B2B eCommerce Account Management: Key Difference With B2C

The topic of this post is about the term account management, and in general, this story is about the difference in structure of B2B and B2C accounts.

The first fundamental difference in B2B and B2C commerce is that we have a different origin of demand. There is corporate buying in B2B and individual shopping in B2C. The first is a routine work process, and the second is also a pleasure and pastime.

The second important difference is that in B2B, many client employees can work under one account but with different roles. About the concept of roles, let’s take an example where one employee selects products according to a purchase list and puts them into the basket, and another one has the rights to check this order and approve the purchase. Often, a finance officer confirms that the goods will be paid for, and a logistics officer enters the delivery address for the products ordered.

The third significant difference is that the same employee, including contractor staff, can perform B2B procurement work for different companies and therefore, must switch quickly between accounts to maintain good performance in her/his activity.

If we talk about a B2C account, it corresponds to one person — a consumer. This person performs all the actions on the choice of goods, the payment and the choice of the delivery method.

Account management in B2B ecommerce platform

— This is all interesting in its own way, — you might say, — but what is the practical sense for me?

In our opinion, the benefit of this article will be to help you understand the features of account management in B2B. Then, when choosing a B2B ecommerce platform for your business, consciously choose the one that flexibly supports the business logic of your organization.

Let's list the main features required in the B2B ecommerce platform.

  • Implementation of the organizational structure of the client's company into the account. These are roles that have the right to order products, approve purchases, etc. There may also be product view-only roles without ordering rights, such as customer presales and marketing staff.
  • Products available to order, prices, volume discounts, delivery times and shipping addresses are applied according to a contract between the seller and the buyer's companies.
  • Online registration of new users with online approval from the person in charge of the organization’s account, also could be additional operations like buyer’s license upload at this step. By the way, this point is rather controversial, and in conflict with some network security rules. Many large selling companies do not allow online registration of a new user, but only through filing an application from the company in a traditional way (email, fax, etc.).
  • Support for complex relationships between clients who are part of holding companies, chains, trade and professional associations.
  • Ability to implement new, previously unforeseen options for clients' business logic without platform redevelopment.
  • Ability to work with multiple organizations, i.e. carry out purchases from one employee on behalf of several organizations.
  • The organizational structure may be very complex for the client, there may be a situation where several companies nested together. For example, a parent company, a subsidiary and a branch of some sort, and the supplier also has contracts with these entities. The representative of the parent organization has a holding contract, some goods are bought for the branch, while prices and assortments should be displayed correctly for all such customers within this complex account.
Virto Commerce demo portal with an example of a fast switch between company accounts for the same user

Virto Commerce demo portal with an example of a fast switch between company accounts for the same user

These requirements summarize that rich B2B functionality must be initially incorporated into the ecommerce platform. Adding these capabilities while adapting the client’s business logic will figuratively not like gymnastics, but prosthetics.

How flexible B2B account management looks like

Now that we have discussed the platform requirements in terms of sophisticated account management, we can show an example of how it looks on a real platform. As expected, we will talk about Virto Commerce, but you can generalize this example in your mind if the platform brand is not important to you right now.

Virto Commerce demo portal with an example of a client’s registration

Virto Commerce demo portal with an example of a client’s registration

To begin with, as a new potential customer, you could get free access to a B2B demo portal with the latest version of Virto Commerce preinstalled as a preview. Here you can study the structure of the modules in admin mode, explore each of them and play around in situations typical for your organization.

Virto Commerce demo portal with an example of exploring a client’s structure

Virto Commerce demo portal with an example of exploring a client’s structure

If we go to the Contacts module responsible for the account management on this demo portal, we see that an organization can be divided into subsidiaries and regional branches. Further, in each of those branches, there are users who, moreover, can log in under different organizations.

 Virto Commerce demo portal with example of assigning client’s employee permissions

Virto Commerce demo portal with example of assigning client’s employee permissions

For example, a contractor performs routine buyer work for several hotels within a chain on food or beverages. Therefore, the platform features not only user authorization by login and password but optionally also a drop-down list with organization names on whose behalf the user authorizes.

Next, we want to show what IT architectural technique is used to solve the challenge of adding new business logic to the platform for account management. In Virto Commerce, for such purposes, there is a special layer where you can implement almost any and arbitrarily complex business logic for managing customer accounts through the API.

Virto Commerce diagram with out-of-the-box account management module and custom extensions via xAPI layer

Virto Commerce diagram with out-of-the-box account management module and custom extensions via xAPI layer

Here in the Virto Commerce architectural diagram, we have native modules, including an accounts module with out-of-the-box logic. This module belongs to the basic set of options, shown in the screenshot above, just out-of-the-box.

To support more complex relationships between different legal entities within a single corporate account, including employees with multiple roles and a person belonging to several companies, you can use the Touchpoint API layer. There is a huge scope here for developers to algorithmize the business logic of management in an account.

Contact our experts to learn more on B2B account management or reserve a demo of Virto Commerce B2B ecommerce platform.

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Sergey Berezin
Marketing writer