What Is B2C Ecommerce? Here’s All You Need to Know

Michael E.
Michael E.
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While you might not know the term B2C ecommerce, it’s something most of us are familiar with on a day-to-day basis. We uncover its meaning, why it’s awesome, and how to succeed in this online business model.

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If you’ve ever ordered something from Amazon or signed up for a Netflix subscription, you’ve experienced B2C ecommerce in action. B2C (short for “business-to-consumer”) ecommerce is an online business model that is exploding in popularity – in 2021 it amounted to approximately 5.2 trillion US dollars in sales worldwide.

Want to get in on the action? This comprehensive guide will teach you all you need to know about B2C ecommerce. Let’s dive in!

What Exactly Is B2C Ecommerce?

Business-to-consumer ecommerce (also known as B2C or retail ecommerce) is a business model where an online business sells its products or services to individual customers. The term B2C is often used to differentiate from the B2B (or business-to-business) model of online selling. B2C ecommerce exploded during the pandemic when people around the world started making all their purchases online. From groceries to clothing and everything in between, consumers turned to online stores to do their shopping.

Retail commerce is the most popular business model for those who are just starting out selling online, because of its simplicity for both businesses and their customers. With the best ecommerce platforms available today, brands are able to easily and swiftly launch an online store, while consumers love the convenience of being able to shop from anywhere they are, whenever they want.

This online business model has massive growth potential, opening a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs around the world. By 2030, the global B2C ecommerce market size is estimated to reach almost 7.5 trillion US dollars.

B2C Ecommerce Market Size Forecast

Forecast for the B2C Ecommerce Market with a CAGR of 7.6% | Data Source: Precedence Research

5 Types of B2C Ecommerce (with Examples)

Business-to-consumer ecommerce takes 5 popular forms:

1. Direct Sellers

Also known as direct-to-consumer (or DTC) sellers, direct sellers are the most common B2C ecommerce business model. Direct sellers offer a product or service of their own, without the need for a wholesaler or distributor.

Shoppers like to buy from direct sellers because it protects them from buying knock-off products, and the manufacturer is likely to have the products they need in stock. In addition, buying directly from the manufacturer often means a better customer experience and support. One example of a direct seller is Apple. This household-name brand sells its own products both in stores and online. When you buy a product on their website, you can be sure you’re getting the reliable product you expect, with the option of excellent customer support if something goes wrong.

Apple Online Store Watches

Apple’s online store has all models in stock, with the option for specialist support.

2. Online Intermediaries

Online intermediaries, as the name suggests, act as a bridge between online sellers and individual shoppers. They are often presented as “online marketplaces” where a shopper can find the best possible product by browsing options from various sellers.

This B2C business model normally charges fees to the sellers for listing an item on the marketplace, and/or takes a commission from sales. Sellers are more inclined to shop through an online intermediary so that they can compare options.

Sound familiar? If you’re thinking Amazon, you’ve hit the nail on the head. This hugely successful example of the online intermediary business model appeals to sellers because it gets their products in front of a large audience. Shoppers love Amazon because of how many options it gives them, as well as its secure systems for payments and reviews.

Amazon Smartwatch Search

A simple search for “smartwatch” on Amazon populates more than 3,000 buying options.

3. Community-Based

This type of ecommerce business model revolves around online communities where like-minded consumers come together. Sellers advertise their unique products within these communities, aligning their solutions with the customer’s specific pain points.

Where do people find a sense of community in today’s digital world? On social media, of course. Social media platforms allow people to connect with others who share a niche interest, for example, dog owners who exchange cute photos of their dogs and exchange useful tips and resources. Facebook, love it or hate it, is the perfect example of community-based online selling. Facebook marketing allows brands to hyper-target their advertising to reach a very specific audience, giving them a higher chance of making a sale.

Facebook Ads Manager Targeting

Facebook allows brands to hyper-target niche audiences.

4. Fee-Based

With a fee-based business model, customers pay a subscription fee to a seller to access their product or service. The “Freemium” model is one version of this, where the customer is able to access a limited version of the service for free, with the option to upgrade to a premium offering. This model benefits the seller by quickly building a large audience of free users which they can use as an audience for future marketing efforts. It benefits the consumer by offering something of value at no cost, with an even better experience available to them if they want it.

