This blog describes six ways to improve the B2B buyer experience.
Let’s establish a shared understanding first.
Designing a great B2B ecommerce experience is complex.
Why buyers choose to purchase from specific vendors is due in large part to the overall customer experience.
An online B2B customer experience requires many different business elements to work together. This gets complicated fast when you consider the requirements involved. There are billing variations, procurement rules, inventories, and dealer distribution networks. Most of these don’t exist in B2C.
Digital commerce specialists who work closely with B2B companies can tell you that one thing rings true on every project: the customer doesn’t always know a great experience until they have one.
Companies like Apple have built entire empires on anticipating what a great experience is and delivering something that the customer didn’t even expect. Many of us don’t know a great user experience until it happens.
Six ways to improve the B2B buyer experience.
If a website offers a great user experience, customers are more likely to continue using it. Let’s examine the six most important ways to improve the experience your customers have when doing business with you online:
Personalization is likely the most important key of all, and it can be complex.
Understanding the needs of various user personas allows you to create relevant workflows for your users and personalization features.
B2B personalization allows you to know who’s logging in and you can give your customers specific sequences for specific activities. One customer might be a buyer of a certain type of product but would benefit from knowing about another. Another customer might need a quote before clicking “buy.”
You need it because B2B personalization in ecommerce results in faster order processing, converting more orders, and creating customer loyalty.
Website design and usability.
A positive user experience on your B2B ecommerce website is directly related to the overall customer experience.
The UX woven into your website design is a channel to convey key messages and value propositions subtly throughout the site with words, images, graphic design, and interactive design.
It can be easy for digital bells and whistles and flashy graphics to interfere with good UX design. Don’t pollute your B2B customer experience with this nonsense.
- First, meet buyers where they are. Over half the time your online customers are using mobile devices, but the rest of the time they’re using a laptop or desktop. The website should accommodate all devices.
- Second, connect emotionally and rationally.
The industry expertise, product quality, and the ability to understand your customers’ business challenges being communicated on your website should extend through the process of buying too.
Be easy to do business with.
There’s nothing worse than making the complexity of your internal quote-to-cash process a burden from your customers. Customers never forget this. They are more likely to purchase from a brand that helps them do their jobs better and faster.
Rich product content.
Boring information about your products is not going to improve customer experience.
Our contention is B2B organizations transitioning to ecommerce typically don’t spend enough time and resources on developing product content. Usually, the extent of the content for each product is limited to price, quantity and a short (and perhaps not useful) description.
If this describes the quality of product content on your website, chances are your users are unhappy with your content. Remember that B2B buyers are consumers, too.
When they’re looking for an item or researching a type of product, they’re really looking to be educated and inspired.
To build thorough and easy-to-consume content around your products, you need to invest in better images and videos, improve product descriptions and documentation, and maybe even include product reviews.
Obvious, but not easy.
How easily can your customers find the products they’re looking for on your website? How are you enabling them to place an order quickly or repeat an order they’ve made in the past?
Intuitive search capabilities show you understand your customers’ needs and are providing features to make their job easier.
Common features such as keyword search, logical product categories, and results that are arranged according to customer preference rely on product data that is complete and accurate.
Quick order capabilities are like catnip. The functionality serves loyal customers who frequently come to your site by allowing them to order your products with SKU or item numbers. They simply type the number, enter the quantity and proceed directly to check out, without having to search for a product or click through a series of pages to get what they need.
The ability to repeat orders so customers don’t have to rebuild orders of frequently purchased items is another feature that fosters customer loyalty. Why would a customer go to a competitor when the order they need is already built and ready to go on your website with a few minor edits?
Mobile and responsive design.
Our tolerance for non-mobile websites is declining. We look at a website in full-screen on a large monitor, then when we visit that site from a smartphone or tablet we expect the same content.
Not necessarily reasonable, but increasingly the expectation.
Just as mobile apps continue to change the B2C way of doing business, they are changing the B2B markets too.
There are already B2B users in the field who don’t use larger computers at all, relying instead on mobile devices.
Whether you decide to have one “responsive” website design that detects the device and adapts accordingly, or dual websites — one for larger computers and one for mobile, depends on the answers to some key questions.
What devices are your customers using today and what will they be using tomorrow?
What content depth do they need to make a purchasing decision?
There are a number of factors to consider. The depth of personalization you choose to give mobile users is one of them. For example, an engineer doing research from the shop floor has different needs than a corporate buyer sitting in a cubicle.
The overall density and design of the website should ensure there’s not too much on the screen. And remember that robust search and filtering capabilities are just as critical to mobile users as desktop users. Consider how much product information mobile users should see. It may not be the same across desktop and mobile devices.
Finally, order completion needs to be simple, and in B2B that often means some users have credit, some need POs and some need a credit card. But all users should feel that ordering from your website was made easy for them, no matter what happens behind the curtain.
Fulfillment and follow through.
Order fulfillment is one of the most important factors in the B2B customer experience.
Ordering on your website was only half of the customer’s experience with your company. The follow through after the order is placed is critical and involves complex workflows.
Notifications of shipment and confirmation of delivery are as important to the overall customer experience as any other step in the ecommerce process. In fact, just as much thought should go into post-purchase communication as acquiring a new customer.
Taking the next step together.
We have what it takes to get the job done, from buying experience mapping to implementation. Whether you’re replatforming, migrating, or using 3rd party integration apps, our experienced team has the skills you need to stand up a solution fast.