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COVID and Commerce: Why a Pandemic Will Compel B2B Businesses to Adopt B2C Models

Delivery Man Is Ringing The Bell To Deliver Two Cardboard Boxes

In a previous blog, Digitally Catering to New Customers Post-COVID, I explored the impact COVID has had and is continuing to have on B2B healthcare organizations, specifically in areas such as commerce and site traffic for organizations that sell health/wellness products. I mentioned that there were two scenarios I can see unfolding as COVID continues to shape our new reality. The first is around net new customers, the second around new customer behaviors. Today, we are going to look at new customers that have found your site, and when it may make sense for you to build a B2C channel for these new users, and more importantly, others like them.

When determining whether you should build out a new vertical in the form of a B2C channel, you’ll want to start by looking at two specific areas.

Is There A Need?

Digital Customer Demographical Changes

If you’re noticing new customers requesting accounts within your business, or new users on your site, you should look at your commerce site analytics and see what these customer demographics look like. Easily found by leveraging Google Analytics or a comparable platform, this information can provide a look back at some historical data from the previous year, enabling you to compare that with a more specific timeframe from 2020. Look for changes or anomalies in these areas:

  • Demographic makeup, such as age and gender
  • Interests and affinities in different market segments
  • Geographic location
  • The behavior of new vs. returning customers
  • Site search variations, especially increases in certain categories
  • Increases or decreases in site traffic and page exits

If you have a new influx of site users that aren’t customers, you could be ranking within search engines for certain products that B2C consumers are looking to purchase due to the increased demand as a result of COVID. Your B2B Healthcare site that is fielding this traffic may not be set up in the optimal way to service these customers, especially if they can’t make a purchase without registering. Additionally, some products like nutritional supplements have two product types, meaning that one product iteration is set up for end-users to consume, where another item iteration is meant to be used in a clinical setting, with supervision from a medical professional. If you’re seeing evidence of these new customers, partnered with very high bounce rates on key pages, then it’s time to look at building out a B2C strategy.

Is Your Business Set Up for This?

People / Process / Technology

If you’ve concluded that you have a new need for a B2C model, the next question you must answer is how this will work logistically.

  • People – Do you have the dedicated employees to staff a B2C operation? Can current employees act as resources, or do you need to look at hiring new ones?
  • Process – Do you have internal processes set up to support new orders from B2C consumers? Do you have a support team set up to handle B2C calls and questions?
  • Technology – Is your ERP, OMS, and Warehouse Management system set up to handle these types of orders compared to the bulk orders that you might be shipping today? Are you currently able to accept credit cards? How are you handling sales tax in various states that you might serve through a B2C channel?

It’s one thing to have the demand and the need for a B2C channel, but it’s another to ensure its success. You can process all the orders in the world through your commerce platform, but if your business isn’t set up to support them, it will fail. Customer experiences will be lacking, your employees will struggle, and your technology won’t be able to support this new business venture. For example, Medline (a traditionally B2B organization that manufactures and distributes medical supplies) realized that the best way to serve the B2C demand was to build a new commerce platform. Medline at Home allows them to service the B2C customers in an experience that was designed specifically for that persona type. Additionally, it also helps Medline verticalize its brand all throughout the spectrum of care, a very nice added bonus I must say.

At Perficient, it’s our job to fill in the gaps. If you’re thinking about venturing down this path, we can help identify what people, processes, and technology you need to be successful. With no end in sight for COVID, now is the time to look at your data and analytics and see if there is a need and find out how we can bring make this dream a reality.

To learn more about how the B2B healthcare industry is evolving, check out our guide, How to Innovate and Evolve in the B2B Healthcare Industry.

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Justin Racine

Justin Racine is a Director and Lead Strategist with Perficient, and he works with clients to build and achieve their business goals through commerce-enabled technologies. Justin has over 12 years of experience within the ecommerce space, working with companies such as Cardinal Health, Johnson & Johnson, and Olam International, and has spoken at over 20 global conferences on ecommerce and branding strategy. Additionally, Justin has been published twice for his thought leadership on branding and marketing in the Henry Stewart Journal of Brand Strategy, is a contributing writer for, and a frequent contributor for many leading industry publications.

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