Digital strategy - B2C vs. B2B
With the digital becoming a ubiquitous part of life, businesses, both B2C and B2B, need to adapt their strategies and redefine them with a digital-first mentality, to determine how to make the best use of digital channels and latest technological innovations.
While some elements of a digital strategy are common to both B2C and B2B, there are many more aspects where the two differ. In this article, we’ll compare the key factors of digital strategy in B2C versus B2B, with a focus on content and marketing strategies.
In B2C, marketing and driving business growth is more large-scale, aiming to reach as many potential customers as possible. The focus is on the customer experience across the entire customer journey and a multitude of different devices, so experiences need to be tailored for this omnichannel reality.
Due to the high focus on CX, data-driven personalization and conversion rate optimization are also key. Data obtained through machine learning algorithms is used to get a 360 degree view of customers and enable real-time marketing across all channels that they frequent.
B2C brands frequently interact with their customers via social media - Instagram, Twitter, to a lesser extent Facebook, and lately we’ve also been seeing a huge surge in TikTok usage and opportunities there. Since the start of the pandemic, a lot of brands have also implemented their own e-commerce solutions or started a presence on Amazon.
The messaging and advertising in B2C is more brand and product-oriented (i.e. product marketing). It also leverages purpose-driven marketing that resonates most with Generations Y and Z, which form the youngest and yet the largest part of the global consumer base.
Marketing relies heavily on data, from both 1st and 3rd-party sources. Advertising is a widely used B2C tactic and takes place across the entire web (and sometimes even beyond it, e.g. via in-app push notifications or SMS). Data is often handled with a data management platform (DMP) or customer data platform (CDP).
In contrast, B2B is much more focused, often employing what’s called account-based marketing (ABM), which involves messaging targeted at prominent decision makers of potential client companies.
It’s often more direct and personal, and focuses more on building and nurturing close relationships rather than on optimizations to the immediate customer experience; this is why the phrase “human to human” or “H2H” is now popping up more frequently. This also means that personalization is key; however, it isn’t as software-driven as in B2C, but involves more human research and input.
While B2B uses social media to a lesser extent, LinkedIn is the B2B social media platform. A lot of research and initial outreach happens there, as does most of the advertising. And, while B2C primarily uses email for newsletters and promotional offers, it’s an absolutely essential channel in B2B communication.
As opposed to unique marketplace-type websites à la Amazon, a B2B company’s digital presence is mostly centered around its own website, which can have custom landing pages for specific audience personas, or tied to specific advertising/marketing campaigns.
B2B companies produce content which is more industry or company oriented, as its goal is less to lead to an immediate purchase and more to help move the client further down the sales pipeline.
This content is often longer than in B2C and features important industry insights and company achievements. The former can be gated, meaning that visitors are able to obtain them in exchange for their personal data - which is then used to initiate a conversation with them. Gated content most typically occurs in the form of white papers, in-depth guides, reports or webinar recordings.
For technology needs, B2B companies more often tend towards enterprise software which is typically more expensive but also more capable and robust. Because of their need for 1-on-1 communication, efficient video conferencing solutions are also a must.
Like in B2C, B2B companies also rely on data, but here less so on 3rd-party data gathered through software and more on data obtained via human intel. Customer relationship management (CRM) platforms are often used for a cohesive overview of client relationships.
Top considerations for both
As we stated in the introduction, a lot of elements of a successful digital strategy are shared between B2C and B2B. A culture of agility and innovation is becoming commonplace in the fast-paced digital age with both a lot of competition and rapid market shifts, where competitive edge is gained through swift responses to constantly emerging trends.
Human-centered design and accessibility are also of extreme importance, the latter even more so in B2C since here access to a digital location often means access to physical goods or services.
Automation is another tool that’s essential for any kind of business which wants to thrive in the digital era. Both B2C and B2B companies will want to streamline their processes and free their employees up for the kind of work which requires a more human touch.
Automated email campaigns are key marketing tactics in both fields, and we’re now also seeing a greater use of chatbots, which can be entirely automated or used together with human agents.
Since mobile usage continues to be on the rise, lately increasingly also in less developed parts of the world, mobile optimization is an absolute necessity for both areas. While B2B companies are less likely to have dedicated mobile apps than B2C brands, both need to ensure that the mobile experience is adequate and comparable to a website experience.
As for marketing and content, both B2C and B2B are seeing the value of combining physical and digital channels. In B2C, this may look like digital campaigns which are tied to in-store campaigns, or leveraging a technology like augmented reality to bring the in-store experience closer to the digital customer.
In B2B, again, this is more personal, e.g. sending personalized gifts through the mail to clients, in order to thank them for their collaboration and/or strengthen the relationship with them.
Both B2C and B2B employ different types of content to reach their audiences. In B2C, you’ll likely see a greater use of social media stories and other video content, but even B2B is now featuring more video and even audio content (e.g. podcasts) in addition to blog insights. As we mentioned earlier, though, B2B typically has more long-form content, which tends to be true for video and audio as well.
Repurposing content is another tactic that’s shared between the two. The same topic or product can be presented in a variety of ways which will have different effects on different customers; perhaps a blog post would perform better in video rather than in written form, or certain visitors may prefer the shorter and more visually appealing infographics.
Whether your business operates in B2C or in B2B, it needs to embrace a digital-first approach to business strategy and the leaner and more flexible tactics that are so well positioned in the digital age.
That said, the ways in which the two succeed with digital can be vastly different, as we’ve demonstrated in this article. This is particularly evident with digital content and marketing strategies, where even when the same tactics or tools are used, how they’re used differs (e.g. different social media platforms and ways of achieving personalization).
If your digital strategy is already sound, but you could do with some help in the development department, get in touch with us and we can help you select the best technologies for it and execute on it.