If you’re an established B2B business but want to sell selected products direct to the consumer, can you do both B2B and B2C?

If you have a strong counter business and a good spread of regional stores, can you sell direct to the ‘end consumer’ and keep your trade customers happy at the same time?

B2B and B2C

In this scenario, one obvious problem for starting to do B2C is that there isn’t any consumable content for end customers. You are therefore totally reliant on your trade brands to market your product for you and hope consumers will buy direct from you. It’s not an ideal strategy.

Of course, there is a solution. It is possible!

In this article, I’m sharing a real-life example of how I helped a B2B business launch an eCommerce channel for B2C.

The challenge

I got a call from the CEO of the leading Garden Buildings manufacturer in the UK. He had a challenge and needed my help. The manufacturer needed an outlet and quick!

The company was about to lose 80% of its business because the largest DIY chain in the UK was going to pull their range, and the other largest customer was going to switch manufacturers. You might say, they had all their eggs in one basket? Yes, it was the perfect storm, but it also provided the perfect opportunity to transform.

Strategy

Leading teams through very unsettling and frankly scary, changing times can be hard. You need a positive, straightforward, honest and common-sense approach but importantly you need a strategy and a ‘why’.

You need to remain focused whilst allowing compromise where relevant, but you also need to relentlessly stick your ‘why’. Changing the goalposts is the worst thing you can do but you may need to adapt your strategy to deliver your ‘why’.

Speed

In this example, that meant having to accept a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for the eCommerce solution, but the alternative was going backward and not having a digital frontage at all. The pandemic has only highlighted and accelerated the need to adapt and press on with a digital channel. So, there was no question that MVP was the only way to go and then plan a roadmap to iterate and improve in an agile way.

From understanding the requirement to finding a great eCommerce partner and then smashing six months of work in just six weeks, we went live!

Problem-solving

We considered the potential risks because we knew it would be unsettling and disturbing for the network of trade outlets and sellers. Of course, there was some sensitive PR with the independents, and we focused on being channel selective and careful product placement. By focusing on the higher quality product ranges and a consumer-friendly price were able to make those product ranges available directly without upsetting the independent sellers.

We also had some Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) that were loss-making, so we started with the proposition and worked backward. As a manufacturer, you can build what you want so my solution was to set up a supply chain and outsource to Eastern Europe to reduce costs, improve the quality (reduce returns) and use a specialist. The manufacturers were better equipped to make the product, and geographically were also closer to the timber! A win-win economically and sustainably.

It was a great project to lead that had outstanding results. Not only did it secure the future of the businesses but also many local jobs.

Key takeaways

In this business transformation being clear and consistent in my approach with all of the stakeholders built their confidence. Then the numbers started to show. What’s more, people loved being part of the success. For best results, you need a unified vision, an excellent product, accurate data and an entrepreneurial culture.

So, can you do both B2B and B2C?  Yes, you absolutely can.

Spencer Bell