Being B2B in a B2C world

rise-of-b2b

We’ve are currently working on a few “B2B” projects in parallel, and we had a few last year as well. While each is unique and special, there are some trends that I can tease out in an attempt to distinguish the two. After all, it’s still human beings who are buying and selling, it’s still the internet where they’ve gone to transact, and more specifically, it’s still Magento. That said, the difference is important.

  • Quotes. Probably because a given customer can represent a huge order volume, our B2B clients have considered custom quoting to be paramount to buyer satisfaction. Not all customers are equal, and it’s usually worth it to go the extra mile for a sale. We’ve used “Cart 2 Quote” as a (partial) solution to this and have built out some moderately complex functionality around it to support business-specific workflows.
  • User sub-accounts. For many of our B2B clients, it’s important for their institutional customers to designate sub-users to transact on behalf of their organizations. While the requisite business rules vary, we’ve found that “parent” users generally need to at least have visibility on the activities of their “children”, both regarding quotes and orders.
  • Payment methods. We’ve seen a number of seemingly “odd” payment method scenarios in our B2B projects, ranging from financing to purchase orders to card storage to satisfy government guidelines. The trend here is no trend, other than it will likely look very different from a typical consumer-facing process.
  • Account vetting. In B2B, it’s OK (and common) to make it difficult for buyers to become customers. Often times, we’ll see human-moderated interstitial processes intended to interview potential customers for their fitness.
  • Customer group pricing. Is the customer a department of government? Non-profit? Is there a Tax ID number? Frequently we will see pricing exposed to customers based on the type of organization they represent.

What seems to be changing, though, is an expectation to present a buying experience that resembles a B2C store. The UX/UI should convey the brand promise, it should be (relatively) easy and it should look great in mobile devices. After all, the same people who are shopping for business products during the day shop for home at night, and there, the bar has been raised.

We’re excited about shaping Magento to B2B, and we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to transform the platform into an engine for this kind of growth.