The 7 Steps for an Effective User Adoption of the B2B eCommerce Platform
The importance of user adoption for the success of a B2B e-commerce platform is immense, and ignoring it often leads to failure. It is time to provide an example of how such a platform can be deployed with due attention to the user adoption factor. The strategy described below will show the first results of a working B2B ecommerce platform as early as two weeks after the start of the project, instead of the months needed for a ‘traditional’ deployment.
Opt for small ecommerce changes to have a manageable user adoption process
The best way to help both customers and your own employees accustom to the new ecommerce experience is to deploy that experience in small chunks. This strategy helps to get them on board and to show them the advantages of the new B2B platform without overloading them with complex choices and tools. The idea is to nudge them gently in the needed direction step by step, making sure they know what is happening and they don't run away screaming.
This approach also helps us keep the process in check, to ensure the transformation goes smoothly and to make prompt corrections to the plan when necessary. Thus, it is vital to get feedback while the step-by-step deployment takes place. The feedback helps us in the most desirable direction for the business and its customers, even if that direction shifts in the deployment process.
7 step strategy for effective user adoption
Each step takes 2 to 4 weeks to complete. The development and delivery of features are separated; the salespeople are helping the users adapt to the current step while the IT team is preparing the next one. The first step can be done in a single development sprint and will start generating feedback while the core of the platform is still in the early stages of deployment preparation.
- Provide the first service ASAP and make customers log in to the ecommerce platform. The best candidate for the first available service is the order status and history page. This provides immediate tangible value for the customer, as it is more convenient to check order status, browse order and payments history, and collect invoices on the web than through traditional offline channels like phone or email. The service itself is extremely simple and easy to use and the incentive to login is significant, so the adoption rate should be high at this step. Account managers should use the same service to track customers' orders to familiarize themselves with the system to efficiently help customers with any potential problem. This step should be considered a success if >50% of the customers generating >70% of margin logged in at least once.
- Provide a user management service. Allow clients to create users. Once the client's contact person starts using the new platform, it is time to engage more customer's employees in working with it. This is done by providing a user management service that allows creating new users and assigning them permissions. At this step, we are helping the customer to improve their procurement processes. For example, a client's accountant may have his own account on the platform, allowing them to download invoices and check the payment status. As the system remains extremely simple, it is an effective way to bring all the relevant people on board without the risk of confusing them by the complexity of the interface.
- Create a re-order button. The third step introduces interactivity for customers. Re-ordering is common in B2B commerce, so we create an interaction option by providing a simple button to repeat a previous purchase. This button will not place the order but notify the account manager of the client's wish; the manager will create the order manually and get the order approval through the old communication channels. This step will help customers understand the benefit of being able to create an order anytime, anywhere. At least 10% of the clients should try using the re-order option before we consider this step a success.
- Move the approval of the order online. The business still works in manual mode, account managers are creating the orders, but now we provide customers with a choice to approve these order drafts online. Once again, we reduce unnecessary paperwork with this step and we also provide a powerful tool to avoid mistakes that happen when the approval is done over the phone. This step is critical, as it is the first one that moves an accountable business process online. By this time, most of the customers should feel comfortable in the new ecommerce environment, so that the transition can go smoothly. The actual order approval process will not add any new user experience, as it looks almost the same as reviewing a past order. If the earlier steps were done correctly and the feedback was analyzed and factored in, the customers will happily use the new service, understanding its advantages. It is vital that all other forms of order approval are made redundant at this point and at least 90% of orders are reviewed and approved on the platform.
- Deploy the catalog. The content team should have been working on the catalog right from the start and by now, there is enough content to start publishing the catalog. The catalog, at this stage, only exists for information purposes, there is no 'Add to basket' or 'Checkout' option, but it allows the customers to browse the portal, check available products and account managers can send links to the products they think are of interest to their clients. They also make sure their customers understand the catalog structure and can use filter and search tools.
- Add product recommendations. Time to let our ecommerce platform generate some value for us. Since we have a catalog by that point and customers are browsing it, we should have to help them find what they want, even if they do not know what that is exactly. This can be done by providing recommendations based on earlier purchases and search history. Customers start spending even more time on our platform, hopefully generating upsell/cross-sell revenue in the process.
- Provide tools for generating wish lists and draft orders. As the last step, before we start getting rid of manual ordering, we will provide the means for tagging certain products in the catalog for the wish list and creating order drafts. We still don't have any checkout, these drafts are still processed manually by the account manager, the manager still calls the client's representative for order confirmation, but we are getting as close as possible to the 'real' ecommerce platform. The fact that the account manager still processes the order means they can detect and solve customer's problems, collect feedback on the platform and generally act as the final QA before the platform 'goes to production'. The customers should see the benefit of faster order processing with less paperwork and less superfluous communication. The goal of this step is to move at least 50% of order drafting online.
Once the 7th step has been completed, we can start moving to the 'real' online experience, automating the ordering, pricing, payment, and shipment details. By this time, clients are fully accustomed to the ecommerce platform, can work with it, have already experienced the advantages it brings to them, so we won't face the problem of user adoption. In fact, by that time, clients are likely to demand full online support, and that is a good sign.