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While there are various similarities between the B2B and B2C buying process, there are plenty of differences too. In this blog, we’ll be explaining the two buying processes, where they overlap and where they differ.

Let’s get started.

How B2B and B2C customers compare to each other: A summary

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Before we get onto the differences in buying process, let’s briefly cover the similarities and differences in expectations from each type of customer.

  • Type of relationship - B2B customers are often making a bigger investment when it comes to their purchasing choices. So, they’re more likely to be interested in your company story and brand ethos and building lasting relationships with your team to ensure your values align with theirs. B2C will become loyal to brands but they aren’t as interested in knowing you personally.
  • Length of buying journey - B2B customers take longer to decide as there are far more complex factors at play (we’ll discuss those in more detail). So, they’ll require more nurturing and convincing before they’re ready to invest in your product or service.
  • Purchasing decision - B2B customers are usually process-driven when it comes to their purchase decision. They want to improve a particular process or efficiency with their purchase. While B2C customers are often emotionally-driven, purchasing to satisfy a particular need.

Differences between the B2B and B2C buying processes

1. B2B customers proactively identify needs to meet their business strategy

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For both B2B and B2C customers, the buying process will start with identifying a need. B2B customers are more likely to proactively identify a need and look for a solution to fulfil it as part of their business strategy.

For example, they might say, “To improve the efficiency of our financial reporting, we should invest in some software that can integrate with our business systems and consolidate information to simplify the overall process.”

B2C customers identify their needs in a similar way but they’re also often swayed by marketing and advertising materials that draw attention to new products. So, in addition to saying something like, “I’m not sleeping very well, I should buy a new mattress”, they can also be influenced into buying said mattress even if they are sleeping well.

2. B2B customers buy products/services that meet certain specifications while B2C are more flexible

When most businesses are buying new products or services, they’ll have certain specifications in mind. From cost, features and functionalities to the overall benefits the investment will bring to the company, B2B customers won’t purchase something on a whim. Their purchase decisions are more strategic and less emotional.

In contrast, B2C customers are more emotionally-driven when it comes to their purchases. They often know what product/service they want (or what they want it to achieve) but they rarely have specifications to stick to. They’re a lot more flexible, susceptible to impulse purchases and will forgo their initial product/service if they find another they like better.

3. The B2B buying process is longer than B2C

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As we mentioned above, B2B customers make more strategic buying decisions which means their buying process is often longer than B2C. They evaluate and deliberate over complex factors such as:

  • The cost of the item/service - does it fit with my budget?
  • Supplier reputation - are they reliable? Are they reputable/credible in the industry? Do their brand values/ethos align with mine?
  • The features and functionalities of the product/service - are the benefits worth the investment? Is this the right investment for my business?

There’s usually a formal sign-off/approval process too, involving various senior stakeholders.

B2C customers consider relatively simplistic factors in comparison, such as:

  • Value for money - am I getting the best deal? Can I find it cheaper elsewhere?
  • Product/service reviews - how does the product/service compare to alternatives? What do independent reviews say?
  • Brand reputation - how credible and reliable is the brand?

They’re also usually the only decision maker/stakeholder involved. They might ask their friends and family for advice on bigger purchases but ultimately, it’s one person making the decision. And for those reasons, their buying journey is often shorter.

4. B2B customers care about post-sales service

Customers of all types expect outstanding customer service and that includes excellence even after the sale. B2B customers in particular want consistently excellent customer service before, during and after their sale.

Some examples of excellent post-sales service include:

  • Following up to check how they’re doing and if there’s anything else needed
  • Sending additional materials/resources that are relevant to the recent purchase and/or customers might find interesting
  • Being readily available to resolve any issues they’re experiencing (whether it’s related to their purchase or a new issue)

Ultimately, you want to make it clear that you’re there for your customers whenever they need. This level of attention will satisfy your customers and boost retention, making it more likely that they’ll return to you for future purchases.

B2C customers, on the other hand, usually only turn to after-sales support when they’re experiencing a problem or want to complain. Factors such as being able to respond and resolve the issue quickly can make or break their loyalty. They don’t often appreciate being sent additional resources, even if it’s relevant, as much as B2B customers do.

 

Knowing the differences between B2B and B2C buying behaviours is the first step towards a great B2B e-commerce strategy

While B2B and B2C customers have some similarities, such as sharing an end goal of wanting to buy something to satisfy a particular need, their buying journeys and values aren’t the same. And knowing those differences is key when you’re building an e-commerce strategy.

This is something we delve deeper into in our webinar, featuring valuable insights from our customer experience experts James Baker and Tham Nazir and leaders in the e-commerce software landscape Episerver. They discuss all things B2B e-commerce, from the do’s to the don’ts.

Watch the on-demand webinar via the button below.

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