Are you thinking about merging your retail (B2C) and wholesale (B2B) sites? Perhaps you’re an established retailer looking to enter the wholesale market, or vice versa?
One report by Forrester Research predicts that the B2B eCommerce market would reach $1.2 trillion by 2021. Retail eCommerce is also growing quickly and consistently, with total sales expected to equal nearly 5 trillion by the same date.
A combined approach can lead to a significant increase in revenue and cost savings. A unified site means having only one set of technical, advertising, and maintenance costs, among other things.
This scale of commerce requires meticulous planning to meet the needs of both B2B and B2C buyers. It’s also vital to get the process right so that both types of customers continue to buy through your website. You want to avoid the appearance of competing with your wholesale customers on a retail level.
The Benefits of Unifying Your Retail and Wholesale Site
Obviously, there are benefits of unifying retail and wholesale eCommerce operations in a single site. Here are some of the most significant:
- Create brand awareness - With a single branded website, you can significantly increase awareness and reduce the costs associated with advertising and brand promotion.
- Streamlined buying process - By replicating critical aspects of the simple B2C buying process, wholesale customers will benefit from a faster checkout. With some adjustments such as pricing, payment method, and other options, the site will offer a consumer-like experience for B2B.
- Management of a single catalog - By combining all your products in a single database, designed to account for B2B as well as B2C needs, you can limit the number of resources required to update and manage your catalog.
- Easier maintenance and lower costs - A one-site solution reduces almost every aspect of technical support and expenses, from coding to integrating with CRM and ERP.
Although using one website instead of two is cost effective, there are still challenges to overcome regarding segmenting the customers and pricing.
4 Key Challenges for Retail-Wholesale Unification
It’s crucial to remember that while there are similarities, the needs of B2B and B2C customers often diverge. Consider these top four practical stages before building a solution that works for both customers:
1. Choose Between One Multi-Purpose Sales Area or Two Portals
At the outset, you have two options. Build separate stores, keeping both accessible from one domain. Or unify the site by designing your homepage, product pages, and all other essential site areas to cater to both B2C and B2B customers.
For example, Alibaba and DHGate both take the latter approach by providing staggered pricing options on their product pages, with reductions as the order-size increases.
As mentioned, a single store limits the amount of time and resources needed to keep it updated and optimized. Conversely, a two-store approach enables you to tailor content to each unique market.
2. Set up different accounts for B2C and B2B customers.
While there is overlap, B2B and B2C customers have disparate needs. Wholesale buyers for example require easy reorder options, the ability to ship to multiple locations, utilize different shipping processes (such as cross-docking), and timely notifications about price-sensitive products.
Retail customers are likely more concerned about promotions and new products.
It’s essential to build user interfaces, features, and settings that reflect the needs of either B2B or B2C customers.
3. Ensure Clear Divisions in Marketing
Marketing initiatives aimed at B2C customers will be significantly different, in both tone and substance, from those for B2B customers. It’s vital to account for these differences in the design of your site and the processes underlying your on-site marketing strategies.
How will you sort these different customers into segmented mailing lists? Will on-site advertisements and related product suggestions vary? What about your loyalty programs?
Typically, customers will have an account, so this represents one possible way to separate the two groups and channel them to the appropriate site or pages. You’ll still need to create B2B-specific landing pages and sales funnels.
4. Clarify Your Branding and Design to Avoid Confusion
One of the reasons Costco is so successful is because they tailored the branding to appeal to both wholesalers and retailers.
As you make the shift to a unified platform, ensure your design and branding appeal to the different market segments you intend to serve.
Many retail-wholesale online sellers promote their wholesale activities as an incentive for retail customers to purchase higher levels of inventory to reduce costs. Alternatively, on the wholesale side, eCommerce stores may entice B2B customers with the promise of a streamlined purchasing process and higher markups like that of B2C. Whatever the case, there are always opportunities for effective, inclusive branding.
Save Time and Risk with A Unified Platform
A blended wholesale-retail storefront enables you to take advantage of one set of features. From mobile-responsive designs to targeted branding, serve both buyers without the hassle of managing multiple solutions. It is easier to offer new products, slash advertising and maintenance costs, and quickly respond to time-sensitive issues.
However, unifying both can be a complex solution and mistakes can happen. Presenting the wrong information to any of these groups can be detrimental to your business. Unless you or your team are website developers, this job should be handled by someone with experience. You eliminate stress, save costs, and have minimal downtime.
At Eventige, we have assisted many eCommerce clients through this merging process. We take care of the web design, catalog migration, and the building of technical infrastructure. We’ll also pinpoint potential obstacles and work with you to form a long-term strategy for both types of buyers. Contact us if you’re considering merging your store.