Why do B2B Customers See a B2B eCommerce Platform as a Business App and not a Webshop? 

B2B shoppers are a different breed: they come all-armed with preliminary research, a set of very specific questions, and demand unequivocal answers. B2B shoppers have unique needs; they know exactly what they want and are out there to get it. B2B eCommerce differs from B2C in many ways: B2B buyers are rational, high maintenance, and expect an omnichannel experience. Hence, it’s unsurprising that B2B customers have a different attitude toward shopping: they think of an ecommerce application as the software they use at work, an app they can close and forget as soon as they leave the office. In this article, we’ll go over some user experience features that B2B customers expect from ecommerce applications that will convince you that business customers see ecommerce as a business app and not a web store for leisure shopping.

Checklist on providing an exceptional customer experience 

Systematic and rational decision-making demands structured and exhaustive information about products and services

Decision-making in B2B is a systematic process that involves multiple people of varying roles and responsibilities. Because of the systematicity and rationality behind decision-making, B2B buyers spend a lot of time on preliminary research and then extensively discuss the findings with stakeholders. While researching for suppliers, B2B buyers already have a pre-existing set of product requirements that they look for when choosing the perfect vendor. Therefore, as a B2B seller, you must provide enough product information for customers to make a positive decision.

The complexity of products and services in B2B requires an extra effort from UX designers and marketers to arrange the product information in a digestible format with an adequate amount of visuals, text descriptions, specs, and so on.

Therefore, your B2B ecommerce platform, needs to have an easy search functionality with filtering, sorting, and auto-completing queries.

Moreover, the catalog should be structured hierarchically (unless you know a better way to represent all the abundance of your products) and the information easily accessible, including such things as technical documentation, contact information, a page with frequently asked questions, and so on.

It is worth noting that the person who ends up buying your products might not be the same person who does the preliminary research, which means that he or she will have to go through the same discovery process all over again. Suppose the first person is a technician and the second person is a financier; in this case, they might look for different information or perceive products differently. Therefore, when optimizing the content on your B2B ecommerce platform, consider appeasing all possible decision-makers by providing them with enough information they might be looking for.

Since the stakes are high, expect high maintenance and design for a combination of offline and online interaction

Because the value of the first transaction is exceptionally high, so are the stakes – by acquiring a new customer, a business acquires a long-term partner. Because the lifetime value of a customer in B2B is higher than in B2C, business buyers will expect much more from an ecommerce app than their retail counterparts, including better service and more features.

So that your sales team spends more time on complex issues rather than menial tasks, allow your customers the freedom of doing their jobs without unnecessary interactions and distractions. Your B2B ecommerce platform has to help your buyer overcome critical steps in their buying journeys by accounting for differences in approval workflows, access levels, and permissions (in accordance with a customer’s internal policies).

Contrary to popular belief, B2B is still pretty much old school: senior managers expect offline negotiations, in-person aftercare, and support from company representatives. Although such preferences are bound to change with time, the best strategy is to allow for an omnichannel experience and ensure your customers will have the support they need at any stage of their buying journeys. To encourage your customers to do as much as possible on their own, consider adopting users organically, enabling more and more features online on an iterative basis.

Unique processes in B2B require unique features that are absent in B2C

The presence of such unique features as RFQ (request for quote) further differentiates the B2B ecommerce and demands creating a user experience that is inherently absent from B2C. After order delivery, B2B customers will also require aftercare, warranty maintenance, and so on; some B2B companies might also allow buyback plans or rentals. Depending on your industry and specific case, your B2B ecommerce platform needs to incorporate the features that your customers expect from the interaction with your business app.

While in B2C, most design patterns are fixed, in B2B, user experience design varies and resembles a set of tailored solutions that address complex interactions between buyers and sellers. To ensure reconciliation of seller processes and user needs, your B2B ecommerce platform needs to be flexible enough to either extend or shrink depending on the required functionality. Moreover, the solution needs to enable your buyers to self-serve by providing them with the business features they need to do their jobs, such as integrations with third party systems (ERP and CRM), approval workflows, access levels, and permissions.

Virto Commerce headless ecommerce platform is a fantastic solution for B2B that allows you to design your own functionality while leveraging existing components and out-of-the-box features.

To learn more about Virto Commerce and how it can help you build your own business app with the functionality B2B customers expect (Pricing and Catalogue modules, RFQ, approvals, permissions), schedule a demo now or contact our sales team with any other questions.

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Marina Vorontsova
Technical author and eCommerce advocate