UX & UI Best Practices To Increase Sales with Your B2B Website Design

UX & UI Best Practices To Increase Sales with Your B2B Website Design

For different B2B businesses, a website is an effective digital marketing tool for building close relationships with their customers and increasing brand awareness. 

B2B website design with appropriate UX and UI can increase lead generation and support prospective customers at every stage of the purchase process. 

There are key characteristics of B2B websites and B2B customers as well as effective UX and UI design practices that can help you convert new users into leads.

Key Differences Between B2B and B2C Sales

Nowadays, it’s extremely important to provide customers with more helpful and relevant shopping experiences. Brands have to get creative and find new, more meaningful ways to connect with consumers. To follow the latest 4 COVID-era trends and to further improve products and consumer experience, it makes sense to dive into the broad theme of what distinctive needs characterize B2B customers compared to B2C customers. Understanding these unique characteristics and the needs of your target audience is the key to the successful creation and implementation of the most relevant UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) web design decisions. Let’s start!

Comparison table presenting main differences between B2B and B2C websites. The B2B model has a longer selling cycle, offers big–ticket items or long–term contracts instead of small purchases, has more of a informative content instead of entertaining one, there are multiple people involved in the decision–making process instead of just one, and the decision time takes much more time (around several weeks).

Time for a Decision 

First of all, unlike most B2C customers, B2B clients often research the potential purchase for several weeks. The reason is that B2B customers often involve multiple people in this process, from both the vendor’s company and their own. 

Services and Products Specifications 

B2B purchases are often big–ticket items or service contracts. The sites’ products and services are often extremely specialized, with complex specifications. Finally, decisions made on B2B websites can have long-term implications — after all, customers aren’t just making a one-time purchase. They’re often buying into a long-term vendor relationship that includes support, follow–ups, and future enhancements and add-ons. 

Content Requirements 

Research and multicriteria decision-making dominate the B2B user experience. B2B websites must provide a much wider range of information than what’s common in the B2C sector. A B2B website has to offer simple facts that can be easily and quickly understood by an early prospect who’s just looking around to see what’s available.

Target Audience 

Another major difference is that B2C users typically buy for themselves. Therefore, they use a one–person decision process: a single user provides the budget and approval, researches the options, makes the decision, completes the purchase, receives the shipment, and uses the product. In contrast, in B2B, each of these steps might involve different people and different departments. That’s why among B2B salespeople there are widely used terms like “choosers” and “users”. 

A B2B website must address many different types of users with various needs. That’s why this added complexity only strengthens the argument for B2B websites to emphasize usability in their UX design. 

The Purchasing Phases of B2B Customers

It doesn’t matter whether you close the sale online or offline, supporting your target users’ purchase process is essential to converting prospects into paying customers. The key component in effective B2B marketing and sales is establishing credibility among prospective clients. 

The nature of B2B products and services often demands long sales cycles that can take months or even years. Additionally, depending on the purchase phase, customers will have different needs. Therefore, B2B websites must consider all these variables, in order to:

  • support the purchase process at each stage,
  • establish and maintain good relationships with customers,
  • increase TCR (task completion rate) on your website.
There are seven purchasing phases in B2B Sales: 1. Researching company problem, 2. Collecting options and assessment, 3. Discussion and Decision, 4. Purchase, 5. Post–Purchase Support, 6. Upgrade and maintenance, 7. Replacement.

Research Company Problem

Usually, B2B customers start with a company problem that needs solving, not with a product they’ll have to justify purchasing. Especially when this is a new challenge to their business, this initial research phase is all about seeking out common solutions and identifying the top vendors. Some buyers skip this step for industries or problems that they are already familiar with.

What a good B2B website design needs at this stage:

  • Content that shows expertise, examples of solutions, and already solved challenges. This can take the form of: blog posts and articles, case studies, landing pages that describe managed solutions for specific industries, and product pages about specific customer problems that can be solved with the vendor’s help.

Collect Options and Assess

At this stage, users want to find lists of top vendors, learn more about the shortlisted companies, get a feel for them, call if necessary to fill in missing details, and refine research by getting answers to specific questions. Colleagues will often share options and collaborate to help put together a rubric or requirements for assessing the shortlisted companies.

What a good B2B website design needs at this stage:

  • Detailed specs,
  • Pricing information,
  • Clear product photos,
  • Case studies,
  • Testimonials,
  • Downloadable product assets.

Discuss and Decide

This stage features a heavy collaboration with colleagues from multiple departments to narrow the list of companies and make a final decision. Many B2B customers create presentation materials for the leadership to explain their decision in order to be granted authorization. 

What a good B2B website design needs at this stage:

  • Presentation materials,
  • Pricing information,
  • Lead times,
  • Corporate and team member information,
  • Comparison tools.

Purchase

Customers engage with sales representatives to negotiate a price or make an online purchase.

What a good B2B website design needs at this stage:

  • Contact information,
  • Locations of offices,
  • Warranty for support information,
  • Pricing information.

