B2B vs B2C E-commerce Marketing: Key Differences
The worlds of e-commerce and digital marketing are complex and ever-evolving, so sometimes it’s good to go back to basics.
The differences between B2B (Business-to-Business) and B2C (Business-to-Customer) e-commerce may seem simple, but there are a lot of subtle differences you need to understand to find success in either market.
Whether you’re considering a new venture and can’t decide which market to target, or up and running and looking to expand, we’re going to cover the key differences you need to know between B2B and B2C e-commerce in the South African Market.
B2B vs B2C E-commerce Marketing Explained
So, what exactly is the difference?
How do we differentiate between a B2B and a B2C business?
Put simply, B2C businesses are those that target individual customers where B2B targets people who are part of a larger organisation (i.e. another business).
A person buying clothes from an online fashion store is B2C e-commerce.
A clothing manufacturer buying cloth from a supplier online is B2B e-commerce.
The Main Differences Between B2B and B2C E-commerce
The main thing you want to consider when marketing to a B2B vs a B2C market is your customer’s mindset and their needs.
These will obviously differ greatly depending on if you’re targeting an organisation or a person.
B2C customers are usually making a purchase based on their own desires or needs, and they’re only accountable to themselves.
B2B customers, on the other hand, are typically making purchases as part of a larger organisational hierarchy.
They need to consider the needs of the business as a whole, and they’re usually accountable to other people in the business.
This means earning a B2C sale is almost universally going to be much easier than earning a B2B sale.
That’s why typically the focus of B2C marketing is creating direct sales and brand awareness, but in B2B marketing the focus is creating and nurturing leads.
B2B vs B2C E-commerce: Which is Better?
As we’ll explore below, there are pros and cons to both sides of the e-commerce world.
The decision is ultimately up to your business’ capabilities, strengths and what you’d rather focus on.
B2B E-commerce in South Africa
B2B e-commerce in South Africa, much like the e-commerce space as a whole, is still relatively underdeveloped compared to many other countries.
However, as the industry continues to boom it’s sure to follow suit and create tons more opportunities in the space.
B2B E-commerce Customers
As we mentioned previously, the main difference between a B2B and a B2c customer is their purchasing mindset.
Their priorities are going to be different than a lone consumer.
They have to consider the businesses needs, so they’re going to be a lot more price-sensitive than a regular customer and they’re going to be looking to establish a long-term business relationship.
B2B e-commerce is rarely a once-off purchase unless you’re dealing in fixed goods like machinery or equipment.
With that in mind, your primary goal for your marketing should be creating new leads that can turn into valuable long-term customers.
B2B E-commerce Digital Marketing Strategies
To generate leads, there are two broad approaches we’d recommend taking to get started.
Firstly, there is the route of online advertising.
Social media platforms like LinkedIn present great B2B marketing tools we can exploit to target key decision-makers and earn more customers.
Other forms of advertising worth considering are search engine marketing (SEM) for capturing high-intent search terms and general online display ads for creating awareness.
The second main approach you can take is an “inbound marketing” strategy whereby you use things like content marketing, SEO and word of mouth to organically grow your business.
This is a great long-term strategy for any business to invest in because it generates passive leads over time without requiring an ad budget.
B2B E-commerce Pricing
Pricing for B2B transactions is going to be a lot more fluid than the B2C market.
Typically, many e-commerce B2B businesses don’t even list prices on their website.
We’d recommend against that, it’s always a good idea to give people some idea how much your product/service will cost, but keep that in mind.
Bulk discounts, as well as discounts for long-term contracts, are commonplace, further incentivising you to create meaningful long-term business relationships with your customers rather than viewing them as one-off purchases.
Best Platforms for B2B E-commerce
These are some of the best marketing platforms worth looking into for B2B e-commerce.
- Content Marketing (SEO, blogging, email lists, etc.)
- Social media marketing (LinkedIn primarily)
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM) (search ads, SEO, etc.)
B2C E-commerce in South Africa
B2C e-commerce is seeing huge growth at the moment, spurred on by many businesses and consumers being forced to adapt to the global pandemic.
This means a great abundance of opportunities is emerging daily, just bear in mind the aspects of the consumer journey unique to e-commerce.
B2C E-commerce Customers
Much has been written on the psychology of attracting B2C customers because in many ways it’s the primary focus of most marketing in the world today.
When we’re dealing with e-commerce customers, there are just a few additional things to keep in mind.
Firstly, as we mentioned, B2C customers make their decisions on a much less rational basis than a business would.
Emotion, personal preference and impulse all contribute to a much more complicated list of factors leading up to a purchase.
The method proven to be most reliable at creating eventual conversions is simply exposure.
Showing your brand, and its offering, to consumers, again and again, to reinforce its value proposition and make them want to buy it.
Customer retention is a second important aspect of B2C marketing, but less so than B2B marketing because you’ll likely have exponentially more customers than a B2B firm ever would.
A certain amount of customers dropping off is to be expected.
B2C E-commerce Digital Marketing Strategies
Similarly to B2B marketing, there are 2 main digital marketing approaches that we’d recommend for B2C firms, but you have a lot more options.
Firstly you can consider the route of online advertising, where you have a plethora of options for attracting consumers.
From display ads to social media advertising and search engine marketing, many of the same platforms apply.
However, you’re much less limited in how you choose to engage consumers.
The choice can be overwhelming, so it’s important to consider what your specific customer engages with online.
Perhaps they enjoy a video of your product more than copy or static images, in which case you know to focus on video-based platforms or posts on social media.
Secondly, inbound marketing can also be a great approach for B2C customers.
You’ll want to create broader content, and consider organic social media sharing strategies as part of your content marketing strategy.
If done well, content marketing can provide great long-term growth and exposure for the business.
B2C E-commerce Pricing
Pricing for B2C products will be a lot more consistent.
Generally, you can either price goods on a cost basis or a value basis.
That is an amount that covers your costs plus a markup or an amount based on the total value the product provides.
Most new businesses will want to consider value pricing because competing with larger firms on cost will seldom be a feasible option.
Instead, focus on pushing your value proposition and don’t be afraid to charge a premium.
As long as your customers are willing to pay the price, it’s never too high.
Best Platforms for B2C E-commerce
The best platforms for B2C e-commerce are much more varied than B2B applications, so we’ll only highlight a few of the top ones.
- Social media marketing (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.)
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM) (SEO, search ads, etc.)
- Content marketing (SEO, blogging, videos, etc.)
- Display ads (across websites or social media)
We hope this helped clarify the differences between B2B and B2C marketing in South Africa for you.
Remember, the main difference to bear in mind is what your customer is looking for.
B2B customers will be looking at your offering with a much more rational evaluation of cost, features and overall value to their own business.
B2C customers are much more emotionally driven and purchase goods as much for how they make them feel as any practical attributes it may have.
Focus on your product’s strengths, and make sure you speak to what your customer is looking for.
Whatever your next project, we wish you good luck.
If you enjoyed this article or found it helpful, check out more e-commerce marketing content on the inSyte blog or listen to the inSyte Podcast.
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