Attend a B2B conference or pull up any B2B e-commerce blog these days and you will hear everyone talking about how B2B Buyers expect an Amazon like experience on your B2B site. The basic tenet is that Buyers have expectations from at-home experiences that they bring to a B2B site. The main point is that B2B organizations should work to meet those basic expectations. Some call this the Consumerization of B2B. Got it.
Here is the question at hand. Do B2B buyers expect or even want a B2Bish B2C e-commerce experience?
Do B2B customers really want to look through a product catalog, read reviews, click and buy products online or in mobile – even if it is a great customer experience? Some probably do, but is that the majority position in B2B?
When Buyers Bring Consumer Expectations to B2B
When buyers bring expectations from at-home experiences to your site, they do not bring them as one-off features. B2B buyers bring their expectations collectively as a memory. Sometimes as a reflex. What does that mean? It means that your site should follow basic usability best practices. Your site should look and function like other sites. If you have a products link, you should have robust information on your products and allow them to buy easily. Your site should probably not look like it was developed in the late 90s. You know who you are. Common sense.
So should you have an online catalog with a great customer experience? Yes, absolutely. Should you fix your search on your site? Of course (see this article on why you should fix it). I just think we kind of miss the point when we try to create a B2Bish B2C experience.
B2B Buyers care about two things.
- Doing their job in the easiest way possible
- Getting credit for getting their job done in the best way possible.
It comes down to efficiency and ego. I have written extensively about this topic.
If not consumerization, then what?
I think we should take this consumerization thing a little less literal. Don’t just wrap B2B functionality in a B2C experience. Buyers come with expectations that the experience is going to be easy and intuitive. So make it easy and intuitive.
Then, figure out how to make the B2B buyers job as easy as possible.
Through interviewing customers and buyers, a B2B company recently realized that the Quick Order was going to be the primary way their customers order products. So they made it the baddest, raddest, best, and easiest quick order on the planet. They allow for excel uploads and have type ahead in the quick order box to make auto-complete easy even when typing. They are considering employing machine learning to help buyers fill their cart. They made a fantastic experience – one that met all the expectations of their customers – and an online catalog was nowhere to be seen.
So, what does that look like for your customers and buyers?
Maybe the home page should just be a search box and quick order. But if that doesn’t help your customer do their job easier, do something different.
Here’s the crazy thing. Even Amazon is not creating Amazon like experiences or their B2B customers. Just like everything else they do they are focused on removing friction that exists between the customer and ownership of their product. They don’t believe that has any preconceived notions about what the experience should be. Will it be good? Oh, yeah it will be fantastic.
Use Customer Journey Mapping
Just don’t this buy into this Consumerization of B2B thing by making a consumer site that has a few B2B features. Take a really hard look at your customers and how they do their job. One of the best ways I have seen to do that is through Journey Mapping. Journey Mapping will show you where your customers interactions with you are painful and where you can improve the experience for your customer online and offline.