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B2B Personalization is Not B2C Personalization

Myths of B2B eCommerce

Insite Software

Featured Guest – Jeff Natzke



In episode 3 of Insite’s podcast series “Myths of B2B eCommerce”, Insite’s VP of Marketing and Customer Experience, Karie Daudt is joined by Jeff Natzke, VP of Product at Insite Software to breakdown the myth that B2B personalization is the same as B2C personalization.


Natzke came to Insite with a lot of practical experience in the manufacturing and distribution industries. Before entering his role at Insite, Natzke worked in IT at a manufacturing and distribution company headquarted in Minneapolis. He worked on everything from business intelligence to data warehousing, to even launching various applications for customers and operations like 3PL practice, B2B, B2C site and more. Since joining the Insite team Natzke has held various roles. His first role actually involved working on the implementation side of things to implement InsiteCommerce®. Currently Natzke leads up the product strategy at Insite.

Personalization is about making the experience unique to the end user. The experience is not generic, but tailored to them. What are they interested in? What’s important to them? Personalization in B2B is far different then B2C personalization.

B2B Buying Habits are Different in B2B and B2C

One major difference in B2B and B2C involves the person who’s actually doing the purchasing. In B2C the user is always the one making the purchasing decision but in B2B a lot more complexity exists. There are many more people involved in the actual purchase than there is in B2C. In B2B you have roles that may include:

  • The Researcher – Identifying whether certain products fit specific use cases
  • The Procurer or The Buyer – The one actually procuring the product, making the final purchase
  • And many other roles between the two types

Another major difference is that B2C is about getting the end user to buy on impulse.  B2B buyers don’t have the option to impulse buy. This is not to say there’s no potential for upsell or cross-sell, it is just a different experience across B2B and B2C. In B2B you really have to help guide the buyer and they need to understand what products will meet their needs.

B2B buyers don’t shop, they buy for their jobs. So much of eCommerce is about efficiencies. People need to be able to find the information they need to find, buy what they need to buy, and move on with their day.

Personas and Customer Segments are Different in B2B and B2C

In B2C your customer is the end user. They are very much one in the same. In B2B however, as we’ve already mentioned, there are multiple users in the purchasing process. In B2B you aren’t necessarily targeting an end-user, but more so an organization.

For example, Insite has a customer in the HVAC and plumbing industry. Their customers are either HVAC customers or plumbing customers. Of course there may be some overlap but for the most part they either buy for HVAC or plumbing reasons. We don’t target the individuals but rather an organization that is either an HVAC or plumbing contractor. The personalization then comes down to targeting the organization, not necessarily the user.

Personalization in B2B

There are many aspects of personalization in B2B that are table stakes personalization. For example, when you login as a customer you’ll want to be able to see your pricing and local availability. Furthermore, some of your customers also have their own part numbers. So you need to be able to conduct searches by part number. Additionally there are also things like custom catalogs that show private label brands a customer may be purchasing from a manufacturer or distributor.

Personalization in B2B is all about making it easier for your customer to do business with you and getting them the information they need when they need it. The first goal of personalization in B2B is about improving efficiencies not only for your customer but also for the people internal to your organization. Whether a customer is working from a desktop, tablet or mobile, the experience you provide needs to be able to get your internal and external stakeholders the information they need.


Each customer likely also has a unique workflow. Large organizations and the individuals that work within them may require “access only” where they can place orders to specific locations. One individual may only be able to place orders for their location. Or perhaps an individual can only place an order after it has gone through an approval process.

Order Automation

Customers often want to automate orders that are sent through email or fax. These customers are used to always sending out emails but why force them to go to the website?


Lists can be used for different personas. A plumbing contractor, for example, may be out on a jobsite building an apartment complex. In this scenario let’s say they are building three units which require a certain number of faucets and sinks. Adding these products to a list will allow them to take the list and purchase everything on it a certain number of times. List management is perfect for this kind of use case.

CSRs and salespeople can also use lists to recommend items. This helps further develop consultative relationships between the B2B organization and their customers.

When you think about lists from a B2C side, you often think about things like wishlists. But in B2B, lists are so much more powerful than simply adding items to a “things I might buy” list.


Many Insite customers have seasonality aspects of their business. There are different ways you can address this through personalization. You can change catalogs, boost different products or change advertising for different parts of the world where seasonality matters.

Why is B2B Complex?

Whereas B2C eCommerce is about a one-to-many relationship, B2B has a many-to-many relationship between people, products and channels. Each persona and person involved in the buying cycle has different needs, different requirements and different personalization. From multiple units of measures, to kits, bundles and configured products, products in B2B are far more complex as well.

Personalization for Marketing Teams

Many of Insite’s customers do not have large marketing teams.  In B2B you can target your known customers. Rather than trying to find new unknown customers, focus on the customers you do know through up-sell and personalized experiences. Additionally make sure your marketing team has the tooling (administration tools, CMS, etc.) they need in order to be successful when it comes to personalizing the experience.

Personalization in Platforms

Because B2B and B2C are so different, it’s important to know what to look for in a B2B platform when it comes to personalization. Often when you hear “personalization” you think about personalized content and personalized promotion. Though this is certainly part of personalization, it goes a lot deeper in B2B.


Search is important in B2B because outside of lists and repeating orders, search is really how people find products. In the B2B world, customers have their own part numbers they want to search by. There’s also terminology that may be unique to an industry that you want to account for. Boosting certain products is another factor you want to take into consideration when it comes to choosing your platform.

Often content in personalization is thought about as homepage content or advertising content. You can also think about it as different product content. For example, for someone who may sell to retail versus local vet clinics, the retailer is going to want to know more about the formulary or the ins and outs of the product. So you also want to personalize the product content based on the segment. Within B2B you want to be able to only see products that are pre-approved or that have already been vetted by someone in the organization.

The Future of Personalization in B2B

The future of B2B personalization involves being where your buyers and users are. Mobile will play a large part in this, especially for teams who have members working in the field. You want to make it easy for your customers to do business with you and accommodate every person in the complex B2B buying cycle.

There are a lot of aspects of personalization on the B2C side of things that need to be accounted for in B2B, but there is so much more complexity around pricing, products and personas in B2B.

A caution: A lot of marketers that got their start in B2C, get really hung up on the flashy frontend. They think that personalization is all coming from the front end so they are looking at CMS applications that are really B2C applications. Buyer beware, so much personalization in B2B comes from the backend, from the core engine and technology that drives the front end personalization. Personalization is not only on the frontend. Nor is it entirely online. In B2B so much happens offline within the ERP and sales process. Be sure your eCommerce platform can truly handle personalization at the B2B level.

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