There are fundamental differences between B2B buyers and consumers, as well as a level of complexity and continuity with B2B e-commerce compared to consumer online transactions. Some companies make the mistake of designing a B2C retailer website with ‘add-on’ B2B features, and then find that the web store cannot deal with the complexity of B2B e-commerce or the needs of B2B buyers. The best place to start is with your customers - B2B buyers who have long-term relationships with your company - focus on their job requirements and what tools they need to efficiently buy online as professional buyers.
Who is the B2B Buyer?
Understanding B2B buyers and how they do their jobs determines the features and capabilities that would make the online buying process easy and efficient for them. The number one characteristic of B2B buyers in comparison to the average online consumer is they are ‘professionals’. They are buying for a living as part of their job, and care primarily about being able to buy efficiently and easily. B2B buyers tend to have long-term relationships with their suppliers and are concerned about an efficient end-to-end buying process that is ideally integrated for both online and offline purchases.
In terms of products, the purchases are planned, and typically involve large orders, and buying the same products or parts again and again. B2B purchases tend to be critical to their business success e.g. filling empty shelves, and are not made on impulse like many consumer purchases. The products can be expensive and complex and B2B buyers are under pressure to buy exactly the right product at the right price, so accuracy on pricing and product availability are important. Also, B2B buyers tend to buy by committee with as much as 70% Oracle B2B Commerce Survey 2013of B2B purchase decisions involving at least two decision makers. Effective B2B web stores need to serve multiple roles with varying levels of purchasing authority.