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How Do B2B and B2C Email Marketing Compare? (+New Data)

by Terran Mazzaglia

How do B2B and B2C email marketing compare - graphic

What happens when an unstoppable email meets an immovable spam filter? The world of email marketing is a high-stakes game of 3D chess. In this article we take a closer look at the data behind B2C and B2B email marketing audiences and how to best market to them.

What is B2B Email Marketing?

B2B, or Business-to-Business, represents transactions or interactions between two businesses. So, in B2B email marketing, we are referring to a form of direct marketing that uses email to promote products or services to other businesses.

Imagine you’re a software company with a nifty tool that simplifies data analysis. Instead of pursuing flashy ads aimed at teenagers on social media, you opt to craft a message armed with charts and facts. Then you send this email to the Chief Technology Officer of a data-intensive company. That's B2B email marketing in a nutshell – less sparkle, more substance.

According to the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), B2B email marketing can achieve an open rate of around 15%. While this may appear low compared to its B2C counterpart, let’s not judge the book by its cover just yet. B2B email marketing boasts a higher click-through-rate (CTR) of 3.2%, meaning that while fewer might open, those who do are more likely to take action.

What is B2C Email Marketing?

B2C, or Business-to-Consumer, signifies business transactions or interactions with individual consumers. Thus, B2C email marketing involves businesses using email to promote directly to customers.

Now, let's revisit our software company. Instead of the CTO, let's say you're now targeting Jane, a fitness enthusiast who enjoys running data-backed marathons. Your email to Jane won't be full of charts and technical jargon. Instead, it might feature a bold headline – "Run Your Best Marathon Yet with Data!" – with exciting visuals of a runner crossing the finish line, arms raised in triumph. That's B2C email marketing – striking the perfect balance between eye-catching visuals and emotive messaging.

When done right, B2C email marketing can yield an average open rate of 19.7%. A higher open rate, you ask? Yes, indeed, but don't rush to conclusions yet. The average click-through-rate in B2C stands at a lower 2.1%. This suggests that while more consumers may open the emails, fewer may click through to the website or take the desired action.

The Most Popular Business Email Account Providers

The realm of business email is fiercely competitive, with a few players dominating the market. Industry data from InboxMonster shows that Outlook leads the pack with a 40.1% market share, followed by Proofpoint at 21%, and Google Workspace at 20.3%. The remainder of the market is held by Mimecast (6.2%), Barracuda (3.9%), and a variety of others (8.6%).

Business Email Provider

Market Share





Google Workspace






All Others


Data Source

It’s important to note that three of the top five business email solutions listed above are not traditional email service providers. Rather, Proofpoint, Mimecast, and Barracuda are known as "secure email gateways".

Secure email gateways act as safety barriers between the public Internet and the connected corporate email server. Designed to block any suspicious content, they inspect incoming emails for potential threats. This feature makes these platforms highly valued in the B2B industry, where email security is paramount.

While important for modern business operations, these filters add to the challenge for email marketers. Their complex security algorithms can make the task of delivering B2B emails difficult.

B2B Email Marketing Challenges

Data privacy is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Businesses have responded by adopting stringent data privacy practices. Consequently, email marketers now grapple with the twin challenges of deliverability and personalization.

Business email providers and secure email gateways all prioritize the protection of business data. It's like having a team of vigilant, digital bodyguards for your emails. Yet, these guardians can also present hurdles for marketers trying to reach the inboxes of their target audience.

The reason behind this protective stance is to fight the cybersecurity trinity of terror: phishing, malware, and spam. It's no longer just about protecting sensitive information. It's about ensuring productivity. So, while these measures keep email safe, they raise the bar for email marketers trying to stand out in a crowded inbox.

How to Improve Email Delivery to Business Email Providers

Determine Your Target MX

The Mail Exchange (MX) record is the email's traffic controller, directing messages to the right server. Using an MX lookup tool reveals the recipient's Email Service Provider, aiding in validation and spam compliance. It will also detect if a server is down or has configuration issues.

Scale Up Your Sending Volume Gradually

Think of this as a warm-up. Start with a low volume of emails, and slowly ramp up your numbers over time. This gradual increase helps the provider recognize your email campaign as a legitimate, ongoing conversation. Distinguishing it from a sudden burst of unsolicited communication.

Follow a Regular Sending Schedule

Regularity is key. A consistent email schedule helps email providers recognize your senders' legitimacy. Think of it as showing up for work on time, every time. You're seen as dependable, trustworthy, and that's a reputation you want your emails to have too.

Use Authentication Techniques

Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) may sound like terms from a sci-fi lexicon. However, these are practical, advanced techniques integral to email delivery success.

Firstly, SPF empowers email providers to verify if incoming mail from a domain originates from a host sanctioned by that domain. Picture SPF as the bouncer, confirming that your email is on the guest list and authorized to enter the inbox party.

DKIM, on the other hand, acts as a notary public for your emails. It provides an encryption key and digital signature, which verifies an email message has not been altered during transit. DKIM confirms that your email is genuine and unchanged, authenticating your email's identity.

