Business to business in short means that products and services from one business are marketed to another business. But with different ways to go about transactions in business to business, the team at Echidna decided it should be expanded on further because certain businesses will require specific features, functionalities, or user experiences that others don’t. When discussing digital maturity and commerce, first decide- just what type of “b” are you?
First, there is one side of the coin which we will refer to as B2B or “the big B”. These B2B transactions generally have a large company making the purchase. For example, you have Sally, head of procurement from Big Company, ordering supplies. Big Company has only approved 3 vendors for Sally to order her supplies from and even more, Sally can only order 5 SKUs from each of these vendors and has specific contracted terms in the quantities that must be ordered. Unfortunately, Sally does not have the option to expand her vendor list and choose another vendor that she prefers the user experience of because Big Company has contracted great pricing with these suppliers and are not in the market to change just because Sally isn’t pleased with their user experience. We would say her vendors are offering B2B sales. They are focused on workflows and contracts and should construct this a digital commerce experience to reflect this. Their customers are (probably) large enterprises, with strict vendor lists, big contracts in play, or this vendor offers a highly unique product. These vendors might be slower to digitally mature because as they realize their user experience matters to the procurement teams that do business with them, it doesn’t always matter to the larger entity the procurement team works for. When we discuss the consumerism of B2b, this type of purchasing (workflows, contracts) is not what we are discussing.
That brings us to the other side of the coin, B2b or “the little b”. Little b’s have choice and the world is their oyster, now more than ever. Little b’s are making big waves to push digital journey’s of their vendors to mature, because although the letter may be little, the business they offer is certainly not. In fact, B2b digital commerce sales in the U.S. are expected to exceed $1 trillion by 2019 - up from Forrester’s original projection of $889 billion in 2018. Think of “the little b” like this example: Joe, from Minneapolis Plumbing, realizes he needs to order a part for a customer appointment he has in three days. Joe doesn’t have to work off an approved vendor list, but instead google his part, visit a variety of websites, and choose the company that he prefers the user experience of as long as the part can get to him within three days. If he doesn’t like the experience of one suppliers website, he can hop onto another. This is precisely why Amazon has jumped on the B2b bandwagon, now stating that its B2b unit in the U.S. has more than 1 millions customers and 80,000 registered sellers. Chip Winslow, President at Echidna, further explains common expectations and requirements around the consumerism of B2b,
“... it has lead to an expectation of a personalized, omnichannel purchasing experience with an equivalent level of choice, price transparency and service. This personalized expectation is not just about the shopping experience but also speaks to expectations around information consumption and device enablement.”
Some businesses will fit into both the B2B and B2b categories. That simply means when digitally maturing their organization they will want take that into consideration while preparing for or improving upon their digital commerce experiences, as these are two very different ways to go about transacting.
The nature of B2b commerce is changing with millennials entering the roles of purchasing agents and corporate buyers. This B2b purchaser is about simply getting things done, not wanting to make a phone call to place orders or obtain a quote. Pivoting B2b commerce is complicated by both business process and technology, as there are many approaches and options. The end goal is to maintain your B2b heritage while coupling B2C processes and solutions to add multiple points of value to all constituents.