Our contemporary commercial landscape holds some interesting opportunities. Not the least of which is the rise of the digital age making the global marketplace more accessible. E-commerce has been particularly successful, with sales expected to reach $4.2 trillion this year. But, this is not just a boon for businesses seeking to reach wider audiences. It also offers the potential for rewarding careers.
That said, if you’re preparing for a career in this field, you’ll still have some decisions to make. One of the most common here is whether to specialize in business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) sales. Both have their unique rewards and come bundled with their own challenges. But it can be important for your job satisfaction and career trajectory to focus on the one most suitable to your interests, needs, and talents.
Let’s dive a little further into these areas. What should you know about each sector and how can you engage?
Photo by Burst
Knowing the Differences
To choose the most appropriate commerce career path, it’s worth getting an overview of the fundamental differences between B2B and B2C. There are similarities; both can be performed on a freelance basis or as a staff member of a company. But while each involves sales, there are nuances that can impact how you spend your days and the type of atmosphere you’ll be working in.
- The Demographic
The obvious difference between the two is who you’ll be pitching products to. In B2C, you’re dealing with consumers directly, while in B2B, you’ll be interacting with executives of other companies. This means your interactions with your demographic will be very different. While there is the opportunity for meaningful person-to-person relationships in each scenario, with B2C you’re interacting with the consumer’s personal needs and interests. Whereas in B2C scenarios, you are dealing with a brand and its priorities; you may not always be interacting with the same staff member all the time, either.
- The Selling Process
Another fundamental difference between B2B and B2C is rooted in the customer journey. In the case of B2C, there’s a more direct approach to selling, with the consumer usually making all the decisions and often more likely to make impulse purchases. B2B, on the other hand, is usually a longer, more considered process. While you may be dealing with a specific contact at a company, their purchases will often have to be signed off by various stakeholders.
Benefits and Drawbacks
B2B and B2C sales each have some distinct positives and negatives you should be aware of. This not only helps you to make a more informed decision about the path you want to embark on but also allows you to prepare for the hurdles in advance.
Among the big benefits of B2B is your role goes beyond simply pitching and selling a product. The marketplace is huge, growing, and varied. This will often see you both planning events or attending trade shows to showcase your company and help you build industry relationships. This of course requires some attention to attracting as many attendees as possible, which isn’t in everyone’s wheelhouse, but there are steps you can take to make a difference. Most of these are about organization — finding a venue that’s convenient for everyone, planning interesting activities, sending and following up on invites.
This also highlights a potential downside to B2B. The scale of it can be significant. Particularly if you’re going into business on your own, you can often find B2B an expensive operation to run. This is often balanced out by the ability to charge higher prices, but it’s worth bearing in mind.
With B2C, the primary advantages revolve around the freedom it offers. There are few barriers to engaging in the field — even if you’re starting your own business, you can do so with relatively little start-up capital. Indeed, dropshipping and shared warehousing options often mean you can run a successful B2C business from the comfort of your home with a team of remote employees around the globe. It’s also relatively easy for you to diversify your product range to shift with the trends in the market.
The downside to this is that there is no shortage of competition out there. You’ll have to work harder and smarter to be heard over the background noise and grab the attention of consumers who have plenty of options. This is largely a question of gaining some marketing knowledge and applying yourself consistently, but it is still a difficult challenge.
Developing Your Skills
The accessibility and variety of commerce careers can make for an exciting prospect. However, it’s important not to just jump in without a little preparation. You’ll start on a more positive trajectory if you take the time to develop some useful key skills first. Some of these will be technical skills — B2B, in particular, requires knowledge of how to develop and introduce new products to the market. But most will be soft skills like effective communication, problem-solving, and organization.
Whether you opt for B2B or B2C, you are likely to be operating primarily in online marketplaces. Therefore, one of the basic skills you need to learn is how to build and maintain a website. This isn’t just about the technical coding and content management system (CMS) skills, though these are important. It’s also about knowing what to include on your website. After all, a good site isn’t just useful as a forum to sell your products. There are also elements you can leverage to promote your brand and make meaningful connections with customers. Alongside familiarizing yourself with the basics of registering a domain and using a host, learn about the practicalities of choosing and securing payment transaction methods. Dive into the methods of writing and scheduling a regular blog to drive traffic to your site.
There has never been a better time to pursue a career in commerce. B2B and B2C jobs both hold some great opportunities, and even their relative drawbacks are not often deal-breakers. By gaining some basic skills and committing to a path, you can discover an enriching professional experience.