On website design for a B2B company Vs a B2C one

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On website design for a B2B company Vs a B2C one
November 2, 2021

I am writing this as a direct reaction to a recent experience that was- let us say- interesting.

While on a call about a website we were designing for a client the client says “Hold on guys”.

“There’s a little change in our strategy, we are no longer B2C. We are B2B now. Is that going to be a problem?”

We, of course, explained that it wasn't going to be a problem as long as we re-evaluated the timeline.

“Ah! will the timelines be affected?” Says the client.

We then had to explain to the client that the website we were currently working on was entirely focused on the individual customer- a true blue B2C experience. And therefore, to now build a website that is aimed at businesses, things would indeed change. But enough things to affect the timeline in a major way? A full overhaul then?

When designing an e-commerce website for a B2B venture vs a B2C one, are we really looking at two completely different things? Or is it really the same fundamentals with a few minor differences? What if we had progressed well into our B2C website? How much should we be expecting to have to rework the whole thing?

Well the short answer is- quite a bit.

Now keep in mind this was a product based company we were working with. It's still the same product they are looking to sell through the website. Just in bulk now, and to retailers. 

Now the thing is, an effective online e-commerce platform focuses on both what's being sold  and on who’s likely to buy. And I use my words very carefully here- on who’s most likely to buy. The potential customers. It needs to be the right website for the right people. And herein lies the difference between designing a website for a B2B vs a B2C company. It targets different people with different behaviours, especially when it comes to making a purchase. 

Let us first look at the individual customer. An individual customer wants convenience when shopping. They are looking for a smooth and quick pathway from when they decide to make the purchase to the completed transaction. (Pan out even further and it is actually the journey from ‘Interest’ to ‘purchase’ that needs to be facilitated and made as smooth as possible. But here I am talking about the customer’s POV.)

These customers are often impulsive and emotional, more likely to spend a shorter amount of time on the website before either leaving or deciding to buy.

On website design for a B2B company Vs a B2C one

Oftentimes they are not looking for a lot of information about the product and do not want to be overwhelmed with a lot of text. Maybe more pictures instead, with some well laid out information and a call to action (to buy or to add to cart being the usual ones).

They would much prefer not to have to register or create an account. It is difficult to build any form of loyalty with such a customer. They are usually quite clear in the mind of the criteria for purchase and it could be something exceedingly simple- A pair of shoes in a particular colour scheme, or maybe they do not care about the colour but on whichever site is selling it the cheapest. This often takes them from one e-commerce store to another looking for the best fit for their criteria.

A business as a customer is not like that. Firstly, most of the time, as a B2B venture you are unlikely to be dealing with an individual who has all the purchase decisions. The decision to buy from you could be subject to approval from multiple people on the buyer’s end. 

Secondly this buyer will be making large volume high value transactions and will be concerned with the level of support provided to him post purchase. They may expect certain services to be provided. They would expect to be able to negotiate for a better price.

What they need from your e-commerce website is-

  1. All the information about the product or service to help in relaying the same to all stakeholders at their own end and get any approvals required.
  2. Information related to the ordering process and all related services and support provided.
  3. Options to begin a communication with you to discuss their expectations and concerns. B2B transactions are most often not completed on the site itself and require additional steps. It is important for the website to be able to nurture and build a relationship with the potential customer that eventually leads to the purchase. 
  4. It is difficult for B2B websites to provide exact prices for products and services owing to there being too many factors to consider as well as the space for customisations and negotiations. However some form of pricing estimation can help.

These business customers are looking to build a relationship with you that they may not have to change for a long time as long as they are satisfied with the value and service being provided. Here there is a lot higher scope of loyalty from the customer but the requirement for the website to be able to build trust is paramount.

Talking of trust, there are also the less tangible aspects we had to change now that we were looking for a B2C website. The colour palette for example. There are no arguments I could give you on what colours a business likes as opposed to what colours attract the individual customer. But there is a certain look and feel we now have to go for with a view to building trust or to facilitate the consumption of more information through the website.

When designing for B2C it can help to be snappy and have striking visual elements. All design decisions, of course, revolve around the brand or the product, highlighting the same and appealing to the emotions of the buyer. With B2B, there is less of an emphasis on outright visual appeal and more on building a relationship. Of course it still needs to look appealing, but never at the expense of communication of information.

Of course some fundamentals of Website design always apply. But that's a different topic for another day. 

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