Despite the continued growth of B2B ecommerce, many have questioned whether the rate of advancement seen in B2C user experience, web design and customer relationship management has been mirrored in B2B industries. Fortunately, ecommerce platforms like Magento and specialised configure-price-quote software have all seen significant improvements in recent years with a firm B2B focus. Companies now have the power to readdress the customer journey and provide a B2C like experience with unique B2B optimisations.
B2B customer expectations
The B2B ecommerce market is on course to be more than double that of the B2C market and customer expectations seem to be rising at a similar rate. Ready or not businesses will need to meet the expectations of their clients if they want to continue to grow. So just how big are these expectations?
A B2C experience
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when it comes to the ecommerce experience, business customers are now benchmarking against familiar B2C companies. The fact is all business clients spend just as much, if not more, time shopping on the likes of Amazon and other big retailers. A sleek consumer-like buying experience has become the norm and is shaping B2B expectations, from an intuitive UI and navigation to fast one-click checkout.
A multi-device experience
Just like the B2C market, B2B is seeing an upward mobile trajectory with 52% of business buyers researching products and services on their smartphones. These clients are now expecting to get a similar experience to desktop on their mobile or tablet. This means reading content like client case studies, blog posts and product browsing is likely to take place on mobiles before finally converting on another device.
A personalised experience
Retailers have shown business clients the possibility of personalisation. Able to track more of the customer journey than ever before, B2B companies are now expected to use customer data to provide an ever more personalised experience. This means mirroring each unique client relationship online with all the custom products, pricing and services associated with the account integrated into the online experience.
The B2B user experience
Up until recently, all the above would have simply been undeliverable. The complexity of the products, services and overall order processing and management involved in most B2B customer relationships mean delivering a streamlined consumer-like buying experience just hasn’t been possible.
Fortunately, B2B ecommerce finally seems ready to meet the demands of customers with ecommerce platforms like Magento taking significant steps to improve their B2B offering. Other technology advancements have seen the rise of configure-quote-price software taking on the complex ordering process to finally provide an automated end-to-end solution.
To utilise these technologies and provide the consumer-like experience they promise, companies will need to rethink their customer journey from the ground up. The ultimate aim is to meet the demands of business customers at every stage while delivering the ecommerce experience many of us have come to expect.
Optimising websites and navigation for ease of use is the most basic takeaway from retailers, but while Amazon’s centre stage search bar is a good addition for any ecommerce website to consider, B2B companies will need to take it a step further to cater to their potential clients.
Content marketing generates three times as many prospects as outbound marketing but costs 62% less, making it the number one tool for B2B marketers. It also means that business traffic is just as likely to come through a blog post or informational page as it is your homepage. Plus, unlike B2C consumers, these prospects will be looking to reach out rather than browse. Whether it’s an enquiry form or a direct call, they’ll expect to be able to get more direct information quickly and easily.
Delivering an exceptional experience at these early stages is crucial, and is fortunately easy to do. The key is clarity, with a simple and easy to follow layout and clear CTA’s for everything prospects might need during this initial period. Hubspot is a good siple yet effective example; it’s easy to see what they do straight away and their CTA’s make for a clear conversion path.
Here are some key acquisition elements to keep in mind.
- Make sure it’s easy to get to your homepage from your blog. Even interested prospects won’t bother looking at your website if they can’t click there easily, while a big and clear CTA back to the website might encourage the odd sceptic to have a look anyway.
- Make sure any quote or enquiry forms are highlighted. Whether it’s a button on your homepage or a menu header, highlight this feature in a different colour or bold font to get people’s attention.
- Put a newsletter sign up box on every page and make sure it’s easy to see. When it comes to acquisition in B2B it’s all about lead generation, so make it easy for prospects to show their interest and open another line of a communication.
- Ensure any important contact details like a main telephone number and address are also easy to find. Don’t give prospects a reason not to contact you; as well as having a dedicated contact page, put your number in the header of every page.
- A mobile responsive site is a must-have. If a website isn't already optimised for mobile there’s a good chance business clients have already been frustrated and possibly gone elsewhere, plus it’s terrible for SEO too.