Post-Purchase Support 

In the initial aftermath of the purchase, your customers will have higher support needs from your B2B website, ranging from technical support to questions about migrating from a competitor’s product to requesting adjustments.

What a good B2B website design needs at this stage:

  • Technical support,
  • Contact information for service and account representatives,
  • Turnaround time for service,
  • Implementation and migration guides,
  • Technical documentation,
  • Content on how to get the most value from the product.

Upgrade and Maintain 

At this stage, your customers will be looking to extend the life of their purchase as much as possible. For large mechanical equipment, this often means buying parts, accessories, or consumables; sometimes users will want to upgrade service contracts to accommodate company growth. For software, this can mean purchasing upgrades, modules, and other stopgap solutions to make an older product retain usefulness until the next major purchasing cycle.

What a good B2B website design needs at this stage:

  • Technical information for already owned products,
  • Newer products that can replace older models,
  • Add–ons, modules, and upgrades that can be added to the current product for more benefits,
  • Parts and consumables.

Replace

The process starts again when a service contract ends or equipment reaches the end of its life. 

What a good B2B website design needs at this stage:

  • Newer products that can replace older models,
  • Changes in the industry that require new equipment or services,
  • Detailed specs,
  • Clear product photos,
  • Case studies,
  • Testimonials,
  • Downloadable product assets.

Understanding the purchasing phases for B2B customers is extremely important when you plan to implement user-centered design processes (UCD) while working on a website project. At the same time, if you already have a website, you can instantly identify the stages where your users’ needs are poorly covered.

Best Practices for B2B Websites

Demonstrate How You Solve Your Prospect’s Problems

B2B customers are ruthlessly focused on just one thing: how you can solve their problems. Your prospects come to you because their business faces a challenge they cannot deal with on their own, due to the lack of time, resources, or skills. Whether your prospects just need to replace the toner in the office copier, or they look for a partner to help them develop and implement a business strategy, they want to solve a problem. That’s why you should remember to always emphasize these topics on your B2B website and prove you know these challenges inside–out with solutions included.

It’s also a great practice to consider the context of the buyer’s problem and describe your products or services in a way that precedes any questions a client might have. Don’t just say “our cartridges contain 0.8ml of ink”, but rather “with our product, you can print up to 600 pages”. Another great example is Apple’s genius approach to marketing and their famous “1,000 songs in your pocket slogan” — they could have said “5GB of storage”, but instead they’ve turned the information around to make it more relevant to an average customer while addressing the issue of limited space on a device.

Another angle is to consider how people form their queries on Google. Most of the time, they’re not looking for specific models of printers — they will search for solutions to their problems (“why does my printer have lines”) or search for models with specific, non–technical characteristics (“which printer has the cheapest inks”) which also suggests an issue (in this case, limited budget). That’s why it’s important to target all these questions in advance and always be one step ahead of the customer.

Customers need to know immediately whether your organization has the capability to solve their problems. Provide signals on your site to let people know you cater to them. 

It is worth emphasizing your unique value proposition too. Determine which elements of your business approach are key differentiators, then advertise them on the homepage and other relevant site areas. In this case, the price can be a key factor, but you should also include:

  • Quick turnaround time for delivery of products,
  • Quick turnaround time for services or consulting to begin,
  • Customization, specialized products, and services,
  • Unique feature set,
  • Perceived quality,
  • Compatibility with existing products or services,
  • Location of the company,
  • Shipping rates and delivery time.

Don’t forget to mention how you solved customer problems in the past. B2B prospects are seeking solutions to their challenges, and while a perfectly written copy might capture their attention, they will still demand proof.

Case studies, testimonials, reviews, and other ways of demonstrating success in past ventures are critical to turning skeptical website visitors into paying customers. For instance, you can offer reviews conducted by external, reputable sources or provide short and true-to-life case studies

To summarize, demonstrating how you solve your prospect’s problems is a smart approach that can convince users to take specific actions and help you generate new leads on your B2B website.

Keeping Your Customers Engaged

Most B2B websites don’t sell to prospects immediately upon their first visit. With a long sales cycle, B2B websites have to be able to provide valuable information to prospects on a recurring basis in order to close the sale. In fact, the sites that provide the most helpful information to prospects are ones that they return to over and over again as they near the purchasing phase of the sales cycle.

Providing business value for customers and showcasing valuable content for them is one of digital marketing’s main tasks. There’s lots of talk these days about content strategy (which should be supported by content marketing) and its value for B2B websites. 

Content is generated on a recurring basis to both build SEO (Search Engine Optimization) value and to draw returning visitors to your website. Content strategy is only valuable if it helps your prospects understand the business challenges that you solve, and why your expertise helps them. 

Focus your efforts on describing common challenges your prospects face and how your company solves these issues. Remember when writing the content that many of your best prospects may have no idea who you are, but if you have a blog post that offers a simple breakdown of their problem, they’re more likely to revisit your website and put you on their shortlist. Providing useful resources differentiates you from your competitors by establishing your organization as having expertise and credibility — qualities every organization seeks. 

