A successful e-commerce platform for business customers takes into account that it must satisfy the user journey of different users. Creating the perfect user experience therefore needs to cater the needs of the person(s) deciding for the product as well as those approving the budget.
A responsive and visually appealing design with a user-friendly interface, and a robust website search engine are without question the foundation of any successful B2B online shop. As B2B purchases are mostly decisions done by a group of persons, each member’s needs must be met to make a product worth buying. Where in B2C visual stimulation and a low price will convert visitors to customers, B2B is more about educating the buyers and providing a safe and efficient user journey.
In a nutshell:
- You need to know your buyer personas
- A/B tests are the tool to figure out what works best
- Make sure all security criteria are met
- Content is king
- Don’t revolutionize - better just optimize
B2B online shops in manufacturing still often lack those basic principles. Experts on digital could use this to gain a competitive edge!
In spite of knowing exactly what they need to purchase, professional purchasers rarely place orders on the first website visit. Offering a personalized, authorization-only version with quick order templates and the relevant product palette will maximize the customer lifetime value.
Here are our practical tips to enhance the UX of your B2B online shop.
1. Tailor your B2B website's content to personas
The easiest way to nudge users into exploring your digital channel is to let them feel addressed in the most personal way. Having an audience-based navigation for example, can on the one hand help improve conversion - but only if you make sure that website visitors can quickly identify themselves. Conversion will drop if the navigation is blurry and if there is not sufficiently unique content to justify a new section.
To identify personas, analyze the data you collect from your website visitors and match your findings with the account managers who actually have the personal relationship that the digital channel needs to nurture further.
Also, your e-commerce specialists could visit one of your account managers every now and then in an organized focus group with 10 to 15 customers. They could exchange expectations and plans about functionalities, customer experience, service quality, internal order tracking and customer service performance, for example.
With such valuable insights, the UX of the B2B online shop would clearly improve.
2. Let users decide what works
In order to find out which UX works best, conduct small tests with trusted customers. Have them use different versions of your shop and share their feedback with you. In a next step, perform A/B tests with a broader audience based on those results.
But there are more aspects on gathering customer feedback:
- Conduct customer interviews.
- Adjust the amount of feedback you want, don't overburden your customers.
- Let your customers know what you have done with the feedback.
- Include different departments in the data collection: This way you create team spirit.
- Ensure support from within your company by having ambassadors explain the benefits of customer feedback to colleagues.
3. Don't neglect the security on B2B websites
Make sure your platform is secure enough for your customers as you collect much sensitive information! Talk to your IT experts or partners for a review before going live.
4. Content can add extra value for B2B customers
User experience is not only about design or coding. The content you provide your customers is critical, especially when it comes to product information. But B2B websites can also have educational purposes!
Next to detailed product information, you can offer for example:
- Video tutorials that put the products into context
- Manuals and documentation
- Blog articles exploring aspects like sustainability or the source of material
- Ratings and reviews
- Marketing material for new releases/products
5. Improve, don’t revolutionize
Customers like familiarity, so make sure you improve based on feedback and don’t scare away customers with radical changes.
In a recent webinar, Daniel Tholander from Rockwool shared his experience about such a major shift: "We quickly found out that we had to tone it down a bit, because our pilot customers didn’t think they were on a B2B commerce platform!"
If you stick to one or two aspects at a time, improving the UX for B2B customers can be a great win:
"We invested quite a lot in the design and customer experience of it, for example in reducing the check-out process from five to three clicks."
B2B websites need to work well for both end users and decision makers during long purchase cycles. With a clear navigation, appealing content and simple design, nearly all of the UX principles of B2C apply to B2B as well. The product desirability however, is not the decisive factor any more.
Regularly analyze and evaluate your website's performance using online forms, heat map recordings, or interviews. In those interviews, sometimes suggestions might pop up for functionalities already exist. This is a great opportunity for your customer service team to connect with the customer and co-browse to finish the order. On the other hand, question whether the feature is well placed.