In an excerpt from the book “Digital Branch™ Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors,” Justin King lays out the steps B2B companies need to take to bring value to their customers through an e-commerce site.

Justin King, president, B2X Partners

Justin King

When building a Digital Branch, it’s crucial to look at online user experience and design early and often. This means planning and designing a consistent look and feel throughout all touch points both in visual design (branding, color, fonts) and user experience (user flows, ease of use, interaction patterns, etc.). It also includes building in a process and system for researching, testing, and learning how users engage with your site.

What Is Customer-Centric Design?

Is your website designed with your business or your customers in mind? Have you considered every touch point with customers throughout their online and offline experience—from search and product research through checkout process to actual product delivery? Customer-centric design means

 

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  1. understanding your customers’ motivations and needs; and
  2. creating and adapting your Digital Branch design to meet those needs.

 

Customer-Centric Design and B2B eCommerce

Customer-centric design approaches can be seen across nearly all industries, from B2C retail eCommerce sites to government agencies. In the B2B eCommerce landscape, customer centricity can be a differentiator for customers who need a seamless and simple online experience. Because B2B customers are visiting your eCommerce site out of necessity rather than leisure, they have specific and often complex needs.

Your goal is to understand the motivations, challenges, and behaviors of these customers and to design an online experience to meet their unique needs. By understanding this, you can design your site to be intuitive, clear, and rewarding, helping you increase conversions and build long-lasting customer and business relationships.

Customer Centric Design: Where Customer and Business Goals Converge

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So, what makes B2B eCommerce customers unique, and how do you design to meet their needs? While the specific requirements will vary by industry and company, generally B2B customer-centric design means focusing on helping your customers get their jobs done as quickly and easily as possible. At the highest level, your customers have very basic goals when they reach your website:

  • I need to purchase a specific product.
  • I need to research products (for later purchase).
  • I need to manage my account.

What these three high-level goals mean and how they should influence design decisions varies depending on the specific company goals.
How to Get Started

Start with your customers and work backward.

Jeff Bezos
User research is the foundation of a customer-first approach. Without a clear understanding of the challenges your customers face in their daily work life, your eCommerce site may fail to solve their real problems. There are many ways to learn more about your customers and how they interact with your site—and, often more importantly, why they behave the way they do.

Surveys. Surveys can be done by canvassing your current customers, surveying like-minded buyers, and conducting on-site surveys (usually one to three questions) that capture immediate feedback. Many tools are available for on-site surveys, including Hotjar.

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A/B and multivariate testing. Multivariate testing is a way to see how your audience responds to different prompts. On websites, it is used to test what colors, copy, images, and placement attract more engagement. It can also be used for content marketing on email and social media to see what language and messages resonate most with your audience.

Analytics. By understanding and assessing your analytics data, you can use this quantitative data to drive design decisions. We go deeper into your analytics in a later chapter.

Customer interviews and focus groups. Soliciting feedback from individual customers or a group of customers can help you gather valuable information on what they actually need and expect from your Digital Branch. It may be different than what you assume.

Your Action Plan:

1—Research what your customers need from an online experience with your company.

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2—Focus your design efforts on serving your customers. Whether doing the work with an internal team or an external party, make sure to communicate your strategic plan as well as brand and visual guidelines (like your logo, a style guide, and past marketing materials) so that designers can execute against your goals.

3—Plan on testing before and after launch to continue to learn how well your site serves your customers.

 

Justin King is the lead author of “Digital Branch™ Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors,” from which this article was excerpted. King is also president of the consulting firm B2X Partners. Follow him on Twitter @justin_king.

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