B2B vs. B2C Marketing: What is the Difference?

B2B vs. B2C Marketing: What is the Difference?

If the marketing approaches differ in B2B and B2C business, it is obvious that the market research for these will differ as well.

B2B indicates the marketing relationships between business-to-business, and B2C denotes the marketing connections concerning business-to-customer. In both cases, an exchange of products/services is taking place, however, research indicates that the decision-making methods in these two cases differ significantly.

Research indicates that organisations base their purchase decisions on logic, especially in today’s data-driven world. A business team makes a purchase decision while taking into account the route, finances and time. At the end of the day, businesses are most concerned about their ROI when purchasing a service or a product, whereas consumers see the perceived value of the purchase.

B2C Market Research

The B2C market focuses on non-business customers. For example; daily grocery customers, hotel guests, moviegoers and more. In B2C all the surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews (IDIs) etc. are conducted with consumers.

This means the pool of potential customers is much larger than the pool in B2B. As a result, the B2C market research services cost less due to the availability of samples.

B2B Market Research

Business-to-business market research focuses on business-related customers and decision-makers.

For example; Surveys with business managers to discuss lead generation, investment firm managers focus groups regarding small business owners’ portfolios, and in-depth interviews (IDIs) with top management decision-makers regarding vendors.

These projects tend to focus on business professionals. This differs from B2C research as participants are fewer and more difficult to reach.

Additionally, because not as many samples exist in the B2B space the cost to complete a study is more expensive than B2C.

B2C vs. B2B Market Research


1. B2C vs. B2B Compensation

Aeon recommends offering a type of reward for any kind of surveys or interviews etc. Many times, people need the incentive to take time out of their day to share their opinions and feedback.

Respondents always think “what’s in it for me?” and this applies to both B2B and B2C audiences.

If you compare, B2C market research incentives are usually less than B2B market research incentives.

B2C has a higher availability of samples, therefore it is easier to obtain completed surveys. This translates to lower costs and lower rewards.

Therefore B2B and B2C market research, though employing many of the same research tools and techniques, have very different requirements, traits and skill sets. We will iterate some of those in this blog.

2. Skill Sets required

B2B market research requires a different skill set at every level of responsibility – from research director to telephone interviewer. The main key area of success for many B2B research projects is the personal skill and expertise of the interviewer. Interviewers are faced with a diverse range of challenges when working on a B2B research project:

  • Smaller finite sample size (meaning each contact is to be carefully managed and cared for)
  • Respondents can range from founders of a new start-up to a board members of a big conglomerate- therefore interviewers must possess the soft skills required to build rapport with respondents, and gain the cooperation of very time-pressed and senior individuals.
  • Respondents often need to be asked about very detailed and often specific topics – thus requiring the interviewer to become an expert on a given topic area at the start of a project.

3. Sample Size

Majorly, sample sizes are smaller for B2B research as availability or respondents are fewer. There are only so many Managing Directors of Fortune 500 companies in the world.

Due to the smaller sample sizes in B2B research, it is also less common to weigh a dataset to ensure it is representative of an overall sample. This is usually due to the total number of completed interviews not being large enough for weighting to be effective.

B2C market research usually has a higher availability of samples, which makes it easier to obtain completed surveys. This translates to lower costs and lower rewards.


4. Geographical Spread of Respondents

In B2B market research, target samples are often sparsely spread around the country and the world, which makes it often very difficult and unfeasible to conduct face-to-face focus groups.

Online groups are useful in this case. They allow business respondents to log into the discussion whenever convenient for them across an allotted time period – regardless of where they are in the world.

Today, telephonic in-depth interviews have become one of the most important tools of business – and they are also cheaper than face-to-face interviews (especially when wide geographical spreads are taken into account).


5. Research Methods Employed

Many B2C research projects focus on a specific methodological approach or research technique (For example: only qualitative, only quantitative or targeting only online communities, using eye-tracking etc.). Therefore, many B2C market research agencies focus on a particular methodological approach or technique. In B2B market research, objectives are varied and the research agency uses many different tools and methodological approaches to address the objective.

For example, a B2B research project may start with a large online survey or a strategic workshop, followed by a focus group discussion, and in-depth interviews with key customers.

This, of course, means that B2B agencies have to be skilled in a number of different research disciplines, and adept at compiling the optimal research approach and toolkit to answer each unique research problem. Indeed, many B2B research agencies, such as Aeon, classify themselves as ‘method neutral’.


6. The Pareto Principle

The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. This is something we take into consideration, especially with B2C research.

For example, when sampling for a B2C research project we have to be very aware that in most cases a small number of customers make up a large portion of revenue, and therefore need to be treated differently from the majority of the sample. In some cases, this may mean doing in-depth interviews with key accounts, while conducting online interviews with the majority of the customers.


7. The Complexity Of The Decision-Making Process

One of the key differences between B2B and B2C research is the complexity of the decision-making processes in a B2B environment. Customers often make more straightforward decisions as there are fewer parties involved in the exchange. In the B2B industries, decision-making has to take into account many high-involvement factors such as:

  • The different parties involved in the process
  • The level of influence of each party
  • The input or role in the decision-making process of each party (e.g. finance, technical, etc.)
  • The internal and external influencing forces
  • The hierarchy of needs, and drivers.

Designing a framework of research that recognizes and acknowledges these complex decision-making processes is one of the core skills of a B2B researcher.


8. How long it takes

Conducting B2B surveys tends to take longer than conducting B2C surveys. This is because clients want detailed frameworks and primary research data to be sent and aligned first to ensure that they’re covering all aspects of their business from a marketing perspective. The process of organising and gathering such data, as well as compiling the sample lists of the professionals knowledgeable enough to provide that data in the first place takes time.

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