Business to Consumer (B2C) marketing refers to the direct and interactive marketing of products or services to consumers. Businesses use this particular mode of marketing to stimulate market demand for their products and consequently accelerate the conversion of generated leads into sales by committing adequate resources toward the establishment of direct contacts and relationships with both existing and potential consumers. The desire to integrate production and supply chain operations of the organization is the core motivating factor behind the B2C marketing concept. B2C is particularly identifiable to the forward vertical integration approach whereby the organization expands its participation in the distribution level of the chain of production by directly marketing and distributing its products and services.
B2C MARKETING STRATEGIES
Business organizations may pursue B2C marketing either through internally initiated resources or through external entities. Whereas the use of internal means involves enhancing the functional capacity of the marketing department, use of external resources involves purchasing advertising space or airtime as well as outsourcing particular marketing functions to consultancy firms. The adoption of either internal or external resources is largely determined by the organization's approaches to B2C marketing. Marketing campaigns and unique selling propositions are some of the B2C marketing strategies that are commonly used in business organizations.
Marketing campaigns aim at generating adequate publicity for the company's products or services and converting the generated awareness into sales. Marketing campaigns such as road shows, event sponsorships, direct market surveys, and sales promotions generate publicity that attracts customers who seek to purchase the goods or services on offer through the direct contacts established by the business organization. Marketing campaigns are generally conducted offline and involve sensitization activities for product or service offerings through intensified interactions with potential customers.
Unique selling propositions, on the other hand, involve carving out messages that emphasize the differentiating aspects of the company's products. This may involve simple actions such as posting catchy phrases that are synonymous with the organization's brands alongside the business logo. This enables the business to gain a competitive edge by drawing consumers' attention to the tagline that defines its distinctive value proposition. In an article titled “Defining the Unique Selling Proposition in Your Business,” Sharon Housely stated, “The USP should place emphasis on the single item that is most important to prospective customers and distinguishes your company above all others. Is it location? Is it quality of materials? Is it superior level of service?” Verizon, for example, is identifiable with its “Can you hear me now?” slogan, while GE rides on its “We bring good things to life” slogan. Such differentiating slogans instill confidence and enable customers to identify with the company of their choice in a crowded field of competing businesses.
CHANNELS OF B2C MARKETING
B2C marketing entirely relies on sufficient and effective advertising through channels that guarantee the penetration of the advertised messages to the target consumer markets. The preferred channels for B2C marketing are always determined by the nature and scope of the organization's business activities and target markets. Business organizations with limited scope of operations may opt for advertisement on local radio stations, magazines, professional journals, or community targeted newsletters. As such, it would be more appropriate to advertise a service or product targeting lawyers in professional law journals or magazines than advertising such products through general audience channels such as radio. Business organizations with a wider scope of operations, on the other hand, may advertise through national radio stations, newspapers, television campaigns, or the Internet.
USING THE INTERNET IN B2C MARKETING
The global reach of the Internet provides businesses with a fast and accessible B2C marketing alternative that defies the geographical and cost limitations that are characteristic of conventional advertising. The Web site is the main driving force for Internet-based B2C marketing and communication processes, as it is widely used by businesses to facilitate transactional and information exchanges with customers. Online advertising and transaction channels for airlines, hotels, or retailers are examples of Web-site-supported B2C channels. Retailing outlets such as Amazon.com and eBay are some of the best known Web sites that facilitate both marketing and transaction of product varieties.
The Web site remains a powerful B2C marketing tool because of its flexibility in enabling wide-ranging online communication channels such as e-newsletters, online forums, online press releases, banner ads, and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. B2C marketing over the Internet, however, does not guarantee the achievement of marketing objectives unless appropriate measures are adopted to ensure the flow of adequate traffic to a particular Web site. Various techniques such as search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are applied in optimizing online visibility and higher rankings for Web sites within the Internet.
SEO involves the use of certain key words that are related to particular products that are commonly used to search for the products on the Internet. These search words enable a company's Web site to appear among the top-ranked sites on the Internet. SEM, on the other hand, involves the use of other Web sites to market the business Web site through techniques such as paid search engine submissions, PPC campaigns, and adwords. Yahoo! and Google provide SEM services for organizations interested in marketing their Web sites online.
E-mail Marketing. E-mailing is one of the most commonly used B2C marketing techniques on the Internet. E-mail marketing enables businesses to reach out and elaborate the value propositions of their products to individual customers. E-mail marketing is a very effective approach to B2C marketing because of its ability to
provide feedback communication. Many businesses create listservs from the database of their customers who subscribe to the organization's Web site. These listservs are then used to provide customers with constant updates about the organization's existing and new product developments through electronic newsletters, annual financial reports, and press releases.
However, caution should be observed to avoid converting e-mail marketing campaigns to spamming fiascos. Spamming refers to the sending of unsolicited e-mails to target audiences. Many Web sites are equipped with anti-spamming software, and many unsolicited e-mails end up in the recipients' spam boxes and are rarely read because of security and privacy concerns. Such unwelcome predicaments can be avoided by using third-party e-mail listserv intermediaries, such as Constant Contact, that provide e-mail listing and distribution services for organizations that seek to distribute e-mails to large target audiences.
Online Network Marketing. Online network marketing refers to the use of Internet tools in the interactive spreading of information or news about a product or service through acquaintances sharing common interactions or communication platforms. Online networking can be achieved through social media, advertisement in paid electronic magazines, blog posting, or podcast and video submissions on online forums and YouTube. The use of social media, as evidenced by the rise to prominence of Facebook and Twitter, has emerged as a powerful tool for B2C marketing. Digital social media provides access to a large audience, many of whom can be converted into viable sales leads.
The number of Facebook users, for example, is estimated to have reached 500 million by the end of 2010. An eMarketer.com Internet article titled “Targeting Boosts Low Facebook Click Rates,” estimated that “marketers around the world will spend $6 billion in social media advertising on social networks” in 2011. The ever-growing trend to using social media as a B2C marketing tool is attributed to its highly interactive nature and its effectiveness in reaching out to large audiences.
B2C marketing is a source of competitive advantage for a business because it enables the business organization to establish ongoing correspondence and relationships with customers. The use of discount shopping outlets, for example, enables the business to attract customers and also establish customer preferences and expectations through continuous interactions with return customers. As such, business enterprises that optimize their capacity to consistently interact directly with the target market stand to reap more benefits from their value propositions. The B2C marketing model epitomizes the transformation of business activities from the conventional brick-and-mortar approach in which businesses merely displayed goods in stores and waited for customers to show up. In contrast, the B2C marketing approach reaches out to customers by calling them to action.
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