When we think of eCommerce, we often have in mind the online stores of our favorite brands or the giants like Amazon or Walmart. However, Business-To-Business (B2B) eCommerce has been growing in the last few years. Whether it’s B2B2C (Business-To-Business-To-Customer) companies, wholesalers, manufacturers or distributors, more and more merchants are choosing to use the Web.
Of course, they come with their own set of best practices specific to their respective field, but also common to their business model. Indeed, the user experience (UX) is an essential element for any eCommerce site. In B2B, it is even more important, as it can have a direct impact on the company’s results. Find out what are the best UX practices to implement to offer an optimal user experience to your B2B customers on your eCommerce.
Focus on efficiency and relevance rather than sophistication
First of all, one of the characteristics of B2B is that consulting your eCommerce is part of your customers’ job. This means that they usually have to complete specific and complex tasks as efficiently as possible. They are looking to achieve their specific goals quickly and with the utmost accuracy. Whether it’s to purchase specific products, collect information, or find a solution to a request, they are likely to make greater use of search and filters in addition to targeting specific information in your content.
If you suspect that you are having difficulty achieving certain goals, we recommend that you pay attention to the following points:
- Make sure that your search tool is visible and accessible on all your pages without having to open it. Make sure that your search tool is visible and accessible on all your pages without requiring it to be opened. Also, make sure that it responds adequately to the requests of your users, even the most expert. Thus, a name, a SKU, a product characteristic, an abbreviation, etc. must lead to relevant results.
- Make sure your filters are relevant to your customers’ needs and contextual to their category. Avoid repeating features: instead, group different ways of writing a word and variations of the same feature (e.g. shades of the same color) into encompassing labels.
- Organize your product information and specifications so that they are easily found within your site content without requiring your customers to download other documents. Structure your content by topic into navigable tabs or defined sections. Specify units of measurement for numerical values. Clearly identify the compatibility of products with each other.
Make buybacks easy
Secondly, as part of their obligations, your customers are often required to repeat the same actions and purchase process on a regular basis. This recurrence is essential for the success of a B2B eCommerce platform. In this context, it requires that the steps to be performed are optimized and that the most frequent complex processes are easily repeated. Your customers will therefore tend to skip as many steps as possible and use all available shortcuts to get to their goal. From a simple action such as adding a product to their order to completely renewing their stock each month, the smallest second lost gains in importance exponentially. The user experience must offer the shortest possible purchase path, especially for recurring purchases.
If you notice that some processes are complex or slow, we recommend that you optimize the following issues:
- Simplify repetitive actions by reducing the number of steps needed to complete them to a minimum. You can do this by adjusting some displays and providing earlier access to key features. For example, when adding a product to an order, present the products as a list and allow your customers to easily add the desired quantities without having to consult each product sheet.
- Make it easy to repeat the main complex processes by offering batch processing of actions. Allow your customers to re-order a whole or partial order from their history. Offer the ability to create custom lists that can be purchased with a click or two. You can even set up an automatic renewal system if needed. In all cases, provide your customers with the tools they need to use and take ownership of the recurrence systems that work for them.
Increase retention through personalization
Moreover, due to recurrence, the number and value of orders that can be placed by a single customer have the potential to have a significant impact on your sales. The retaining of each account then becomes a major issue. To stay, your customers probably expect a personalized service, a product offer that meets their needs and a platform that adapts to their reality. They rely on your product suggestions, advice and recommendations to guide them in their choices. In addition, they want personalized displays of their main categories, price lists, addresses, etc.
If you are looking for ways to provide a compelling experience for your customers, we invite you to explore the following options:
- Advise them by presenting category, product or package recommendations at strategic points in their journey. You can insert these into their search suggestions, product sheets, orders in progress or even as a supplement to their personalized lists. But make sure the suggestions are relevant, non-invasive and clearly labeled to avoid confusion.
- Showing them only the collections they can view according to the agreement they have with you greatly reduces informational noise. Without restrictive agreements, you can still offer to save, manually or automatically, the collections they consult the most in their account and display them first in their interface.
- Customize their view of the site when they are logged in to better suit their reality. Display only their prices. Keep their history. Display their current order tracking. Allow them to save their product lists, preferences, addresses and payment methods. You can also make your life easier by using buyer group systems to reduce case-by-case ordering by applying the same rules to several similar customer groups.
- Adapt the ordering methods to the context of your customers. Check the ability to have multiple customer accounts for a company with different access levels: a customer who places an order is rarely the one who pays or receives it. You must therefore ensure that communications and approvals are passed on to the right people. Also confirm if they need to charge, approve their purchases or request a quote before officially ordering. Whichever option you choose, make sure they can easily check and modify their order before sending it.
If you want to go further by offering an innovative experience for your customers, be inspired by the 25 eCommerce trends to watch in 2023.
Welcome and supervise your new customers
Since every customer is important, you must not forget your novices. Too often, B2B eCommerce is designed for experts since they are the majority of customers. However, you must give newbies a chance to get acquainted with your products and your platform. Your new customers need to learn about your product offering and your platform. They tend to use the navigation menus more than the search to discover your products and often have questions about how to use your platform.
To avoid overlooking the needs of your new users, we encourage you to consider the following options:
- Provide your customers with a logical and understandable category structure. Name them with descriptive titles and add descriptions or definitions of specialized vocabulary. Allow them to quickly arrive at relevant product listings by providing multiple relevant paths to a result.
- Summarize your products’ differentiating information in your descriptions in addition to the specification sections. This can help beginners better understand products until they are comfortable enough to quickly locate information in specification tables.
- Help them understand your platform, your products and your ways of doing things. Highlight help solutions like FAQs, step-by-steps, chat or other ways to reach an advisor for assistance. Write clear ordering, delivery and payment policies and give them the terms of their agreement with you for reference.
Avoid B2B eCommerce clichés
Finally, B2B eCommerces are often targeted by stereotypes that can hurt your improvement efforts. So here are some general tips to avoid some of the traps:
- Don’t hesitate to make your store your primary catalog, even for your potential customers or those who still prefer to order through traditional channels. You will gain SEO points and you won’t have to duplicate your content.
- Don’t neglect the mobile version of your site. More and more employees are managing their orders directly on their smartphones, even at work.
- Don’t neglect the experience or interface design of your platform. It’s a working tool for your loyal customers, they deserve a smooth and pleasant experience.
- Don’t rule out platforms designed for B2B eCommerce like Adobe Commerce (Magento), Shopify Plus or SalesForce Commerce Cloud out of hand. They already offer most of the features you’re likely to need and they’re extremely customizable. Plus, they could save you a lot of costs and headaches compared to a 100% custom site.
- Don’t hesitate to ask your customers about their opinions, expectations and needs. You could discover valuable information to efficiently improve the experience you offer them.
To learn more about the B2B new features announced by Shopify, check out this article.
On That Note
After that, although there is no universal formula, we hope that this article has inspired you and enlightened you on some good practices. Remember: aim for efficiency and completeness; opt for fluidity and simplify renewal; maximize retention through personalization; welcome your new customers; and avoid clichés. All you have to do is listen to your customers to find the best improvements for your B2B eCommerce.
To avoid as many mistakes as possible, it is always recommended to involve your customers or prospects in the design process. To do so, you can set up A/B tests or usability tests. To understand the difference, watch this video (french only).
The B2B user experience can be a determining factor for the success of a company. An effective B2B user experience can help generate revenue, build customer loyalty and create a powerful brand. Companies must therefore create consistent and intuitive B2B user experiences for their customers.
Novatize is an eCommerce firm that has already implemented several large-scale B2B eCommerce projects. If you want to know more, contact us.