Categories: Founder's Blog


Sam Bayer


How are B2B and B2C different?

What are the differences between B2B eCommerce websites and B2C eCommerce websites?  Now that we’re processing over $500M worth of B2B website orders per year, my two simple answers are…NOT MUCH and HUGE

In defense of NOT MUCH, on either platform, regardless of whether you are a B2B user or a B2C user, you have the right to:

  • easily find the products that you’re interested in
  • learn as much about them as you need to before you order them
  • understand exactly how much you’re going to pay for those products and when (and how) you can expect to receive them
  • be able to order them in a secure, trusted and convenient manner
  • easily follow up on that order as the need arises

Bottom line, as Forrester Research’s Andy Hoar points out in B2B eCommerce: Going From Surviving To Thriving By Adopting Proven B2C Principles:

“…B2B enterprises all have something to learn from their more experienced B2C brethren who have set a standard for customer expectations and established a series of eCommerce best practices.”

But there are three HUGE differences in the day to day realities of B2B versus B2C eCommerce websites: traffic, conversions and business rules.

My experience is that B2B eCommerce managers care very little about the two website metrics that their B2C eCommerce counterparts care the most about: attracting website visitors and improving their conversion rates.

I know that sounds crazy, but the facts speak for themselves.

The following google analytics chart shows the number of unique visitors that came to one of our client’s (Nordson, Inc.) B2B ecommerce website for the first six months of this year.

The signature of this Visitor profile is characteristically B2B.

First of all, it is very rhythmical and predictable.  It’s like clockwork.

Ten thousand visits a month, rarely on weekends, almost all return visits (89%).  When people do come to the website, they stay for awhile (over 8 minutes) and move around the website (7.49 pages per visit).  And as for people showing up to the website mistakenly (bounce rate), that only happened 7% of the time.  That stands to reason since B2B website are almost always by invitation only.  In fact, to put 7% into perspective, this is what has to say:

“As a rule of thumb, a 50 percent bounce rate is average. If you surpass 60 percent, you should be concerned. If you’re in excess of 80 percent, you’ve got a major problem.”

I wonder what they would say about 7%? :-)

So, with a B2B website that has this Visitor/Visits profile, why would any eCommerce Manager be losing any sleep?  They don’t…over this issue.

Which brings me to conversion rates.

According to the Fireclick Index, the worldwide average for website conversion rates is on the order of 2.5%.  B2C ecommerce managers obsess over increasing their conversion rates to 3%.  In this second Google Analytics graph, one of our clients (Drive Medical) has averaged over 51% conversion in the months of May and June.  That’s 1940% better than your average B2C ecommerce website conversion rate.  1940% better!!


There you have it!  You don’t care about traffic and you don’t care about conversions.

You’re a B2B ecommerce manager who has accomplished her goals.  So what keeps you up at night?

Rules, rules, rules.

Your B2B website HAS to reflect all of the realities of how your SAP system is configured to manage your business.  Issues of reporting relationships (Sales people to customers to Customer Service Reps to Credit Managers etc.), Inventory, Contract terms for price/shipping/credit etc., Payment and Shipping terms etc. etc. etc.

As examples:

If we have inventory in multiple warehouses, which should we show to the website user?  Should we charge for additional freight if we have to ship it from across the country?  What if they are over their credit limit?  Should we take their order and put it on hold?  Should we stop the order altogether?  Should we charge them for freight on sample orders?  Who can order sample orders?

Rules, rules, rules.

Should everyone be able to see prices?  What about our sales people…should they be able to use the website as well?  Can website users change their orders after they’ve been placed but before they’ve been shipped?  Should we show users exactly how much inventory we have?  What do we do with backorders?  Should we accept them.  What about orders that weren’t placed on the web?  Should their tracking information and order history be available on the website?

Rules, rules, rules.

What happens if the customer wants to pick up their order at the warehouse?  Should we let them?  How do we notify them?  How do we handle products that customers are going to resell versus consume?  In other words, how do we handle taxable versus non-taxable items?  How do we notify customers of minimum order quantities?  Does that vary based on the way they are going to ship the product?

Rules, rules, rules.

That’s the real difference between B2C and B2B!  B2C websites have a finite, and well defined set of business rules that they need to enforce.  B2B websites are all about rules, because rules are what make the business relationship personal.

(All of these aforementioned rules have been dealt with by b2b2dot0 and our clients in our numerous implementations.  See our online Portfolio for some examples)

It’s not that one world is better than the other.  Both B2C and B2B eCommerce managers want to provide a positive experience for their website users.  But beyond that, they have different priorities.

B2C websites have to spend the majority of their energy convincing you to come to their website and to buy something…anything!

B2B websites, on the other hand, primarily focus on strengthening the relationship that they already have with you.  They do this by being as transparent as possible with all ordering related information and by making all of your interactions as efficient as possible.

In the end, we believe that by combining the usability and merchandising capabilities of Magento with the “back office” business capabilities of SAP, the world’s most powerful and flexible eCommerce platform…for both B2C AND B2B ecommerce…now exists and is available from b2b2dot0 from the cloud!


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