The Importance of User Adoption for B2B eCommerce Success
We consider user adoption to be a key factor in B2B ecommerce deployment. The goal-setting of the digital transformation process is often misaligned, with the features and tools being in the front. We believe that every business must focus on the actual people who will be using the resulting platform when starting the deployment of a b2b ecommerce solution.
The most common errors in user adoption strategy
A common error is to focus on ecommerce features to be implemented and the new values these features should bring, completely ignoring the user adoption strategy factor. The thing is, all these features will not work if people do not migrate online from the comfort of customary offline practices, be it phone calls or emails.
Most B2B ecommerce platform users are employees; for them, the procurement process is not 'fun' like B2C shopping, it is hard work with KPIs, deadlines, approvals, reports, etc. Any changes in familiar business processes are stressful for them, even if these changes are for the better. It is vital not to alienate the end-user for a successful B2B ecommerce platform integration deployment.
Imagine that only 10% of the customers actually adopted the new ecommerce solution that a business has deployed:
- All the new features are producing 90% less ROI.
- A business must support both online and offline commerce at the highest level to avoid losing customers.
- Any new business models apply to 10% of the customer base, which makes them extremely expensive.
Only the top B2B enterprises may try and succeed in coercing customers into using the new e-commerce platform; for most businesses, this strategy will fail. This means a business must consider a natural, non-enforced user adoption as a key factor for digital transformation success and avoid the common pitfalls that lead to a loss of customer loyalty.
B2B ecommerce solution integration process and failed user adoption practices
- Selecting B2C solutions and practices for the B2B ecommerce platform. Technically, this mistake does not influence the user adoption, as it leads to failure even before the user adoption factor is on the table in most cases. There is a connection, however. Sometimes a B2C solution is selected for a B2B ecommerce platform due to the belief it will be easier for the user to adapt to a familiar B2C interface. This is true, and a good B2B platform should use some of the B2C interface elements to improve the user experience (UX). However, such adaptation happens in the later stages of the platform deployment, when the user adoption process is already almost complete. In its core, a B2B ecommerce platform (going hand in hand with b2b marketplace solution) is functionally and architecturally different from a B2C solution and should be built as a B2B platform right from the start.
- Concentrating on automation instead of customer loyalty. In other words, focusing on tools instead of the end result. A B2B ecommerce platform is deployed to improve the quality of communication, to make business processes smoother and more effective, and bring added value to both sides. If the customer does not see any value in a new tool or service for themselves, they will not use it, even if it is the most technologically advanced thing available. Keeping customer satisfaction as the top priority is a must, and a business must have a way of measuring it and notice any potential problems at once.
- Starting a prolonged digital transformation project, to be delivered as a complete package at the end. A fully functional B2B ecommerce platform (like Virto's ecommerce net open source based one) is a sophisticated tool with complex user interface(s). When delivered as a single package, it creates a huge gap in user experience that may cause confusion and frustration among customers, leading to user adoption failure. Also, technologies evolve rapidly, new business strategies appear, the world changes, so it is almost impossible to predict the actual customers' needs over such extended periods of time.
- Unilaterally informing the customers of the new ecommerce solution replacing the regular offline communication. This also creates a UX gap: customers are denied the usual tools and are not yet ready to work with the new ones. B2B e-commerce users hate drastic alterations in familiar work routines. If they are forced to use something they do not know or want, they will try to find an easy way out – and may turn to the competitive offer.
- Making own salespeople feel irrelevant; expecting the new ecommerce platform to replace them. The business will still need these people after the transformation as the customer advocates. The success of user adoption relies heavily on their will to help the customers accept and understand the new tools. Making salespeople feel redundant will lead to obstructions to ecommerce deployment and user adoption.
- Expecting customers to deal with the new ecommerce platform all by themselves. They will still have problems and questions as they did offline and the business will require a customer support service to deal with them.
Organic user adoption implementation to the B2B ecommerce solution
The list above shows the most common pitfalls of even best B2B ecommerce platforms integration that lead to user adoption failure.
What should a business do to avoid them?
- Focus on customer loyalty, consider the B2B ecommerce platform as a tool to increase customer loyalty.
- Extend the UX gradually to avoid a gap, deliver new UX patterns incrementally for a smoother user adoption process.
- Constantly deliver new small services that expand rather than replace customers' options. For example, you may start by providing an order status service; such a tool can be developed in a couple of weeks and will give the user an option to get a status update online anytime in addition to the familiar way of calling the manager.
- Continuously check the deployment results, adoption rate and customer feedback. Ask salespeople to ensure customers logged in at least once, as the first login may present a psychological barrier for the user. If they have only logged in once, try to find out what is preventing them from continuing.
- Nudge customers to use the emerging ecommerce solution by creating added motivation for them to try out new features.
- Consider your own account managers and salespeople as indispensable employees. Their role will change - they will become the customers' advocates who help the business avoid mistakes and focus on features required by the clients. They will also have more time to nurture and convert leads, which will eventually increase earnings – both for themselves and the business.
- Make sure your own employees use the same ecommerce tools and are accustomed to them. This will help them propel the user adoption rate.
- Consider the B2B ecommerce platform as a suite of services, not a self-contained solution. Do not expect its deployment to be 'finished' one day; be ready to evolve it constantly by adding new services and improving existing ones.
The points above are generalized and may be a bit tricky to translate into a coherent working strategy. We will return to the topic in an upcoming article that will list 7 concrete steps we consider to be an effective way of keeping a high level of user adoption during a B2B ecommerce platform deployment.