges of B2B order fulfilment
Rules and regulations for B2B order fulfilment are often quite complex and can involve negotiated penalties if fulfilment is not adequately achieved. Large retailers often require B2B order fulfilment to comply with electronic data interchange, barcode compliance and parcel labelling. Resulting in a more complex process for B2B order fulfilment.
For this reason, companies may choose to outsource to fulfilment centres that are generally driven by an emphasis on speed of shipping, which enables them to more efficiently achieve B2B order fulfilment.
While the shipping speed delivered by a B2B order fulfilment centre is important, it can sometimes provide a challenge between balancing distribution efficiency and fostering customer service relationships with B2B clients.
Successful B2B businesses will establish long-term relationships with B2B clients to encourage repeat orders therefore, establishing brand value and trust is significantly more applicable to B2B eCommerce.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.