Take, for example, Gmail. When one of our team members logged into her Gmail account this morning, she was met with a message saying that her account storage was at 99%. She was given the option of deleting some of her messages or upgrading to get more storage space.

gmail account storage message

In this example of a freemium service, the customer isn’t forced to buy the upgraded service – but it would definitely be valuable to her to not have to delete important messages.

5. Ad-Based

The advertising-based B2C model draws in a large number of website visitors by offering free, high-quality content. Advertisers pay the website to display their ad alongside that content, getting it in front of a wide audience.

With ad-based business-to-consumer ecommerce, the seller isn’t actually selling anything to the customer. Instead, they offer space for brands to market their products to the individual consumer, almost like selling real estate.

Forbes.com is a good example of advertising-based ecommerce. Visitors to their website know they’re going to find “free, quality journalism”, as long as they turn off their ad blocker on the site.

Forbes ad blocker popup

Forbes's advertising-based business model encourages visitors to allow ads on their site.

Benefits of the B2C Ecommerce Model for Businesses

The business-to-consumer model has a number of valuable benefits for online businesses. The most significant benefits are:

Lower Costs

Compared to opening a brick-and-mortar store, it often costs a lot less to launch an online retail store. And because you’re selling directly to individual consumers, there are no 3rd parties that you have to pay out – all the profit is yours.

Massive Reach

The advantage of retail ecommerce is that your store remains open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When you have an online store, you can literally make money while you sleep. And with a good inbound marketing strategy, your ecommerce business will have a global reach.

Data Gathering for Personalization

Moving your business online means you’ll be able to easily gather data on your customers. Using this information will help you provide a more personalized customer experience for shoppers, which will result in an increase in sales.

Benefits of the B2C Ecommerce Model for Consumers

Online shoppers love retail ecommerce because of its convenience: they can browse and buy products wherever they are, whenever they like. B2C ecommerce gives consumers a wide range of products and services to choose from. It also gives them a more enjoyable, personalized buying experience.

4 Tips for a Successful Online B2C Business

Starting your own B2C ecommerce business? Here are 4 proven tips for making more sales online:

1. Create Personalized Experiences

Online shoppers love personalized experiences. According to a recent study, 73% of consumers expect companies to understand their unique needs and cater to them. Gather as much information as possible on your customers so that you can segment them appropriately. Doing this will allow you to personalize your interactions with them at every touchpoint.

2. Focus on SEO

SEO (search engine optimization) is vital for the success of any retail ecommerce business. SEO is at the center of any inbound marketing strategy: it’s how shoppers will find your brand online without you having to pay for it. Provide quality, helpful information in your content that’s geared toward solving the pain points of your target audience.

3. Leverage Social Media

It’s official: the number 1 way to boost engagement from your customers is through social media. 78% of consumers say they want brands to use social media to bring them together. Build a community around your brand and you’ll foster trust and loyalty in your audience.

4. Be Transparent

No one will buy from a business they don’t trust. One of the most important factors in building trust with online shoppers is transparency. Be clear with customers about shipping costs and policies, product availability, and data collection.

The Future of B2C Ecommerce is Bright

Business-to-consumer ecommerce is continuing to grow in popularity as a business model. If you’re starting your own B2C online business, you’ll need the right tools to help you succeed. To save you hours of research, we’ve performed an in-depth study on the very best ecommerce platforms out there.


How does B2C ecommerce differ from B2B ecommerce?

What are the main types of B2C ecommerce?

How can businesses optimize their B2C ecommerce websites for better conversion rates?

What are the challenges faced by businesses in B2C ecommerce?

What are the most popular B2C ecommerce platforms for businesses?

How important is social media in B2C ecommerce?

What role do customer reviews play in B2C ecommerce?

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I used to sell everything online. Today I teach others to do the same. As an ecommerce consultant, I explore opportunities and test new strategies to leverage what others have yet to see.