To describe the type of market(s) a company is operating in it is very common to use the B2B or B2C distinction. But is this distinction the right one to use to understand marketplaces and wholesale in particular? Or even more companies in general?

Anyone can sell/buy goods through (e.g.) eBay, individuals and businesses alike. And regardless of their background or location they can exchange goods/services via the eBay marketplace in a structured and predictable manner for both parties to get the business done (i.e. in all aspects: from marketing, product information, offering and deal making, contracting, tracking and tracing, payments, guarantees etc. to most importantly the exchange of data that accompanies every step of the process).

Not long ago this type of structured exchange was reserved for larger parties with large amounts of bilateral and predictable business. For only then the effort and cost involved were warranted to create an EDI-link. Now you can effectively and efficiently deal with someone in a structured and predictable manner on the other side of the world, even if the two parties will only exchange goods once and in very small amounts. Being able to do a deal in a structured manner is something that most take for granted once it is there but is the core essence of the marketplace and wholesalers existence.

It is not important what the background of the party is with whom you trade; business or private. But whether you can act with the counterpart in a structured manner. Marketplaces like eBay knit two loose ends together so that each connection actually becomes a structured exchange between “accidental” passersby. A commercial deal between a company with an other company who act on an ad hoc basis have more in common with what people traditionally see as the characteristics of B2C then a private person selling second hand stuff via eBay to an other private person which resembles more what people traditionally see as characteristics from B2B. “B2B” and “B2C” are therefore no longer adequate to indicate the type of relationship in a given value chains.

For companies it is convenient to organize themselves on relevant customer characteristics. Even though for a company dealing with companies and or private customers can be different, this does not in itself mean that this distinction is relevant for the rest of its products and services offering or its business model and strategy. To organize sales and distribution channels in a age where digital and brick and mortar are getting blurry it is better to differentiate between “structured” vs “not structured” relationships, not B2C vs B2B.

Not b2c b2b