Definition of B2B e-commerce
So, what is B2B e-commerce, an important definition to know? In the proper sense of business-to-business e-commerce (B to B or B2B) is the electronic transaction between two or more commercial entities on the internet. It’s common for B2B businesses to think that B2C e-commerce solutions can meet their needs. However, companies investing in an e-commerce solution should be aware of how B2B e-commerce and B2C are fundamentally different from each other. The major differences are in who makes the purchase, how long the buying process takes, how buyers can buy, and what features are required for a great customer experience. For a more formal definition (b2b definition), see B2B e-commerce, Forrester’s definition.
The average sales cycle is longer, but broader
In B2C – if customers like a product, they buy it. B2B buyers, a common definition of professional buyers, behave a little differently. Since order values are typically more important than any consumer transaction, many stakeholders and multiple approvals can be involved before a sale closes. These longer sales cycles naturally create more interactions between buyer and seller via emails, phone calls and other means of communication. Businesses may need to consider managing these online customer interactions as the customer base begins to grow.
B2B e-commerce, a professional definition of e-commerce, should be aimed at various buyers
The best way to understand what B2B e-commerce is, an important definition to understand, is to use concrete examples. Take the example of a manufacturer who sells to different customers or buyers. Buyer A has negotiated a certain price for a product, but Buyer B (from another company) may have purchased the same product at the advertised price. Managing different prices for the same product for unique buyers is a major difference in B2C and B2B e-commerce.
Merchants who sell to businesses need specific features online
B2B companies using B2C e-commerce platforms quickly realize that their needs are different. B2B merchants need to be able to manage multiple price lists, create custom catalogs, activate quick order forms, save requisition lists, set up business account roles, and more. Custom workflows may also be needed for different B2B e-commerce processes, making things a bit more complex compared to B2C e-commerce.
All B2B businesses are unique
B2B organizations, the standard definition of B2B e-commerce, all do business in their own unique way. Some businesses may want to fully automate their sales and offer a self-service online store, while other businesses simply cannot fulfill orders without interaction between buyers and sellers. Other merchants may need to establish a B2B Marketplace where brands can promote an ecosystem of complementary third-party products and services to complement their offering. Some businesses may even need to do all 3. The need to support all of these online use cases differentiates B2B e-commerce from B2C.