Business-to-Consumer vs. Business-to-Business Online Marketing

Introduction

Business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) are two different types of marketing in the sense that there are different factors that come into play when an individual is buying goods for their company and when they are buying for themselves. All marketing requires establishment of relationships and due to the different emotional experiences when buying for oneself and when buying for one’s company, the strategies used in a B2B site are different from those used in a B2C site.

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B2B marketing involves the sale of goods and services to other businesses for example Grainger.com selling industrial supplies to both small and large businesses via its web site.B2C involves selling mainly to consumers for example Walmart.com selling merchandise to consumers through its web site. The programs for marketing are similar for both types of businesses and they include, advertising, public relations, internet marketing, events and direct marketing as well as alliances and word of mouth (NSW, 2005). The differences arise in the execution of programs, what is said and the outcomes associated with the marketing activities.

Discussion

The first steps in development of market strategies for B2B and B2C are similar. However the similarity ends here. The first step is to make an identification of the customer and to identify the reason that they need to hear one’s message. B2B marketing is more relationship driven than B2C marketing and will thus require maximization of the value of the relationship. This maximization is necessary because, often B2B sites have small but focused target markets.

A personal relationship helps to create brand loyalty and identity when selling to a business; selling to a consumer is different because brand identity can easily be created through imagery and repetition (Warwick, 2000). To create this brand identity then in a B2B site the business operating the site has to be involved in a lot of activities that create awareness and educate. For a B2C, site awareness creation and education are not as important as activities at the point of purchase and merchandising activities.

These are the things that attract the consumer to the product. The decision to buy on a B2B site is guided by rationale and has to have some value to the business that is making a purchase, hence the market for a B2B site is a small and focused one unlike the larger markets of B2C sites. These markets are characterized by purchasing decisions based on price, desire and/or status (Schneider, 2004). The aim therefore at a B2C site is to maximize the value of the transaction.

Another major difference between selling to consumers and selling to businesses is the fact that the sales cycle when selling to a business is longer than when selling to a consumer, often selling to a consumer involves only a single step in the buying process, while there are several steps in selling to a business (Schneider, 2004).

For a B2C site the most important goal is the conversion of the shoppers into buyers with as much aggression and consistency as is possible. These companies utilize merchandising activities for example displays, store fronts (both on the Internet and real), coupons and offers that serve as enticement for purchases by the target market. The marketing campaign for a B2C places greater concern on the transaction and is usually of a short duration with an aim of capturing the interest of the customer within the shortest duration possible. It is commonplace for these campaigns to offer special deals, vouchers and discounts that can be used at the store and also on line (Warwick, 2000).

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For example where the objective of a campaign via email is to get consumers to purchase the product as soon as possible. The email then takes the consumer to a web site page that has been designed to make a sale of the product. The purchase is made easy by integration of the shopping cart and the checkout page such that they form part of the flow of the transaction. If there are too many clicks the customer may decide to forget about the shopping cart. Companies like Amazon, Staples and Best buy have added education to their merchandising activities so that they can maintain loyalty. As such the better customer service means that the many customers are likely to be coming back to the same B2C site.

B2B marketing also has the goal of converting prospective customers into buyers, but this process is longer and more involving. This is because, the business to business buyer is more focused on enhancing productivity, cost reduction and increasing the profitability of their own businesses. The B2B company therefore needs to put greater focus on building a relationship and communication. The marketing activities should generate leads that can undergo a nurturing process during the sales cycle. Companies that are selling to businesses need to educate the different players in the audience that they are targeting.

This is because, for most businesses the decision to buy is not made by one person. For instance, an email campaign that is used by a B2B company should have web prospects in which the intended customers learn about the products and services provided by the B2B. The email should have contact information for communications both online and offline. The landing page should have information on features, benefits and as much as is possible on pricing.

This is usually the initial step in a long process of marketing that will include telemarketing, direct mail, newsletters, Web casts and finally follow up by the sales people. The sales representatives will provide the opportunity for discussion of the businesses requirements in greater detail and help in moving along the process of the sales cycle. Content is a significant factor in B2B marketing and the use of newsletters, white papers and the coverage of services and products helps the companies in educating their prospective buyers.

The issue of brand is one of importance in both B2C and B2B markets. The reasons for this importance are however different. In a B2C site, a brand that is strong is likely to make the consumer purchase, maintain their loyalty and sometimes even pay a price that is higher. This is because consumers motivation lies in style, prestige and status. For example the likelihood of buying Nike, Rolex, BMW and Lexus is high on a B2C site even though this means paying more for this brand. In a B2B site, brand may cause one to be considered but it may not seal the deal. A quality brand is important for making good first impressions but the B2B site will not benefit much from large investments into building brand awareness (Vistaplan, 2008).

Conclusion

The B2B buyer usually is a sophisticated buyer with a good understanding of the service or product and usually wants to make a purchase that will help their business to stay competitive and profitable. Consequently marketing copy should be such that it speaks to an audience that is sophisticated. Writing this marketing copy should therefore be treated with the complexity it deserves and adequate research should be done to ensure adequate delivery of the necessary information to the buyer.

The B2C buyer on the other hand is in search of the best price and will do the necessary research before shopping. Both buyers appreciate customer service but B2B customer service begins even before the business makes a sale; it begins when the customer makes their first contact with the B2B site. B2C customer service is more for creating loyalty and trust. The most important thing to remember when differentiating marketing in the two sites (B2B and B2C) is that the target audiences are different and therefore the marketing programs need to speak differently to the different markets.

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References

Gary SP, 2004, Electronic Commerce- The second Wave, Fifth edition, Thomson Course Technology.

NSW Department of Regional Development, Brief: Electronic Commerce. Web.

Vistaplan, 2008, Marketing for B2C versus B2B: Similar but different. Web.

Warwick F, 2000, Secure Electronic Commerce: Constructing Infrastructure for Encryption and Digital Signatures, second edition, Prentice Hall.

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