An Intro to B2C Marketing Automation

by Sam Boush

Lead Lizard, Inc.

In the world of marketing automation vendors, business-to-business (B2B) is king. This website, for example, is a fount of knowledge for organizations trying to decide between Eloqua, Marketo, HubSpot, Pardot and the dozen other B2B marketing automation tools that have been seeing triple-digit growth for the last few years.

But what about business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing automation? In this post, I’ll cover the difference between B2B and B2C marketing automation, major players in this space, and future of B2C marketing automation.

B2C Marketing Automation Features

The differences between B2C and B2B marketing automation technology are important. While B2B marketing automation focuses on a defined target market, education and nurturing, multi-step and multi-touch sales, and delivering nurtured and qualified leads to sales reps, B2C marketing automation takes a very different approach.

With B2C marketing automation, the brand and product are more important than the customer’s relationship with the company. The sales cycle is short and speedy. Merchandising and maximizing the value of the sale are keys to success.

For that reason, B2C marketing automation software helps marketers reduce shopping cart abandonment rates, increase email open rates, segment databases for targeted offers and leverage partnerships. It can also help marketing boost revenue through cross-selling and upselling, create automated loyalty programs and drip (nurturing) campaigns, and develop triggered emails and offers to customers.

B2C Marketing Automation Vendors

I recently talked with Adam Blitzer, the COO of Pardot, and one of the foremost thought leaders in marketing automation. When I asked him about B2C marketing automation, he was very frank. “There are products that are for B2C marketing automation,” he said. “But tools like ours are built for complex, multi-touch sales.”

If Pardot, the number-three marketing automation vendor in terms of clients, doesn’t serve the B2C market, then who does?

Well, B2C marketing automation—like B2B marketing automation—really comes in two flavors: enterprise and small and medium business (SMB). Below is a short summary of the MA vendors that fit into those categories.

Enterprise B2C Marketing Automation:

  • Aprimo – Aprimo marketing automation software delivers easy to use, modular software that allows B2C companies to integrate marketing activities, manage customer messaging, streamline marketing processes and measure ROI. B2C clients fall mostly in the categories of financial services (Merrill Lynch) and entertainment (Warner Bros.).
  • SAS – SAS provides business analytics software and services, and is among the largest independent vendors in the business intelligence market. The SAS Marketing Automation solution helps B2B and B2C companies plan, test and execute marketing campaigns. The company’s stable of B2C clients includes retail banking (Bank of America), retail (Macy's) and services (Expedia).
  • Unica – Unica (acquired by IBM) provides Web and customer analytics, offline and online demand generation, and marketing resource management. Unica's B2C strength lies mostly with its portfolio of retail and consumer goods customers (Best Buy, Dick's Sporting Goods, Urban Outfitters, and more).
  • Neolane – The Neolane solution is built on a single, open platform that centrally manages direct marketing campaigns, leads, resources, customer data and analytics to improve effectiveness and ROI. Neolane is used by nearly 400 of the world’s leading companies including Alcatel Lucent,, Orange, Sears Canada, Sephora Europe and Sony Music.

SMB Marketing Automation

As with B2B marketing automation, the field for SMB B2C marketing automation is crowded. Below is a list of the top three marketing automation vendors that serve this market:

  • Alterian – Alterian offers Web content management, social media marketing, email marketing and engagement management and analytics. Customers include Domino’s Pizza, Jaguar Land Rover, Princess Cruises and Harley Davidson.
  • ExactTarget – ExactTarget recently introduced their “Interactive Marketing Hub,” a cross-channel communication and interactions platform that provides marketers with a single view of each individual customer. Customers of this service (it’s not currently available in any other form) include Nike, Home Depot, and JetBlue Airways.

The Future of Marketing Automation

I talked with Brian Kardon, CMO of Eloqua, about the future of marketing automation. (Eloqua, arguably the top-performing marketing automation company, serves B2C as well as B2B clients.)

According to Kardon, “Marketing automation is hitting the proverbial tipping point.” He sees this mainly as the result of laggards looking at the performance of the leaders in their spaces—leaders who have adopted marketing automation—and are seeing how they are now achieving huge success and are pulling away.

“I’ll give you an example,” says Kardon. “We’re finding if you have 10 NBA teams who’ve implemented marketing automation, the others are seeing their success and saying, ‘Hey, we need that. We’re at a disadvantage.’”



Great article. I think there are plenty of grey areas between certain types of more sophisticated B2C marketing (considered purchases e.g. cars) and types of B2B marketing that could be explored as the lines tend to blur here. Also, it would very useful to look at the cost/value/benefit equation as well to see what you get for your money. Obviously the big enterprise boys charge healthily for their products so how much ”bang for your buck” can you get from the SMB products…is there a substantial difference in effective functionality or can a small guy on a limited budget now compete with the big guys? I think so in our increasingly democratised marketing world but it’s always nice to be able to quantify this. Thanks.

Comment by Michael Gower

Good article, but could you provide better list of B2C for SMB? The 2 you listed Alterian & Exact Target are more enterprise focused. I don’t consider Nike, Home Depot, Jet Blue or Jaguar Land Rover small business. What is available for a startup on a shoestring budget?

Comment by Ken

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