B2B businesses stand to gain a lot from utilising B2C style personalisation but will need to adapt to meet the needs of unique and complex business client relationships. With the size and type of each client account often significantly different to others, personalisation begins to take on a whole new meaning.
Every business client is different and each account or even each order may require custom pricing or even a custom product catalogue. Each client account may also have several different people and job roles involved in the relationship, with managers, accounts and assistants involved at various levels. In fact, 5.4 people on average are involved in the B2B buying decision. Drilling down into the data can reveal a range of areas to personalise, with platforms like Magneto now offering the means to make these personalisation’s possible.
The most basic way to personalise is to start offering more advanced account management. This means allowing managers to create and manage different roles, giving autonomy to the necessary people to browse, request a quote, place an order or make a payment. Even these basic account settings can significantly improve the overall experience for each business client. Managers don’t have to find the time to make orders themselves or supervise other job roles, and accounts can make payments as necessary without time wasted on managers acting as middlemen.
It’s now also possible to show custom catalogues, pricing and negotiated quotes to specific clients thanks to advancements in configure-price-quote software and ecommerce platform features. This is ideal for companies with clients from across different industries and of varying sizes. Reward the best accounts with specialised prices or a wider catalogue range. The same goes for limited time or promotional prices.
Advanced site search has come a long way in ecommerce with customers now able to find relevant products based on a range of parameters rather than an exact product name. Companies catering to B2B customers will need to look to advanced site search and beyond, as business clients are likely to search by SKU, have a CSV files of products to order or need to reorder the same items every week, month, quarter or year. Catering to all of these will make the ordering process easier and encourage those all-important conversions.
Merchants using Magento 2 Enterprise Edition can offer all these browsing and ordering options as well as pre-set requisition lists to help streamline the buying process. Providing business clients with the means to order quickly and easily is the best way to drive conversions and repeat business, helping to nurture a loyal client base.
Additionally, drilling down into purchase history data can reveal ways to personalise the experience further. If clients use pre-set requisition lists, personalised offers can be emailed or promotional pricing can be tailored to reward clients for their loyalty. Feeding these insights back into the customer journey to improve the user experience costs very little but can have a huge impact on conversion rates and, ultimately, your bottom line.
Top tip: make sure order management is up to scratch by investing in some decent software to ensure real-time inventory, fulfilment costs and delivery times are automated and accurate.
The B2B payment process is probably one of the main differences to B2C. While streamlining the ordering process can help to achieve that one-click checkout experience, ease and speed mean something different to business customers.
Business clients often work with quotes, and pricing can usually be negotiated before finally paying either pro forma or on credit depending on the account. While this process is never going to be reduced to one click, B2B ecommerce has seen plenty of businesses optimise this process to provide both the flexibility and the speed that business customers desire.
Ecommerce platforms like Magento can now provide this type of checkout, allowing sales teams to create orders on behalf of customers, track quotes, calculate discounts and correspond with customers quickly. This means clients get a speedy checkout while still being able to negotiate on prices and achieve the more personal customer experience expected in B2B relationships. This can result in the sales team closing more deals with an uptick in both conversion rate and revenue.
Most ecommerce platforms also now offer compatibility with a wide range of payment methods, whether out of the box or with third party API’s. All B2B ecommerce stores should be looking to include as many payment options as possible, from standard debit and credit cards to PayPal. This helps to ensure a frictionless checkout process that caters to all clients.
A unique B2B ecommerce experience
While changing customer expectations are helping to reshape the B2B experience as we know it, every business experience is and should be unique. B2B companies need to be looking at their own data and the expectations of their unique customer base to inform future UX optimisations. Ease and speed are always vital components of any user experience but should still be relative to the quality and flexibility that business clients demand. Research and rigorous testing, from simply listening to customers to regular A/B testing, should always guide business decisions for both B2C and B2B.
If you’re a B2B company but are struggling to deliver the user experience your business customers really want, why not look at our business website packages. We can get you up and running with a complete business website and offer a range of packages to suit your budget and requirements. Take a look to find out more, or simply contact one of our team today to discover more about our ecommerce and digital marketing services.