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IB DP Business Management Study Notes

4.8.2 E-commerce Business Models

E-commerce has revolutionised the way businesses operate and how consumers shop. At its core are various business models that dictate the nature of transactions and interactions between parties. Let's delve into the primary e-commerce business models: B2B, B2C, and C2C, and their implications for businesses and consumers.

B2B (Business-to-Business)

B2B refers to transactions conducted between two businesses. These might be manufacturers, wholesalers, or service providers who engage with each other electronically.

Key Features:

  • Scale: B2B transactions often involve large quantities and are high in value.
  • Long-term Relationships: B2B often results in long-standing relationships between businesses, with contracts spanning multiple years.
  • Complex Decision-making: Due to the high stakes, decision-making processes are typically more complex and involve several stakeholders.


  • Price Sensitivity: Businesses are generally more price-sensitive and look for volume discounts.
  • Quality Assurance: There's a higher emphasis on quality, timely delivery, and after-sales support.
  • Customisation: Products or services might be tailored to meet the specific needs of the buying business.

B2C (Business-to-Consumer)

B2C represents transactions where businesses sell directly to the end consumer. This is the most commonly recognised e-commerce model.

Key Features:

  • Wide Audience: B2C businesses have the potential to reach a vast audience.
  • Quick Decisions: Consumer purchasing decisions tend to be faster than in B2B.
  • Emotional Connection: Branding and marketing play a significant role in influencing purchasing decisions.


  • Diverse Product Range: To cater to a wide audience, businesses often offer a broad range of products.
  • Importance of User Experience: Website design, ease of navigation, and checkout processes are crucial in B2C e-commerce.
  • Customer Service: Efficient customer service, including handling queries and returns, becomes paramount.

C2C (Consumer-to-Consumer)

C2C allows consumers to sell directly to other consumers. Platforms like eBay have popularised this model, allowing individuals to set up their online shops.

Key Features:

  • Varied Product Listings: From second-hand items to handmade crafts, the product range is diverse.
  • Peer Reviews: Reviews and ratings by other consumers significantly influence purchasing decisions.
  • Direct Communication: Buyers and sellers often communicate directly to negotiate prices or clarify product details.


  • Trust Factor: Trust is a significant concern in C2C transactions. Hence, platforms invest in mechanisms like feedback systems to instil buyer confidence.
  • Payment Safety: Ensuring secure payments and handling disputes are vital aspects of C2C platforms.
  • Listing Quality: While some sellers provide detailed product descriptions and images, others might not, leading to varied listing quality.

Implications of E-commerce Models on Business Strategy

Marketing and Promotion:

  • B2B: Focus on value propositions, long-term benefits, and reliability. Strategies might include attending trade shows or hosting webinars.
  • B2C: Emphasise brand identity, emotional connection, and impulse buying. Techniques include social media marketing, influencer collaborations, and email marketing.
  • C2C: Platforms might promote their reliability and trustworthiness, ensuring both buyers and sellers feel secure.

Customer Support:

  • B2B: Prioritise relationship management, with dedicated account managers or support teams.
  • B2C: Focus on chat support, FAQs, and efficient return policies.
  • C2C: Platforms provide guidelines for communication, offer dispute resolution, and facilitate feedback mechanisms.

Product Range and Pricing:

  • B2B: Customisable solutions with volume discounts.
  • B2C: Diverse range catering to broad audiences, with frequent discounts and offers.
  • C2C: Pricing can be flexible, with room for negotiation.

Understanding the nuances of these models helps businesses tailor their strategies, ensuring they resonate with their target audience, be it other businesses or direct consumers. E-commerce is no longer just an alternative but a crucial aspect of a company's sales strategy.


Trust is paramount in C2C e-commerce models, and platforms take several measures to establish and maintain it. One primary method is through robust feedback and rating systems, where both buyers and sellers can rate each other after a transaction. These ratings serve as a reputation mechanism, encouraging good behaviour and deterring fraud. Platforms may also offer escrow services, where the payment is held by the platform until the buyer confirms receipt of the item in satisfactory condition. Additionally, many platforms have stringent verification processes for sellers and provide channels for dispute resolution to address grievances, further enhancing trust.

