B2C marketing stands for business-to-consumer marketing and refers to measures designed to win over private consumers for a specific product, service or brand. In terms of content, the term is to be distinguished from B2B marketing, i.e. business-to-business marketing. In practice, B2C marketing differs from B2B marketing primarily in its broad focus. While customers in the commercial sector are often targeted very specifically, this is usually not possible in business with private customers due to the large number of potential buyers.
One of the most important principles of marketing is to align the measures with the target group. This is exactly why a distinction is made between the B2B and B2C sectors. The realization that advertising must be tailored to buyers is not new – but growing markets and the increasing internationalization of trade are creating new challenges, especially in the private customer business. Unlike in the B2B sector, here you have to deal with a huge, almost unmanageable mass of potential customers that can no longer be reached with individually tailored measures.
Even companies that offer their services or goods regionally or manufacture very specialized products can hardly target individual customers or smaller customer groups these days because of the immense effort involved. B2C marketing must therefore address a broad group of buyers. However, this is not the only challenge to be mastered. As a rule, products from the B2C sector are self-explanatory or at least so simply designed that customers quickly understand how and for what they can use them. At first glance, this may seem like an advantage; after all, customers are more likely to buy a product they understand. However, it also makes it much more difficult to stand out from competitors and communicate the USPs of one’s own product.
In addition, private consumers often make their purchasing decisions at very short notice and on an emotional rather than a rational basis. B2C marketing must therefore be aimed at a broad group of buyers and convey the advantages of the product in a concise and emotionally appealing way.
The instruments of B2C marketing
Essentially, there are four levers in B2C marketing through which the measures can be controlled. These are:
- Pricing policy
- Product policy
- Distribution policy
- Communication policy
One of the decisive factors in private customer business is certainly the price, regardless of whether you are offering sliced cheese, children’s toys or furniture. In contrast to B2B business, however, price is often assessed subjectively here. Private consumers, for example, are often willing to pay a higher price for a branded product, even if it offers no real advantage over other products. Pricing policy should therefore take into account the positioning of the company’s own brand. In addition, the pricing policy of competitors and the manufacturing costs of the company’s own products naturally play an important role.
A proven measure in pricing policy in the B2C sector is discount campaigns, which should be limited in time if possible. This gives the buyer the impression that he must act quickly in order not to miss out on the offer. The famous threshold prices also work well – especially in the low-price sector – because they appeal to the customer away from the rational level and suggest a lower price. For more expensive products, on the other hand, financing offers make sense, as this allows less well-heeled customers to access them, thus increasing the number of potential buyers.
In terms of product policy, B2C marketing aims to equip the product with additional, sales-promoting features over and above the actual core benefits. This can include, for example, a design with high recognition value – such as the red and curved lettering of Coca-Cola – but also packaging that is particularly easy to open and close. In addition, services can be linked to the product, such as a recipe suggestion on the package or a product hotline that is referred to on the packaging. Such features make it easier to stand out from the competition. They also offer customers an additional benefit and strengthen their loyalty to the brand.
As with price, however, the measures must also fit in with the general positioning on the market. High-quality and expensive products should therefore be given correspondingly elaborate packaging and, if possible, linked to additional services, while simple and inexpensive items should not distract from the core benefits with “superfluous bells and whistles”.
There are essentially two options for distributing the company’s own products: direct sales and sales via intermediaries. From a marketing perspective, both options offer certain advantages and disadvantages. In the case of direct sales, direct contact with customers is particularly helpful. The characteristics of the goods offered, which are determined within the framework of the product policy, can be communicated without detours, and feedback from customers is also received directly and unfiltered. This makes it easier to check whether the marketing measures taken have had the desired effect. In addition, direct sales are generally more cost-effective than sales via intermediaries. A disadvantage, however, is the generally low market coverage, because even in online retailing, a company’s own store is only one among many and is not always easy for potential buyers to find.
In indirect sales, intermediaries such as retailers are used to bring the goods to the market. This ensures a high level of market coverage, which helps to increase awareness of the product. However, the margin decreases as the intermediary naturally gets paid for its services. In addition, direct contact with the customer is not possible here and it is at least partly in the hands of the intermediary how his own product is presented.
In most cases, indirect sales are recommended in the B2C sector, because here the main thing is to reach a large number of end customers quickly. However, in the case of “special interest products” that are only of interest to a comparatively small number of buyers, direct sales can also make sense.
Probably the most important instrument in B2C marketing is communications policy. Since the products usually differ only slightly and thus offer only limited scope for setting themselves apart from the competition, this must be done with the help of communications policy. Branding is particularly important here – regardless of whether the upper or lower price segment is served. If a buyer recognizes a brand, the likelihood that he will choose a product from that brand increases. Through the brand, they can draw conclusions – at least supposedly – about the quality and thus do not “buy a pig in a poke.
Branding is not about convincing private consumers with arguments alone. Rather, they should associate a positive feeling with the brand, so that emotional and memorable messages work best.
Although the same tools are basically available for B2C marketing as for other marketing areas, the measures have a significantly different focus. Since a mass market is addressed, measures cannot be targeted at individuals or small groups of people. In addition, rational sales arguments tend to play a subordinate role here – the customer’s perception of the brand and the products, as well as an emotional bond with the customer, are more important.
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