7 differences between B2B and B2C ecommerce and how to manage them (2023)

As with all things that cross technology and commerce, business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce is a battle of complexities:

  • Which business model is more profitable?
  • Can one company serve both markets?
  • What about customer retention and customer lifetime value?
  • Are channels and purchasing decisions fundamentally different?

With these questions, let's break down the rivalry, find out the differences between B2B and B2C e-commerce, and shed light on how they are actually very similar.

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What is the difference between B2B and B2C eCommerce?

  1. audience width
  2. Average (and negotiable) prices
  3. More people involved in the decision-making process
  4. Pressure to produce ROI
  5. E-Commerce Messaging
  6. payment options
  7. Storage and Reordering

1. Breadth of the public

One of the main differences between B2C and B2B is the size of their audiences. B2C brands often strive to reach a broadly defined group of people – sports fans, fitness-crazed moms, music-loving millennials or kids in general.

These are large demographic and psychographic groups, each with their own claims.Client-Day-Karte:

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"The biggest difference between B2B and B2C is your audience and the size of that audience," said Brad Hall, co-founder and CEO ofSONU sleep. “For example, B2C appeals more to the masses and a larger demographic of people with different likes, dislikes and buying habits.

“Alternatively, B2B presents itself to a smaller audience that typically has a common goal and therefore needs tailored sales and marketing strategies. However, the benefit of B2C is that there are many more fish to attract and where one does not catch, others will.”

B2B-E-commerceThe audience is much more restricted. There are usually a set number of buyers with a fairly basic profile. For example, a B2B brand might only target ad agency owners or VPs of finance at tech startups.

While you might think this would limit the potential for B2B online sales, the opposite is true. Revenue earned from online B2C transactions in the US$875 billionin 2022. However, the B2B eCommerce market has crashed$1.8 trillionIn the same period.

7 differences between B2B and B2C ecommerce and how to manage them (2)

2. Average (and negotiable) prices

A B2C eCommerce brand may need to reach and sell to hundreds of thousands of people to break their first million sales, as they are likely to sell products at a lower price. In B2B eCommerce, it's common for brands to have fewer than a few hundred customers but still generate millions (sometimes billions) of dollars in revenue.

Average order value is one of the reasons why B2B takes off. That's what founder Maria Boustead saysPo-Feld's B2C website: “Most people only buy one or two things. In B2B, retailers order 15 to 25 items at a time.”

B2B companies typically sell more complex products, often tailored to the buyer's specific needs. These products are also often more expensive than those sold by B2C companies. As a result, the average order value for a B2B eCommerce store is typically much higher than for a B2C store.”

(Video) Breakthru's Mike Boswell on the Difference Between B2B & B2C Ecommerce

– Brandon Chopp, digital manager atiHeartRaves

Of course, there are always outliers – B2B products that cost just $20 and B2C products that cost $15,000. However, in most industries, B2B eCommerce purchases are much more expensive.

B2B e-commerce purchases are negotiable as well, while B2C customers pay the dollar price advertised on your public website (unless you run a promotion). Business customers use large orders as a bargaining chip. Wholesalers get volume discounts. The more you buy, the cheaper each unit is to buy.

B2B customers make up a large percentage of our sales. So if we gained one B2B customer, we would actually make a lot more sales than we would with 100 B2C customers.”

—Varun Sharma, co-founder ofLaumière gourmet fruit

You need an eCommerce platform like Shopify Plus to distinguish between the two.Display two showcases online– one for B2C and one password-protected for B2B customers – to manage these price differences without investing in two backends.

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Like Michael Martocci, founder ofSwagUp, says, "This can allow B2B companies to spend more money on sales and marketing to acquire and grow customers compared to a B2C company whose basket values ​​don't justify those investments."

3. More people involved in the decision-making process

This is what a B2C buyer sounds like when ready to buy: Ching. He was. He was.

Here's the voice of a B2B buyer: “Okay, I'm willing to share this with my manager who will introduce it to the senior management team and then bring in finance and legal. I wonder if we should be running this from the marketing team as well?

if the bookthe challenging customerwas published in 2015, an average of 5.4 stakeholders were involved in the B2B buying process - and that number has increased since thenbetween six and 10. Additionally, the authors of this essential reading for B2B professionals found a clear correlation between the size of buying teams and the likelihood of a successful sale:

7 differences between B2B and B2C ecommerce and how to manage them (4)

The idea here is simple: if you want to build a $100 million business, you can catch 10 million flies, worth $10 each - i.e.

