Ecommerce has been revolutionizing and evolving business to consumer (B2C) commerce for the past couple decades. The push by business to business (B2B) to develop a sophisticated eCommerce experience on par with what is available from the leading brands and retailers in B2C is fundamentally changing the traditional notions of B2B online strategy. B2B brands that openly embrace this evolution will gain a much-needed advantage over their antiquated competition. I recently had the chance to speak with industry blogger, Angie Panezott, on the ecommerce transformation currently taking place in the dental supply vertical of B2B commerce.

The voice of the consumer influences purchasing behavior, whether you’re a consumer in B2C spending your own money, or in B2B spending money on behalf of your company. Aside from the addressable challenges, the goals for ecommerce remain the same across the board: drive visitors to the site, provide the experience and information necessary to optimize conversion, gather more data about customers, deepen customer loyalty. But different from B2C, B2B brings many challenges including complex purchasing processes, standardized data, regulations, and concerns of channel conflict.

Angie Panezott, The Dental Prophet, blogs about the dental industry. Her experience in the dental supply industry makes the case for user-generated in all B2B ventures. I talked to Angie to get her take. She writes:

“As a territory rep for a dental distributor, my job was to maintain a territory of a couple hundred buying customers over a large geography. In addition, prospecting new customers was a crucial component of the role. Over a period of three months, it became abundantly clear that reason many buyers were making purchases with me wasn’t because they thought my company offered the best products and equipment over any other.

They were making purchases because they either enjoyed my visit with them, or they’d merely wanted to hear about how other customers were using the products I was recommending or the products I had already sold them. In a nutshell, I spent the majority of my time sharing stories and client experiences with these customers, when it could have been provided straight from the customers themselves on our website. This would have allowed me to focus on major clients while the smaller portion of my client base engaged with other customer opinion on our website.

Then I thought about how consumers make buying decisions. How DO they make buying decisions? Whether you are a homemaker or CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the purchasing dynamic is rapidly changing. Consumers want to be more educated. They no longer want to hear what you, as a sales rep, have to say about your brand. They want to know that your brand is as good as you say it is, with validation from actual consumers. The internet has changed the way we decide what to buy.”

There are different approaches to B2B ecommerce. Grainger developed their ecommerce channel into the most significant channel of the business, reaching $3B in ecommerce revenue in 2013. Others like

B2B companies can benefit from the behavior already established in B2C by modeling their ecommerce strategy with key components highly adopted by the consumer. The key components in B2C will translate well to B2B and drive user adoption of this new, low cost of sale channel. This will give forward-thinking B2B marketers a much-needed advantage over their competition.