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B2B eCommerce

UX for B2B eCommerce: Common Obstacles and Solutions

December 5, 2022 | Oro Team

The breakthrough of B2B software can be traced back to the early 2000s when SaaS became the software model of choice for many. In 2022, many B2B software are still stuck in the past and have not evolved past that flashpoint. Today, multiple legacy software are outdated.

Much of the technological disruption has happened disproportionately on the consumer side. B2C companies pay heed to user experience because it caters to the needs of regular people and their everyday lives. The same user-centric approach has not yet touched the B2B tech space. Many companies have always stuck to “good enough” software and never explored what a user-centric approach can bring them.

But the massive disruption brought about by the pandemic showed B2B brands that “good enough” is no longer going to cut.

52% of managers agree or strongly agree that they have seen more similarities in the B2B and B2C consumer behavior in the past two years. - Source

The overnight shift to remote work was a trigger point for B2B businesses to better their UX. It was because workplace productivity and business continuity relied on accessible software, accessibility, and user-centric designs. B2B companies have realized that great user experience is a powerful tool to increase user loyalty, engagement, and productivity.

Not only that, but the lack of powerful UX can threaten the very existence of a business. Customers would simply walk away from poorly designed B2B applications or websites.

The challenges in B2B UX come in a different and more complex flavor than B2C. This article will explore the six challenges B2B companies face in achieving UX maturity and how to overcome them. But first, let’s understand why B2B UX is so terrible in the first place.

Why Is B2B UX So Lousy?

B2B UX is notoriously bad. Many B2B software in the market, especially the employee-facing ones, are feature-rich but extremely difficult to use. The reasons are extremely understandable. In most cases, the software is just worn-out. Besides, doing a UX-only overhaul is often hard for high-end, feature-rich software.

The scope is large, and the existing user base is not always open to significant changes to what they have. Users usually complain incessantly about poor usability but are resistant to change, even when it brings improvement.

Another reason why B2B UX is terrible is that the buyer is not the end user. The IT procurement departments are responsible for purchasing software for the company or enterprise. They usually use an IT scorecard to justify their decisions. This scorecard, however, does not include factors like usability, inclusivity, etc. 

Lastly, B2B eCommerce is a relatively new concept for many B2B businesses. As such, many companies may not possess the expertise to execute a UX review even if they were inclined to do so.

Need for accessible solutions

Redefining your existing software’s UX would mean redefining accessibility beyond the traditional sense. It is no longer about ease of use. Software today needs to be intuitive, easy to navigate, and, more importantly, inclusive. It’s about constantly reiterating and creating a methodology around how people interact with platforms.

6 Challenges and Solutions To Overcome

There’s an increasing need for B2B companies to be accessible and inclusive in terms of design and individual user experience. Let’s look at some obstacles companies usually face while dealing with UX overhaul and how to overcome these challenges.

1. High expectations from users

In a purely B2B context, this is a major challenge for UX designers or design teams. But how and when did the expectation level rise so high?

B2B users spend more than 6 hours a day online, constantly surfing the web and making decisions on consumer websites. In doing so, they come across multiple online touchpoints. They then compare the UX design of the legacy products they use everyday to these touchpoints. Therefore, users have high expectations from the UX teams and are usually very critical of the changes.

Besides, it is also difficult for users to understand that achieving the same level of UX for software that caters to a different industry can be difficult. For instance, you can easily beautify the UX of travel websites or airlines. But, it’ll be hard to achieve the same for complex ERP solutions. 

How to overcome this?

A thorough user research can help you identify specific user needs and their most common pain points. You might not want to listen to all the user’s demands, but you don’t either want to overlook them fully. Talking to your users and involving them in multiple surveys will give you a clear idea of what they want.

2. Lack of well-defined interactions

The user’s end goal is not always to use your products. They might just be looking to validate their proof of concept. Hence making the UX functional becomes crucial. The obstacle here is that you’re not directly interacting with the users. You’re dealing with systems that may make it hard to create a cohesive B2B user experience.

How to overcome this?

More holistic planning will help you overcome this problem. Focus on establishing processes that incorporate all the user touchpoints. It could include creating consistent interactions at every step of the UX process. For example, design a tooltip throughout the process to keep in touch with the next steps in your interaction.

3. The need for business-centered UX

Many times, businesses are not inclined toward taking a user-centered approach. Many are more outcome-oriented and want to achieve their business goals instantly. This can make it tricky for UX investment as the returns are not always monetary. Shifting the focus from users will land you in a worse position than before.

How to overcome this?

Take the middle ground. Align your business goals and UX design goals. To create value for users and your organization, your designers need to align the overall strategy with the users’ needs or create a positive balance between both aspects.

For instance, say your business goal is to increase the adaptability of your healthcare patient portal. If the UX department decides to create fancier buttons, it would be an isolated action as it doesn’t contribute much to the overall business objective. However, actions such as improving the patient’s navigation flow or simplifying the navigation flow of their medical records would considerably make a difference.

4. B2B designs are often “too safe”

B2B companies usually want to be safe with designs. They need their products and legacy applications to be reliable, which means they need to audit every element of your designs carefully. Unfortunately, it’s also a significant UX limitation for B2B organizations as it often leads to designs that stifle creativity. Such designs may hamper your overall UX and limit engagement rates.

How to overcome this?

This kind of problem usually arises from communication barriers between teams. Therefore businesses must create a process that allows for seamless communication and the ability to iterate quickly. However, if you’re designing a finite platform, you will need a longer time frame to get feedback from actual users.

5. Lack of clarity in requirements

You might think that following the end goals for your UX design will help move the project along. But many times, that is not the case. Sometimes vague requirements can harm the user experience and limit its ability to shape into a great design.

Your designs will suffer if your designers face too many restraints. And for B2B, design is not simply about how an interface appears but also about its functionality and purpose.

How to overcome this?

Define specific goals and well-defined targets in terms of what you want from the overhaul. Sort the information out and use it to build an early prototype. Provide your designers with all the information they need to get started quickly. Provide enough information so they have a clear direction to navigate through without losing the project’s momentum.

6. Complex buying processes and long B2B software lifespans

B2B buying decisions are often complex, long-term oriented, and involve multiple stakeholders. These bring forward several challenges:

  • Longer life cycles mean UX designers need to focus on the long term. As a result, the visual design could be timeless and durable without following trends that will eventually become outdated. It can be challenging to keep the design clean and timeless.
  • Many times, the end user is not involved in the buying decisions. So the buying decisions are made on multiple criteria that may or may not involve great UX.

How to overcome this?

If you’re buying new software, involve the end-users in the buying process or take their opinions at the least. There might be clashes when it comes to decision-making. For instance, the investor might want a cost-effective solution, whereas users would prefer something easy to use. In such a scenario, you can take the middle ground and pick a cost-effective system that’s easy to use.

If you’re refurbishing your legacy systems, start by understanding the user’s pain points. Think about the loopholes in your existing systems and try to frame the strategies for UX overhaul around them.

Final Thoughts

The user’s reliance on technology is stronger than before. Focusing on UX hence becomes crucial for the B2B industry, especially in the post-pandemic era. Enterprise tech and B2B companies need to understand that it is not just about using technology at a basic level. It is rather about understanding how unique each user’s needs can be and trying to cater to all these needs.

About the Author
Sanjoli Jain works at Koru UX Design, the leading UX design and consulting agency. Countless of businesses in the US and India trust Koru UX Design to resolve some of their biggest design challenges.
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