Michael Vax, founder of consulting firm CommerceIsDigital, writes that B2B ecommerce user interfaces often leave today’s buyers facing pain points that stifle purchasing activity instead of adopting a compelling customer experience process.


Michael Vax

B2B ecommerce user interfaces are often known as pain points rather than examples of great customer experiences (CX). Unlike their consumer-focused counterparts, many platforms feature legacy interfaces that are cumbersome, outdated and downright painful to navigate.

Effective CX process begins with a nuanced understanding of B2B buyer personas

It used to work well before as these interfaces were only used internally by employees trained to use them for their jobs. For example, I worked for a large company with a terrible and time-consuming expense report system. However, as an employee, I had no choice but to learn and use it as this was the only way to get reimbursed after a business trip.

Things change when a B2B company implements ecommerce, as it opens some of these internal operations to its customers, who have a choice and may decide to take their business elsewhere when faced with complex workflows, unintuitive designs and disjointed user experiences.

The usability challenge is compounded by a crucial demographic shift as a significant portion of B2B buyers are now millennials, a generation of digital natives accustomed to seamless digital experiences in their personal lives. For them, interacting with archaic, mainframe-style interfaces optimized for machines rather than humans is not just inconvenient — it’s disheartening.


In a business landscape where customer loyalty is increasingly tenuous, businesses cannot overlook the emotional dimension of customer experience.

What is customer experience?

First, a quick definition of customer experience (CX).

Customer experience, or CX, is a customer’s overall perception of your business after interacting with your business across the buyer’s journey. It is not limited to what a customer thinks about your product, your website design, or how they interact with your sales and support teams — it’s all of it. It’s how they feel about their entire experience with your brand, offline and online.

Each B2B customer persona has a set of purchasing needs

Effective CX process begins with a nuanced understanding of B2B ecommerce buyer personas. From procurement specialists to managers with budget responsibilities, each persona brings unique preferences, pain points, and purchasing dynamics.


Do you provide a good customer onboarding experience, or is the door to your online B2B store half-closed?

The answer to this question determines not only the level of adoption of your digital channel but also its business performance.

As consumers, we are used to and expect openness when shopping online. We can enter any online store and expect to see product information and prices and be able to go through checkout.


That is not always the case for B2B buyers. Too many B2B shops hide behind a Great Chinese Wall as if the main goal is keeping customers out instead of luring them in.

Improving the B2B ecommerce CX

Users are required to log in before even being able to see products, or they can see products but not prices, or they can see both products and prices but cannot buy.

Yes, there are (or at least were) good reasons for asking customers to sign a contract and pass a credit check before starting to do business with them.

But do these reasons sound outdated now with the adoption of online commerce?


Do we now have better tools to welcome our new prospects and customers and fully open the door to a B2B online shop that the company has spent so much money and time developing? And can we do it without increasing business risk?

B2B ecommerce merchants can and should greatly improve customer experience (CX) by welcoming new customers with the information they need to get to know the brand and its products and be able to buy during the first visit.

Working with first-time buyers

To achieve this, merchants may need to put some limitations in place for first-time buyers.

For example:

  • Limit the assortment of products available to new customers and do not allow them to buy customized or expensive products.
  • They can limit available payment methods and don’t allow buying on credit.

The second option is to require your customers to self-register before buying, and implement some checks to minimize fraud: require a business email address, automatically check the business registration number, and implement API integration with credit bureaus.

After a successful first order, a B2B merchant can perform additional checks on the new customer to enable the full functionality.

Traditionally, most B2B businesses don’t display prices online, while some only show prices to logged-in customers. Companies rationalize the reasons as follows:

  • We don’t want our competitors to know.
  • Prices vary by customer.
  • Prices fluctuate constantly.
  • Personalized products/services have special prices, etc.

These are legitimate reasons in almost all cases. However, not displaying prices goes against customers’ needs and thus creates a negative shopping experience.


Revealing the price on your ecommerce website is a way to gain visitors’ trust. They consider companies that present this essential information to be authentic and direct.

Building trust with buyers

Transactions are more likely to occur when people feel informed about your offers and trust your organization. Displaying prices can be an excellent practice to increase conversion rates.

There are multiple ways to find a middle ground.

  • Even if you can’t show the exact prices, display price examples, a range or a “starting from.” Many B2B products and services are complex. The price structure varies for each customer depending on countless situations. Still, this is no excuse not to post price information. Estimates can often appease prospects during the search phase.
  • Display default prices and encourage customers to register to receive discounts.
  • Only show prices for basic, commonly available products and ask customers to register or contact sales for complex and unique products.

About the Author

Michael Vax is a founder of CommerceIsDigital, which provides consulting services and training programs for companies deploying B2B and BTC ecommerce strategies. He is a former executive at ecommerce technology companies Spryker Systems, SAP Commerce Cloud, Elastic Path and WebInterpret.


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