5 Benefits of Having a Unified B2C and B2B eCommerce Site

Business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) used to seem like two mutually exclusive models for making a profit.

But the world of eCommerce has changed all that, and many businesses are finding they can maximize the effectiveness of their marketing and the health of their bottom line by combining B2B and B2C operations. Digital acceleration has led B2B services to learn from their consumer-facing cousins. It seems like the overlap was always bigger than anyone thought.

In this guide to unified B2C and B2B eCommerce you will learn:

Why combine B2B and B2C?

More and more companies are selling to both consumers and businesses to grow sales and increase their market share. Companies that either make a product or sell in larger quantities can take advantage of economies of scale and generate huge margins, selling direct to consumers rather than just to businesses at a bulk discount.

One of the most obvious examples of selling to both businesses and consumers is manufacturers.

Traditionally, many companies have split up their sites for B2B and B2C channels to simplify operations because the two markets were so different. Amazon even did this with a different wholesale URL. They eventually shut this site down and recently integrated B2B into the flagship amazon.com so now you can simply buy as a business and consumer. Why did they make this switch? There must be some major benefit if the largest eCommerce company in the world made this decision.

Advantages and disadvantages of B2B eCommerce

B2B throws up endless advantages for those wanting to make the most of their eCommerce website, but it's not easy, and certain problems can be attached to this model, as detailed below.

Stability. A B2B eCommerce business model grows gradually, with a solid base, and is therefore more adaptable to volatile market conditions. This leads, in time, to efficient performance through the business proving itself to potential clients
Limited market. Because businesses are only transacting with other businesses, the number of decision-makers who will purchase your product is a vanishingly small pool compared with B2C.
Customer loyalty. Less fickle than the B2C consumer, B2B customers can be cross-sold and are more open to new opportunities. Improved supply chain management can increase loyalty and harness the power of upselling.
Slow decision-making. Businesses will need to convince a great number of stakeholders and decision-makers to make a sale.
Automation and scale. B2B generally spends less because of better supply chain management. Effective data modelling avoids errors and forecasts more effectively than in B2C. The B2B model allows a higher chance of grabbing more market share.
Demanding customers. To get that ink on the line, it might be necessary to negotiate and end up adding extras, dropping prices, or customizing products to appeal to a range of businesses.
Convenience. Bulk orders and efficient order processing, and the ease of advertising on B2B websites lead to happier customers and higher profits.
The human factor. If old-school models of B2B saw a deal closed over a handshake, the eCommerce model can often create distance between seller and client.

Advantages and disadvantages of B2C eCommerce

Lower prices. Reduced operational costs – infrastructure, power, staffing – and marketing costs due to the reach of the internet means B2C operators can shrink retail prices for customers.
Lower margins. Yes, there are millions of people to sell to, but you are in a cutthroat battle for customers’ attention and, ultimately, their money and loyalty. So, prices must be keen, and the lower value of B2C leads to even smaller margins.
Direct communication with customers. B2C customers often buy on impulse, and there is no need for a long purchasing process involving multiple stakeholders.
Successful businesses will appeal to customers across many online platforms using personalization techniques such as push emails.
Website problems. Is your website capable of handling a sudden surge of orders? Can you employ staff at short notice and make sure customers are kept happy by receiving your products on time? Is your website appearing high enough in search engine results? Getting online is easy but ranking high takes effort.
Far-reaching marketing/advertising campaigns. Your market is as big as the internet’s reach – literally millions of people. And these millions can be reached cheaply and easily. They can also buy with the click of a button and their likes, dislikes and patterns of behavior are captured and analyzed.
Difficulty of retention. Constant refinement of your eCommerce site is necessary to keep it fresh and appeal to attention-poor customers. It’s hard and time-consuming to get new customers, so loyalty must be maintained in old customers to get them to repeat their purchases. This might entail broadening your offering and spending more on marketing, post-sales, and customer service.
Total accessibility and 24-hour selling. Customers can buy from you at any time of the day or night. While you sleep, orders can be flooding in and depending on the size of your business, be processed overnight, or be waiting for you in the morning.
Scaling up is harder. B2C businesses are unlikely to have B2B’s effective data modelling and forecasting. B2C’s relative inflexibility and blindness going forward will make it harder to become a market leader.

Five key benefits to a unified B2B and B2C eCommerce site

Totally different markets, different sales cycles, and different strategies. B2B and B2C markets were so widely set apart that surely life would be simpler if they stayed that way. B2C was emotional and short-term desire-driven, but faceless, and B2B relied on human relationships to make the sale but was more coldly logical. But there are amazing benefits to combining the benefits of both.

Based on my experience working with many companies who have had either one site or multiple sites, here are some of the key benefits I see to having a single, unified B2B and B2C site.

