October 10, 2019
Case Study

The Most Popular Articles about B2C Marketing from MarketingSherpa’s 20 Years of Reporting


When MarketingSherpa started publishing, there was skepticism that E-tail (or as its most frequently known today, ecommerce) would have anything more than a very, very small future for B2C companies.

Two decades later, it’s hard not to look back and smirk at that hesitancy to embrace digital.

MarketingSherpa has embraced digital since the very beginning and brought you the data, case studies, how-tos and inspiration to help you get those business results. Today we dive into our archive of this content to see what you can still learn from the most popular B2C articles from those 20 years of reporting.

Read on to learn more about competitive analyses, industry benchmark conversion rates, channel preference by age group, and more.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

sherpa 20 yrs of publishing top b2c posts

(As seen in the MarketingSherpa B2C Marketing newsletter. Click to get a free email subscription to the latest from MarketingSherpa.)


B2C marketers are not always appreciated for what they do.

It’s true that B2B (business-to-business) marketers often feel overlooked because B2B marketing is frequently thought of as a separate subset of marketing. But sometimes B2C (business-to-consumer) marketers are the ones who are taken for granted because B2C marketing is just, well, marketing. So B2Bers often get more content aimed specifically at them.

But just like in any other profession, B2C marketers appreciate case studies and data tailored to their niche.

At MarketingSherpa, we’ve been publishing information that can help B2C marketers overcome challenges and improve results since 1999. Here are some of the most popular B2C articles we’ve published, based on total traffic. (So if you’re a B2B marketer, close your browser tab right now and go work on sales-marketing alignment or something! This information isn’t for you).


How to Write a Competitive Analysis (with 3 free templates)

(May 18, 2012)

competitive analysisWhile most of the content I’m referencing in this article will be B2C specific, this popular blog post about competitive analysis has been so helpful for B2C marketers, I’ve decided to include it.

Your company’s value proposition, products and offers do not exist in a vacuum. Make sure you understand what your competitors have to offer to your customers.

And those competitors aren’t always obvious. “Sometimes companies will focus too much on reviewing their traditional competitors and forget to frequently monitor search results to see if there are new competitors in the mix or potential new substitutes for your product or service,” Ana Gabriela Paez explains in the blog post.


Ecommerce Research Chart: Industry benchmark conversion rates for 25 retail categories

(September 15, 2015)

We humans, we have a hard time understanding how we’re doing in life.

So we look at the [house/car/salary/conversion rate] of the people to the left of us and the people to the right of us, and use that for our measuring stick. All achievements are relative.

I say this with tongue-planted-firmly-in cheek, of course. Benchmark conversion rates are helpful if we don’t overemphasize their importance, and in this article, we shared average conversion rates for ecommerce sales in different product categories based on a survey of 2,885 marketers.

However, keep in mind the relative nature of them. Yes, they are helpful directionally, but the most important conversion rate (or house or car or salary) is your own.


Marketing Research Chart: Do different age groups prefer different channels?

(March 10, 2015)

Spoiler alert. Here’s the answer to the question posed in the title of this article …

No. No they don’t. Everybody loves email.

Well, as you can see in the full data published in this article, the complete answer is a little more complex than that. But email was the most popular channel for every age group we surveyed, according to this group of 2,057 American consumers.


Ecommerce Research Chart: Average gross margins for small, medium and large companies

(September 2, 2014)

Sales numbers and conversions can deceive. There’s a lot marketers can do in the short term to get more sales or higher conversions.

For example, if I gave a free lunch with Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian or Demi Lovato (your choice) at the new, hip ramen and cupcake restaurant to every person who bought Fortnite gamer socks I’m selling on my website, no matter how many socks I sell — I’m losing money. A lot. That would be one expensive lunch.

Extreme example, of course, but marketers can tend to overutilize incentives when we’re up against the wall to hit our numbers.

So while sales and conversion are important KPIs, B2C marketers and business leaders shouldn’t overlook another essential KPI to ecommerce success — margin.

In this article, we share the gross margins (by overall revenue) based on responses from 413 marketers.


MarketingSherpa Consumer Purchase Preference Survey: Demographics of customer reasons to follow brands’ social accounts

(November 24, 2015)

Social media consultants often advise brands not to sell on social. Sometimes they’re giving that advice on a selfie video shot from their phone while driving in their car or walking down a city block. (You’re not that busy! If it’s worth posting a video to social media, it’s worth getting out of your car to do it).

While social media consultants can be skeptical of promotions, consumers of all ages tell us the top reason they follow brands’ social media accounts is because “I want to get regular coupons/promotions.”

Some more data from the article: “Women are more motivated by incentives, as well as useful and entertaining content. People with lower incomes are also motivated by useful content, supporting brands’ charitable work and seeing a lot of followers,” Live LaMontagne explains in this article.


