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Is the B2B-B2C Divide Disappearing?

by simon
What do traditional sales channels mean as technology and customer demand change the rules? As we’ve seen for a while the B2B-B2C divide gets fuzzier and fuzzier.

“The line is becoming blurred between B2B and B2C, with more manufacturers looking to sell directly to consumers,” writes Chris Cunnane, a logistics analyst. “With the emergence of more commerce channels, manufacturers can reach customers directly.”

Because customers can shop anywhere online, companies that stick to B2B may miss out as the B2B-B2C divide continues to erode.

Omnichannel Bridges the B2B-B2C Divide

Digital Commerce 360 suggests that B2B companies may rely too much on well-trodden B2B channels.

“Out of respect for channel partners, B2B brands often redirect customers to partner sites,” they write, citing an analyst. In the process “they inadvertently frustrate and disappoint these originally eager customers”. This hurts their bottom-line.

The analyst authored a report based on 225 surveyed B2B buyers. The report concludes that customers expect B2B brand sites to be “the authoritative source of product information” across the B2B’s ecosystem.

In other words, B2B brands that do not give consumers a direct channel could lose business. If that’s the case, the omnichannel approach is your only option. But does that make the B2B-B2C divide a distinction without a difference?

Well, no.

Omnichannel Control

The fundamentals of B2B and B2C are obviously quite different.

To put it simplistically, your B2B customers will be partners that buy in bulk. Your B2C channels give you direct access to customers, and they don’t buy in bulk.

The B2B-B2C divide is still important from that perspective. Indeed, your B2B channels remain vital.

B2B eCommerce sales continue to outpace B2C eCommerce sales. Analysts expect the B2B eCommerce market to be worth nearly $7 trillion by 2020.

To be clear, omnichannel for B2B businesses is simply about integrating multiple sales channels, both from a back-office management perspective and from the shopping experience point of view.  Customers expect seamless product descriptions, availability, and pricing information regardless of how they shop.

B2B companies need the control to manage those sales channels. Analysts believe that companies don’t have the technology to do this. But, they’re wrong.

Cloud-based inventory management that integrates with accounting, CRM, eCommerce platforms, 3PLs and trading partners give companies the control they need to manage the B2B-B2C divide.