Should B2B web shops be identical to B2C web shops? For a while, this was a guiding principle in the world of e-commerce, and not without reason: ultimately, those who make purchasing decisions are all people. So, even B2B web shops are made up of four building blocks:
The first building block is findability, i.e., you can find what you are looking for via both external and internal search engines. The findability of B2B and B2C sites via external search engines often differs greatly. B2B web shops are usually hidden behind a login screen, which can significantly decrease their findability. This is why Zamro (www.zamro.com) became one of the first B2B web shops to break with this tradition. Internal search engines are essential to both sales channels, although while regular consumers are much more likely to search for particular terms, business customers conduct much more specific and targeted searches. For this reason, product codes add a vital extra dimension to B2B web shops.
The second building block of web shops is user-friendliness: how easily can customers get what they need? This aspect is vital to both B2B and B2C as problems in the order process are universally irritating! Poor usability will cost you customers: if your web shop doesn't work properly, they'll find another one that does.
The third building block represents a major difference between B2B and B2C: the functionality of the web shop, i.e., which functions support customers in their decision-making process? Based on the assumption that B2B customers possess greater expertise than B2C customers, the two different sales channels require different functionalities and different types of content. For example, B2B customers will expect extensive technical support via a database of technical drawings, while information to B2C customers more often takes the form of instructional videos.
The final building block is the design and the emotional aspect. The obvious importance of this building block to B2C web shops goes without saying, although you must never underestimate its importance to B2B web shops, too. Business customers fulfill their needs as systematically as possible and expect an excellent customer experience.
All in all, you can see that although B2B environments feature many aspects of consumerization, expertise in B2C web shops alone is not enough to create optimal B2B web shops.