The growing ecommerce sector has opened up new frontiers for many industries, including manufacturing. However, B2B2C ecommerce for manufacturing is a particularly interesting use case. The modern era of ecommerce-enabled companies generally directs one's thoughts to B2C customers and business models. Inspired readers may think of B2B ecommerce as business-to-business (B2B) companies. But the B2B2C scenario is seldom top of mind, despite being an important manufacturing use case.
A Forrester Consulting report from 2019 estimated that only 21% of companies employ a B2B2C supply chain and practice. Interestingly, Mark Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, stated in 2018 that "We see every B2B company and every B2C company becoming a B2B2C company. I see that over and over again." So this isn't a trivial use case, limited to niche markets.
B2B2C refers to a business model that involves a manufacturer or an organization that produces goods and sells them to consumers, but does so through channel partnerships. With the growth of ecommerce websites and the importance of digital transformation, manufacturers need to reconsider their existing customer base, changing needs, and customer experiences.
Consider a large, global, non-niche company like Hewlett-Packard (HP). HP has long marketed its products or services directly to end-user consumers. Early on, HP realized the importance of establishing a direct relationship with its consumers, and the importance of establishing its brand—both through channel partners and in a direct play. In that regard, the company set up its ecommerce site to directly sell to consumers when the customers wanted to buy directly from the brand. But it also had its B2B businesses and channel partnership running. Selling through channels and distribution made sense for them to deliver customer services with economies of scale.
For many of its businesses, HP marketed and sold directly to consumers, but fulfilled through its channel partnership. This is a clear case of running both a B2B (business to business) and a B2C (business to consumer) operation. Beyond these models, HP also sold directly to consumers, fulfilling orders through its channels, selling inventory in a B2B manner.
By no means is this unique. Many manufacturers can leverage this model in which the brand or manufacturer sells direct to consumers, even though it supports and fulfills through its channel partners.
The challenges in pushing towards B2B2C ecommerce for manufacturing include:
B2B2C ecommerce for manufacturing is a paradigm and use case that can drastically change the course of a business. As a manufacturing use case, the B2B2C market is growing, and it offers a wide range of opportunities. It is important for manufacturers to understand the buying process of their consumers, and reach out to a large enough market to make it worthwhile. Manufacturers need to work with technology partners like OSF Digital, which can set up both enterprise-grade B2B ecommerce systems, as well as consumer-oriented direct marketing automation systems. Adjusting your model to a B2B2C-centric, ecommerce platform is an important step towards truly taking ownership of your manufacturing future, brand, and brand identity.
Truly the new frontier for brands is the B2B2C ecommerce for the manufacturing use case.
Charles brings more than 20 years of experience in marketing, sales, product development, and management. With depth and breadth in varied markets, he drives the right go-to-market and demand generation strategies for OSF’s core products. A lifelong learner, he graduated from the University of Waterloo with degrees in management, business economics, and engineering. Charles also holds several certifications in leadership and marketing.