The first time customers arrive at your company’s digital doorstep, they make an evaluation of your brand unconsciously, in a fraction of a second. In that first glance, visitors judge the credibility of your site based on the design elements. They haven’t yet read any content, compared prices or seen your competitive shipping services -- they form a gut feeling about your brand; and then, if they decide to stay on your site, they’ll look for ways to justify that feeling.
With so much riding on providing great experiences, why is website design often overlooked and undervalued in B2B environments? To make a great first impression, here are a few tips to keep in mind when designing your B2B ecommerce experience.
Tip 1: Don’t Make Me Think (Too Much)
In his book, “Don’t Make Me Think” Steve Krug writes that there are two types of cognitive load. The first is “intrinsic” load that comes from absorbing new information while keeping track of our own goals. The second, and this is the one that should be minimized through design, is the “extraneous” load. Those are the processes that occupy our mind but don’t help us understand the information, such as visual clutter, confusing color-coding, unclear call to action, grammar and spelling mistakes.
Your B2B customers will need to process a lot of information, given the nature of complex B2B business cases. One way to minimize the extraneous load is using progressive disclosure design. These design patterns will help show buyers what they need to see and when they need to see it, in a clear and concise way. Showing the key elements at first sight makes your content easy to scan, but also gives users the possibility to discover more information while interacting with the site.
Tip 2: Self Service - Empower Your B2B Buyers
Even though it was fine doing business on the phone a few years ago, today’s expectation is that B2B customers will be able to do the same and more at their own convenience online. An empowered customer can perform dozens of self-service actions, making them feel you’re a company that values their time, while also being available to support them when they need a more personalized service.
By giving your customers more control, like choosing what to read and when, or providing the ability for buyers to check their account balance and pay invoices online, it empowers your customers to take care of these tasks when the time is right for them.
Tip 3: Speak to Choosers and Users
In a B2C environment, it’s usually the person choosing the product that will be using it. In B2B, that’s not necessarily the case. B2B buyers are not impulsive. Often, more than one person is involved in the purchase decision and validations need to be made to justify a purchase. Many B2B sites go wrong by tailoring their content to only decision makers or users, while alienating the other visitors.
For example, you can see that this page accommodates the technical questions a user might have regarding the artwork specifications, such as providing a template, print size and color format. This is probably more than enough to convince a user about this product.
But for more complex or expensive products it’s recommended to also provide an “advocacy kit” with ways to justify this decision to the boss. These kits usual include brochures, templates, answers to questions that a decision maker might ask (price, ROI, reliability, success cases, how your product compares to others in the market, etc.).
Tip 4: Pricing Levels and Selection
Most B2C products have straightforward prices that stay the same from one customer to the next. However, B2B pricing can be very challenging to display because products may be heavily customized, have quantity discounts, or customer-specific discounts.
If you offer quantity discounts, showing the discount structure on your site is recommended.
For more complex matrix item type of products, providing a worksheet where the product pricing depends on selected items simplifies the ordering process.
Tip 5: Provide real-time, reliable, updated information
B2B websites need to support very complex content and functionality that can give any good web designer challenges. But it’s not just about functionality that will optimize and streamline the buying experience, it’s also important to have updated and consistent data.
Outdated, static information on an ecommerce site will only lead to frustration and distrust toward your online channel and brand. A unified commerce platform provides a single source of inventory, order and customer data which can be used to enable better customer experiences.
Remember that web stores are your company’s digital doorstep, and first impressions matter.
It is important when selecting a B2B ecommerce platform, to consider how the platform helps you follow best practices, how it sets you up for success and provides for your customers’ needs even before you knew them. Think about the digital impact you wish to have and the type of relationship you want to build with your customers.