1. Unified catalogue management

One site allows you to manage all your products in one unified database. You may want to toggle some products on and off for certain users or for B2B vs B2C customers, but it's still much easier to do that than managing multiple catalogues.

2. Less technical overhead

You only have one theme and code base to manage. It’s much easier to manage one site than two. There may be some additional personalization to do, but overall, that is less work than maintaining and changing two sites.

3. One site and brand to promote

This is key. You only have one site for customers to remember, one brand to promote, and no confusion as to where to go. This is much easier for marketing and promotions.

4. Potentially simpler operations

I say potentially here because sometimes there is a lot of technical work to make one site work for both B2B and B2C. However, once it does work, it’s typically easier. This is because, with one website, you only have one place to integrate into systems like an ERP, CRM, and other systems. Therefore, your integrations and systems can be consolidated, rather than running multiple websites that may all need separate integrations.

5. B2B buyers want to buy like consumers

As a business, we want to buy quickly, efficiently, and at a good price. Time is the most important asset of an employee, and no company wants it wasted on buying a product. We don’t want to waste time traveling to a store or speaking via the phone if it can be avoided without any detriment. Therefore, having an experience that allows us to search, learn about the product, and buy quickly, just like a consumer, is what is typically desired.

Having one site for both B2B and B2C makes it easier to offer a consumer-like experience because the consumer experience is already wrapped in. You may only have to layer on some additional B2B personalization like better pricing, paying via invoice and other B2B options.

Move forward faster

There is something to be said when some of the largest B2B eCommerce companies in the world have recognized the benefits and are moving forward with one site. I do not think companies can ignore such a significant operational consideration for their company. It can simplify your business and help you move forward faster in the eCommerce world.

How Adobe Commerce can help integrate B2B and B2C eCommerce

Adobe Commerce offers flexible and intelligent solutions to meet the high demands of customers, whether they are B2B or B2C. The psychological factors that drive purchasing remain very different in B2B and B2C. B2C customers are driven by impulses and are lone decision-makers, while B2B customers, surrounded by decision-makers, are governed more by fear and risk aversion. You can appeal to both customer-specific and agile interfaces from Adobe Commerce.

Rich, personalized experiences

Drag-and-drop merchandising tools, customer-specific catalogues and pricing, and targeted content and product recommendations make it easy to create personalized experiences without IT help.

Quote management and price negotiations

Integrated customer quoting and price negotiation capabilities improve conversion. The streamlined quote request workflow can be entirely managed within our solution or through external systems using APIs.

Convenient account management

Self-service portals let your customers access invoices, order history, and company credit, as well as manage buyers and permissions.

Agility to adapt

A single system lets you manage both B2B and B2C businesses and sell to multiple sites and brands in multiple geographies. You also have the flexibility to sell digital goods, services, and subscriptions.

Friction-free order

Buyers can quickly place orders by entering SKUs, uploading CSV files, or choosing from pre-set requisition lists, as well as purchase on credit and set approval rules to ensure compliance. Assisted selling enables easy order creation and troubleshooting.

Effortless integration

Easily extend the platform and integrate with existing business systems using our robust library of APIs and thousands of off-the-shelf extensions including options for punchout purchasing and enterprise marketplaces.

Frequently asked questions about unified B2C and B2B eCommerce

Which is better, B2B or B2C?

Both models have their advantages and disadvantages. B2B is generally a longer, slower process because of the amount of buy-in required among multiple stakeholders, and negotiations may take longer. In B2C, conversions are usually faster and more impulse-driven, but businesses have lower volumes and less loyal customers. Which you choose depends upon your product, your industry, and your infrastructure.

Is Amazon a B2B or B2C?

Amazon is both – and an advertiser and cloud services provider to boot. It recently reintegrated its B2B spinoff into the flagship amazon.com, while maintaining separate business accounts, giving members access to free shipping, discounts, and special offers. All customers, whether business or personal, want seamless purchasing, cost savings, and total transparency.

How do you target both B2B and B2C?

Building relationships with two very different markets might seem tricky, and your impulse might be to create two parallel sites, marketing strategies and so on. But both markets can be mutually complementary as well as reinforcing, so long as your overarching vision is clear. Social media is perhaps the clearest overlap between B2B and B2C, so coordinate your presence to appeal to both markets. And remember B2B clients are a crucial conduit into the minds of their (and your) ultimate customers.

About the author and Trellis

Isaiah Bollinger is the CEO and Founder of Trellis who started the company in 2012. Trellis is a full-service eCommerce solution provider that specializes in implementing Adobe Commerce-based websites. Our capabilities allow us to plan and design a solution that not only meets your specific goals and budget today but will also scale with you as you grow. Once a site is launched, we stick side by side with our clients to help them improve the site and market the site to generate more customers. Follow on Twitter: @IsaiahBollinger & @trelliscommerce