The exciting world of e-commerce is growing and changing all the time. There are a myriad of ways business owners can get in on it, but no matter what you do, choosing and understanding your business model is essential for success. Here, we’ll break down the main types of business to market relationships and inventory and production methods. Then you’ll be on your way to creating a business plan. 

E-commerce Business to Market Relationships

The broadest type of e-commerce business model is the relationship between the business and the market. Most businesses fall into one or more of these categories. Are you selling directly to consumers? To other businesses? To government entities? 

B2C E-commerce – Business to consumer

B2C businesses sell to their end-user. The majority of businesses use the B2C model. Anything you buy in an online store as a consumer is part of a B2C transaction.

B2B E-commerce – Business to business

In the B2B model, a business sells its product or service to other businesses. This is often through exclusive contracts for repeat purchases and has a longer decision cycle than B2C businesses. 

C2B E-commerce – Consumer to business

C2B businesses allow individuals to sell goods and services to companies Freelancer gig marketplace Upwork is an example of a business that uses the C2B model. This model is sometimes used to connect companies to social media influencers to market their products.Affiliate marketing services are also considered C2B.

C2C E-commerce – Consumer to consumer

Online marketplaces use the C2C model.These businesses  don’t make their money from products themselves, but by charging transaction or listing fees. Craigslist, eBay, and similar online businesses were the early innovators of C2C e-commerce. 

B2G/ B2A E-Commerce - Business to Government/Administration

The B2G/B2A model describes businesses whose sole clients are government or public administration entities.

B2B2C - Business to Business to Consumer 

B2B2C e-commerce is when a business sells products to another business, and then that business sells the same products to the consumers. 

This type of e-commerce business model involves three. Ecommerce store owners typically use this business model for new customer acquisition to reach customers who are familiar with the partner’s products but can’t get them for whatever reason. The business then closes that gap. 

A briefcase with one arrow pointing towards a crowd and one arrow pointing towards another briefcase

Top Ecommerce Business Model Examples


Dropshipping is a growing business model in the ecommerce world. Dropshippers market and sell items fulfilled by a third party supplier, like AliExpress or Printful. When customers order an item, the manufacturer is the one who ships it to them. Shopify offers a free dropshipping workshop for beginners. 




Low startup cost

High competition

Low risk

Low margins

Streamline sales

Inventory syncing (back orders)



Makers are sellers who make their own products and sell them at an online store or marketplace. It’s the obvious choice for crafting hobbyists looking to make a little side cash, but you may run into limits later on. 




Low startup costs

Time consuming

Brand control


Price control

Limited product choices

Quality control





Private Label and White Label


A private label product is created by a separate manufacturer and sold under a business’ name. The business maintains a great deal of control over what goes into the product and how it’s packaged and sold. A white label product is created by one manufacturer and sold to various retailers under their own brand names. The main difference is that private labeling is for unique products or variations on existing products and white labeling is for generic products. 




Lowest cost per unit

Minimum order quantities

Brand control

Trouble with manufacturers

Price control

Time to get up and running

Quality control




In a wholesaling arrangement, a supplier offers its product to sellers in bulk at a discount. Wholesaling is more commonly used with B2B businesses, but it can



Selling established products

Product differentiation

Brand familiarity

Price control


Inventory management


Dealing with supply partners



Print-on-Demand (POD) is a popular business model for screen printing casual wear. It’s most commonly associated with T-shirts, but is used for other types of merchandise as well. Once an order is placed, the platform you use sends it directly to the nearest fulfillment center and ships the items out to your customers. Dropshipping time depends on fulfillment time and the shipping provider. 




Create products quickly

Less control over shipping

Automated shipping

Limited customization

Lower cost upfront



Digital Products

Web designers, content writers, digital artists, and more can create an e-commerce store around digital products. 




Lower overhead costs

High competition


Piracy and theft

Extensive product offerings

Selling restrictions

Good future outlook



Direct to Consumer

The direct-to-consumer business model allows businesses to sell products directly to consumers, without wholesalers, third-party retailers, or other middlemen. And we’re not talking about the “exciting business opportunity” your high school classmate messaged you about. We’re talking about brands like Warby Parker, Barkbox, and Bonobos. 




Own the customer relationship

Costs of direct distribution

Collect customer data

No built-in audience

Higher profits


Get feedback faster



Subscription Service

The subscription model used to be exclusive to things like magazines. Today, just about any industry can be a subscription. 




Predictable revenue

High risk of churn

More cash on hand

Varied products

Loyal customers

Small issues, big problems

Easier cross-selling and upselling opportunities



Choosing Your Ecommerce Business Model

Keep these questions in mind when you decide which business model works best for your e-commerce business: 

  • Who is your customer?
  • What will be their expectations?
  • What are you capable of?
  • Can you manage inventory?
  • What is best for your product?
  • Which factors will you compete on? 
  • What is your positioning?
  • How many options do you want to offer to customers?
  • How conscious are you of the price of shipping?
  • How much do you want to control the production of your product?
  • How do you want to acquire your products?

A repeating pattern of question marks


How Sav Can Help

No matter which business model you use, you’ll need a beautiful, professional e-commerce website. We make it easy to build and promote your e-commerce site so you can focus on running your business. We can’t wait for you to build with us!

Luca Harsh

Luca Harsh

Luca Harsh is an in-house content writer for Sav. They live in Chicago with their cat, Polly. Yes, Harsh is their real last name.