The 5 Cs of e-commerce marketing


The 5C Marketing Framework provides a structured way to assess and describe a company’s position in a market. The framework, applied consistently, could guide decisions as the company promotes its brand and products.

Ecommerce businesses – B2B wholesalers, direct-to-consumer brands, omnichannel retailers – can use the 5C framework to identify how to market, how to measure and to whom, among others.

The 5 Cs are “company”, “collaborators”, “customers”, “competitors” and “context”. The first step is to understand what each stands for and how it could help marketing your business.

The 5C Marketing Framework can help a business understand its position in the market.


The first “C” is “business” – its purpose or benefit. What is the sustainable competitive advantage or hedgehog concept of your business?

The first, sustainable competitive advantage, describes “advantages rooted in the economy of the industry…[that] fall into three categories: size of the target market, greater access to resources or customers, and restrictions on competitor options, ”according to a September 1986 Harvard Business Review article by economist Pankaj Ghemawat.

The latter, a hedgehog concept, comes from Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great”. It describes the one thing your business can do better than anyone else that it can profit from.

Identifying the concept of the hedgehog or the sustainable competitive advantage of your business may also include performing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.

Once established, review your competitive advantage approximately every six months.

A business analysis should help identify key marketing messages and inform many of its promotional decisions.


The second “C” in a 5C marketing analysis is “collaborators”. It is other businesses, organizations and individuals that make it possible for your business to do what it does.

In e-commerce, collaborators can be suppliers. For example, a DTC brand would consider its subcontractor as a collaborator. It could also include Amazon as a collaborator if the brand is selling in that market. A parcel carrier such as FedEx and UPS could also be a collaborator.

In this step, identify all the collaborating partners. Think about their impact on your business and the impact your marketing campaigns could have on them.


Customers are among the most important Cs in the framework. Your task at this stage is to identify your ideal customer for a given product or campaign. This could involve the creation of personas and customer profiles. This may include conducting interviews with clients.

Determine why this customer might be buying from your business. What problem or need does your product solve?

It is also important to understand the market in which these customers shop.

For example, several years ago, an omnichannel retailer in the Northwestern United States thought it wanted to be the best seller for a particular brand of high-end boots.

The retailer’s marketing team identified the Total Available Market (TAM), which describes all the boots that can be sold. He defined the Usable Available Market (SAM), which estimates the amount of TAM it could serve based on its capabilities, and the Market Share (SOM), which is the portion of SAM that it was likely to achieve. get.

As it turned out, the retailer was already the second biggest seller of that particular boot in terms of volume, and the marketing investment needed to become the top seller would be reduce his profit.

This phase of the 5C analysis will sometimes include plotting customers on a marketing-specific Boston Consulting Group matrix, which can help a company decide whether to invest money to increase sales for a specific customer group. .


The fourth “C” is “competitors”. Identify their strengths and weaknesses, market share, and apparent marketing strategy.

This step sometimes includes determining a “concentration ratio,” which is a way to assess the competitiveness of a specific market, thus possibly indicating how difficult it would be for your business to compete.

Some companies use their competitive analysis to establish a Blue Ocean strategy, as described in “Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant”, a book by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, which I discussed . .

The context

The final “C” in the frame is “context” (or “climate”). It is the analysis of everyone else in the world that can impact your business and its marketing.

For example, in 2020 the global pandemic had a huge impact on e-commerce and marketing.

To help you identify and set the context for your business, you can use a PESTEL analysis, which examines these factors:

  • Politics,
  • Economic,
  • Social,
  • Technological,
  • Environment,
  • Legal.

A PESTEL analysis in 2020 could reveal, in addition to Covid-19, political and social trends that could impact how buyer data is collected when browsers no longer allow tracking cookies. This could make some forms of marketing attribution much more difficult. A savvy ecommerce business could change the way it measures advertising accordingly.


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