Design Differences Between B2C and B2B Ecommerce Sites

To design a high-performing website, you need to understand who your target audience is and what’s the best way to reach it. Both Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) ecommerce websites have the same agenda — make a sale. But the means towards that goal are somewhat different.

  • For B2C companies brand awareness is the #1 priority. A recognizable brand (think about this when choosing your domain name) with a strong online presence = a higher share of the total addressable market.
  • For B2B companies the top priority is lead generation. With a niche market and longer purchase cycles, B2B brands need to keep a steady pipeline of warm leads.

Let’s take a look at what this means design-wise.

1. Customer intent.

Both Business-to-Business and Business-to-Consumer purchases are sparked by a need. But the underlying motivations behind those needs are different.

B2B customer intent is driven by business priorities and backed by a group of other people (stakeholders, teams, company’s customers, end-users). With many people to please, the product research timelines are longer, and the list of requirements for evaluating products is more detailed. That’s why B2B ecommerce websites dwell more on converting top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) and middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU) visitors to prospects and then turning them into customers using a mix of online (email marketing, eBooks, social media, online demos) and offline sales (phone consultations, in-person demos, etc) strategies.

B2C shoppers act on an immediate need. While most shop around too, comparing product specs and prices, their average time spent at every stage of the sales life cycle is shorter. Unlike B2B buyers who allocate more time to data-based product evaluation and consideration, B2C folks often act on impulse, and thus are more receptive to various cognitive triggers, activated by our bias:

2. Purchase process.

More people are involved in the B2B buying process, including both end-users and the purchasing agents/decision-makers. An ecommerce website is a facilitating tool that has to inform, support, and demonstrate how your products can meet all the organization’s needs through content, interactive on-site tools, and supporting marketing assets. Remember: your main goal is to generate leads, not root for an immediate sale.

In the B2C space, purchase decisions are often emotional and event-driven. The coffee machine broken? OK, I need a new one. Oh, that shoe looks nice. Where can I buy one too? Most B2C consumers are in a constant state of product exploration and in-the-background evaluation. When they discover a good offer, they are almost ready to snatch it. In that sense, B2C ecommerce websites need to facilitate discovery and feed into that sense of urgency.

3. User experience.

User experience is equally important for B2B and B2C shoppers. But it has to account for the above-mentioned differences in intent and purchase process. We identified five important differences in UX requirements for B2B and B2C websites:

  1. B2B design must accommodate longer content to support long decision-making and sales process.
  2. All B2B content has to speak to two target audiences — “choosers” (decision-makers) and end-users.
  3. B2B product information needs to be longer, more comprehensive, and include a clear overview of integrations, capabilities, and regulatory requirements.
  4. Both B2B and B2C customers are price-conscious. But B2B pricing scenarios are more complex. Provide B2B buyers with different pricing ranges variations, pay-per-usage scenarios, or calculators to facilitate decision-making.
  5. Just like B2C stores, B2B websites cater to several customer segments, varying in size, industry, and operational budgets. Thus, B2B websites need to design a more diverse, audience-based navigation to cater to all of the targets.

Wrapping Up

At the end of the day, good ecommerce website design is all about iteration. Start with the essential pages and design quick prototypes. Test them with your team to make alliterations. Launch a new look and collect first-hand insights from your customers.

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