Considering all of the above, you can use such types of resources as:

  • customer guides,
  • blog page with thorough articles,
  • resource base,
  • whitepapers.

So to increase organic search traffic and lead generation on your B2B website, you should optimize the content on the entire site not only for search engines but also for your specific target audience. 

Create Good First Impression 

A first impression can make or break potential transactions. People judge the company’s competence by the way the website looks. An organized and coherent website instills trust and proves competence. UI designers should keep in mind the “less is more” concept — cluttered design and bad information architecture will only lead to confusion. That’s why in the design process, this concept helps to prioritize user interface (UI) elements and, accordingly, reduce the number of unnecessary elements on each page layout.

Also, people have different expectations for what websites should look like depending on the industry. For example, people expect a website in creative industries to reflect a company’s philosophy. Technology companies aren’t held up to the same aesthetic standards as design agencies. More emphasis is placed on clean designs that express professionalism and expertise.

On the other hand, your UI design impacts the audience’s perception of your organization. In a split second, users interact with an interface and decide whether the website is worth their effort. When there’s a mismatch between a site’s user interface design and the company’s business image, people assume that the organization doesn’t have what they want and go elsewhere. UI design also serves another important purpose: people can instantly identify whether they’re on the right web page.

UI Design 

Every UI or web designer should remember that a B2B website design isn’t about a lifestyle brand, it needs to convey professional expertise and competence. Carefully consider whether trendy design patterns and visual styles support a message of stability and reliability — especially since many design trends come and go. Pay attention to core design principles and visual guidelines that help users understand your website: visual hierarchy, negative space and balance, and element affordance.

No matter where your organization falls on the creativity spectrum, it’s important to have a simple interaction design. Simple interaction models match people’s mental models by behaving in expected ways. Business customers need websites to streamline their processes, answering their questions quickly and easily. Although creative designs can be delightful, simplicity must come first. 

Subtle Cues 

Make your UI design more user-friendly and provide subtle cues. Even when users think a website has what they want, scrolling takes effort, and they typically do it only if they see the proper visual cues. How you place critical elements on the web page can dictate whether people scroll or not. Placing indicators such as headers or content that peeks out into the display’s viewable area suggests that there’s more content below. 

Loading Time

Make sure that your site loads quickly. If it takes more than six seconds to load, the users abandon the site. To avoid that, remove unnecessary elements and media that negatively impact page speed. Buggy or unstable elements that take too long to load reduce the user experience and prospect’s impression of your organization. Optimize file sizes and minimize loading time, especially when designing for business audiences. 

Tone of Voice 

Use a reasoned, neutral voice on your website. Avoid excessive marketing-speak and meaningless sales phrases. Business customers prefer a straightforward tone that describes the company’s business without hyperbole. Easy access to information and even-handed comparison of products or services make participants feel like the company has nothing to hide.

Content

Write and present content in a way that optimizes scanning, for example by using such elements as headings, subheadings, large type, bold text, highlighted text, bulleted lists, graphics, and captions. Write text that is short and to the point. Don’t overload people with too much text; that can feel overwhelming and intimidating. Instead, use concise and simple language, as well as break up large blocks of information into short paragraphs. 

About Us Section 

Offer the About Us section regardless of your company’s size. Sometimes small and medium-sized businesses neglect to have an About Us section on their website, thinking it’s not important. 

Surprise — it is. According to B2B Web Usability Report from 2015, 52% of respondents indicated that they want to see the About Us section on the vendor website home page. Only two other pages — Contact and Products & Services — got higher results (64% and 86%, respectively).

The About Us page is particularly important to companies whose brand is not widely recognized. On the other hand, household names can afford to neglect this section. 

Navigation

Users prefer consistent navigational structures, especially in business situations where time is scarce. Consistent navigation helps users visualize their current location in site structure and identify alternative options, making it easier to find information and keep track of where they are. Make sure that links in header and footer navigation are named and grouped correctly both on desktop and mobile devices. 

Key Takeaways

  • Prove your professionalism and expertise to your potential customers at every step. The key is to understand your prospects’ problems and provide appropriate solutions that are better than your competitors. 
  • Engage your customers at each stage of the purchasing process. Provide meaningful content and valuable resources that keep the user’s attention.
  • Create a good first impression using appropriate UI design, tone of voice, and convenient navigation that streamlines purchasing processes.  

Conclusion

Whether you use all of these practices or just a few, remember to keep in mind that you create a B2B website design for your target audience. If you don’t know the specific problems and needs of your target audience, you should run user research first, or else you’ll totally misjudge your prospects and give the wrong impression.

If you’d like to learn more about shaping your content towards a specific audience and how to generate leads, read this article on Customer Acquisition Strategy. Without that knowledge, even all those tips on UX/UI design won’t save you from lack of engagement.

So keep all that in mind and design away!

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