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Are B2B and B2C Going to Converge into One?

For many years, marketers have drawn a distinction between B2B and B2C marketing. At one point, this division made sense. Work cultures operated under the assumption that people had two identities: a work self and a home self. But as the workforce evolved with technology, perspectives changed. A recent HBR article explains this new workforce dynamic:

“Work/life balance is at best an elusive ideal and at worst a complete myth, today’s senior executives will tell you,” writes Boris Groysberg, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business Review and Robin Abrahams, a research associate at Harvard Business School.

More and more, we create online identities that accurately represent ourselves away from work. Employees bring their all to the job, in search of authentic relationships with customers, counterparts, and peers. Because of this shift, B2B and B2C marketing techniques will soon become indistinguishable.

Here’s why:

Marketing of the Past and Marketing of the Future

Imagine your life only ten years ago: smartphones were in their infancy; e-commerce had just begun to take off; most marketing involved a combination of email marketing and paid channel ads. Today, customer acquisition, engagement, and retention ecosystems are entirely different for a few reasons:

  • The internet has created untapped opportunities for new businesses
  • More businesses online equals more market fragmentation
  • More market fragmentation leads to more competition and shorter attention spans

The marketing of the past depended on mass-market reach. The marketing of today and the future will depend on personalization. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at work or hanging out at home; you’re still you. There is no work life or personal life distinction anymore—life is just life, and marketing needs to be just marketing.

Buyers are Self-Directed

Because the internet has so much to offer, buyers have the power of choice. As a result, they’re self-directing their research to find the answers they need. They’re reaching out to friends, reading trusted reports, and ensuring they spend their resources on the right investments.

Buyer journeys are heavily dependent on education, no matter what you’re selling. People want to know they’re getting the best value, service, and security for their money. Regardless of whether we’re shopping for marketing automation software or a new pair of pants, we want to make the best decisions.

Technology opens doors for deep research. With a few clicks, we can access any information that we want.

Marketing Funnels Can No Longer Be Linear

This argument is likely to be the most controversial of the three. The idea of the marketing funnel has been a staple business framework for the last several decades. The idea is simple: if businesses cast their nets widely, potential buyers will move from “interest” to “purchase,” following a linear path.

But think about your buying process. Maybe you discover an item or potential vendor on Facebook. Then you see the same ad impression a couple more times. But at some point, you’ll forget about that company. Then in a few months, you come across a Medium article from the brand’s CEO.

As Google explains, marketing revolves around micro-moments—brief interactions with content that must make a valuable impact quickly to drive purchases.

Modern buyer journeys are more like treasure maps, not exact stages buyers are required to complete before progressing. Shoppers find their ways to the answers they need and self-direct their decisions.

Behavior is behavior. We’re humans, not B2B or B2C robots. The future of marketing involves search, discovery, and education. Just as our work selves and personal selves are converging, so will the marketing that appeals to us. We’re people first, consumers second. Context comes next.

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