There was a time not that long ago when businesses couldn’t easily market or sell things directly to consumers. The dawn of eCommerce changed that at the turn of the century.
Internet access and internet speeds improved with the advent of broadband networks. Once wifi and routing technology made the internet a home staple, surfing the internet caught on.
That was the late 1990s.
Shortly after that revolution, mobile broadband became a thing and smartphones started building bigger data-ready interfaces. The Apple iPhone launched in 2007. The 3G network connected the world at new “blazing” speeds the year after that. And in the decade after that, Apple sold over 1 billion iPhones, inviting industry competition from Android devices.
An entirely new economy was born: eCommerce.
And with that, an entirely new marketing method bloomed full-force: B2C marketing.
Businesses sold directly to their customers online without going through a mediary. They could close their brick-and-mortar store to save on overhead and assets and pass that on to the consumer by cutting traditional price markups.
B2C marketing gave small businesses big opportunities in the form of global reach.
Today, B2C is a lucrative norm.
If you’re part of the money-making ecomm playground, read on because we’re going to pick apart platforms, marketplaces, best practices, channels, and the brightness of the B2C future.
What is B2C marketing?
B2C stands for Business-to-Consumer marketing. B2C marketing describes the strategy behind getting people (not businesses) to buy what you sell.
B2C marketers find ways to advertise products to consumers based on what they know about individual customer buying habits (like impulse purchases and emotional triggers).
If you sell products online to a growing base of individual consumers, stick around and read how to do it better.
But if there are question marks floating in the air in front of your face because you don’t deal in t-shirts, bobbles, trinkets, fashionable wares, or innovative me-to-you products, chances are you’re in the wrong article.
Are you in the wrong article?
If you work for a business that sells to other businesses, you’re a B2B marketer. Pop over to our B2B Marketing post and learn how to sell your company’s merchandise to multinational corporations (B2B customers).
The B2B landscape is different from B2C.
B2B marketing involves C-level decision-makers for input/approvals, comparative analyses, long-term relationships, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and lengthy sales cycles. The prospective customers are fewer, the transactions (buying process) and investments tend to be bigger-scale, and the pricing units are usually sold in bulk to deep-pocket B2B buyers.
A B2B marketing plan looks to solve customer pain points and influence purchasing decisions in a way that creates a positive return on investment. The prime social media network is LinkedIn (compared to B2C social networks that are more likely Instagram, Facebook, or even TikTok).
That’s not how B2C companies operate.
The trademarks of B2C
B2C customers shop sales and promotional discounts for personal use. They sign up for programs, coupons, and incentives. They buy on whims (there is no approval process) and suffer buyer’s remorse from emotional buys.
Cost is lower, the amount of time in the decision-making process is short (no approvals required), and buying is quick and easy—it’s easier to buy a t-shirt than an enterprise software solution.
B2C customers look for high-value brands with popular social proof (on Instagram, Facebook, etc.), and demand high-quality customer service and things like free shipping and returns.
B2C marketing example: clothing retailers
Before online shopping (eCommerce) was a thing, people physically drove to stores. They physically walked in, screeched hangers around on racks, said “I’m just browsing, thanks” to shop staff who hit them with “Are you looking for anything in particular today?”, and tried things on in changerooms.
Crazy, right? Remember when you did that?
That was about a year ago.
A global pandemic accelerated the timeline away from in-person merchandise browsing to virtual shopping. Though that tactile customer experience may be missed, there are a number of things that make eCommerce a winner:
- No drive time
- No parking lot mayhem
- No germ-grimed door handles
- No annoying people wearing nostril-obliviating perfumes
- No queues to pay at registers with slow POS terminals
My forehead corduroyed remembering that song and dance. 😩
No thank you.
I’d rather open an app on my phone, swipe a few things, and pay with my saved credit card on ShopPay from an encrypted site that has free 2-day shipping, free returns, and the glorious absence of sick people coughing in my face. 😕
B2C platforms (self-directed) vs B2C marketplaces
B2C businesses sell directly to individual shoppers. There are two ways to do this:
- Sell on a B2C platform (like Shopify) and use Google Shopping Ads to direct traffic to your site.
- Sell on a B2C marketplace (like Amazon)—something of a go-between—and use their systems and ad platform.
If you sell on a B2C marketplace, there are fewer setup steps but compliance rules you must follow.
If you sell on your own site using a CMS platform, the setup steps are monstrous by comparison, but you have fewer policies to abide by (other than those imposed by Google Shopping Ads on the Google Merchant Center).
What is an eCommerce platform?
eCommerce website builders are customizable shopping-based content management systems (CMS) that have hundreds of templates for solopreneurs and small businesses to design their digital storefronts.
