If you’re considering moving to b2b ecommerce or upgrading an existing system, try to think of it in terms of designing a business application, rather than simply creating an online store. Customers will be using your ecommerce site in the course of doing a job, buying products on behalf of their company. Their purchasing decisions will be based more on practical considerations than emotions, and they’ll expect your site to perform with the logic and efficiency of any other web-based business tool they use.
Open up an online tool such as a CRM system or project management application, and you enter a familiar environment where the user experience is optimised for you to get the job done as quickly and effortlessly as possible. The same principles should apply to your ecommerce system, particularly in ensuring the effectiveness of search tools and that information is highly organised to support easy product research and purchase. In addition, with the increasing importance of mobile, your ecommerce software must deliver a consistent experience across desktop, tablet and smartphone devices.
The design focus for a b2b ecommerce platform should be on utility and usability. The best performing sites have a clean, uncluttered look and make it easy for customers to access the detailed product information they need to make informed purchasing decisions. If your ecommerce system offers tools and resources that simplify the buying process and allow your customers to perform their jobs more efficiently, they’ll be likely to continue buying from you in the future.
In this way, your site also becomes a relationship-building vehicle – and by taking the time to better understand your customers’ needs, their decision-making processes and buying cycles, you can provision the right ecommerce tools to develop and strengthen those relationships. For example, buyers normally have a specific product or group of products that they buy regularly – so you need to give them the ability to fast track the reordering process. Likewise, they’ll want to see real-time stock positions and shipping times to make sure their orders can be delivered in an acceptable timeframe.
Your account customers will expect the same purchasing terms online as they enjoy offline and this facility will also accelerate the checkout process. They’ll want to see their own unique product prices and discounts when they log in, and they’ll also want their normal payment terms when they checkout. This kind of functionality is best achieved through tight integration of your online platform with business management and accounting systems – and it’s all part of viewing your b2b ecommerce system as a business software application that’s designed to help customers do their job.