It’s easy to forget about the people. Yes, B2B marketing is brands selling to other brands, but behind those brands are people actually doing the buying.

It’s easy to forget about the people. Yes, B2B marketing is brands selling to other brands, but behind those brands are people actually doing the buying. And those people are consumers who, in every other aspect of their life, live in the B2C world.

This continues to be a central theme in B2B e-commerce and one that was discussed at length during IRCE 2016 this past June in Chicago, and has been for the past few years. B2B e-commerce customers want a B2C experience, but with all of the enhancements and functionality that make B2B ordering easier.

The B2B difference

There is no real out-of-the-box template for B2B e-commerce. B2B relationships are much more complex and nuanced than those of B2C. And while the traditional sales funnel—or the path a buyer takes from researching a product to making a purchase— is gone for both B2B and B2C, the B2B purchase path can become more complicated with an extended pre-purchase window, which is where marketing and sales teams focus most of their attention. But the B2B journey extends past that pre-purchase and purchase experience, B2B sellers need to hone in on the service and post-purchase journeys to retain and create advocates of their customers.

Company research discussed at IRCE 2016 demonstrated the role of emotions in the B2B decision-making process. Unlike most B2C purchases, B2B purchases can impact an entire company and, more important, the reputation of the purchaser within that company.


Finding ways to make the buying process easier, while helping the purchasers confirm they are making the right choice, will help increase conversion rates and create ongoing advocates. Tactics to do this include personalized recommendations based on behaviors and company attributes, data on product trends and purchase patterns, and robust content about products to help buyers make informed decisions. .

The B2C experience

So how do you deliver the B2C customer experience? Create a visually engaging and friendly user experience, show the right price, and make shipping easy. To dive a little deeper, this means you should:

Simplify the path

  • Blend content and commerce
  • Deliver functionality customers are asking for (not what you think they want)
  • Include enhanced search features
  • Offer related products and recommendations

Own the first click

  • Keep buyers on the site
  • Include engagement tools (calls to action, comparisons, saved carts, wish lists)
  • Don’t just compete on price, compete on experience

The experience is important because Amazon is solidly in the B2B space. 82% of buyers have used Amazon to research and compare prices for work purchases. The brand continues to build out its marketplace, enticing both buyers and sellers into the Amazon ecosystem. Amazon brings all its best practices to bear, including robust product detail pages, price comparisons, and shipping deals, while layering in B2B requirements like price books and quoting.

B2B businesses will have to compete on the Amazon experience to continue to maintain direct relationships with their buyers.  If they can reduce friction and make the buying experience easier for the purchaser, they will increase loyalty.

There’s a reason to go through all of this work catering to the more complex B2B e-commerce relationships: there is much money to be made. B2B e-commerce sales will grow to  more than twice the size of B2C by 2020, to the tune of $1.13 trillion in the U.S. according to Forrester Research Inc.

B2B customers are already shopping on the Internet, and research indicates they are at least three years ahead of most brands. In many cases, customers are just waiting for brands to catch up to their expectations. Already 63% of B2B buyers research at least half of their product purchases online, and 53% will complete at least half of their purchases online by 2018. If companies do not have an e-commerce website to capture that traffic, someone else will. It is quickly becoming the expectation. It is no longer of question of “if” but should be a question of “how fast can we get there.”


It is an exciting time for B2B e-commerce. Companies, software platforms, and customers are coming together to find innovative ways to capitalize on the opportunity to improve the internal workings of businesses, while better servicing their customers.

Its hard work to re-engineer large corporations, but those that take on the challenge and succeed will reap the many rewards.

Sarah Cucchiara is a senior e-commerce strategist at DEG, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Overland Park, Kan. With expertise in retail e-commerce and B2B lead generation, Sarah has played a lead role in developing and implementing interactive marketing strategies for national and global brands, including Hallmark, Purina, Lee Jeans, Helzberg Diamonds, Freightquote, and TITLE Boxing. Follow her on Twitter @sccuchiara and on LinkedIn.