When it comes to designing an effective website, how different are the approaches used by B2B versus B2C companies?
UI (user interface) principles are fairly universal. For example:
Placing CTAs strategically
For many B2C sites, good design is enough. For B2B companies, however, polished UI is only a small piece of the UX (user experience) puzzle.
UX is more than UI, although people often conflate the two. UI is the way that your site appears to visitors. It’s the design. The aesthetic.
So, why is UX arguably more important for a B2B company than it is for a B2C company? Because a B2C site could consist of a single-product, single-page website and a checkout cart. Nothing more than compelling images and some punchy copywriting is needed.
UX encompasses the UI, but also addresses:
In other words, UX is the strategy that overlays your website: It’s the way design, structure, and content come together. Structure and content are critical for the B2B journey because it’s significantly longer and more complex than the B2C journey.
For example, the B2B journey:
Each of these affects the design and structure of your site. Let’s take a closer look.
B2C is fast, even impulsive. Typically, it’s just one person making the purchase. For example, a busy mom that clicked on a Facebook ad for baby clothing. The item or items she wants to purchase are relatively inexpensive (relative to an enterprise tech stack, for example). Her journey is as simple as clicking the ad, browsing the offering, and adding to cart.
If only B2B were so simple. B2B is a much slower game.
In many cases, what we see is the end-user researching for a solution to make something at their job easier. (To clarify, end-user here refers to the employee that makes direct use of the solution – not the customer that employee is serving).
Whether they’re a customer support specialist looking to purchase a piece of software or a product manager that wants to buy half a million units of baby clothes, they won’t be the only stakeholders involved. There will often be multiple people involved, spanning the company hierarchy. The bigger the company, the more stakeholders tend to be involved.
As a result, the layout of the site (both navigation and the content itself) needs to speak to these different parties. We see many B2B companies try to build their site for the executives and decision makers. This typically isn’t the best way to go about it, because the end-user is typically the first person to encounter your website. If that’s the case for your company, the site should speak to them first.
Generally speaking, end-users care about:
Putting ourselves in their shoes, we can see that they would also be looking for soundbites to help sell the idea to other stakeholders (like their boss). You want to make the end-users your internal champions, so providing them with collateral they can share with higher-ups is something that the UX should take into account.
Generally speaking, decision makers care about:
If you really want to go the extra mile (and if its relevant), also take the time to understand the consumers that these end-users are selling to or servicing. Demonstrate that knowledge on your website. By understanding your customers’ customer’s pain points, you show prospects that you’re on the same page and that you speak their language.
So, while your website may be built primarily for the end-user, you may also have sections that touch on the consumers’ needs, as well as content that the end-user can forward to their higherups.
Pricing is trickier for B2B than it is for B2C. Whereas a B2C product can have a blanket price (“this sweater costs $20.00”), B2B pricing can be affected by:
It’s best to be transparent about pricing. Put the exact price wherever possible. No one likes calling just to get a price, including you! If seeing your price on the website scares a visitor away, they weren’t a good fit for your company anyway. Consider transparent pricing to be a filter that saves your salespeople from having to deal with unqualified leads.
That being said, an exact price tag isn’t always possible…even so, pricing should be displayed in some way or form on the site. This can be challenging, but it’s critical.
Many companies use tiers as a starting point to give prospects a ballpark number. Even companies with robust product offerings, like HubSpot, have found a way to give fairly accurate quotes directly on their site:
For service-based business, a “Chinese menu” calculator can work wonders for your site’s conversion rate. List your items and their price tags. Allow visitors to select items and have the module calculate a total price.
At a minimum, sample pricing should be shown. Take some of your most common scenarios and give an estimate so visitors can begin the process of budget approval. This can be based off of company size, industry, or anything else that makes sense for your audience.
You’re tired of hearing it, we know: But content is still king. We’ve already touched on the importance of creating content for different job roles (i.e., end-user and decisionmakers). When it comes to B2B content and the role it plays in UX, there are two other angles to consider:
One of the most difficult parts of the B2B UX is speaking to all of the different customer segments without alienating anyone. Easier said than done. For example, if you serve half a dozen industries, then you need to create content that shows why you’re the best solution for each industry.
And don’t forget – that means within each industry, you’re also finding ways to speak to the end-user, the decisionmaker, and potentially the consumer.
That’s starting to sound like a lot of content -- more than could comfortably fit on site pages and landing pages – which is why UX should also take into account an SEO blog.
We consider SEO to be part of the UX, or at least closely related, because they go hand-in-hand. A site’s UX speaks to the users on your site. SEO speaks to search engines that brings users to your site. There are also elements of a site that affect both UX and SEO including:
The argument could be made that SEO is more important for B2B than it is for B2C. B2C (especially ecommerce), can get away with just running ads. But business people are savvier than the average consumer. They see right through the fluff and are less likely to trust ads (which often make them feel “sold to”).
Is SEO content a lot of effort? Yes, but well worth it. Some would even say necessary. When it comes to a B2B audience, organic search builds credibility in a way that nothing else -- except for maybe a referral -- can.
It helps to always think of B2B as providing a service. Even if you’re just selling a customer a website theme, honor them the same as you would a retainer client – and they’ll become your biggest promoters.
That’s because B2B is a partnership. Due to the investment that goes into finding the right solution, B2B connections tend to be stronger than B2C. Consumers know that there’s always other companies they can purchase from and are quick to drop a business that doesn’t serve them. With B2B, earning customers may be more challenging, but the result is greater brand loyalty.
B2B sites require a level of strategic overlay that most B2C sites don’t. That’s why UX is a critical factor in your website. Good UX marries UI with site structure and content in a way that addresses the multilayered, multifaceted ecosystem of B2B. Done correctly, UX can ensure that the prospects that come to your site can intuitively find what they need, when they need it, and where they expect it.
At Orogamis, we create ease and delight for your users by taking the time to understand your audiences problem through stakeholder reviews, qualitative research, and quantitative analysis; synthesizing that data into a plan with ecosystem maps, persona maps, user journey maps and content-to-persona-maps; developing storyboards, wireframes, and content; implementing UX and design; and continuously improving UX to grow with the user.
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