B2B CRM vs. B2C CRM: What’s the Difference?

When you think of a customer relationship management system (CRM), what pops into your mind?

Most people immediately think of a CRM solution like Salesforce, the original CRM that defined the category. But a CRM is more than just a place where all of your customer data lives. It also creates a single source of truth on which you can base your business decisions and manage customer engagement.

However, most traditional CRM systems were specifically built to serve only B2B businesses—and you can tell.

B2B CRMs aim to help salespeople manage long, relatively predictable sales cycles and one-to-one communications, and they often pair with marketing tools to nurture leads across the course of a lengthy sales funnel.

Yet despite this, many B2C marketers still tried to force B2B CRMs to serve their very different business needs. When a product tailor-made for B2B sales clearly wasn’t doing the job, B2C CRMs emerged to fill the need for retail businesses that sell to individual consumers, rather than massive corporations.

Even though the two types of CRMs are distinct as can be, there’s still some confusion in the market today (perhaps because the acronyms are so similar).

That’s why we’re here to help clear up some of the confusion for anyone looking to invest in a CRM today. In fact, B2C CRMs couldn’t be more different than B2B CRMs when it comes to:

  • Serving marketing vs. sales
  • Managing people vs. accounts
  • Tackling unpredictable vs. predictable sales cycles
  • … and much more

Let’s take a look at the specific distinctions in the capabilities and functionalities of a B2C CRM vs. a B2B CRM so you can decide for yourself which one is right for your business.

Marketing-focused vs. sales-focused

In the world of B2C, CRMs are built for marketers. After all, they’re the ones who end up driving the majority of sales since most ecommerce sales are self-service. Because of this, B2C marketers need actionable data in order to segment customers and offer targeted, personalized marketing across channels.

In contrast, the B2B CRM is primarily a tool used by sales teams. They’re immersed in the weeds of the CRM every day, tracking the their prospects’ progress as they move through various stages of the funnel.

Key difference: A B2C CRM helps marketers keep track of where their contacts are in the customer journey, based on granular behavioral data—something B2B CRMs can’t effectively do.

People-driven vs. account-driven

B2C is all about individual people. And why wouldn’t it be? There’s little need to focus on accounts when an actual person is the one buying products directly from your business. What matters most to B2C marketers is how you market to and nurture your individual customers to encourage a first purchase, a second purchase, and long-term customer loyalty.

But in B2B, you’re selling to a large organization that’s part of a broader list of accounts. Because of this, B2B CRMs are set up to manage a list of individual contacts within each account. This detached structure doesn’t align well with the high-volume, people-driven nature of B2C.

Key difference: B2C CRMs are built to measure individuals, not accounts.

Unpredictable vs. predictable sales cycles

It doesn’t get much more unpredictable than a B2C sales cycle: It can be as short as a minute or as long as a few years. For instance, one buyer might see an ad for a new pair of shoes and make an impulse purchase, while a different B2C customer may have a long consideration period before finally deciding to buy months later.

In contrast, B2B sales tend to be more complex, involve buy-in from more stakeholders, and require a longer process of vetting and technical integration. Because of this consistent process, most B2B businesses understand their usual sales cycle length and expect the process to take a certain amount of time.

Key difference: The varied, uncertain nature of purchase cycles in B2C makes it tough for a B2B CRM to serve the needs of a B2C business.

Millions vs. thousands of transactions

When it comes to B2B vs. B2C, the sheer number of contacts and accounts that are dealt with on a daily basis is hugely different. In B2C, a large retail brand could be selling to millions of individual customers per day. Because of that, a B2C CRM must be able to ingest massive amounts of data and accurately assign that data to specific customers in order to effectively measure results over time.

But in B2B, your business is generally dealing with a list of thousands of companies in your target market. In the end, the amount of volume isn’t really comparable.

Key difference: A traditional B2B CRM may not be equipped to handle the extremely high volume of transactions common in B2C.

Learn more about the B2C CRM

Lower vs. higher ASP

A B2C transaction could be as simple as buying a $45 pair of shoes. In comparison, B2B products not only take longer to buy, but also they tend to be far more expensive. In a B2B deal, you may be talking about a multi-million dollar contract that spans a massive, multinational corporation. With such a different average sales price (ASP), it becomes difficult to measure the two types of transactions using the same system.

Not only that, but B2C and B2B businesses view customer lifetime value (CLTV) in completely different ways. Yes, the cost to acquire customers may be higher in B2B. But the importance of repeat purchases is given more weight in B2C.

Key difference: The fluctuation in average sales prices between the two CRMs means a one-size-fits-all approach to CRMs isn’t a risk B2C brands should take.


Ultimately, what’s the most important takeaway from this comparison? Because of the many differences between the two systems and types of businesses, a B2C CRM has to be far more powerful than your traditional B2B CRM. 

In B2B, sales reps can go in and manually clean up or alter data as things change. But since B2C transactions happen at a faster pace, in far larger numbers, and in less predictable ways, manually maintaining a database is pretty unrealistic. A B2C CRM must be agile enough to quickly and accurately identify customers, resolve those identities across devices and channels, and update records automatically—all in real-time.

The divergence between these two types of CRMs is clear. And now that you understand all the differences between a B2B CRM and a B2C CRM, why would you try to force your business to use a product that wasn’t built with your market in mind?

Business-to-business marketers have their dedicated CRM software, and now the time has come for B2C marketers to take control of their very own CRM system—a B2C CRM that’s built to serve their unique needs.

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