Digital trade between companies, also called B2B e-commerce, is THE growth area of the coming years. But even though the B2B sector can learn a lot from the e-commerce experiences of the end consumer trade: There are serious differences between B2B and B2C, which also affect the choice of shop system for the B2B shop, says Martin Pfisterer, CEO of ElectronicSales.
35 billion euros will be turned over in German B2B online trade in 2017, according to a joint forecast by the eco association and the management consultancy Arthur. D. Little; in 2019 it could already be over 46 billion euros. These huge sums – and annual growth rates of a good 15 percent – arouse desires, after all, digital trade between companies is a growth field in which large investments are currently being decided.
Many agencies and shop system manufacturers who have so far been active exclusively in the B2C sector want a piece of the B2B pie. Their thesis: B2B e-commerce is lagging behind the much more developed B2C market and needs to learn from end-consumer trade.
This may well be true in individual areas, but as a consulting approach for the significantly more complex B2B sector, Martin Pfisterer, CEO of the shop system manufacturer ElectronicSales, is convinced. “In B2C, it’s mainly about winning new customers and generating high traffic – the result is a very marketing-oriented strategy,” says Pfisterer. “In the B2B segment, on the other hand, an online shop primarily serves long-term business relationships with very individual purchasing processes and discount structures.”
This means that a B2B shop may well have similarities with an end-customer shop in terms of design, user guidance and product presentation – but under the bonnet, i.e. in the backend, the structures look quite different.
Complex needs require well thought-out answers from the shop system
The complex process chains behind a B2B shop pose special challenges for the shop system, which differs significantly from that of a B2C shop.
This starts with the customer data: “In a B2C web shop, the rule is: user = customer,” says Pfisterer. “In the B2B sector, the customer is an entire company that has different employees who may shop in the shop with different authorizations. There may still be an authorization structure between the selection of products and the actual purchase, for example if a department head has to approve the purchase first. Such structures must be easily mapped in a future-proof B2B shop system.”
Another big issue in the B2B sector is individual price and discount structures that have developed with years of business relationships. “In the B2B sector, it is rather rare that two customers have the completely same pricing models,” explains Pfisterer. “You don’t get anywhere here with classic price lists, as you know them from the B2C sector.” Instead, the shop system must be able to handle completely different price structures for each customer down to the item level – and remain performant despite the large amounts of data.
Customer-specific assortments, a much more complex order management, the smoothest possible reordering of consumer goods (keyword e-procurement) or the request for individual quotations for large orders also pose special challenges for a B2B shop system that are unknown in the B2C sector. Not all B2B is the same as B2C – and this also and especially applies to the shop system.