Web design for the business-to-business (B2B) world presents a few unique challenges. As a primarily B2B website design agency, we have seen many of the common mistakes that businesses make and learned many valuable lessons from them.
In today’s post, we will explore the challenges B2B website design brings, and share a few of our tried and tested strategies for overcoming them and getting the results your hard work and investment deserves.
B2B is Not B2C: The Difference
Perhaps the biggest web design mistake B2B companies make is assuming that they can simply follow the same practices that work best for business-to-customer (B2C) companies. But this is not the case and can lead to wasted time, wasted money, and disappointing results.
Here are a few of the ways that B2B website design differs from its B2C cousin, and how you can use this knowledge to build a B2B website that works.
User research is the first step in the B2B web design process. When we conduct user research for our B2B clients, we find out as much information as we can about the types of customers they are looking to attract with their websites.
One major problem that we see again and again is that B2B website users are always short on time. B2C customers tend to spend a lot more time researching and shopping around before making a purchase. This is for two main reasons: first, they are likely doing it on their own time. Second, the goods and services they are looking to purchase tend to have a lower purchase price, on average, than B2B goods. B2B clients, by contrast, are likely to be searching on company time and focused on completing tasks related to their jobs, which may come with built-in deadlines.
Another important consideration is that, while B2C customers are seeking a solution to improve their own lives or benefit themselves in some way, B2B customers are doing so as part of their day-to-day role. These B2B users are likely balancing their internal job responsibilities and deadlines, while also trying to advance in their careers.
This all means one thing: B2B users are looking to optimize their use of time while being as thorough and accurate as possible. They need to make the right decision, and quickly.
By understanding the reality of this fundamental difference between B2B and B2C users, you already have an edge over your competition. You can put this understanding into action by ensuring your website is easy to use, making it intuitive for your specific audience, and creating content and assets that are tailored to solve the problems your users are looking to solve.
Mobile vs. Desktop
One common recurring pattern when we consider the difference between B2B and B2C website users is the split between the types of devices they use.
B2C users tend towards using tablets, mobile phones, and—increasingly—voice enabled devices such as Amazon’s Alexa series of devices. This makes a lot of sense when we consider the rise of smartphones to near-ubiquity and the growth of the “internet of things” (the IoT refers to physical objects that are equipped with the technology that enables them to operate over the internet. Smart speakers, home security systems and cameras, and app-enabled thermostats are just some examples).
However, the behaviours we see from B2B customers are the complete opposite! While B2C consumers tend to use mobile devices around 80% of the time and desktop devices about 20%, B2B users flip this on its head. We consistently see an 80/20 split in favor of desktop devices for these users.
So what does this all mean? When you look deeply into the analytics, this pattern is intrinsically connected with when users are accessing a B2B website. We consistently notice a correlation between higher desktop usage between Monday and Friday. In other words, the traditional working week. This is a clear indicator that these users are doing research during work hours.
Users May be Highly Specialized… Except When They Aren’t
When it comes to B2B websites and selling B2B products, specifications, information, and details are all key.
While it may be tempting to look at successful B2C marketing tactics and attempt to replicate their success, the same strategies simply will not work with a B2B audience. This is because B2B users tend to be highly specialized.
A B2C website visitor is likely to make a purchasing decision based on nebulous factors such as aesthetics, emotions, or even an impulse. A B2B customer, on the other hand, will need to ensure a product meets highly specific requirements before a sale is made. They may also have to present their case for purchasing the product and go through several stages of an approvals process before their company comes to a decision.
A deep understanding of your target audience is essential. What are their specific pain points? What level of detail do they need about your products or services? How much information about them do you need, in order to qualify them as a lead?
Your prospective customer wants to know that you are a trusted source of quality products. This means that things like specification sheets, detailed schematics, and product features and benefits are essential. You also need to let your customer know that if they have any additional questions, you have the expertise to answer them.
Given the level of detail required, many B2B website owners make the mistake of assuming their users are all as knowledgeable as they are. However, this is not always the case. Product research, particularly in the early stages of considering a purchase, is often assigned to more junior employees. You need to ensure that these less experienced employees can understand the most important details of your product, while also providing enough information to satisfy middle-, upper-, and C-level executives when the potential purchase is passed up the chain of command.
Don’t Rock the Boat Too Much
A major factor in B2B web design is walking the fine line between differentiating your business from your competitors, and not seeming too “out there”. B2B customers value stability and reliability in the providers they partner with. However, human psychology also dictates that we are drawn to things that are novel. It is extremely difficult to strike the balance, appearing neither “too conservative” nor “too new”.
One method we like to use here at Lform is the Purple Cow Theory. This marketing theory states that a product must have something unique and remarkable about it—like a purple cow—in order to sell. Many B2B companies simply follow tried-and-true methods of communicating with their audiences. But when too many businesses use the same methods, they begin to become a part of the noise and cease to stand out.
To differentiate your business, you need to not only make your products better. You also need to reach out and show that you can solve—through design, content, and user experience—the problems that your target customers are experiencing.
Perhaps your product is the best on the market. But can you also answer user questions quickly and accurately? Is your website fast and responsive? Do you truly understand your prospective customers’ needs? As the history of web design continues to evolve, we know that users want more and more control over how they engage with their favorite brands online.
One of the best ways to do this is to work with a partner firm that understands how to engage B2B customers online. As one of the United States’ top B2B web design companies, the Lform team has decades of combined experience in crafting B2B websites that work.
Drop us a line and let us know what you’re working on, and a member of our team will be in touch within 48 hours for a no-obligation chat about how we can work together. Together, we can take your business to new heights with effective B2B website design.