What can wholesale learn from b2c

What can wholesale learn from B2C?

Customer Experience

Intimate, connected and personal

There are obvious, perceived differences between B2B and B2C e-commerce. One feels intimate, connected and personal, the other is transactional, in bulk, and a chore on a to-do list.

The former has driven B2C retail to be more efficient and easy-to-use, omnichannel and personalised, while B2B has been slow to change. 

But growth in online B2B sales is much higher than in person and by phone, and while it counts for only around a quarter of overall sales, many predict it will one day become the dominant means of purchasing. A strong preference for ‘self-service’ approach to B2B post-pandemic is also driving a new wave of mobile shopping. In the United States today, only 1% of customers say they actively want to shop offline. 

Moreover, modern ideas of what a company should be today are influencing shopping attitudes in B2B. Customers involved in large-scale B2B purchases are also consumers, making everyday transactions. They buy their coffee from Costa, get their takeaways delivered by Deliveroo, and exchange currency with Revolut. As a result, they have a high expectation for secure, personal and efficient service. Trends in consumer attitudes mean they will also likely care about the providence of the coffee beans they sell or the wages bean farmers are being paid.

Despite these transformations in how people shop, many B2B digital platforms are still somewhat stuck in the past. How can businesses catch up, and even innovate?

Topic 1

User experience

At its most basic, good design helps people shop more easily. Across retail, there is a constant push for more interesting, dynamic and, most importantly, intuitive, simple design.

Some business-facing companies rival these companies in their innovative approach to ecommerce. But B2B is somewhat notorious for falling behind when it comes to e-commerce: many British pharmaceutical firms, for instance, still use face-to-face account managers for stock fulfilment.

Topic 3


The issue of personalisation is somewhat muddier for B2B than it is with B2C customers. How do you 'personalise' a message or an experience to a business?

Ecommerce companies are constantly adopting new technologies to better understand data, which allows them to personalise the brand experience. Sephora, for instance, uses a Single Customer View, or SCV, framework for its consumer data: it maintains distinct profiles of customers online and in-store behaviour to tailor messages and product recommendations. 

B2B businesses shouldn't directly attempt to copy this style of personalisation, but they can use technology and advanced data processing to provide an even finer level of service. 

It might be harder to envision how this is possible for B2B brands, but Siemens Building Technologies shows how it can be done. It offers as part of its overall building services an app that allows workers to see vacant working space in the building, as well as allowing them to control ambient lighting and temperature control in their area. 

The information is also sent to building managers to use for optimising energy efficiency - the second largest cost for buildings. This is presented via a performance reporting system.

This allows Siemens to offer a level of care and value that differentiates it from competitors. 


Topic 4

Transparency in Supply Chain

Businesses are under increasing pressure (from governments, NGOs and consumers) to make green and socially-conscious changes to their supply chain - and make those changes clear to their customers. 

As such, businesses must cater to this by making sure things are being done in an environmentally and socially responsible way further down the chain and make sure this is communicated to customers. 

The Harvard Business Review offers a framework for understanding transparency of a supply chain, and how much progress a business has made, ranging from having received and accepted a code of conduct - to full disclosure of certifications, traceability and reputable disclosure.

It is incumbent upon businesses then to make these ongoing efforts apparent to clients. American clothing retailer Patagonia, for example, has an interactive (even fun) page on its website which shows important elements of its supply chain, and the changes it's making to become a more overall ethical company. It reassures its customers that, even if it hasn’t got it all correct yet, the company is investing in these issues and is being accountable.

It's not merely about keeping up appearances. Transparency also improves trust between trading partners and overall risk management, helping to prevent a supply, or reputational, crisis. 

Building trust and reputation has only become more important. Previously, B2B clients often would just stay with one company for many years. But the situation is quickly changing: in a more agile and flexible world, customers can research and find alternatives at the click of a button - and competitors are not few and far between. Trust is an essential way of standing out from the pack.

People today are exploring new options to making purchases: on their phones, while they're on the go.

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