Omni-Channel B2B2C Sales: Seize the Opportunity
March 17, 2021
B2Bs are flocking to omni-channel in the search for digital growth. It’s little surprise considering 90% of consumers want an omni-channel experience, and omni-channel customers spend 10% more online than their single-channel counterparts.
B2Bs of the past tended to focus on a single channel. This channel was usually direct sales (with or without a lackluster attempt at B2B eCommerce on the side). But today’s B2Bs are hungry to cover all the bases, which means capitalizing on every channel, model, and opportunity, including omni-channel B2B2C sales (B2B2C.)
Keep reading to find out:
Executives shouldn’t think of eCommerce as "just another sales channel". Learn how this massive shift in B2B buying is shaping how companies win or lose.
Before diving into B2B2C, let’s take a quick look at multi-channel sales and its integrated cousin, omni-channel sales.
Multi-channel sales is the process of selling your products across multiple channels. For today’s B2Bs, these sales channels might include sales reps, distributor networks, marketplaces, B2B eCommerce, AI chatbots, mobile apps, call centers, social, and more.
By opening up new channels, B2Bs can reach more customers more quickly. They can interact with buyers any time, any place, through any device. They can provide the convenience and flexibility that today’s B2B buyer has come to expect.
But problems arise when channels become silos – separate entities that operate independently from one another. Today’s B2B buyer wants to interact with sellers across multiple channels, often in a single transaction, and a lack of integration leads to a frustratingly disjointed experience. Cue omni-channel.
Omni-channel is a multi-channel framework centered around the customer. Omni-channel sales and marketing software creates a friction-free experience for customers, wherever they begin or end their buyer’s journey (and however many touchpoints they interact with along the way.)
How do B2Bs achieve such a level of cross-channel consistency? They do it with omni-channel software and integrated back-office solutions, both of which are discussed later.
B2B2C is a hybrid of the traditional B2C and B2B sales models. Often poorly understood and undoubtedly underutilized, it has the potential to deliver large swathes of new customers for a remarkably low CPA.
In the most basic terms, B2B2C involves three parties: the B2B (manufacturer), the B2C (retailer), and the end-customer. Under an ordinary channel partnership, B2B manufacturers white label products and sell them to a B2C. The B2C then brands these products and sells them on to the end-customer for a profit. So far, so obvious.
But in this omni-channel world, full of opportunities to reach customers in new and exciting ways, some manufacturers have become dissatisfied with the standard channel partnership arrangement. Why? (1) They want to build awareness of their own brand, and (2) they want to collect precious customer data generated from sales of their products.
In a nutshell, with B2B2C, manufacturers can:
The best way to illustrate this sounds-too-good-to-be-true model is with an example.
KBMax customer, Tuff Shed, sells storage sheds through several integrated sales channels. They have a visual product configurator used by sales reps, distributors, and end-customers alike. By embedding their visual product configurator on their website, they can sell direct-to-consumer (D2C.) And by positioning Tuff Shed-branded tablets pre-loaded with their visual product configurator inside Home Depot stores, they’re able to leverage B2B2C too.
Customers that want to buy a shed from Home Depot can simply log on to Tuff Shed’s in-store tablets, configure their ideal shed, and place their order. Tuff Shed manufactures the shed to order and ships it to their address.
Under this arrangement, Tuff Shed makes a sale that they might have missed out on otherwise. They take ownership of the customer data and promote their brand. Meanwhile, Home Depot gains a share of profit from selling a product that’s too big and bulky to sell in-store.
There’s no doubt B2B2C is excellent for customers. They get even more choice and convenience over when and where they can buy. But for the B2B and the B2C, some risks have to be weighed against the upsides. Here’s a summary of the pros and cons:
The Tuff Shed example is just one of an unlimited number of potential B2B2C arrangements. Alex Rampell, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, identifies three more, serving to demonstrate the breadth of opportunity here. In each case, the supplier sells through rather than to the retailer, interacting with customers under their own brand.
Financial technology services company, Affirm, provides “buy now pay later” installment loans to consumers at the point of sale. Customers can go to the Affirm website, where they’ll find a wide range of desirable products for sale, but to purchase, they have to click through to the suppliers’ website. The customer selects Affirm as their payment method and secures a loan instantly.
Instacart is a grocery delivery and pick-up service that operates across the United States and Canada. Customers go to the Instacart website, where they can order from a local grocery store. Instacart serves as the intermediary.
Diners wanting to book a table at their favorite restaurant can book on the OpenTable website rather than through the restaurant itself. By booking with OpenTable, they get reviews, recommendations, and a streamlined, reliable customer experience.
If there’s one thing that should be clear by now, it’s that B2B2C arrangements come in all shapes and sizes – there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. However, the beauty of omni-channel is that you can leverage multiple B2B2C arrangements simultaneously and incorporate them seamlessly into your broader omni-channel strategy.
Integration lies at the heart of every successful omni-channel business. With B2B2C, it’s even more vital: Not only do your back office system and processes have to integrate, but they have to integrate with your B2B2C partners’ systems too.
A lack of integration can bring your entire omni-channel infrastructure crashing down. Duplicate orders, inventory shortages, and communication challenges can make it more hassle than it’s worth. But if your ERP, CRM, CMS, CPQ, and eCommerce platform are integrated and connected via APIs, then you can add and remove B2B2C channels with relative ease.
For manufacturers of complex, customizable products hoping to leverage B2B2C, KBMax is the ideal solution. With KBMax, you can centralize sales reps, distributors, end-customers, and future B2B2C partners around a visual product configurator and a shared set of product and pricing rules. Users can configure products in 3D with the visual product configurator by clicking, dragging, and dropping around an intuitive 3D interface.
Just like Tuff Shed, you can position devices running your visual product configurator inside physical stores, boosting sales and brand awareness. And thanks to its integrated CPQ (configure, price, quote) capabilities, you can connect KBMax to all major business systems, including Oracle and SAP, as well as CAD software like Solidworks (for design automation.)
For the 100,000+ Salesforce customers, KBMax connects effortlessly to Salesforce CRM and augments Salesforce CPQ. With KBMax, Salesforce users can manage their B2B2C leads in Sales Cloud and supercharge CPQ with 3D visual product configuration, advanced product rules, and CAD and design automation, all of which are lacking in Salesforce’s standard offering.
DJ is a long-time marketing consultant and technologist, helping companies with marketing strategy and marketing technology. He loves telling stories about applied technologies and the impacts it has on buyers.