The willingness to embrace emerging practices separates winners and losers in B2B commerce. Take user experience (UX) design, for example. Although UX design is a relatively new practice in B2B, leading brands recognize that it’s a staple in B2C and buyers now expect similarly intuitive digital experiences when they shop B2B brands.
But bringing UX design into the B2B space isn’t as simple as slapping some visually interesting images on your commerce site or simplifying users’ ability to browse your products. To make emerging practices like UX design work for your brand, you need to understand both the needs of your buyers and how other brands have used the practice to achieve measurable business outcomes.
The benefits of UX design for B2B brands
UX design offers a window into the adoption of emerging practices in B2B commerce. Right out of the gate, it’s important to know that UX involves much more than aesthetics. While user interface (UI) design works to improve the look and feel of the commerce experience, UX design focuses on optimizing the digital experience for specific types of users. By targeting the accessibility, ease of use and quality of user interactions, UX designers play a key role in shaping the commerce experience across digital channels.
With that in mind, there are significant differences between the B2C and B2B user experience. For example, while consumers frequently browse products on B2C commerce sites, B2B buyers usually know what they want before they visit your site. So, for B2B brands, a big part of UX design involves making it easy for users to find the products they’re looking for, rather than streamlining browsing capabilities or other features that primarily apply to the B2C user experience.
But improving buyers’ ability to locate products isn’t the only benefit B2B brands realize with UX design. From streamlined order processes to the inclusion of high-res product photos that reduce return rates, B2B brands can turn to UX to achieve a range of real-world outcomes. And UX design isn’t simply about what users see – it’s about anything they interact with, which can include voice and other elements.
Going forward, more and more interactions will be powered by non-visual elements. So, as you incorporate UX design and other practices into your commerce strategy, it’s critical to consider any digital interaction users have with your brand.
Best practices in B2B UX design
Like other innovations, UX design is a nascent strategy in B2B commerce and brands are still learning how to use it to optimize digital interactions. But even so, it’s critical to incorporate key lessons into the implementation of any new approach – lessons grounded in buyers’ needs and other brands’ real-world experience with the practice. In UX design, we can glean several best practices from the things we already know about the B2B buying experience as well as the application of UX design in the consumer sector:
1. Identify various types of users
Unlike many consumer brands, B2B brands deal with multiple personas and types of buyers. For example, visitors to a parts manufacturer’s commerce site might include sales and service reps as well as store owners mostly interested in reordering standard products.
The catch is that each type of user requires its own unique user experience. For B2B brands, the first step toward embracing UX design is to identify the various types of users that require optimized user experiences.
2. Invest time in UX research
Most B2B brands have the advantage of long-term relationships with their customers. Those relationships can form the basis for UX research – an iterative process that continuously optimizes users’ digital interactions.
Beta testing, focus groups and other research methods play an important role in B2B UX design. But methodology aside, you need to spend time listening to your customers to determine how to improve the user experience for each type of user that visits your commerce site.
3. Constantly evolve UX to new technologies and needs.
The needs of various types of users drive UX design. But users’ needs aren’t static – they change over time. Consequently, your organization’s UX experts need to constantly evolve user interactions and experiences across channels.
Additionally, UX design needs to evolve with technology as well as the use of technology in the B2C space. As new technologies (e.g., AI and intelligence) emerge and integrate with the consumer shopping experience, you’ll need to adjust the user experience to accommodate buyers’ expectations.
Flexibility and successful B2B commerce go hand in hand. As a CIO, it’s a given that your B2B commerce platforms must be capable of adapting to buyers’ needs. But your commerce system must also evolve with and incorporate emerging technologies like UX design. By prioritizing flexibility in commerce, you can lay the groundwork for effective UX design and other practices that align digital interactions with buyers’ expectations.