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3 Key Marketing Lessons B2C Ecommerce Can Learn From B2B In 2018

by Andrey Milyan October 31, 2017
B2C ecommerce marketing lessons

Over the years I’ve worked with both B2C and B2B organizations. On the surface,  an industry like online retail is worlds apart from a professional services provider or a HR SaaS solution. But look a little closer and you will quickly realize that it’s a spectrum and many B2C  companies are much closer to B2B in how they operate. In fact, there are a number of key marketing lessons consumer ecommerce can learn from B2B.

1. Lead Nurturing Done Right

Many B2B organizations are masters of lead nurturing. They employ sophisticated lead segmentation, scoring and email workflows. On the other hand, giving your email address to an online retailers usually results in endless promotional emails and discounts. Why is that?

You might say “Andrey, but the average B2C lead value is lower than for B2B.” This is true. However, there are two problems with this argument. First, segmenting your email leads and automating a nurture series is not a cost-prohibitive strategy for B2C businesses. Second, many consumer ecommerce businesses generate much higher AOVs. For example, one of my B2C ecommerce clients has an average AOV of over $3,000.

2. Focus on LTV

Many B2B companies use a recurring revenue or subscription business model. As a result, they obsess about customer retention and LTV. And what about B2C ecommerce? There doesn’t seem to be much talk of LTV even through consumer ecommerce has a retention problem.

According to RJMetrics, only 32% of customers place a second order within their first year. That same study also noted that the fastest growing ecommerce companies had a 79% higher LTV than their competitors.

Earlier we’ve talked about the gap between the B2B and B2C lead value. There is a chronic under-investment in lead nurturing because the value is relatively low. However, when we look at the value of the top B2C ecommerce customers, it is 18 times higher than the average. Growing that segment should more than pay for the initial investment of time and resources.

3. Remove Barriers To Purchase

When visiting H&M US website, I was greeted with the following message taking up most of the above-the-fold real estate.

H&M discount example

While I am well aware of the intense price pressure on fashion retailers, to be perfectly honest, this approach is a bit lazy. There is no attempt to understand what I’m looking for, curate a certain look or point me to their best sellers. Can you imagine visiting Salesforce.com and being greeted with 50% off message without any attempt to understand and then remove barriers to purchase? Of course, not.

B2B marketing thought is dominated by the idea of nurturing leads and slowly removing barriers to purchase, one by one. B2C ecommerce tends to focus on outlandish discount offers to get consumers to buy. While there is no doubt that retailers have conditioned consumers to expect discounts (remember JC Penney’s failed turnaround strategy?), ecommerce conversion rates are low and so are the repeat purchase rates.

In other words, B2C ecommerce businesses have so far failed to address consumers’ barriers to purchase and are seeing an underwhelming performance as a result.

What Should You Do About It?

If you are responsible for growing a B2C ecommerce business, there are a number of steps you can take now to borrow what B2B marketers are doing right and set your business up for success in 2018.

Build an email audience and nurture it

At the time of writing, Facebook was in the process of creating a separate feed for business pages, making it almost impossible to talk to your audience on the platform without paying. That is why you need to build your email audience, where you have the most control and minimal number of middlemen.

Invest in marketing automation

It’s more affordable than ever, even for the smallest ecommerce website. There is nothing wrong with offering a discount but giving it to everyone on entrance is a lazy approach. Offer a discount in exchange for an email address. Give it to cart abandons, on-site and over email. Display an offer to traffic segments that have shown high intent. There are countless variation to test out.

With email marketing automation, make sure to go beyond the endless promo email blasts. Tell a story about your brand and show why it is different from competition. Proactively address barriers to purchase. Segment your list and test out custom approaches for each segment. With most email marketing platforms you can even vary your approach based on how someone interacted with your previous emails.

Have a cart abandonment solution, both on-site and over email. Consumers who add your products to cart are showing the highest intent possible. Most are window shopping but, by not giving them a strong reason to complete their order, you are letting potential customers walk out the door.

Lastly, have a post-purchase strategy to reward your loyal customers and have them buy more from you. We’ve already established that consumer ecommerce has a repeat purchase problem. It is possible to solve it. Don’t just add your customers to the same promo email blasts as the rest of your list. Build separate email flows for retention and LTV growth.

Adopt a B2B mindset of identifying and removing barriers to purchase

There are good examples to emulate. For example, Amazon is allowing customers to try on clothes before they buy through the Prime Wardrobe program. Along with their Echo Look style assistant, the ecommerce giant is actively addressing possible objections to buying clothes online. No wonder the company dominates US ecommerce market.

In many ways the online shopping experience is broken. Browsing product category after product category, it’s difficult to make sense of the myriad of options or compare different products across their key attributes. There are many things to fix but, fundamentally, you have to guide consumers through your product portfolio, point them to the products they are more likely to buy, explain why they should buy them from you and address any concerns. That is a lot to accomplish and you’re unlikely to do it in a single visit. However, if you are building an audience and nurturing those leads correctly, you will end up converting more prospects, generating more sales and building brand loyalty.


As you can see, there is as much to learn from the businesses that are very different from you as there is from your immediate competitors. B2B marketers have a lot of lessons to teach those of us in the consumer ecommerce space. See if you can apply some of these lessons to your business and set yourself up for success in 2018 and beyond.

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