Business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing continues to evolve rapidly to keep up with shifting consumer behaviors and trends driven by our digitized world.
B2C marketers must understand the impact 24/7 internet access has on how and why consumers buy what they do – and provide relevant, personalized content and experiences with which their customers want to engage.
This article will explain B2C marketing and touch on B2C marketing strategies, challenges facing marketers, and trends for 2023 and beyond. We’ll also take a look at the ecommerce giant Amazon, one of the titans of B2C digital marketing, and what made it an industry leader.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
What is B2C marketing?
B2C marketing is a strategy by which a business sells its products and services directly to the end consumer, rather than to other businesses. Retail storefronts, ecommerce companies and even online streaming platforms such as Netflix all accomplish their sales via B2C transactions.
Business-to-business (B2B) marketing, on the other hand, refers to the marketing of goods and services to other businesses. B2B sales cycles tend to be longer (companies making software purchases, for example, will do extensive due diligence before investing in a product). Whereas, B2C transactions are often instantaneous or close to it.
While both B2C and B2B campaigns sell products and services, successful B2C marketing campaigns seek to trigger and capitalize on both consumer impulses to buy and the emotional response their products elicit. This means as a marketer, you must be able to anticipate your consumers’ needs — and be able to deliver them before they realize what they want.
Luckily, in today’s digital world, there’s a plethora of data that B2C marketers can tap into to accomplish this very objective and mount successful campaigns by:
- Meticulously tracking and analyzing consumer spending.
- Understanding how consumers interact with sponsored posts on social media and which links they follow.
- Tracking what they ultimately end up buying.
Note: Direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketing is a strategy within B2C marketing. It involves selling directly to the consumer, thus bypassing retailers, wholesalers or marketplaces.
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B2C digital marketing strategies
Content marketing is among the most important and effective B2C digital marketing strategies today. Defined as marketing focused on creating and distributing online content (i.e., blog posts, articles, videos, etc.), content marketing is used to attract and engage an audience that will purchase the content generator’s products.
YouTube, for example, provides a platform for marketers to create video content that drives consumers to online retailers. The pet product retailer Chewy, for instance, creates YouTube videos called Chewtorials that combine practical information with product tie-ins.
One of the most valuable channels for tactical content marketing is social media, with the objective to use social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and even LinkedIn to push content.
Have you seen a sponsored Instagram reel promoting a specific brand of tomato sauce or outdoor gear? Or perhaps a post from a brand linking back to its online store? Then you’ve seen social media marketing.
One trend we’re seeing is the continued rise of influencer marketing, where brands use individuals with large social media followings to promote their products. But one of the most successful social media marketing tactics involves sharing where brands create content that their existing users are compelled to share with their own networks.
To get customers to share content, besides including buttons/icons on websites, blogs or emails, you must understand your audience and what they value. And don’t forget, tapping into emotional engagement works.
Email marketing is another foundational — and extremely successful — B2C strategy. Its ROI is an impressive $36 for every $1 spent, which outperforms virtually any other digital channel.
Marketers can use email in any number of ways, but the key lies in delivering relevant, personalized information. If you don’t know what your customer’s preferences are, you won’t be able to deliver email content that drives purchases.
A word about Amazon
No discussion about B2C marketing would be complete without mentioning Amazon, the world’s largest ecommerce site, with 300 million active customer accounts and close to 2 million selling partners across the world.
Amazon is not only a leader in marketing itself but in providing marketing support and platforms through which its sellers market their own shops and products.
Close to 30% of Amazon shoppers complete their purchases in under three minutes, while half finish in less than 15 minutes. That’s because shoppers are given exactly what they want — and Amazon learns what that is by understanding browsing and buying history.
Amazon rakes in an enormous amount of data (who their customers are, how old they are, what they buy and when, and so on), using analytics to deliver customized shopping experiences that translate into sales.
Amazon also pioneered the use of peer reviews and ratings, which have been shown to impact consumer behavior.
But its Prime membership program sets the ecommerce benchmark for establishing and maintaining relationships with consumers. The program:
- Incentivizes shopping on Amazon.com through free shipping and returns.
- Provides instant access to music, books, and other media for an annual fee.
To compete with Prime Day, Amazon’s heavily marketed sale event that’s available only to Prime members, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and even Nordstrom have rolled out their own online events. The takeaway? Membership programs compel consumers to make more online purchases.
B2C marketing trends and challenges
B2C marketers must be nothing but nimble. Challenge number one is being able to adjust to ever-changing customer behavior. More than ever, customers expect polished, high-caliber engagements tailored to their shopping habits – but they also expect those to be delivered briefly.
Create a YouTube video that’s too long or content that doesn’t get right to the point, and the customer won’t watch or read. Understanding that attention spans are getting ever shorter will be a challenge for B2C marketers.
Marketers must also be able to stay abreast of changing markets that are packed to the gills with competitors – all of which are vying for your customer’s attention. An obvious tactic would be to monitor what the competition is doing by using software or products that analyze website traffic, keywords, and so on.
But perhaps the most important trend is the continued use of data analytics in digital marketing strategies. Marketers must harness the power of data to understand how their customers behave online.
And while customer data and information on how marketing campaigns perform can be enormously helpful to marketers, staying on top of it, not to mention making sense of it through analytics, is a huge challenge.
Done correctly, data analysis helps you improve B2C marketing strategies by learning about and understanding customer behavior.
The B2C marketing stack
B2C marketers are under pressure to perform. The B2C marketing stack is critical in achieving good outcomes, but B2C is so various, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Most B2C marketers will need capabilities for ecommerce, content (content management systems and digital asset management), social media and a way to analyse customer data.
The digital experience platform (DXP) category features vendors who offer some or all of these solutions. Some businesses will prefer to put together their own custom stacks from individual point solutions. Recognizing this, DXPs generally offer subscriptions to solutions within their platform rather than lock businesses into the entire offering.
Explore platform capabilities from vendors like Sitecore, Optimizely, Pantheon, WordPressVIP and more in the full MarTech Intelligence Report on digital experience platforms.
Resources for leaning more about B2C
There is a wealth of information about B2C marketing available, including our own ongoing coverage of B2C and D2C brands like Apple Rose, Cherry Bombe, David’s Bridal, Lucchese and Paul&Shark. Here’s a selection of additional resources:
B2C Marketing: A regularly updated blog from the independent analyst firm Forrester.
Marketers’ Guide to B2C Brand Strategy: An overview of the topic from independent analyst firm Gartner.
The Adobe blog: Adobe is a vendor of marketing technology, of course, but it processes trillions of consumer data points and is a valuable source of information on consumer behavior.
B2C Content Marketing: A deep dive into perhaps the most important element of B2C marketing from agency Grow & Convert.
B2B vs B2C Marketing: 5 Differences Every Marketer Needs to Know: A closer look at the differences between the spaces from online advertising agency Wordstream.
The Ultimate Guide To Profitable B2C Marketing: Another take on strategies that work from marketing services firm ReVerb.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.