Daily Deals for B2B EcommerceIf you read this blog with any amount of frequency you probably know that I am all for B2B ecommerce emulating B2C ecommerce techniques to create a more user-centered experience.

I’m a huge supporter of using B2C merchandising and promotional techniques to raise the bar during the B2B ecommerce sales process.

But a B2B ecommerce Groupon offer??

I don’t think we’re there yet.

The Back Story

I recently read an article on B2Bonline.com about a B2B company offering 50% off of its consulting services on Groupon. This was no chintzy deal—those who took advantage of the offer would get $25,000 worth of services for $12,500 and instead of closing the deal in a day, the deal remained open for three weeks.

The Groupon deal closed without any takers and I’m not surprised.

While 50% savings on consulting services is a great deal—especially if you were planning on purchasing anyway—B2B ecommerce doesn’t work that way, at least not yet.

Why Not?

While I can quite often be found on the B2B-ecommerce-should-act-more-like-B2C-ecommerce soap box, the “daily deal” promotional format isn’t ripe for B2B ecommerce. Here’s my take on why:

  • The B2B sales process is more complex. The “daily deal” promotional strategy hinges on a person’s inclination to buy right now. B2B purchases typically require a number of people to approve the purchase, particularly on non-commodity items like consulting or development work and on large ticket purchases. Chances are high that a B2B company will want to compare the daily deal company against others in their market space to make sure that they secure the right partner. This requires meetings and evaluations and demonstrations—not likely to be completed in a 3 week window.
  • The B2B product purchase contains more layers. Daily deals are ideal for simple offers such as $50 worth of food and beverages at your favorite restaurant for $25. Large B2B purchases like the one proposed in our example—consulting services for half off—aren’t so cut and dried. There are too many considerations to factor in, such as whether the consulting group offering the daily deal has experience on a particular type of product and their capability to work within another company’s business rules. There are simply too many considerations involved for a “yes” decision to be made both quickly and with the company’s best interests in mind.
  • Large corporations don’t seem like “Groupon-ers” to me. I have a hard time envisioning the major corporations located in my home town trolling daily deal sites to see what B2B services they can snap up for cheap. It’s simply not in the large corporation mentality to make major purchases based on a coupon. Don’t get me wrong, both B2B and B2C companies like a good price for the products and services they purchase, but they are more likely to find the best fit and negotiate a price that both parties can live with rather than looking at discounted services.

The Exception

I do think there is one exception where a B2B company would not only benefit from the daily deal promotions model but would participate in a big way—commodity items. Every corporation buys toilet paper and office supplies, copier toner and light bulbs. These are not big ticket items (even though the total order might be quite sizable) and are less likely to require the amount of buy-in and approval as purchasing consulting services. These are the perfect items to feature in a daily deal or limited time promotion. Whether these types of promotions would experience more success in the “daily deal website” format that Groupon has made famous or whether they would work better in emails sent out to key clients with a daily deal offer, I can’t say for sure. My gut tells me that emails will be the way to go until a daily deal site that is truly B2B-focused appears.

Either way, don’t waste your time trying to sell your complex products to a customer with a complex buying process on a B2C-focused daily deal site. In this instance, B2B is its own beast and can’t be forced in to a B2C promotional format.

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