Previously, we looked at some of the prevailing trends taking shape in the B2B e-commerce world, most notably how the growth and development of the online B2C market has redefined expectations. Increasingly, B2B customers want the convenience and flexibility that they can get from consumer-facing retailers. This means not only having a comprehensive online presence, but adopting many of the features, such as robust search, that have become standard in B2C commerce.
However, e-commerce poses a unique set of B2B user experience challenges on the front-end. For instance, B2B sellers must contend with large customized catalogues per customer, variable and customized prices and order sizes, and the complex marketing that all this involves. While the challenges are numerous, here we highlight three of the seven most important challenges a B2B ecommerce business should address. We will discuss the additional four B2B user experience challenges in our next blog (along with the B2B UX best practices every company should use), which will be released in the two weeks.
1. Creating search tools that produce useful results
The eminence of Google has made the ability to quickly find relevant items a paramount concern for B2B customers. This applies not only to internal searches done on your store’s front-end, but also to how easily your store’s content can be found by outside search engines.
Data suggests that 73% of global traffic to B2B companies originate from search engines, so it is essential for businesses with online B2B stores to master search marketing. While customers previously relied on sales representatives to find what they want, the majority now conduct their primary research with online search. For this reason, companies that do not make their websites SEO friendly (by hiding their products and catalogues behind registration pages, for instance) risk losing a substantial amount of potential customers.
Once a visitor has arrived on your site, its search tools must also be robust. Rather than relying on general or specific phrases, visitors should be able to specify a product’s parameters, such as size, weight, price, quantity, and more. The more products available, the more specific these parameters should be. In today’s online market, the site that can find a product the fastest is the one most likely to make a sale.
2. Promoting multiple brands while maintaining a consistent message
Due to the array of products and services that most B2B businesses sell, it can be difficult, even impossible, to market them all with a single cohesive message. This is especially true for online stores. Trying to do so can result in confusing layouts that make it hard to find relevant content.
IInstead, one of the best B2B UX best practices sellers can follow is to focus their content while increasing brand recognition with microsites. These are websites that operate within the parent company, but are targeted toward specific customers.
Many current e-commerce platforms can accommodate multiple microsites, making it easy for companies to market their different products and brands to the customers who need them the most. Done right, TechTarget reports that they can result in as much as a 9 percent increase in brand recognition.
3. Designing personalized product catalogues with variable pricing
Personalization should begin even before a customer places their first order. For instance, information about a visitor’s geographic location can easily be gleaned from their IP address, or their interests from the advertisement they clicked on to arrive at your site. Even more information can be gathered by inviting visitors to set up an account or fill out a short form. This data can then be used to tailor what type of products they see displayed. These practices, common on consumer-facing sites, are especially important for online B2B stores, since many of their potential customers are liable to come, via Internet research, advertising, or word of mouth, from anywhere in the world.
The convenience of personalized catalogues will not mean much if customers do not also receive discounts based on order size and history. This is an important aspect of B2B business and it cannot be overlooked on your online store. It should be capable of offering variable prices according to multiple criteria, including volume, rate of purchase, and individual contracts. The best e-commerce platforms will be able to automatically calculate these factors for each customer.
For example, based on their order history, two different customers might see the same product displayed. However, the customer who regularly places large orders could receive a discount over the one who places smaller orders.
Stay tuned for our next blog in which we will discuss the other challenges B2B businesses are facing with their eCommerce channel.
Are there any other challenges your online B2B store is facing? What about additional B2B UX best practices we didn’t address? Join the conversation and let us know what you think!