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In simpler times, B2C ecommerce was the largest market, with B2B marketing close behind. Then, with the age of the Internet and the ease of ecommerce, we saw the dawn of the C2C ecommerce, which soon rose to become one of the biggest markets in the world, even forcing businesses to evolve their strategies.
(Read our guide to B2C marketing here for more B2C marketing strategies and B2C examples.)
Now, we are seeing things come full circle. Believe it or not, we are increasingly seeing a shift towards a C2B ecommerce world.
C2B ecommerce is also known as consumer-to-business. This change heralds a complete reversal of the traditional model, with those who would normally be end-users creating products and services that are consumed by the businesses and organizations they themselves buy from.
Instead of a business advertising a service to someone and waiting for them to take it up, customers now demanded a service for a price that they’re happy to pay and waited for a business (or freelancer) to fill the gap. This inversion of the usual way of working is now becoming even more common.
This has come in a large part to the power the Internet has put in the hands of consumers. Customers are now starting to realize the power they wield and are looking to leverage that power for profits. In much the same way as a brand leverages its prestige, consumers can now leverage their influences. It is a new form of currency that has nevertheless proven very effective for both sides.
C2B marketing works because there are three different groups whose relationships are changing. These are broken down as the customer, the business, and the intermediary.
The customer is an individual who has something to offer. This can be broken down into goods or services.
Throughout these examples, there’s one key theme, which is a changing nature of the relationship to customers away from being top-down and toward being back-and-forth. Consumers are now no longer a market, they are a network.
In this particular transactional relationship, the business is the for-profit institution that purchases goods or services from individuals. This can be for many reasons, and in both direct or indirect ways.
In C2B ecommerce, the intermediary is the portal, or the medium that is used by both businesses and individuals, and connect the two.
All feedback is valuable.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking negative feedback harms their business. Little did they know, it is the response to negative feedback that can harm a business.
If a customer decides to leave a review on Yelp, Google+, Angie’s list, or some other online review site, they are offering you a valuable piece of data. If you can respond to that data, whether that be with a reply, a thank you, an apology or a change in your business, you will build your reputation.
So if you are a consumer with a profile and influence, you can potentially be a valuable asset to companies who want to improve or establish their online reputation.
The rewards for leaving reviews don’t have to be as direct as money. They can be entries into a competition, vouchers for money off a next purchase, and other more creative incentives.
Another useful way for a business to utilize consumers is to help them create online buzz. Traditionally, one of the best methods for creating online buzz has come from press coverage highlighting new product launches, key developments and more.
That said, journalists are losing their influences while individuals are growing theirs. This has caused a lot of problems through the explosion of fake news and the resuscitation of just about every conspiracy theory going, but it is not without advantages too.
Getting consumers directly engaged in events such as product launches is something Apple is now famous for but can be achieved at every level. By doing so, you gain exposure to new potential clients.
You can also cultivate regular mentions of your brand on niche websites, forums, and on social media by activating your current customer base. Identifying those who already demonstrate some brand loyalty and turning them into evangelicals through properly incentivizing them can be truly useful.
If you are a brand-loyal consumer, shouting about it while developing the number of followers can be a great way to bag free material from your favorite businesses.
The most common way of C2B ecommerce is sponsored posts and endorsements by Influencers.
Known mostly from Instagram and YouTube, but present everywhere, social media influencers can introduce their loyal following to products and services that are useful to them, or aspirational brands that they can sell through synthesizing them with their exotic lifestyles.
Another valuable asset consumers have for c2b ecommerce is insight. A consumer is the target market, and why they decided to buy or not buy a product could have huge implications for the business manufacturing and selling said product.
Getting audience opinion on specific features and an idea of what audiences want most is still largely standard, despite mavericks like Steve Jobs famously claiming that consumers don’t know what they want until they see it.
For businesses, this amount to making the most of a captive audience and allowing an open-ended discussion to inform innovation. Market research ahead of launching a new product can help drastically improve the chances of success.
As a consumer, you know your frustrations very well, and you know what limitations your products entail and how you would like to overcome them. Sharing this information for free is charitable, but you can look for opportunities to be rewarded for your feedback.
If you’re a business, you can consider using marketing tools that rely more on consumer interaction, including market research to inform co-creative innovation, customer feedback channels that allow for endorsement and recommendation, a dialogue with customers through social media that establishes relationships with influencers, and having a healthy mix of positive and constructive reviews, which help both endorse and optimize the business.
As a consumer, you can start to think of yourself as wielding more power than you ever have before. You can directly affect the sales of a company with your review, which means you have a responsibility to treat them seriously.
If you do so, and your quality of feedback across multiple touchpoints is useful and informative, you can start to see yourself become an influencer. The ideal channels for such influence are Instagram and Yelp, where such behavior is actively encouraged by the format. If you do, you may find your influence becomes a form of currency.
I’ll leave you with a final thought from Facebook’s Ad VP, who says that C2B messaging is a ‘tremendous opportunity’ for business. Why?
Unique visits to Pages have grown 40% year over year, Messenger is being integrated to allow a direct line of communication to a business. Things are becoming more interactional than ever, and all of these evolutions are consumer-led.
Consumers are being put first, time and time again, by businesses. While this does increase consumer power and leverage over a business, it also increases the success a business can experience, by making purchases easier and more instinctive than ever before.
The oldest adage in marketing is arguably “people sell to people”. Last week, we saw how that is now a lucrative business model in itself and how businesses are having to adapt – everything about C2B marketing suggests businesses have to become more like a person to succeed in the modern environment.
Have you leveraged C2B ecommerce practices for your business? Tell us in the comments below! Equally, if you’ve discovered new opportunities for C2B ecommerce we haven’t listed here, then don’t let your fellow readers miss out!
Updated: 21 July 2017