As more millennials climb the corporate ladder and become decision makers in the B2B purchasing process, they bring with them a new set of preferences, habits, and expectations that result from interacting with consumer brands online.
After all, 67% of millennials prefer online shopping over brick-and-mortar purchasing. Researching and ordering online is second nature to this generation.
To stay current, many B2B suppliers are feeling the pressure to move their sales process and customer service online.
Many vendors look to B2C websites that have more experience selling to the younger generation to structure their eCommerce platforms.
Not surprisingly, most B2B sites are now prioritizing convenience, ease of use, and digestible content that are the keys to delivering an excellent user experience on B2C websites.
Unfortunately, by focusing on these consumer preferences, many B2B eCommerce websites have neglected the complexity involved in and the major preferences of B2B purchasing.
When deciding on what features to include in your B2B site, make sure to consider the differences between B2B and B2C marketing so you can create a customer experience that focuses on the needs of B2B buyers.
Here are five critical areas you can't afford to overlook:
1. Browsing Experience
Many B2C eCommerce sites encourage browsing by offering an "Amazon experience" with numerous product recommendations, upsells, and cross-sells.
They use videos and content extensively to boost engagement and build brand awareness.
These are all well and good for consumers who want to discover products, get pleasantly surprised, or be entertained.
However, such experience may not be optimal for B2B buyers.
For them, making a purchase is an item on a (long!) to-do list. They want the fastest way to get it done so they can move onto the next task.
If you present an "Amazon experience" with too many options and recommendations, you're making your visitors jump through hoops just to find what they need.
The best way to win B2B buyers' businesses is to make their job easy by facilitating the ordering user flow to help them get the job done.
2. Account Setup And Payment Methods
In the B2C world, making customers go through a lengthy process to set up an account or add payment method is one of the biggest "no-no's" in user experience design.
Complexity in B2C eCommerce sites often translates into lower conversion rate.
As a result, many B2B eCommerce sites are pushing customers to purchase using credit cards only and foregoing other payment methods that may require a more complicated setup.
However, this may be a costly mistake.
Did you know that if you don't extend credit to your customers, you could be dismissing a payment method that's responsible for 40% of B2B transactions?
Unfortunately, many B2B vendors are shying away from the long application process -- one that may not make sense for B2C websites but actually works well for the longer sales cycles and much higher order value in B2B transactions.
Or, they don't offer an option to integrate with their customer's e-procurement systems -- a process that takes some work but will result in many advantages for both parties.
In addition, many companies prefer to establish an account-based relationship with their vendors so they can take advantage of a streamlined approval process or special pricing based on purchase volume.
This often means additional efforts to set up an account up front but it will pay off by enhancing the customer relationship in the long run.
B2B buyers are willing to go through a more complicated process than they would for a B2C experience to streamline workflow for a long-term relationship.
3. Customer Support
B2C customer support teams often have to deal with a larger number of inquiries of less complex nature.
Most B2C website's customer service interfaces are designed to handle the volume.
On the other hand, B2B merchants often receive fewer inquiries from prospects or clients, but the questions typically require more in-depth answers.
Customer support on B2B eCommerce sites needs to be structured differently from that for B2C websites to be effective.
B2B customer support team needs to have knowledge of the specifications and technical details of the product. They need to be able to answer how, for example, the product will fit into the processes or systems of the customer they're speaking with.
Your pre-sale inquiries may be better directed to a sales team member instead of a customer care specialist.
Instead of using technology such as live chat that enables B2C eCommerce sites to handle a large number of inquiries, you may want to deliver a more personal experience by having a team member speak directly to the customer.
4. Content Strategy
Consumers prefer relatable copy written in simpler language. They like punchy sound bites that are catchy and entertaining.
B2C websites tend to focus on "making a splash" and building brand awareness.
On the other hand, B2B customers aren't coming to your eCommerce site for fun and entertainment.
If you serve up flashy content with little depth, you may be sending the wrong signal to your visitors.
A B2B audience often prefers content that is informative and educational in nature.
Sharing in-depth industry knowledge may bore a B2C audience to death but will help demonstrate your expertise to B2B buyers in a way that reinforces professionalism, cultivates trust, and increases your brand's credibility.
5. Relationship Building
Most B2C eCommerce sites emphasize one-off transactions by placing the focus on the point of purchase.
The goal of most interactions is to take the user closer to clicking the "buy now" button and completing checkout.
When B2B eCommerce sites follow this strategy, they could be missing out on the opportunity to cultivate long-term relationships with their customers.
Besides lead generation and getting prospects to make their first purchases, B2B marketers also need to focus on customer retention.
B2B eCommerce websites should prioritize customer satisfaction and retention to support the longer sales cycle and increase customer lifetime value.
User experience best practices that work for most B2C eCommerce sites may fall short when it comes to B2B relationship building that requires more interactions and communication.
Over to you -- what pitfalls do you see B2B eCommerce websites make when they try to imitate B2C sites?