Finally, DMARC is like a symphony conductor, harmonizing the performance of SPF and DKIM. It unifies these two mechanisms into a coherent pair, enabling domain owners to dictate how to manage messages that fail these checks. It's essentially a fail-safe mechanism, offering an extra layer of security.

When combined, SPF, DKIM, and DMARC act like your email's passport, driver's license, and insurance policy. Working in concert to ensure its safe and authorized delivery to the intended inbox.

Best Practices for B2B Email Marketing

The foundations of best practices in B2B email marketing closely mirror those in B2C. The golden rules of captivating content, personalized subject lines, and strong CTAs apply to both audiences. However, there are several nuances that make B2B email marketing distinct.

Understand Email System Provider Preferences:

Each email system provider has specific settings and preferences. As a marketer, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with these. Spam triggers, acceptable sending rates, and security measures like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC are common factors.

Write Relevant Content:

B2B buyers expect value in exchange for their time. Your content should be meaningful, helpful, and relevant to their business needs. Remember, you're communicating with industry professionals who appreciate insightful content.

Craft Personalized Subject Lines:

Subject lines can make or break your email marketing campaign. A personalized subject line demonstrates respect for your recipient's time and interest. In fact, some industry studies have found that emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. So, it's not just about being friendly - it's a strategy that yields results.

Avoid Spam Triggers:

The majority of business email providers have a list of words associated with spam email. Understand which terms trigger spam filters and diligently avoid them. This can involve everything from the subject line to the image-to-text ratio in your email.

Use a Strong CTA:

A clear, concise, and compelling call to action can be the difference between an email that converts and one that gets trashed. We suggest using large, colorful buttons alongside a compelling phrase. Make it easy for your readers to understand what action they should take next.

Learn more about crafting a powerful Call to Action for your industry

Segment Your Email List:

Email segmentation is one of the strongest marketing strategies available. With segmentation, you can divide your email list into more specific target groups. This allows you to tailor your messaging to the unique needs of each segment, maximizing relevance.

Focus on Educational Content:

B2C and B2B email marketing differ in terms of scope of impact and content preference. B2B buyers often require more information before making purchase decisions. They are investing in solutions that can impact their entire organization, not just an individual. Thus, educational content like whitepapers or industry reports can be more engaging for B2B audiences.

The Most Popular Consumer Email Account Providers

In the battle of consumer email providers, Gmail emerges victorious with a market share of 54.8%. Gmail users are also generally a younger demographic. Trailing behind but still notable are Yahoo! With 22.7%, and Outlook, holding 12.1%. The remaining providers include iCloud with a 3.3% share, AT&T with 2%, and a mixed bag of others totaling 5.1%.

Business Email Provider

Market Share











All Others


Data Source

B2C Email Marketing Challenges

B2C email marketing faces its own unique set of challenges, mainly rooted in audience engagement and competition from other channels. As consumers are bombarded with promotional emails every day, it becomes difficult to stand out.

One of the significant challenges in B2C email marketing is personalization at scale. With large email lists, creating personalized content that resonates with each subscriber can be a daunting task. Additionally, the conversion rates and return on investment (ROI) in B2C marketing tend to be lower than in B2B. This can pose a hurdle in proving the value of your email marketing efforts.

Retaining subscribers and preventing them from hitting the 'unsubscribe' button is another issue. This is often exacerbated by email fatigue, which can set in when consumers feel overwhelmed by an influx of promotional emails.

Best Practices for B2C Email Marketing

Recall from the previous section that there is a significant overlap between the best practices for B2B and B2C email marketing.

Some common essentials include:

- understanding email system provider preferences
- crafting relevant content
- writing personalized subject lines
- avoiding spam triggers
- using a strong CTA
- segmenting your audience.

However, B2C email marketing has its own set of unique best practices:

Encourage Email Sharing:

Including social sharing buttons and email forward buttons in your emails to make it easy for subscribers to share content. It will never happen if they do not have the option. Also, offering incentives for sharing can help you reach a wider audience organically.

Automate the Customer Journey:

Trigger-based emails, like cart abandonment reminders or welcome messages can increase engagement. Well designed automation will help guide the customer along their buyer journey.

Create Visually Appealing Content:

B2C audiences respond well to visuals. Attractive images and creative designs can enhance your email's impact. In addition to visuals, making your email easily skimmable is essential. Use bullet points, headers, or bold text, to ensure that key points are quickly discernible.

Optimize for Mobile Devices:

Hubspot data shows that 48% of emails are opened on mobile devices. While 69% of mobile users delete emails that aren't optimized for mobile. Test your email content to make sure it is mobile friendly.

Focus on Entertainment:

The key difference between B2C and B2B email strategy lies in the content. B2C audiences prefer entertainment over education, so make your content engaging and fun to catch their attention.


In the realm of digital marketing, B2C and B2B email share certain principles, yet they also hold unique challenges. B2B email marketers must navigate secure email gateways and deliver valuable content. B2C email marketers face the task of standing out in crowded inboxes, and creating engaging content. Despite the differences, the fundamental principles of successful email marketing remain the same. Understand your audience, deliver relevant content, and make your messages stand out.


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