From B2B to D2C: how to pivot to sell direct-to-consumer

Anna Thompson
Anna Thompson
Discover content team
4 min read
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E-commerce is shaking up the traditional B2B sales model. D2C (direct to consumer) is no longer the exclusive domain of B2C brands; many B2B businesses are now selling directly to individual customers, too. So, if you’ve been considering this sales channel for your B2B business, where should you start? We’ve got some tips to help you on your way.

The D2C e-commerce market is booming, fuelled in part by the closure of bricks-and-mortar stores following the pandemic. For the consumer, the benefits are obvious – the convenience of having their favorite products delivered to their door and, with overheads reduced, often at a cheaper price point. It’s not surprising that 81% of consumers say they plan to shop from D2C companies over the next five years1

This isn’t just exciting news for B2C brands; an increasing number of manufacturers are now cutting out the middleman and selling directly to consumers as well. They’ve realized that if there’s enough interest from end customers, then devoting their entire sales strategy to traditional wholesale channels (with lower profit margins) makes less sense.

With the advancement of e-commerce software and the ready availability of fulfilment services, it has never been easier for B2B businesses to make the switch. So, if you’re looking to add D2C to your sales strategy, what should you consider? Read on for six important tips. 

man staring at wall

1. Do your competitor research 

If you’re thinking of pivoting your B2B business to a D2C model, it’s a good idea to start with some good old-fashioned desk research to understand the market. Look at B2B businesses within your sector that have already changed from wholesale to D2C. Who are they targeting? Where do they market themselves? What does their e-commerce website look like?   

Understanding the landscape will help you see what opportunities there are for your business, and identify areas where customer demand is not being met – you can pivot your business to meet this demand.

We recommend you carry out a Competitor Analysis. It will guide you as you take a closer look at your competitors’ offerings, from how their products are priced, to their social media presence and website analytics. You can use these competitor analysis insights to learn best practices to sell more effectively and uncover market trends to influence your business strategy moving forward. Download our free Competitor Analysis template and get researching!

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 2. Identify new customer segments for your D2C e-commerce site

One of the benefits of D2C e-commerce is that you’ll have more flexibility to bring new products and services to market quickly. Look at your product catalog and ask yourself how individual consumers like to buy these kinds of products and how you can tweak your service to meet such demand – such as creating enticing product bundles or limited-time offers.

As an example, consider you’re a beauty supplier that saw a drastic decline in product orders from beauty salons, spas and shops amidst the pandemic. Instead of selling manicure supplies to these premises in bulk, you could repackage the products into “at-home manicure sets” and sell to customers directly via your e-commerce website or through an online marketplace. The opportunities are out there, you just need to get creative.

finger pointing at mobile phone

3. Invest in your e-commerce website

Here, you need to think like a B2C customer. Consumers want easy navigation of products, user-friendly interfaces and multiple payment options at checkout. They expect fast and international shipping as standard, the ability to track their orders, and free returns. You can even offer subscription services to build long-term customer loyalty. There’s a lot to consider, but as e-commerce specialists, we can help you tick off the important features. Take The DHL Express E-commerce Health Check to sharpen up your website and boost your sales.  

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4. Build a brand

It’s one thing investing in your e-commerce website, but if your customers don’t know you’re there, it’s a wasted effort. Whilst larger manufacturers pivoting to D2C can capitalize on the brand name recognition they already have with end-buyers, smaller suppliers will have to do a little more work to build a brand community. 

Utilizing social media marketing to build awareness and amplify your brand is key. Content creation, too, will build your credibility: 60% of consumers prefer to research a product directly on a company’s website2, so include product demos, user reviews and how-to guides on your e-commerce site to help them on their purchase journey. 

5. Don’t burn existing client bridges

If you intend to adopt a hybrid model and continue selling wholesale to retailers as well as directly to individual consumers, this may present challenges. Essentially, you’ll become a competitor to these retailers. B2B relationships are typically built up and nurtured over years, and you don’t want to risk damaging all your hard work. The key here is communication: keep your existing retail partners in the loop, and together you’ll be able to find a profitable way forward. One effective strategy is to share key consumer insights from your traffic and sales data with them. The result? More sales for everyone, and a win-win for your brand.  

woman smiling at mobile phone

6. Collect customer data

With a D2C storefront, you’ll have a unique opportunity to tap into powerful data, including:

  • What products your customers are searching for the most
  • What’s not selling so well
  • Buyer demographics, purchase frequency and average order values

These customer behavior insights will help you identify up-sell or cross-sell opportunities and deliver more personalized content such as product recommendations and tailored offers.  

You can also engage with customers directly to invite feedback and suggestions, but you’ll have to put the work in to earn it: 60% of consumers say they would be willing to share more information with brands if they provide a better shopping experience3, so look at how you can deliver an engaging experience across your channels. 

For more insights into the online opportunities for B2B businesses, download our exclusive B2B E-commerce Guide.

1 & 3 - From B2B to D2C Online Sales, Magento Commerce, 2021

2 - ROI of Customer Experience, XM Institute, 2018

3 - Williams Commerce, Accessed August 2021