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Web to Print Guides - B2C vs B2B

As stated in the previous section, it is time to focus on your business to come up with bare bones of a Web to Print business plan. The idea is to narrow down what you are going to be shown in your demos to what you actually need your software to be able to do. The easiest place to start is to choose a route to market for your first webstore.

Most Web to Print software will be more focused on either Business to Business or Business to Consumer webstores. It might be good at both (or bad at both!) but under the hood it will be skewed one way or the other. You may think they are similar but as you will see below there are quite significant differences in the requirements of your chosen route to market.

Business to Consumer (B2C)

There is no point in beating about the bush, the B2C route to market is tough. In fact contrary to popular belief it is several times more difficult than B2B. If you are going down the B2C route you are going to need either a lot of money or a lot of patience and a whole set of marketing and web skills that are just not part of the B2B route to market.

Still want to give it a go? Fair enough, there is no doubt it can be done and here are a few things we think you should add to your demo checklist.

  1. Search Engine Optimisation - It's time to get in your chosen SEO specialist / web designer at this stage to help you formulate a list of what they would like the Web to Print part of your site to offer. SEO is a moving target so a bit of external advice at this stage is well worth the cost. They will able to give you a list of things to ask about, such as URLs being human readable rather than just numbers and letters etc.

  2. In a similar vein you will need your web designer to provide a list of what they would like. Typically you will be looking at pages hosted on your servers being blended with what the Web to Print software provides. These need to be styled in a similar way so that the end user feels like they are using one site. Also, whilst it is not correct to say that style is more important than function, it must be said that on B2C sites style takes on more importance than with a typical B2B site. Here you are going to be looking at how flexible styling is in the Web to Print software and probably need to know that you can you add in your own HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

  3. Make sure you can interact with products without having to log in. It is a huge barrier to entry on B2C sites to force the end user to sign up and / or sign in before seeing what they are going to buy.

  4. The product edit screen probably needs to offer a lot of freedom for the consumer, up to almost having full design control (no matter how bad they are at design!).

  5. A really robust discount system. Everyone loves a bargain and a lot of your marketing will be about price (sales and discounts) or new products. Your Web to Print solution should be able to offer a variety of ways to discount products.

  6. There are loads of other things that can help such as built in communication functionality (either real time chat or message based chat), 'customer also bought' notices to the customer, upselling functionality, such as options that increase the price of a product and many more.

In future guides we will cover Business to Consumer in more detail, including why it is a big challenge, high level marketing and SEO requirements and many other topics.

Business to Business (B2B)

Business to Business requires a different set of options from your Web to Print system. While the look of the site is still important, business rules become more important such as credit control or approval systems. It might be a good idea to read this section and carry straight on to the next section about finding your first customer. This will help you think about what business rules you need to offer based on a real customer's requirements. Generally though you should think about the following:

Sign Ups:
In almost all cases B2B sites are closed off to the general public, either each sign up is approved or, more commonly, you as the owner of the software will create all the users on the site.

This becomes a more common requirement as the size of your customer's business increases and the person placing the order quite often does not have the authority to approve the purchase. This can be quite simple, e.g. one person orders and one person approves the order. Or it can be much more complex, for example it has to go through a chain of approvals from one person to the next, or maybe some items don't need approval and some do.

Credit Control:
Often important when different departments or locations have a set amount to spend on what you are selling. Think about whether you are going to manage it manually outside of the Web to Print solution or if you want the software to take care of it. Also what happens when a customer runs out of credit, should they ask for more, wait until next month, pay by some alternative means?

There might be a requirement for different users on the same site to have access to different products, or, especially in the case of large corporations, do you need to offer ISO certifications that your software provider needs to be part of.

In the B2B section we have concentrated on drilling down into the business rules you want the software to follow rather than thinking about what the end user can do in terms of editing and placing orders.


You can probably see straight away in this section that we have stopped saying what we think you should look for to a more "these are things you should think about" approach. That is because it is how the software is going to work for you and what your requirements are.

What we can say is that the more time you spend on defining what you want (or just as importantly what your customers want) and then making sure the software meets those requirements is going to massively reduce the chance of a surprise when you have signed a contract with a supplier, when you find out that you either have to go and find another solution to meet your needs or pay for custom development.

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