These platforms are great for businesses who want to make browsing online, adding to carts, applying discounts, and shipping/returns easy.
Examples of ecommerce website builders
Woocommerce (for WordPress)
What is an eCommerce marketplace?
An eCommerce marketplace is different from an eCommerce platform in one major way: your products are sold somewhere other than your website and processed by another operator.
You get massive exposure, but you must adhere to the marketplace policies and operate under their omni-channel sales strategy.
Examples of ecommerce marketplaces
Amazon is the place to be if you’re a B2C business looking to promote your products to purchasers (consumers).
Etsy is the place to be if you make handmade stuff and want the world to know about it.
What B2C website strategy sounds better to you? Coasting on the laurels of a hugely successful online retailer marketplace for massive exposure but less control? Or putting the eyes from SERP squarely on your site where you control the conversation and don’t compete with hundreds of other similar options on the same page?
Chew on that while we talk about why either of these options are worthwhile.
Why bother with B2C marketing?
This burgeoning eCommerce boon makes sense because today we are so well set up for online transactions.
And there are micro-fulfillment centers popping up all over the US and drop shippers that put products within a same-day radius of your house.
You bother with a B2C campaign because people need stuff. On top of that people want stuff they don’t need.
What you sell won’t be seen unless you market your wares to the billions of shoppers looking for them. And it’s not even a chore anymore to get going because there are integrations you snap into place to make the process seamless.
How B2C marketing works
Unlike B2B (businesses that sell to other businesses), B2C tries hard for that emotional connection. B2C marketers use market segmentation and targeted messaging to grow your customer base so that one-time purchasers become repeat customers.
To achieve that, a consumer must believe in the underlying values of your company. There must be a good backstory (B2C content) that speaks their language.
Create a connection
Perhaps your business is eco-friendly, gives back to movements and charities, or adds to the planet with sustainable solutions and carbon neutral shipments (where money is donated to tree planting, for example, with every purchase). Whatever the angle, the raison d’etre must align with the fundamental values of the people who could buy your same thing somewhere else—but they don’t.
They buy from you because your story (content marketing) resonates with them.
They pick you because why you exist goes beyond the physical thing you ship to their door.
It makes them feel good about being part of your tribe because of what your company stands for.
When consumers buy your sustainable soap, single-use plastic alternative, or product that picks a carbon-offsetting shipping option, they’re doing their part to offset pollution, prevent deforestation, save the oceans, and put an end to child labor.
How to start an eCommerce business
Like anything else, find what is missing from the market. Then…
- create a business plan to focus your marketing efforts (more on that below)
- build a great website on an eComm platform or get on an eCommerce marketplace
- spread the word about your new business with a targeted marketing campaign that involves content, social media channels, and PPC ads (more on that below).
- follow-up with your customers (with email marketing)
- integrate tools you’ll need to handle orders, take payments for orders, fulfill orders, and ship orders
B2C marketing tools
- Point-of-sale system (POS) to keep track of inventory
- Payment integrations (ShopPay, PayPal etc.) to provide secure transactions
- Shipping integrations to get products to doors fast and at low to no cost
- Analytics apps to track customer behavior, make data-driven decisions, and improve sales
- The usual accounting systems to manage payroll, profit & loss, and budget
- Email and marketing software to reach more potential customers
- Customer support live chat
- Social media platforms
With those integrations in place, you have the building blocks upon which to create a kickass B2C marketing strategy. But don’t shoot blindly in the dark.
Ask yourself these questions to get started:
Pregame B2C questions
- What are your competitors doing?
- What’s your value proposition?
- How can you differentiate your offer?
- Do you have a kickass website?
- Have you focussed on your SEO (search engine optimization) and targeted customers with high-converting keywords that boost your CTR (click-through rate)?
- How does your SEM game look (your PPC ad campaigns) on Google and Bing?
- Does your social media rock? (because a projected 4.41 billion people will use it to find you by 2025).
- Are you testing all of these things and optimizing the variables that come up short of amazing?
There you go. You have your game plan in place.
When you execute that plan, keep these best practices in mind:
B2C best practices
The physical store isn’t needed, but an online store is essential. What features make an eCommerce website shopping experience a good one?
In the digital marketing world, this is known as UX. That means clear navigation tools, streamlined checkout flows, superior customer service (person-to-person chat, not chatbots), and minimal cart friction (use biometric authentication instead of passwords to lower cart abandonment rates).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Getting your shop on the search engine results pages (SERP) prepares your site for future growth. This is the long-game traffic finder. This includes things like mobile compatibility, image alt text, optimized image sizes, schema markup, title tags, meta descriptions, hierarchies, and technical seo issues (like page speed and broken links).