Here is perhaps the most important takeaway: your content – ​​your About Us page, product pages, PDFs, demo videos, pitch decks, catalogs and more – is shared with at least six decision makers within the organization.

What does this mean for your B2B operation? First, you need to be as invested in creating an optimal user experience as B2C brands are. From easily shareable content showing how business customers can resell their products to after-sales customer service, the purchasing decision for businesses differs significantly from that of individual consumers.

This fundamental difference between B2B and B2C eCommerce also means that you need to ensure that someone visiting your website has reason to trust your brand and believe that you are the best solution to their problem. That's why it's crucial to optimize the user experience and clearly communicate your brand story.

More often than not, B2C eCommerce transactions have a one-step purchase process that results in a shorter sales cycle. With B2B transactions, the buying process is almost always multi-stage and requires more communication than with B2C. This results in a longer overall sales cycle.”

(Video) B2B ecommerce vs. B2C ecommerce

– Kevin Callahan, co-founder ofFlatline Van Co.

4. Pressure to produce ROI

Individual customers buy products for themselves. Sure, while they don't want every purchase to be a waste of money, making a single purchase is less of a problem for a single consumer. However, with B2B shopping, customers place an order with multiple units that they need to resell and make a profit. There's a lot more pressure to make the right decision.

As Brian Folmer, founder ofFirst sight, says, “B2C customers routinely buy all sorts of products, constantly testing things out and, in my case, buying on a whim. Emotions are a bigger part of your contemplation. How do I feel about this brand and support its mission?”

However, Brian says the thought process behind a purchase is changing with B2B eCommerce: “B2B customers, on the other hand, typically buy with a purpose in mind. Not so many "This is fun" purchases. With that in mind, when a business makes a purchase, it usually considers one of two things: will it make us more money or will it help us save money?

"It's a little more rudimentary compared to B2C shoppers, although purchases are generally much more expensive, so they try to keep emotions out."

Similar to B2C marketing, you prove the value of your product. The main difference in B2B e-commerce is proving the resale value of your inventory (high sales rates, good profit margins or brand loyalty) and not the benefits to the end consumer.

“B2C sales may require some social proof and enough trust for a customer to make an initial purchase, whereas our B2B customers may need to see or try our products and then require more extensive product information for their sales teams to can sell our products effectively. – Will Stewart, owner ofCedar Spring Recreation

5. E-Commerce Messaging

Speaking of marketing materials, another key difference between B2C and B2B eCommerce is the messaging you use to attract and convert customers.

Learn from Maria Boustead, founder of Po Campo, a bicycle accessories company that sells to B2B and B2C customers. Maria says that on both platforms “the product descriptions are a little different because we talk to different people.

“For example, in B2B, we say who the product is for (e.g. commuters or electric cyclists) so they can choose the right products for their customers.”

7 differences between B2B and B2C ecommerce and how to manage them (5)

Caption: PoCampo's B2B product description focuses on the product's sales rate.

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Caption: PoCampo's B2C product description focuses on the benefits of using the product.

B2B customers also want different information than B2C customers. Brandon Chopp, digital manager atiHeartRaves, says, “Because B2B buyers are often looking for more complex products, it's important to provide detailed product information on your website. This includes specifications, dimensions, application examples and user manuals.

"The more information you provide, the better buyers can make a purchase decision."

Relieve this pain point of B2B selling through e-commerce marketing messaging. You could:

(Video) Key Differences Between B2B and B2C eCommerce Websites

  • Share case studies of brands that bought your products and resold them at a higher margin
  • Talk about how your products have the highest in-store sales rate for some retailers
  • Use social media to showcase user-generated content from happy customers that other B2B buyers have resold

6. Payment Options

B2B and B2C eCommerce operations share a common goal: getting paid for the products they sell online. However, how customers prefer to pay for these goods depends on what type of customer they are.