Yes, some platforms operate as hybrid e-commerce models, incorporating elements from B2B, B2C, and C2C. A classic example is Alibaba, which has a B2B portal for businesses to source products in bulk, a B2C segment for businesses to sell directly to consumers, and a C2C platform similar to eBay where individuals can sell to one another. These hybrid models allow platforms to cater to a broader audience, diversifying their revenue streams. They can provide the versatility of C2C, the scale of B2B, and the direct-to-consumer appeal of B2C, all under one digital umbrella.

B2B e-commerce platforms often cater to bulk and repeat orders by incorporating specific features tailored to business needs. These platforms may have a dedicated 'bulk order' option, allowing businesses to specify large quantities and negotiate prices directly. There might also be a 'repeat order' function, enabling businesses to easily reorder supplies or products without going through the entire purchase process again. Additionally, B2B platforms often integrate with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, allowing seamless order management, inventory tracking, and streamlined procurement processes, making the handling of bulk and repeated orders efficient.

The choice of e-commerce business model largely depends on the target audience, market research, and the platform's objectives. Factors influencing this decision include:

  • Market Needs: Research might reveal a gap in B2B supply chains or a demand for C2C resale in a specific category.
  • Operational Capabilities: Platforms must have the infrastructure to support the chosen model, whether it's B2B bulk handling or B2C retail logistics.
  • Revenue Goals: Some models might offer higher revenue potential than others based on market dynamics.
  • Competitive Landscape: The presence or absence of dominant players in specific e-commerce models in the target market can influence the decision.

By analysing these factors and understanding their capabilities, e-commerce platforms can select the model best aligned with their goals and market conditions.

Platforms operating under the C2C model generally monetise through several avenues. Most commonly, they charge listing fees or transaction fees for each sale made through their platform. For instance, an online auction site might charge a seller a fixed price to list an item and then take a percentage of the sale price once the item is sold. Additionally, advertising is another revenue stream; platforms with high traffic can sell ad space to businesses. Lastly, some platforms offer premium services to sellers, like enhanced listing visibility or promotional tools, generating additional income. These monetisation strategies ensure profitability while facilitating consumer-to-consumer transactions.

Practice Questions

Explain the main differences between B2B and B2C e-commerce models and discuss one implication of each.

B2B (Business-to-Business) and B2C (Business-to-Consumer) are two primary e-commerce models that dictate how transactions are carried out. B2B involves transactions between businesses, such as manufacturers and wholesalers, whereas B2C pertains to businesses selling directly to the end consumer. One significant difference is the scale and complexity; B2B transactions tend to be larger in volume and value, often requiring intricate decision-making processes involving multiple stakeholders. In contrast, B2C transactions cater to individual consumers, emphasising branding and quick purchasing decisions. One implication of B2B is the need for customised solutions and long-term relationships, while B2C necessitates a strong focus on branding, user experience, and efficient customer service.

What are the characteristics of the C2C e-commerce model and how do they impact the business strategy of platforms that support C2C transactions?

C2C, or Consumer-to-Consumer, is an e-commerce model where consumers sell directly to other consumers, often facilitated by platforms like eBay. Key characteristics include varied product listings, peer reviews, and direct communication between buyers and sellers. Given the direct consumer interaction, trust becomes paramount in C2C transactions. Feedback and rating systems are crucial for building buyer confidence. Payment security is also a significant concern. To address these challenges, platforms supporting C2C transactions must invest heavily in establishing robust feedback mechanisms, ensuring secure payment gateways, and providing resources for effective communication and dispute resolution, all aimed at facilitating a trustworthy and seamless user experience.

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Written by: Dave
Cambridge University - BA Hons Economics

Dave is a Cambridge Economics graduate with over 8 years of tutoring expertise in Economics & Business Studies. He crafts resources for A-Level, IB, & GCSE and excels at enhancing students' understanding & confidence in these subjects.

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