The way you conduct conversations with your business, customers and suppliers digitally is central to the dynamic transformation of your business efficiency.
But how to make those interactions delight your customers and grow your business?
A key consideration for the building of your successful platform - or the re-energising of your existing one - may sound blindingly obvious but it’s nonetheless true: each and every one of your customers will go home and engage with B2C platforms with high-quality B2C user experience and even on mobile in the great outdoors.
We are all familiar with how to use Amazon, Netflix and JustEat or browse our social media platform of choice. We use them every day. And so do your customers. And look at how B2C platforms have infiltrated the business world. Both Slack and Zoom started outside the world of business in people’s social lives, but users found the UX so compelling that they brought them into the workplace.
From receiving personalised recommendations of things to watch to a simple checkout process, we have expectations that if not met, will lead us to move on to a different platform to fulfil our needs.
We are all customers and we all have high expectations of user experience. So what are the learnings we can take from good B2C UX practice and apply to the development of your B2B platform, driving real customer satisfaction, real efficiency and real growth.
1. Customer Obsession...start with the customer and work backwards
You might be familiar with the dictum. It’s number one on the list of Amazon leadership principles and as such it should be taken seriously.
What it means for your platform is that you should start by listening to your customers. A close interrogation of their needs and expectations and of how they work with you will be central to delivering good UX. It’s also a fascinating process which will bring you real insights into how to deliver greater value to them and understand how to mine new revenue streams for your business.
If you have an existing platform it's not too late! Performing a thorough usability test, questioning the very principles on which you built the platform can expose huge differences between what you think customers are doing and what they are actually doing. Likewise if you are starting from scratch, a Proof of Concept, exploration of your customers’ needs leading to a rapid build MVP can ensure eradication of wastage.
2. Content drives the value exchange
One challenge B2B websites or apps have is the sheer amount of information they want to convey to their customers. Often the sales process is longer than a B2C purchase and involves more stakeholders, so the need for a clear breakdown of what’s on offer is high. One way to tackle this is through content. Video’s, infographics and blog posts offer easily digestible content that gives the visitor the information required to make an informed decision about a purchase.
A great example of this is from Zendesk. Their use of video, images and short and snappy descriptions to outline the benefits of each product make it easy to digest and lays out the different services in a pleasing way. Just look at consumer electronic brands to see how they do it too.
The customer wants to be able to visualise how the product will fit into their business life, both physically and metaphorically. Your business needs to showcase your product in a way that will fulfil the needs of your customer because they know that once they buy one product, they are more likely to buy more, increasing revenue.
3. Stick to Design Principles
In the early days of the web, B2B companies may have put their poor website design down to the fact that they needed to appear more professional and convey complex information.
While that may have been true, things have changed dramatically. At the weekend, people may be using Strava to track a run, buy trainers on Amazon and watch a film on Netflix. Using these platforms is second nature.
So what are the principles we can take from the B2C world and apply to B2B websites?
Some quick wins are to be had around having a clear information hierarchy, determined by those customer needs exposed in your initial “listening and learning”, expressed through consistent font sizes and colours. Here it's worth noting that design focused on growth will always require consistency across all your brand touchpoints so a digitally led brand book will be essential.
A call to action is a way to get straight to the point. But you will need to test the language of those CTA’s and understand how to drive more interaction through colour or size.
Perhaps not a ‘buy now’ button that you would see on Amazon, but a ‘request a demo’, ‘download a white paper’ or ‘sign up’. We know that the B2B sales cycle is longer, so giving these cues will help move people down the sales funnel.
Zoom is a good example of how they found the sweet spot between the business and the customer need. Customers need quick, simple video conferencing that can be set up in minutes. The business needs customers to use Zoom as their default tool, meaning their friends and colleagues will more likely adopt it when they receive an invitation to a conference.
4. Build a conversation
Building a conversational narrative is probably one of the most obvious requirements for a B2B website. If you can engage your audience, get them to consume content and ask questions, then you are well on the way to securing a sale. But this is just the same as B2C businesses, just executed in a different way.
For example, Patagonia is one of the most vocal brands on environmental and sustainability issues. In fact at time of writing (15th September 2020), the first thing you see on the website is a trailer for a film titled Public Trust - Fight for America’s Public Lands. You have to scroll down to actually buy something.
There’s a clear reason for this. It exposes first and foremost the company’s PURPOSE, and is both a key differentiator and a call to arms. From a B2B point of view, the lesson here is how to own the narrative and tell a story.
Boeing tell their story through news articles on their website. These aren’t meant as direct sales tools, instead show how their products are used across the world, showing how their technology is integral to global events. When prospective clients consume these articles, they begin to buy into the business and what it stands for.
Now more than ever, people buy into purpose led businesses. So the sweet spot here is between customers actively looking to buy from companies who fit in with their views and companies actively showcasing the positive impact they are having.
5. Define a robust Measurement Framework
Digital products are not static. They evolve. To help you understand the best and most efficient way to evolve your platform you will need to set a clear data and measurement framework from the get go. You’ll also need to then develop a test and learn culture which helps you challenge and revise. Do both and you will be able to map a clear upward trajectory.
The very best DTC offerings are watching for the tiniest tweaks in areas for improvement, knowing that the accumulation of those small changes can have a big impact on the business’s bottom line. Data is the only way to expose those trends and to understand what’s going to be the key to unlocking improvement, more efficiency and growth. It can also help you to understand where opportunities lie and where new revenue streams will be found.
Data will need to be at the heart of your transformation and can be the magic key to understanding your customers, to delighting them and having them help you grow.
Right now B2B businesses are rapidly transforming through digital. At the heart of that transformation will be a platform and tools that drive efficiencies through intelligence and automation. The best ROI will be delivered through enhanced customer experience. Learning how the best B2C practices have driven ROI can shortcut much of the pain and ensure that your platform occupies the sweetspot between customer value and business growth.