B2B vs B2C eCommerce order management
When discussing eCommerce order management efforts, it is generally in the lens of the business-to-consumer merchandising landscape. However, many business-to-business companies are also beginning to find value in selling their products and fulfilling orders through a variety of channels, partly because their customer base is already so acclimated to making purchases via B2C online stores for non-work-related purposes.
When making the transition, B2B sellers need to realize that serving online customers is not as simple as following in the footsteps of their B2C brethren. Thus, they need solutions designed specifically for their needs. Here are some of the differences between B2B and B2C order management:
1. B2B needs more specifications
B2B eCommerce sites require more specific tools, and order management systems must also be prepared to address these needs as well. For example, one report from Forrester Wave noted unique B2B eCommerce demands, such as the ability to produce quotes, complex pricing lists, bulk order entries, item configurations and customized goods.
B2B orders tend to be resubmitted several times over instead of once, so order management systems need to be able to handle this. For example, a company may purchase a certain number of ink cartridges a month – if the retailer and the client have a reoccurring order setup, it is critical the Order Management System (OMS) is able to fulfill these orders or send the merchant an alert ahead of time to ensure a workaround can be achieved (such as filling the order from a variety of channels to ensure the complete order can be sent to the client at once).
While B2C purchases are relatively straightforward, B2B orders are much more complex, and this added layer of complexity may present challenges to firms that do not have adequate OMSes deployed.
2. Order size and volume
In the B2C world, orders tend to be high in volume and small in size and value. It is not unusual to see popular merchants receiving thousands of orders on a daily basis, thus the reason why they need OMSes that can deftly handle this volume and get orders out the door to customers as quickly as possible. If an OMS gets backed up and bogged down, a merchant may struggle to serve its customers, particularly as it scales upward.
On the B2B end, retailers likely receive fewer orders on a daily basis, and because many of them tend to be periodical purchases, volume is not a huge problem. However, these orders are massive and may account for hundreds of different units – an office may procure all of its supplies through a single merchant on a quarterly basis, which requires the OMS to be able to pull a myriad of SKUs together accurately. Whereas speed is important in the B2C world, accuracy is pivotal in B2B.
Additionally, distribution channels must be considered when serving B2B and B2C customers. For B2B clients, sellers often use only a single source to supply the order. This is due in part to the cyclical nature of orders – retailers know when orders are coming in and can submit purchase orders in advance to ensure they have the required supply.
However, for B2C sellers, they really need to leverage all possible distribution centers to improve turnaround time. If someone places an order and merchants do not have the item in stock at a regional distribution center, the retailer needs to fill the purchase from elsewhere, whether it is via a third-party drop shipper, a nearby shop through “ship from store” or some other means. This flexibility is a necessity to maximize service for B2B customers.
3. Dealing with returns
Because B2B orders tend to be cyclical, exchanges and returns are rare – businesses need specific products and they know what they need ahead of time. This is not like the B2C sector, in which a person buys a shirt online, finds out it does not fit and wants to send it back. In the B2C sector, it is critical that customer service agents can use OMSes to track orders and serve patrons, a capability that is not as prominent in the B2B sector.
At the end of the day, the goal is to find an OMS that fits a retailer’s requirements. For most merchants, it is an easy question to ask based on their target market, and they can purchase either a B2B or B2C OMS. However, that is not always the case – some retailers may serve both audiences (Staples is an example of a merchant that may do both). In those cases, retailers either need to find an OMS that fits the needs of both audiences, or they must consider deploying two order management systems that can communicate with each other.