Marketing Chart: Which advertising channels consumers trust most and least when making purchases

(January 17, 2017)

While there has been a lot of real news about fake news in the past few years, it doesn’t seem that consumers agree. Consumers do, in fact, trust newspapers and magazines, more than any other advertising channel at the point in time that matters most to marketers — when they’re making a purchase decision, according to our research with 1,200 consumers.


Ecommerce: 10 case studies to help you excel in content marketing, social media and website optimization

(November 13, 2013)

A few out-of-context nuggets of wisdom from this case study compilation blog post by Allison Banko include …

  • “A lot of people don’t realize that we have same-day delivery, even though it is not something new for us, so we realize that we will need to do even more to promote it,” said Kaitlin Reiss, Vice President of Ecommerce, Edible Arrangements

  • “It makes it easy to bond with people … knowing that we write about things that are so important and we care passionately about, makes [writing email content] pretty easy to do,” Paul Cannella, Owner, Poopbags.com, told MarketingSherpa of the company’s content strategy.

  • “We put time into creating helpful content that helps people either make a buying decision or entertain them,” said Erika Strum, Director of Internet Marketing, Wine Enthusiast Companies. “Even if they aren’t making that purchase in the moment, we feel that they will come back to us as a great source of information.”

  • “In order to tackle this, and do all this, we had to think just like a customer would,” said Company Folders CEO Vladimir Gendelman. “A redesign is not just like making [the website] look pretty. It is about making it extremely easy for [website] function.”


Inbound Marketing: 450% average ROI from Facebook advertising and organic content effort

(February 5, 2015)

Facebook is a massive bastion of potential customers. According to the company’s most recent data, there were 500 trillion kajillion MAUs (monthly active users) on the social network.

This case study by Erin Hogg shows how shoe retailer Gravity Defyer leveraged both paid and free features offered by Facebook to increase sales.

“We'll use the same picture and then have different captions and see which ones perform better. Then, based on that, we'll use the ad that performs better,” said social media marketing manager Megan Light.

“Sometimes even Customer Service may find out if [a post] is working before we review the report, because they'll call and say, ‘Hey, a lot of people are calling about this post or about this ad,’” public relations manager Sarah Olea said.


Email Marketing: Dell lifts revenue 109% via GIF-centric campaign

(January 14, 2014)

Images can be a generic addition to marketing. (Why are all those people smiling and laughing about health insurance?) Or they can help communicate the value proposition of a product.

In this case study by Allison Banko, the Dell team chose the latter with this campaign in which a GIF helped show the functionality of the innovative Dell XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook — a laptop with a hinge design that allows it to transform into a tablet.

“It was certainly not a Dell-looking email that we historically run, and that was the most exciting part for us. It really got a lot of other people internally excited, a lot of our executive team, etcetera, about what we were capable of and what we could do with email rather than just make it an image and a price point,” said David Sierk, Email Strategy and Analytics, Dell.


Email Marketing: How charity: water increased donations by $800,000 using video, increased send schedule

(June 18, 2013)

Marketers have gotten hesitant to overload customers’ inboxes. And for good reason. Between spam complaints and customer inaction that can banish your email to the clutter, junk, spam, promotions, or other step-down folder that isn’t the inbox, you can alienate customers with too much email.

But …

You can also delight them. If you’re delivering compelling content. This case study by Courtney Eckerle shows how charity:water kept its fundraisers updated and motived with email.

“Supporters do everything from grow beards, to run marathons, to swimming naked in the San Francisco Bay to fundraise. While we work in over 20 countries, the September Campaign is an opportunity for us to focus our efforts on one part of the world and really tell their story,” said digital marketing manager Sarah Salisbury.

With a passionate audience like that, the bar for email marketing was high. Read on to discover how this nonprofit delivered with its email.


And now for a bonus B2C marketing article, from one of the earliest mentions of B2C on MarketingSherpa …

First Tuesday, Collectpoint, ThinkNatural.com, Opt-In Email Lists

(May 12, 2000)

The article states (but the emphasis is mine), “Trying hard to sound positive — as a prime mover in the company’s Internet investment arm should — he was prepared to predict only a ‘very, very small’ future for E-tail which, he believes, will remain unprofitable, succeeding only where complemented (and funded) by an offline strategy. This rather gloomy view of the B2C environment on the part of M&S [Marks and Spencer] won’t have gone unnoticed by the majority of those present.”

With the benefit of two decades of hindsight, I have to disagree with Marks and Spencer. While I agree mixing offline and online is an effective tactic — consumers trust newspaper and magazine ads most when making a purchase decision — in my humble opinion, I think there is a pretty large future for ecommerce.


Related Resources

Research-based Ecommerce Swipe File

MarketingSherpa Customer Satisfaction Research Study

The 2014 MarketingSherpa E-commerce Benchmark Study

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