B2B vs. B2C Fulfillment

How Customer Experience Extends Into Both Niches

Once upon a time, ecommerce fulfillment was almost 100% retail and etail businesses. Slowly but steadily, B2B enterprises are jumping into the market and are becoming a larger part of the fulfillment world.

Historically, fulfillment has been considered to be the “back-end” of an operation, a necessary cost after everything else has been decided. That old-fashioned approach changed drastically during the dot.com era. The realization that fulfillment is indeed a place where strategic imperatives, such as brand building, maintaining a relationship and driving down costs, can be achieved. Once this message started spreading, it did not take B2B companies long to realize that the exact same imperatives are applied in their business model.

Fulfillment Should be Part of the Marketing Program

Many astute marketers from both B2B and B2C, now consider fulfillment to be just as important as any other component of a marketing initiative. An obvious example of this is how the use of the internet has been incorporated into the fulfillment processes, resulting in strategic or integrated fulfillment systems.

As a fulfillment provider, it is important to recognize that clients are becoming more and more experience-oriented. Further, when it comes to B2C and B2B fulfillment clients, it is very important to be aware of the differentiating factors that have an influence on their experience.

The client who sells direct to the consumer and the client who sells to other businesses, each demand a high level of service, along with specific technological and reporting needs. But, it is the fulfillment partner that can create the exceptional customer experience (either consumer, or business) that gains the competitive advantage.

Customer Experience is the Intersection

Over the years, consumers have evolved from a product-led to a consumption-driven economy. In today’s competitive environment, it is the fulfillment provider’s responsibility to create an exceptional customer experience for their clients. The way in which products are received, whether by a consumer, or a business, is the VERY first impression the recipient has of a business.

Although much discussed, this concept is often misunderstood. In a recent poll conducted of 81 businesses, several interesting insights were made:

The ecommerce, direct to consumer client is most satisfied with their fulfillment partner when the following key factors are met:

1. Helpfulness in resolving their problem or challenge
2. Value for the client’s time
3. Customer recognition – the client’s customer
4. Promised fulfillment – the fulfillment partner does what they promise
5. Personalization – the fulfillment partner is a part of the client’s team?
6. Competence
7. Accessibility

The factors that have a fundamental impact on the B2B client are:

1. The extent of personal contact
2. Flexibility
3. Implicit understanding of their needs
4. Pro-activity in eliciting customer’s objectives
5. Pro-activity in follow up
6. Promised fulfillment
7. Knowledge

Note that only Promised Fulfillment makes it to both lists. Fulfillment, by definition, is that part of the business process that plans, implements and controls the efficient, effective forward and reverse flow of goods, services and related information from the point of origin to the point of consumption in order to meet customer’s requirements. What is important to recognize is the means by which the B2B client demands satisfaction, are very different than those of a B2C company.

Whether Business to Business or Direct to Consumer, achieving a great client experience is the cornerstone of client satisfaction.

Jeff Ehrlich is President of Fulfillment Plus, Inc., a full service product fulfillment company that services both Business to Business and Consumer Direct business.

This entry was posted on Monday, April 29th, 2013 at 10:34 am and is filed under Warehousing and Fulfillment Resources.