The differences between B2B and B2C fulfilment

In any ecommerce business, there should be a clear understanding of who you’re selling to.

Some companies are purely B2C, selling goods directly to individual customers. There’s also B2B, where you’re selling to another business.

Naturally, whatever your audience, you’re going to have to deliver those goods somehow. What some people starting out in ecommerce don’t realise, however, is that some fulfilment practices don’t work as well when you’re selling B2C as when you’re B2B – and vice-versa.

We’ve put together a guide of some of the key differences between B2B and B2C fulfilment, as well as some of the challenges each one poses.

How are B2B orders fulfilled?

In B2B, businesses are typically fulfilling orders for a smaller number of customers but with a much larger quantity of products per order. That’s because businesses tend to buy in bulk and at regular intervals depending on what they’re buying and if it’s for continuous use; for example, office supplies, which will deplete at predictable rates.

The warehousing processes between B2C and B2B are broadly similar, however B2B picking and packing involves more bulk items and is more likely to be stored in large boxes or crates. For a lot of companies who sell to other businesses, it might not be profitable to sell individual items like a single pack of A4 paper – which is why products are often stored in larger quantities.

How are B2C orders fulfilled?

In contrast to B2B, B2C companies fulfil ipaas provider  orders for an enormous amount of individual customers per day. However, each customer is likely only buying a few items – which means cargo vehicles can potentially carry hundreds of separate orders at once.

This means that logistics for B2C fulfilment is focused on speed and accuracy, making sure orders are delivered on time and with no mistakes. There’s a lot more delivery options involved in selling directly to an individual customer as they’ll want retailers to fit around their schedule.

For example, they want to know that their next-day delivery will actually arrive the next day in case they’re out of the house for the rest of the week. For B2B, there’s always going to be someone in the office, and orders will be planned weeks in advance – so there’s not as much of a need for multiple delivery options.

The challenges of B2B fulfilment

The size of each order in B2B can pose some problems, particularly when considering laws and regulations. There are more restrictions and regulations companies need to comply with when shipping larger orders than there are associated with smaller, B2C shipments.

Some retailers require warehouses to have electronic data interchanges (EDI), such as digital purchase orders and invoices. For larger companies this isn’t as much of an issue as they likely have those systems already in place, however for small or independent businesses it might not be as feasible.

There’s also the challenge of expectations and quality. A business wants to know that what they’re buying is perfect for their company, and will weigh up both the price and quality of a product extensively. That means a B2B sale is harder to close than B2C, because consumers have less to lose from buying a single product which they can easily return if not to their standard. B2B sales are all about building relationships between your two businesses, and making sure the client has everything they need to make an informed purchase decision.

The challenges of B2C fulfilment 

There’s a range of difficulties which come with B2C order fulfilment. One which is rarely seen with B2B is the consideration of reverse logistics; around 30% of products ordered online are returned, which means companies which sell directly to individual customers need to establish effective returns systems and methods to prevent people from sending items back. With B2B, this issue isn’t as prevalent; because they’re often bulk, repeat orders, the faulty item might be part of a big batch of spare products which don’t have any issues with them.

B2C fulfilment also poses some difficulties at the point of sale. Fewer items per order means that profits are dependent on the volume of customers, and there’s no guarantee that someone will keep coming back to buy more. B2B is more secure in this aspect. Most businesses will be on a subscription or repeat order basis where they buy a lot of items in one, so there’s slightly more stability in that repetition.

Due to the volume and variety of items being shipped each day, B2C warehousing can be very difficult to manage. With orders constantly coming in and being fulfilled, inventory levels fluctuate a lot and it’s essential to have a good WMS to keep track of your stock and avoid being under or over supplied.

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C retailer, one of the most important things you can do to alleviate the challenges of fulfilment is to partner yourselves with a reliable integrations provider.

By integrating with the right WMS or 3PL, you’ll find your operation runs a lot smoother – and Patchworks is an experienced provider with a round-the-clock team dedicated to your success.