Cart abandonment holds the heavy-weight trophy for most alarming statistics for eCommerce shops:
- Average cart abandonment across all industries is 69.57% on desktop and 85.65% on mobile
- eCommerce brands lose $18 Billion in revenue every year because of cart abandonment
- Checkout optimization increases conversion rates by 35.62%
All of that points to one important thing: invest in your checkout experience. Take that money you’re saving in overhead and location-based expenses and invest it in your website backend.
- Offer at-cart discount codes
- Save addresses, credit card details, and passwords for seamless checkout (or authorize with biometrics like fingerprint or face scan)
- Make the payment process secure and efficient
- Address objections at point of purchase with social proof (from past customers) like reviews and ratings.
Pick your B2C marketing channels
The cost of those clicks depends on your budget, bid strategy, Google’s Quality Score, and competition.
Online shoppers discover your brand and are influenced to purchase your products because of social media posts from friends and influencers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.
Social networks boost awareness and encourage clicks to landing pages. That’s how social media impacts eCommerce.
Roughly 3.96 billion people use social media worldwide every day, spending about 2 hours 24 minutes scrolling through posts, swiping through product carousels, engaging in messaging, and clicking-through to eCommerce websites to buy that thing—your stuff—that social media made them aware of in the first place.
So it is worth your time to create a basic digital presence—at least—on the networks most relevant to your audience to engage with potential customers.
Start with these three social media marketing steps:
- Match your social media marketing goals with your overall marketing objectives
- Create compelling content
- Use metrics to see what networks engage best and prove out paid campaign ROAS (return on ads spend)
- 👆 Optimize there 👆
Don’t knock it as some old tech. Email marketing is where it’s at. It has a bonkers-high return on investment.
Like SEO, email marketing is free (or very affordable) so it’s great for small businesses on tight budgets. Leverage its power to alert customers about product launches, blow outs, and abandoned carts.
Okay, yes, that’s a lot of planning and effort. But it’s worth it.
When you’ve asked and answered the B2C marketing campaign questions, picked your platform or marketplace, followed best practices to keep your strategy tight, and mapped out your social media, SEO, PPC, and email marketing goals, you’ll reap the rewards that come from Business-to-Consumer transactions.
The advantages of B2C Marketing
Your products are accessible to customers at any time of day without drive time. The limitations of operating hours disappear—electronic stores are always open.
Same day and next day fulfillment and delivery
Sell to customers anywhere you can ship to. Filling orders fast and getting those orders to doorsteps is a differentiator. Use micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs) and dropshipping. Offer better shipping/returns options than your competitors.
Low operating costs
It’s easier to scale without managing properties or a ground-level workforce (better margins). Staff become more backend technical and less up front sales-based.
You can really wear the pants of your patrons with B2C marketing segmentation, customer profiling, and analyzing past purchase behavior. Give your customers virtual try-ons and automate triggers that show them alternative options on site. Let them know about upcoming sales with email marketing.
Big picture: the impact of eCommerce and where B2C is going
We’re seeing the ripple effect right now.
Large retailers were forced to jump online so they weren’t left behind. This expanded their reach. Those brick-and-mortar giants that were slow to see the value of eCommerce are feeling the fallout of a saggy bottom line.
Small business owners, on the other hand, were able to diversify their offer and get their brands in front of better customers thanks to secure eComm platforms and widespread consumer smartphone shopping.
The variables that converged to make eCommerce successful (mobile networks, internet speeds, eComm platforms/marketplaces, payment systems, micro fulfillment centers, and same-day/next-day shipping) have replaced traditional shopping with its virtual alternative; eComm is growing 3x faster than traditional retail.
In 2018, an estimated 1.8 billion people worldwide made an online purchase. Today, 43% of consumers say they don’t need to shop in physical stores anymore.
By 2026, the B2C eCommerce market is projected to hit almost $5 trillion, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27%.
eCommerce is a baby on the retail timeline. It’s still new.
But it’s a fast moving train and the innovations it will see in the next few years—considering the leaps and bounds being made with artificial intelligence (AI)—will continue to benefit the individual at-home shopper.
The future of eCommerce looks like pinpointed personalization via artificial intelligence (AI)-guided shopping.
Time will tell. And B2C brands will adjust accordingly.
Remember, happy B2C customers become fans. They lift your brand, promote your products, and leave rave reviews.
How do you make end users happy?
With effective, personalized B2C marketing that you try, target, test, and tweak to make the online shopping experience individualized (and the best it can be).
The borders are blurring.
Consumers around the world are shopping extreme convenience and sellers who meet that benchmark will swim in high profits (and customer loyalty).
So go after it, seller.
YOU GOT THIS.
Let us know what you use from all the goodies above to hit that leaderboard. Happy B2C marketing.
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