How to Succeed at B2B Ecommerce Fulfillment

Many ecommerce brands start out selling direct-to-consumer at first, but quickly launch retail or business accounts when they can support a higher volume of orders. B2B is an abbreviation of the term business-to-business and it signifies a business model of digital commerce where an ecommerce business sells directly to another business.

B2B ecommerce can be more lucrative for a few reasons: brands get a big capital investment upfront and less responsibility to sell every unit, allowing more room for product innovation, and higher sales and marketing budgets.

Streamlining your fulfillment strategy gets more difficult the more sales channels you add. An ecommerce business that sells to retailers requires careful planning, efficient processes, and effective communication. Here are some tips to get your B2B fulfillment perfect so you can scale your business.

What is B2B Ecommerce? 

If a brand ships products to a business or commercial address, it’s considered B2B shipping. Commercial shipping and B2B shipping are umbrella terms that also encapsulate more specific terms like retail shipping.

Many ecommerce businesses sell products to other businesses. A brand may make a bigger profit by selling bulk orders to a business or distributors rather than selling individual products directly to single consumers.

Examples of Business-to-Business Sales

Curious what B2B business is like? All brands and product types have different versions of selling to B2B outlets. Here are a few:

  • Some brands may ship products to an office building, school, or other business, which are all considered B2B distribution. This could be an enterprise hardware company that sells headsets and keyboards to a call center, or security cameras to a school.  
  • Medical supply and equipment companies often ship in large quantities of their products to hospitals, urgent care centers and doctor’s offices.   
  • Wellness, health, and beauty products often sell in high volume to hotels, vacation spots, or spas.   
  • Food and beverage brands send big shipments to grocery stores, restaurants, and hotels.   
  • Many other product brands have retail customers who vary from big box stores like Target, to independent boutiques like a local hardware store, to online marketplaces like Amazon. All of these are considered B2B ecommerce.  

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How B2B Companies Differ From B2C Ecommerce

While B2B stands for business-to-business, B2C stands for business-to-consumer and refers to sending products directly to individual consumers. These are both very popular business models within the ecommerce ecosystem, but each requires very different order processing, back-end management, and supply chain partnerships. Many brands will use a combination strategy, or omnichannel approach.

Ultimately B2B sales function differently than B2C. With business-to-consumer transactions, online sales will be individual orders placed through a brand’s ecommerce website, online store, or third-party ecommerce site like Shopify. The DTC customer experience is self-service, and sales are largely driven by marketing efforts. Some brands have updated the buying process and checkout to be fully embedded in social media sites as well, known as mobile shopping.

The sales process will be very different when selling to a business than a single consumer. For B2B ecommerce the B2B buyer will create purchase orders and submit them through an ERP or integrations API. While the customer relationship is fully managed between the brand and the B2B buyer or retailer, the reordering, and B2B transactions will be handled through digital channels. Most B2B ecommerce platforms are custom-built to streamline this process for all parties and automate as many details as possible. A brand interested in starting to sell to businesses or retailers needs to work with an experienced and reliable 3PL to help them manage the many strict requirements.

How to Set up B2B Fulfillment—What are the Demands?

The benefits of acquiring high-volume accounts to retailers and businesses can be lucrative and rewarding, but it’s not without a lot of diligent, detailed work. 

Here are some of the big demands you’ll face if you launch into B2B ecommerce.  

  1. Quick Increases in Order Volume—when you secure a new business account, you’ll be responsible for a higher volume of units being shipped out immediately. You’ll need to start thinking in thousands of units rather than hundreds, or dozens. This requires new forecasting models, bigger storage areas, new shipping contracts, extra fulfillment labor, and much more. It takes expertise to accommodate the quick scale up you’ll need to do across your supply chain.  
  2. New Packaging and Labeling—if your products are going to a business or retailer, chances are you’ll need to adjust some of your packaging. Whether this is to have products placed on shelves in a retail store, or repackaged for distribution, you’ll need to assess any new kitting or packaging.  
  3. Detailed Shipping Requirements—many businesses will want to control the order flow on their terms. They may want to have their carrier pickup pallets at your warehouse or need you to schedule drop offs within very specific time windows. Getting this right every time takes great attention to detail and expert management.  
  4. More Rigorous Customer Support—your B2B accounts may have more specific needs to meet demand. Exceptional customer support is essential for building trust and credibility in B2B ecommerce. High value customers, like a retail outlet will require your team to invest more heavily in quality support documentation and quick response time.  

B2B Order Fulfillment  

When adding new sales channels, you’ll need to ensure your fulfilment center is adequately set up to accommodate the specific demands of B2B distribution.  

DTC fulfillment is very different than B2B fulfillment. Here are some distinguishing features of B2B fulfillment:  

  • Accuracy. Getting every single shipment perfect is extremely important with B2B order fulfillment. Businesses may have compliance requirements, such as tax rules, product restrictions, SKU codes, parcel labels, barcodes or specific invoicing structures.  
  • Timing. Because orders are bigger and in bulk, shipments can be expected to have longer delivery lead times. This will need to be factored into your forecasting model, order fulfillment, and shipping times.  
  • Higher costs. Bigger shipments will naturally mean higher shipping costs across the supply chain. Expect to get more familiar with carrier information that you’ll need to ship your products far and wide, like sea freight or air freight, and international trade barriers like taxes, tariffs, and subsidies. 

Is Your Warehouse Ready for B2B Fulfillment? 

