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Having an e-commerce platform is an absolute necessity to stay relevant and competitive in today’s economy. Our B2B E-commerce Benchmark Survey Report showed that B2B businesses have already embraced the new opportunities that come with e-commerce. 70% of the companies that have a webshop stated that they have been on the e-commerce bandwagon for more than two years. 65% of the respondents also said that they use their e-commerce sites mainly as a way of increasing sales, so it is crucial that these platforms are performing well. One of the best ways to ensure the success of your B2B e-commerce site is to improve the user experience of your platform.
Regardless of being a B2B or B2C business, providing an online shopping experience that will attract and retain customers requires, first and foremost, empathy. Companies need to focus more on their customer’s needs and delivering a service that will not only satisfy but also exceed them. This is by no means an easy task, especially for B2B companies because, as Page Laubheimer from Nielsen Norman Group explains, “customers tend to expect a B2C like experience from B2B e-commerce websites” although their goals and behaviors at a B2B website are different. Therefore, it is crucial to understand what “B2C like experience” entails and how to replicate that for B2B.
Providing a B2C like experience in B2B e-commerce
People shop online every day for countless reasons. However, we can still see a pattern when it comes to B2B and B2C shopping. B2C consumers buy online in their free time and expect an immersive experience that can surprise and entertain them. However, this is not the case with B2B customers. Fernanda Cristo, the e-commerce manager of Puratos France, says that “the B2B customers are mainly shopping during their working hours and are more goal-oriented.” They know what they want and want to get it as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is where the expectation of “B2C like experience” becomes more understandable; the complexity of B2B webshops can be frustrating for the time-conscious B2B consumers. So, the “B2C like experience” for B2B customers is not about an engaging and leisurely brand experience but making their lives easier. Learning and applying the principles of user experience design can help with that.
User experience design aims to enhance user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and desirability during interaction with a product. In the context of B2B e-commerce sites, achieving it manifests itself in multiple ways; user-friendly site navigation, an information architecture that makes sense to the users, clean interface design, and many more. Focusing on understanding user needs, their journey in the website or mobile applications, or in general “delighting the user” as Jonas Kjellberg, the co-founder of Skype, puts it can make a massive difference in the performance of B2B e-commerce platforms. Here we will cover several steps that B2B businesses can take to improve the UX design of their e-commerce websites, which will, in return, enhance customer satisfaction.
Offer an intuitive site navigation
Imagine shopping at a grocery store with no signboards, categorization, or any instruction on how to navigate at all. Alternatively, a store that has millions of signboards hanging from the ceiling with special offers announced every minute. In each case, you would probably be annoyed and leave the store immediately. E-commerce websites are no different, if not more tricky because all it takes to leave is a click.
Don’t force your customers to find their way through a maze of content. Instead, make their job easier by ensuring clear site navigation
Since B2B webshops tend to be content dense, they are prone to being confusing and hard to navigate. Additionally, the extensive use of terminology within B2B industries can mislead the visitors, especially if jargon is used in the menu items. According to e-commerce expert Brian Beck, “More than 50% of e-commerce visitors arrive at product pages through site navigation”, so getting it right matters.
User-friendly site navigation must achieve several things. First of all, it should inform the users, in every step of the way, on their whereabouts within site, how to return to the home page and how to get to their destination. This knowledge is crucial because, without it, the visitors have no way of knowing how to accomplish their desired action. Secondly, the users should be able to search what they are looking for and filter the results according to their priorities. “According to the research of Weblinc, on-site searchers are 200% more likely to convert than regular users.” Considering the number of products available at B2B online stores, having search and filtering functionalities is an absolute necessity. No one wants to waste their time browsing through hundreds of products when they can find what they are looking for in another store with a few clicks.
Make sure that your e-commerce platform loads fast and is mobile-friendly
The speed of your e-commerce platform mostly depends on the technical side of an e-commerce platform. However, being able to browse through pages quickly is part of the user experience and one of the main expectations of B2B e-commerce customers, thus, it needs to be optimized.
Another point that is often overlooked by the B2B e-commerce businesses is the importance of having a mobile-friendly e-commerce platform. Although the buying process might not take place on mobile, according to the research study of Forrester Inc., 61% of B2B buyers use their smartphones to research work-related purchase. Having a mobile-friendly e-commerce site also adds to the credibility of your company.
Have a clean interface design
Although the visual aspects of an online store are typically considered to be a priority for B2C businesses, it can do wonders for B2B companies. A professional-looking interface can build trust with potential customers, support site navigation, and make an otherwise dense content look organized and neat, which will help your customers do their job easier and faster. Again, the keyword here is easy.
A clean interface design does not have to mean boring and generic. You can and should certainly use branding elements such as brand colors, graphics, and microcopy that is in line with your brand voice. It will help users to accomplish their objectives while raising brand awareness. The only thing to avoid is to have visual elements getting in the way of the user.
The UI design of Blake Envelope’s e-commerce website is proof that B2B e-commerce sites don’t have to be cluttered or boring. image from https://www.blake-envelopes.
Keep the checkout stage brief
Check out stage is arguably the most crucial part of the customer journey on an e-commerce website. Unfortunately, it’s also where most businesses lose their customers according to Nirav Sheth, the creator of Awesome Checkout. The culprit is almost always the tedious and lengthy checkout stage. While it’s not an easy task to create a brief checkout phase for B2B businesses, it’s worth the effort.
The key to providing a reasonable and even pleasant checkout stage is to have fewest steps as possible. A good way of achieving this is to ask the minimal information needed to do the job properly, one step at a time. Giving customers the option to save their data or proceed as guests are also good practices. As Fernanda Cristo, the e-commerce manager of Puratos also told us that after realizing that their customers kept buying the same products from their webshop, enabling them to repeat previous orders was a significant success on both sides.
A few other good checkout phase practices include making it clear at which step the customers are in the checkout stage, indicating the shipping charges early on and displaying the shopping cart contents throughout the checkout process.
B2B businesses are aware of the benefits of having an e-commerce platform. However, to get the most out of it, the companies need to make the customers their priorities and strive to make the job of their customers easier. One of the most efficient ways of accomplishing that is through perfecting the UX design of the e-commerce platform. There are several ways of doing that:
Provide user-friendly site navigation through clean interface design.
Have a well-functioning search bar and filtering options to make it convenient to find what your customers are searching for.
Avoid losing customers at the checkout phase by keeping it brief.
Interested in learning more about improving your e-commerce website? Have a look at part 2 of “How to increase the performance of your e-commerce website through user experience design” as we delve more into the content side of UX design.