Build Your Business:

Market Watch: B2C vs B2B

February 11, 2016

What a great time to be in the decorated industry. Consumer confidence is up, print and embroidery technology has made more custom “one-offs” possible and new website technology is readily available to the masses, regardless of budget.

One would think the B2C market is exploding, and failure to offer solutions targeted toward it would mean certain failure for any business. But doing so requires a thorough understanding of some basic principles. What is this B2C market? How does it compare to the B2B (business-to-business) market? Which of these markets presents the biggest opportunity?

B2C simply means “business to consumer,” which is when businesses deal directly to consumers. In other words, a business’s primary focus is to sell to individuals, either in person, at an event or through a website. You probably are familiar with these types of companies; in fact, I can almost guarantee you have received a call from a client saying, “I was just on ‘XYZ’s’ website and designed my shirt. Can I just email you the screenshot and have you do it for me?”

The B2C market began in the late-1990s with the dot-com boom. It was strong for a couple of years, but declined in the early 2000s. In 2005, the direct-to-garment (DTG) printing machine debuted, new website technology was introduced that did not require a college degree to create a custom T-shirt online and consumer confidence was at an all-time high. Thus, the B2C market was booming.

Getting B2C Ready

According to Forrester Research, the 2009 B2C online retail market in the United States was valued at $157 billion. From 2009-2013, its growth reached double digits, averaging 11% per year. Forrester Research’s latest forecast showed that in 2015, B2C was valued at a whopping $350 billion. With these kinds of numbers, you can see why people are interested in building a website to attract the B2C market.

To be successful in this market, focus on the following areas:

1. Secure a good URL. It should be something people can remember, preferably a “.com” address. Try to stay away from something too creative, in which you have a mixture of letters, numbers and other characters.  

2. Have your site professionally created. Consumers expect a site from which they purchase to look professional.

3. Have products people actually want to purchase. Know your market and keep things simple by starting with no more than 20 items. You can always add more later.

4. Have a unique value proposition.
This can be anything from unique products or artwork, to free shipping — anything that makes your business stand out from the competition.

5. Drive traffic to your site organically. Pay-per-click is great, but expensive. Drive traffic organically by promoting your site on everything you send out, including flyers, business cards and brochures. Offer incentives for clients who refer friends.

6. Have a digital marketing strategy. Build an email list and send periodic promotional emails. Create a social media plan to consistently market to clients and prospects.

B2B Also Booming
It may surprise you that the B2B market is much bigger than B2C. In fact, it is more than double the size of the B2C market, at $780 billion, according to Forrester Research. Examples of this market include restaurants, real estate agents, sports clubs and schools.

Most people are surprised by how much work they already do in the B2B market, so they don’t consider how big it really is. But B2B is not only more than double the size of B2C, it is outpacing B2C in year-over-year growth at 19% per year, according to Deloitte. Need further proof? Figure 1 compares orders via Business Hub (primarily B2B) to online orders (a 50/50 mix of B2B and B2C).  

Accessing the B2B market isn’t difficult. You probably already work with other businesses, coaches, team moms, etc. Grow this list of clients by giving them incentives to purchase more frequently from you. For example, use some of those extra shirts you have lying around as a giveaway to show them a new printing technique or ink you recently purchased. Your cost is minimal but it can spark an interest in placing a new order. Also, build a better buying experience by creating custom affiliate stores or campaign stores.   

Even though the statistics may indicate otherwise, don’t focus strictly on the B2B market. Instead, focus on both with the understanding that B2B presents the most opportunity and has the best ROI. Grow your business in this market by focusing on local restaurants, salons, gyms, schools and especially sports — specifically youth sports. As a parent who has bought too many shirts and other accessories to support my kids’ athletics, I know firsthand how successful that niche can be.  

Marco Pena is business development manager for DecoNetwork. He has more than 17 years of industry experience, ranging from graphic and embroidery design to software development and e-commerce. For more information or to comment on this article, email Marco at