B2B Manufacturers Can Sell More, Here’s How. How Important Is E-Commerce For B2B Manufacturers? When it comes to B2B sales, e-commerce has claimed the spotlight over the past year and a half. With the cancellation and postponement of industry fairs, manufacturers have turned to their websites to conduct business and attract new leads.
This means that there is more online competition than ever. Plus, the B2B conversion funnel adds to the challenge of the entire process. Also, the way B2B sales happen also seems to be changing.
B2B relates to complex sale cycles and high value orders. So, it leads to poor user experience. Most people are used to what B2C has to offer. So, B2B has a lot of catching up to do in this respect. B2C also has a much more community oriented approach, which is reflected in their interfaces and social media channels.
E-commerce’s role is more important than ever when it comes to B2B sales. Companies looking to become market MVPs in their respective niches need to adopt a more user centered approach.
What Is The State of B2B E-Commerce Websites?
According to a report by Creative Navy UX Agency, the industrial sector is a land of opportunity when it comes to online presence. Their research covers the state of over 600 websites of 15 manufacturing niches. It showed that 2021 is a major turning point for B2B e-commerce.
The modern user expects high quality visuals, witty copy, and navigation that meets high standards. Very few B2B websites manage to deliver. Statistically speaking, 46% of websites have below average usability.
New entrants to the market have the chance to stand out and attract leads by investing in superior e-commerce solutions. The graph below shows the prevalence of the poor standard across all 15 niches. Most sellers stay just below average when it comes to online presence. That means that even small improvements added over time can help attract customers.
This is how B2B e-commerce websites rank in 2021:
- 40% scored below 6 for navigation. This means that users are struggling to find what they need on of their pages. This is due to poor website structure, improper labeling of key navigation areas, lack of search bars, poor interlinking, or misleading elements. Also, Most B2B manufacturers still have old interface designs in place;
- 73% struggle with developing a user-friendly sales experience. This is due to cluttered product catalogs, badly showcased products, and poorly designed customer journeys;
- 53% have trouble developing their brand. The major problems with many B2B manufacturers are their use of outdated marketing and poorly designed sites. That make it hard for users to trust them. Certain websites also lack a personal style, which makes them difficult to tell apart from those of competitors;
- Only 33% have average performance. When it comes to loading speed, most B2B e-commerce websites rank below the threshold recommended by Google. In terms of mobile loading speed, it’s even worse. Only 7% of sellers have fast mobile loading times, and very few of them offer app alternatives;
- 27% lack a content strategy and have failed to add features that would improve the user journey. It’s worth noting that B2B websites tend to have rich content libraries. Also, most products come with files that provide additional details.
B2B Website Improvement Plan
Improving the company website might seem hard. However, the current report has broken down the process into 7 easy steps. Once taken, each step brings you closer to a stronger online presence. Here’s what you can do:
1. Create Awareness Within Your Organization
Determine who the website’s audience is and what they want. Choose the right time frame in which you collect useful data.
Then, use it to make a report that you can forward to all the relevant stakeholders in your organization.
2. Document User Needs
For this, you must define a couple of user personas. A persona is a fictional character created to represent a user type that might use your website. Establish their needs and pain points. Know that this is an iterative process, and you should keep doing this process as time goes on. Involve your team in the process as well – they might have some insight to share.
HotJar is a web tool which offers information about how effective is a website’s user journey. This tool helps people understand where users linger on a page and how they interact with its elements. It helps you visualize and record user behavior. You can use HotJar for periodic session recordings, which should be analyzed thoroughly.
Make sure to store all information in a database. This will make it easier to understand when it’s time to implement certain changes.
3. Conduct A Design Audit
A design audit helps you pinpoint features that your website might need or problems that reduce the level of usability. Even if you only improve one thing at a time, the website’s performance is bound to gradually improve.
Also, the audit can check whether the company brand remains consistent throughout the website and on social media channels. People need to be able to recognize the company at a glance. Besides, this improves user experience. Design elements and the tone of voice must always be in tune.
Companies that scored below 7 in the current report will not gain any notable results from a design audit. Their websites would need a total makeover.
4. Conduct Competitor UX Benchmarking
This means taking a long, hard look at your competition. It’s a great way to understand the competitive landscape. Thus, it helps you see what works and what doesn’t. You should compile a list of features or bits of content to help you later on in the design process. Check out your competitors even if they’re not doing as well as you are. This helps you learn how you can continue to surpass them.
The current report already provides some telling examples. However, by doing the competitor benchmarking yourself you can clarify what type of content you need to make and what creative direction the website should follow. This turns the abstract challenge of creating a website into a concrete to-do list.
All the data should be compiled into a database which can be used to inform future UX and UI design decisions. Keep up with the times and competition – make sure your website is contemporary in feel, otherwise people will be reluctant to buy from you.
5. Elaborate Company Branding
Most B2B branding practices are the relics of an era in which the concept of branding was extremely ambiguous. A lack of competition allowed businesses to neglect branding. However, now the competition is fierce for B2B manufacturers.
In order to elaborate the company brand, you should analyze your company’s online presence. Then, try to identify any inconsistencies in tone and style. Try to define what you want the brand to convey for the current decade.
It is important to note that the brand should not dominate website functionality and accessibility. In order to achieve specific and measurable goals, like conversion, the website needs to work well above all else. So, sacrificing function in order to adhere to brand style and color is a wrong move. Good brand expression is difficult to achieve, but the aim should be subtlety and the use of alternative channels in conjunction with the website.
6. Create A Content Library
Dedicating more time and effort to the quality of the content on the company website and the manner in which it is showcased plays a big part in humanizing the business.
In order to understand what you need, make a list of the content you have and content types you’re missing. This initial step helps determine what should be included in the content library later on.
Think of who can help create the content types the company needs. Speak to clients about collaborating on case studies that will be published on the website. Client testimonials help build trust in your brand. Encourage productive conversations and feedback.
7. Create A Design Brief
In order to be able to hire a design agency, create a design brief which the designer can use to reference all of the previously mentioned aspects and findings.
A design brief typically contains the following elements:
- A clear presentation of the company
- A description of the problem at hand
- Time frame specifications
- Budget constraints
- Any limitations the design team should consider
- What the company wishes to accomplish
- Any relevant research items and materials the company has already collected, if any
Author bio for this guest post:
As the CEO of Creative Navy, a London-based agency that takes an evidence-based approach to UX design and user-interface design, Dennis combines pragmatic vision with a thorough understanding of research practice.
He has coordinated more than 500 design projects across the globe. His team has provided design-innovative solutions to worldwide companies such as Jaguar, Ford, and Philips, using a structured process in which decisions are grounded in rational methodology and meticulous data review rather than intuition, blind convention, or whim.