Omost popularPayment methods for B2C consumers are:

  • digital wallets
  • credit cards
  • debit card

However, when B2B buyers order online, the checkout process is fundamentally different from B2C. Companies often choose alternativesB2B payment methodsbank transfer and use a “buy now, pay later” model – for example,

Credit card payments at the checkout can still be relevant in the B2B sales process, but B2B orders can get very large – and have long payment terms. Additional options such as wire transfers, 30 (or even 60) day accounts and more are also useful to incorporate into your wholesale options.”

—Zac van Manen, Digital Growth Manager atBA Creative

Shopify is aB2B-E-Commerce-PlattformThis allows you to accept B2B payment methods without creating an entirely new store. Get access to B2B Checkout, which allows business customers to view company-specific information such as payment terms, preferred payment method and wholesale discounts on each order.

7. Storage and backorders

B2B eCommerce has the benefit of default retention. Unlike B2C shoppers, who restock items after using a product (as long as they like it), B2B shoppers often require a consistent supply of inventory to resell in their own stores.

Learn from Bernie Schott, owner and CEO ofTO REACH, which says, "REECH customers typically buy a yoga mat every year or two at most, but a studio that stocks REECH mats typically buys 10 every two months."

Leverage this advantage with a B2B sales team that prioritizes excellence in customer service. Build partnerships and be ready with marketing ideas, future trends or peaks if they are new products you are about to launch.

Likewise, shoppers who prefer a self-service approach should use a B2B eCommerce platform that makes reordering easy. WithShopifyPlus, customers can log in to a business profile to view past orders, payment terms, and wholesale discounts. They can replenish their own stocks with just a few clicks.

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Are there similarities between B2C and B2B eCommerce?

The differences between B2B and B2C eCommerce are significant. But while the differences mean that marketers and owners have different mindsets, philosophies and strategic approaches, B2B and B2C eCommerce also have some similarities.

multichannel counts

Despite the differences between B2C and B2C customers, some80% two B2B buyersExpect a shopping experience like that of a single customer.

The vast majority of B2C and B2B buyers spend their time on similar channels. They rely on YouTube for educational content and networks like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for social engagement. Just as a college student uses Facebook to look up information about his classmates, a top executive uses Facebook to share photos of his son.

The use case may be different, but both parts can be found in the same place.

AccordinglyFörster, 59% of buyers prefer searching online rather than interacting with a salesperson because sales reps are driving their sales plan instead of solving the problem. Many of these buyers are likely to start with Google, but - just like their B2C counterparts -Multi-channel browsing and buying habits dominate.

In other words, don't assume you can ignore Facebook or even Instagram just because your audience is B2B. B2B brands that embrace these channels while everyone else ignores them will likely benefit from less reach and less competition.

(Video) B2B and B2C Content Within eCommerce

people are people

One of the biggest myths about reaching a B2B versus B2C audience involves the person on the other end of the transaction. For too long, companies have assumed that a B2B buyer is a completely different type of person than a B2C buyer.

Whether you're a college student or a Fortune 500 executive, they're still human. And all humans are made up of the same neurons and chemicals that trigger emotions and cause us to behave in certain ways.

So there is a huge opportunity for B2B marketersuse psychologyto connect with your target audience. Understand the value of emphasizing benefits over features. Understand the role fear can play when a buyer chooses between two similar solutions.

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Those ones

Offer B2C and B2B e-commerce through a backend

The differences between B2C and B2B eCommerce are striking. You need to personalize the shopping experience based on common traits shared by each persona.

The good news? WithB2B na Shopify, you can run two online stores from the same backend - no exchange tools or expensive software required.

"One of the advantages of Shopify's B2B tools is that B2C and B2B can run on the same platform," says Zac van Manen, Manager of Digital Growth atBA Creative.

“This is a huge benefit for merchants as the differences between the two different types of distribution channels – other than lead time, volume and gross margins – are not as diverse as one would expect. After all: you are still selling to a person on the other side of the potential transaction.”

Need help distinguishing between B2C and B2B customers?ShopifyPlushas decades of combined experience, as well as a network of Plus partners to drive both operations to success.

keep reading

  • 14 Video Ads That Surprised Us in 2015
  • Consumer psychology: selling to the person behind the persona
  • How You Can Benefit From Content Customization On Your ECommerce Store
  • Reinventing racial justice in fashion


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