How Headless eCommerce Can Help B2B2B Vendors Know their Customers

Any business must be close to its customers to be efficient. Knowing the customer's needs and desires helps create effective marketing strategies and targeting, increases loyalty, improves product lineup and much more. However, in B2B2B relations, the customer (or retailer) is obscured from the business' view by the middleman. This article describes two ways in which a headless ecommerce platform can help solve this difficulty. 

B2B2B relations usually consist of a manufacturer producing goods, a wholesaler distributing these goods and a B2C business actually selling those goods to the consumer. For the sake of clarity, I will name them the manufacturer, the wholesaler, and the retailer, standing for the three Bs in B2B2B. 

To be efficient and sell more, the manufacturer must have a thorough knowledge of the retailer. The problem is, in B2B2B relations, the retailer is obscured from view by the wholesaler; there usually is no direct line of communication between the retailer and the manufacturer. 

Historically, this problem was solved by developing a trusted partnership with the wholesaler, with the latter providing all the needed information on their customers. This approach, however, placed a strain on the wholesaler, who had to collect and present all the data; therefore, his employees had to do more paperwork. The wholesaler could also be tempted to hide some unsavory facts from the manufacturer, which, in turn, means more work for the manufacturer’s employees to control the wholesaler. 

An API-based ecommerce platform can solve this problem. Here are two examples of solutions that are both efficient and profitable for all parties involved. 

1. Help the wholesaler with business automation

Roughly speaking, this approach means the manufacturer deploys the wholesaler's ecommerce platform right inside the manufacturer's own business ecosystem. The retailer then places orders with the wholesaler on the manufacturer's platform, giving the manufacturer all the data it needs. However, certain drawbacks must be handled. 

First comes the question of security. Wholesalers have a lot of extremely sensitive information; any leaks can lead to devastating problems. The platform must be able to guarantee that there will be no leaks. All retailer accounts must be created and governed by the wholesaler to make sure no impostor can log in. 

Then comes the customization. The wholesaler will want to have a unique interface that constantly reminds the retailer whom they are shopping with. This customization may also include unique twists and turns a certain wholesaler wants to give to its customers. The platform must provide this. 

Third, there is another security issue: the wholesaler may want to hide certain sensitive information, like its pricing policies, altogether. The platform should enable certain hidden services (like the mentioned pricing model) externally, between the retailer and itself. 

Luckily, the API-based headless ecommerce model allows all this and more. For example, it is possible to deploy additional procurement automation services for retailers, e.g. inventory management. In the end, this approach leads to a win-win-win situation:  

  • the manufacturer gets to know its retailers, 

  • the wholesaler receives an automated service, 

  • and the retailer gets access to many tools and expensive, exclusive information (e.g. marketing surveys) they never had before. 

Learn more about cloud-native B2B portal for manufacturers by Virto Commerce

2. Create a customer loyalty program

This approach allows circumventing the wholesaler to get a clearer view of the retailer while improving their loyalty to the manufacturer. And improved loyalty means, with the next order, they return to the same manufacturer instead of turning to the competition. 

Technically speaking, a loyalty program is a B2C marketplace that sells goods for 'loyalty points'. 'Loyalty points' are earned by the retailer by buying manufacturer's products. The goods on the marketplace can be anything, and the 'points' spent by the retailer, are converted into money for the goods providers by the manufacturer. 

The thing is, the manufacturer cannot afford to run a B2C marketplace. He could set up one (or multiple ones in different regions), select certain local internet retailers to fill the catalog and operate their own 'stores', and give the reigns of the result to the wholesaler(s). Yes, the 'circumvented' wholesaler (the distributor, to be more precise) is still needed in this scenario. He knows the local market, is also interested in customer's brand loyalty and can govern these marketplaces efficiently. It is up to the manufacturer is to pay the invoices, collect the retailer’s data and based on those invent effective marketing campaigns to generate more profits for all the parties. What is more, as these marketplaces are limited to certain certified users, they can also serve as information portals, supplying technical, marketing, and other exclusive data to the retailers. 

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Dmitrii Reznikov
Copywriter and researcher