What is a B2B Fulfillment Center? While many 3PLs can handle both DTC and B2B fulfillment, not all can. It’s important to understand when vetting a 3PL provider, that they are set up to take on your retail or B2B ecommerce sales.  

Here are some of the things to look for to ensure your 3PL has a B2B fulfillment center.  


B2B ecommerce requires more storage space to move higher volumes of units. If you visit your prospective 3PL and their warehouse looks cramped or overrun with products, they may not have room for your B2B shipments.  


A warehouse that moves big bulk orders needs to have the technology to ensure order accuracy. High value B2B accounts have rigorous requirements, and any missing units, damaged products, or inaccurate documentation could mean steep fines or termination of your account. A 3PL with high standards of quality will help ensure your products are packed efficiently, accurately, and get to their destination exactly as expected.  


B2B customers often have strict deadlines and time-sensitive requirements for order fulfillment, especially for critical inventory replenishment or project timelines. Meeting tight delivery schedules while maintaining order accuracy and quality requires efficient logistics operations and effective communication with customers. 


Getting your products into a retailer is no small feat and it is a relationship that needs to be tended to. If you outsource fulfillment to a 3PL you must trust that they will become an extension of your brand—they’ll need to negotiate and advocate for your brand successfully. Your 3PL needs to have the expertise to do this well on your behalf.  

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How to Optimize Your B2B Shipping Strategy   

When starting out in B2B ecommerce, shipping shouldn’t be an afterthought. Here are the main considerations to optimize your shipping for bulk shipments to commercial addresses.  

Select Your Carrier

There are many carriers and services that are naturally better suited for B2B shipping. Look at your carrier’s past performance in handling peak shipping periods, full or less-than-truckload, and their coverage of specific regions. Lower costs shouldn’t always be a deciding factor; paying a premium for a dependable and timely delivery can benefit your business in the long run.  

Packaging for Large Volume Shipments

Fulfillment and kitting for products shipped in bulk requires a different approach than those shipped individually. You may need less dunnage or different packing materials. If products are going onto a retail shelf there may be specific labeling or packaging requirements to sell in that store.   

Understand Your Shipping Regions

B2B customers may operate across multiple locations, regions, or even countries, each with its own shipping regulations, taxes, and customs procedures. Managing shipping to diverse delivery locations requires robust logistics infrastructure and expertise in international shipping and cross-border trade. 

Tracking and Transit Times

Some commercial customers and retailers can be sticklers about delivery times, tracking, and loading requirements. Be sure you’ve picked a carrier that can match the needs of your customers. The bottom line is you want transparency to build trust with your customers.   

Returns Management for B2B  

Reverse logistics is one of the hardest aspects of ecommerce, especially in B2B and commercial transactions. The stakes are much higher when you have bigger shipments, because there are more products to consider and a higher cost.  

A smooth B2B returns management program can contribute to customer satisfaction and loyalty, when conducted well. By being proactive and customer-focused, you can turn returns into opportunities to strengthen your relationships with business customers.  

Here are the steps to ensure smooth B2B returns.  

1. Clear Communication and Policies

Proactively create a clear returns policy. Read through all documentation when signing a retail contract. Transparency can help manage expectations and reduce misunderstandings. Provide clear and detailed instructions on how to initiate a return and ensure you have detailed communication from your B2B account of their return policies before you start shipping.  

2. Flexibility and Longer Lead Times

B2B clients may require more time to inspect and return products compared to individual consumers. Be flexible with return timeframes, especially for bulk or commercial orders.  

3. Quality Checks and Restocking Fees 

Establish a thorough quality check process for returned items. This ensures that products can be quickly reintegrated into inventory or identified for refurbishment or disposal.  

Consider implementing restocking fees for returned items. This can help cover the costs associated with processing returns, especially in B2B scenarios where returned items may require additional handling.  

4. Customer Service Support 

Provide dedicated customer service support for B2B clients. Having a knowledgeable team available to address questions and concerns can enhance the overall experience and help resolve issues more efficiently. 

What is B2B2C? B2B Distributors, and More B2B Ecommerce Trends

The COVID pandemic and digital transformation of commerce has driven many new customers to choose buying online versus at an in-person storefront. As such many online marketplaces, third-party apps, and last-mile delivery companies have become popular ways for brands to sell products directly consumers.

B2B ecommerce platforms have enhanced their user experience by partnering with other businesses to get products to customers. These is known as B2B2C: where two businesses team up to offer easy online shipping and home delivery. Examples of this include: platforms like Amazon and eBaby working with a third-party delivery service to offer same-day delivery, or a brick-and-mortar store like Kroger or Target doing the same to get products to individual customers quickly.

These newer B2B ecommerce solutions hinge on back-end technology to connect customer purchasing decisions with order processing integrations, and other B2B platform integrators to ensure customers needs are met.

Bottom Line  

One of the most challenging aspects of shipping B2B for ecommerce businesses is managing the complexity and scale of orders, particularly when dealing with large volumes and diverse requirements from business customers. Overcoming this requires strategic planning, investment in logistics infrastructure and technology, and a customer-centric approach to shipping operations. Working with reliable supply chain partners, experienced in B2B fulfillment can help make the challenges less difficult, and allow you to focus on scaling your brand.  

Author Bio

This post was written by Maureen Walsh, Marketing Manager at DCL Logistics. A writer and blogging specialist for over 15 years, she helps create quality resources for ecommerce brands looking to optimize their business.

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