The B2B market is growing and according to forecasts by Frost & Sullivan, B2B ecommerce sales will hit $12 trillion sales by 2020, accounting for 27% of the global market. These figures highlight a key trend: professionals are now more and more likely to use the internet during their buying journey. However, if you want to take your share of the B2B market it’s important to understand who these B2B customers are and how they go about their purchasing.

Although the B2B and B2C market have different targets, 49% of B2B buyers prefer to conduct their business purchases on the same sites as those used for personal purchases as stated in “Building The Omni-Channel B2B Platform Of The Future" by Forrester Consulting for Accenture and Hybris Software. There are strong similarities between professional and personal buying behaviours when it comes to buying online. With such an overlap it’s not always necessary to develop two completely different marketing strategies.

B2B and B2C markets: how to adapt your marketing strategy?

The most important criteria for the B2B market, as with B2C is traffic. Obviously, without traffic, no online business can exist. Although the benchmarks for both markets are similar, there are some differences. Marketing to the B2B market is more direct, with easily identifiable targets whilst also being more restricted. Once acquired, client retention is paramount in B2B, as professional buyers are more loyal and focused on longer-term relationships. They also tend to be less price sensitive than B2C clients but will expect very detailed and informative content.

The buying journey can be a longer process in the B2B sector as it’s subject to more influences and a large number of stakeholders (product/solution users, consultants/advisers, purchasers, decision makers etc.). The question is, how to re-invigorate the B2B buying experience, is it possible to make the B2B buyer’s journey intrinsically enjoyable?

The question then is how to reinvigorate the professional buying experience: is it possible to make the B2B customer's buying journey intrinsically enjoyable? Don’t forget, the B2B buyer is primarily a consumer, like any other, who appreciates appropriate and relevant web content. How can you tailor your content to the B2B market, and satisfy a professional audience?

The B2B market and content

Content marketing is an important strategy for traffic generation in both the B2B and B2C market. Below are several points to consider when offering online content that has been adapted for the B2B market.

· B2B content marketing should be simple, informative, technical when needed and focused on the attributes (efficiency, effectiveness, quality, scalability, etc.).

· Written content should include a description of the benefits for the end-user. This content may also tend to be very detailed and longer than B2C content. Expertise is expected.

· Marketers can use B2B industry jargon, which isn’t the case for B2C where content must be accessible to a wider audience – the general public! B2B maintains a specific, sector appropriate language as it’s aimed at an already informed target.

· In B2B, the target is looking for efficiency and competencies, while in B2C, consumers are more likely to be looking for offers and deals. The B2B buying process tends to be driven by rational and logical decisions, while consumer choices are usually triggered by emotion.

· Social media is also becoming increasingly important in B2B strategies, partly due to changes in the Google algorithm but also due to this merging of the B2B and B2C buying cycles – B2B buyers expect to see what they are accustomed to in a B2C environment, including Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. B2B buyers are using social media to get closer to their customers, to keep them informed and to seek out potential new clients. According to Regalix’s study, "State of B2B Content Marketing," more than nine out of ten marketers (92%) use social media to regularly disseminate professional content, 59% of marketers are posting new B2B content on social media or elsewhere online at least once a week.

According to the same study, the most effective social media platforms to spread B2B content are LinkedIn (63% adoption), followed by Twitter (55%), YouTube (48%) and Slideshare (42%). Google+ is at the end of the scale with only a 20% adoption by B2B companies (although this is probably industry specific).

Offering a quality B2B shopping experience is quite possible, if you work on a content marketing strategy, using social media, blogs, forums, etc. The B2B buyer is a consumer like any another, following the same process with just a slightly different approach. Recreate and invigorate the B2B customer journey with lessons learned from the B2C journey and you’ll have a recipe for success!

Be careful though, even if a B2B and B2C customer acquisition is similar, it’s vital to have an ecommerce site that allows for flexible tariff management, in order to retain customers for business continuity. This is a key element for maintaining a simple and yet accessible purchasing process, which is fast and straightforward for professional buyers and particularly helpful in saving you time by streamlining your orders and payments.

By Marc Schillaci, CEO and Founder of Actinic (Part of the Oxatis Group)