Optimizing the customer experience for B2B is more essential than ever, and yet it remains a significant challenge for many organizations. Three key areas for UX optimization - accessibility, performance, and conversion - can help.
Optimizing the customer experience for B2B is more essential than ever, and yet it remains a significant challenge for many B2B organizations.
By focusing on three key areas for optimization that organizations often overlook - accessibility, performance, and conversion - digital businesses can succeed even in an increasingly competitive market.
Let’s break down each key area.
Accessibility for digital businesses boils down to one main concept: making a website usable by as many people as possible.
Why It Matters
This is important for a number of reasons. Accessibility ensures that your business is inclusive to your customer base. Maintaining accessibility compliance also avoids the risks of litigation. Thousands of unsuspecting B2B websites are sued every month and accessibility cases have been exponentially on the rise since 2018.
Yet accessibility is particularly important for B2B organizations because if your website isn’t accessible, it can cost you contracts and revenue. For example, the U.S. government is not permitted to extend contracts to businesses that aren’t 508 compliant, which is one measure of accessibility.
Many Fortune 100 companies have followed suit with the government, adopting the same accessibility requirements as the government for vendor lists, procurement, and contracts. So, to keep your business on your vendors’ shortlists, you need to make sure your site is accessible.
Put simply: it’s good for people and for business.
Fortunately, making a site accessible isn’t as difficult as it seems. There is a de facto standard in the U.S. for accessibility called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines -- WCAG for short. It’s basically a checklist.
There are 3 levels of compliance but level 2.1 is the widely accepted level of compliance for most U.S.-based businesses. This is because the U.S. Department of Justice cases have set precedence in the court in asking organizations to achieve the 2.1 standard.
At Object Edge we help customers achieve the 2.1 level of compliance through good visual design, content design, and coding practices.
Businesses can see if they’re compliant through a few different options:
They can simply review the WCAG checklist and see what items they’re actively doing and areas where there is still work to do.
They can use Google’s Developer Tools to generate a Lighthouse report for their URL.
If those options still sound too intimidating, businesses can call on us at Object Edge. We offer website accessibility auditing. The output of our audit is a report showing businesses - in plain English - areas where their website is compliant and areas where the website falls short of each WCAG standard up to 2.1. We also offer remediation services to help address any issues in case clients don’t have the resources, or time, to fix everything on the list themselves.
Yet accessibility is just one piece of creating impactful UX for B2B. It’s more important than ever to make sure your B2B website is optimized for performance. One crucial performance metric that will soon greatly impact your findability on the web is Google’s Core Web Vitals.
Google’s New Core Web Vitals
Back in May of 2020, when COVID-19 was just beginning to affect the U.S., Google published a message on its developer blog introducing something called Core Web Vitals — a set of metrics that will result in major changes in the way Google ranks websites.
Then, in November of 2020, Google let the world know Core Web Vitals signals would take effect in May of 2021. Their post was a 6-month advance notice to all site owners to prepare their domains. Google estimated at the time of the notice that less than 15% of all websites had good Core Web Vitals.
So, smart organizations have been working over the last 6 to 12 months to implement required changes to improve their site UX and performance to overtake competitors who may currently outrank them.
Per Google, those sites that are ready now will receive a visual badge indicating that they offer a great user experience. It will be exciting to see what the Google badge process looks like.
3 New Signals
As part of the Core Web Vitals overhaul, there are 3 new signals:
Google knows the white screens that appear in our browser while we wait for a site to load are annoying. Consequently, the first signal for page experience is “Loading” (referring to the Largest Contentful Paint). This is the time it takes for a page’s main content to load in the browser. Google says an ideal LCP is under 2.5 seconds for desktop and mobile.
The second signal is “Interactivity” (referring to the First Input Delay). When a user tires to interact with a form or scroll down a page but can’t because the page is still assembling itself -- this is the time it takes for a page to become interactive. Google says an ideal FID is less than 100 milliseconds.
“Visual Stability” is the third signal (referred to as Cumulative Layout Shift). This is the amount of unexpected layout shift of visual content. Users experience this when features of a site or even the text they’re reading shift unexpectedly causing them to lose their place. Google says an ideal CLS is less than 0.1.
Are Your Core Web Vitals Ready?
If you’re a marketer, look at the Core Web Vitals reports in the Google Search Console. If you’re a developer, use Google’s Lighthouse tools. There’s a brief video and instructions on how to run the Lighthouse report which gives you a numeric grade between 1 and 100. If you’re 90+ you’re ready to go. If you need help fixing things quickly, reach out to your development team, or to our team at Object Edge.
The third area of UX improvements for B2B is conversion rate optimization. Businesses make this much harder than it has to be.
4 Simple Steps for Success
Keep it simple by focusing on 4 steps:
Set up goal tracking properly in either Google or Adobe Analytics. Without this, you’ll struggle to even measure conversion. Always have a “thank you” or “confirmation page” to punctuate any journey-to-conversion to make it easier to track the completion of audience goals. Review the data regularly, and make adjustments to the experience design, content, etc., based on insights. Remember to update your tracking with every site release to maintain data accuracy.
Create a customer feedback loop. Without customer feedback it’s hard to know where you stand.
Lead the conversation by designing your website to tell your unique brand story. Draft journeys maps for each of your target audiences and make sure their path to conversion is smooth and frictionless. Remove any barriers that stand in their way. As you walk through their experience journeys, think about possible objections they might have or reasons why they might abandon the task or goal. Document all the possible objections you can think of so you and your team can start addressing every objection along the journey.
Focus on product discovery. Think big picture. When visitors come to your website they’re either going to search, browse, or they’ve landed on the “thing” they want to consume. Your site search is absolutely key to conversion. Most out-of-box eCommerce platforms and do-it-yourself site platforms use a basic site search. These search utilities offer basic text pattern matching algorithms that just don’t work well for commerce or product sites.
Why Basic Site Search isn’t Sufficient
To expand on number four above, basic site search isn’t sufficient for a very simple reason. Text pattern matching algorithms work well for one-word queries but if the query has 2 or more words, the results become less relevant.
Imagine you’re searching for “mop sink faucets” on a B2B supplier website. First, the search algorithm looks for anything with the word “mop,” then “sink,” and finally “faucets.” Ironically, what the person searching really wants is a faucet.
But a text pattern matching search first returns all the mops in the results, followed by sinks. Faucets might appear on the last few search results pages. Most searchers in this scenario would leave the website thinking the supplier doesn’t sell faucets at all, when in reality, it is a part of the supplier catalog.
The larger a company’s catalog or product offering is, the more likely a text pattern matching site search is going to be a conversion killer.
Many users express frustration with a site search. Over the years when I’ve observed usability tests, they might say as they talk out loud, “I’m trying to be very specific about my search. I’m entering ‘chrome faucet.’ Why is it showing me ‘chrome lighting’ and ‘chrome towel bars?’ Maybe I need to be more specific?”
When I hear the phrase, “Maybe I need to be more specific,” I think to myself, “No, don’t do that - the results will only get worse!” I watch them modify their search to “chrome kitchen faucet” and just as anticipated, the relevancy of results gets worse.
In defense of users, it’s not intuitive that the more descriptive your search is, the less relevant the results will be. Google has all of us spoiled because their search results are seemingly effortlessly relevant. But it’s very challenging to deliver Google-level relevancy.
Not All Text Pattern Match Search Products are Bad
With the above in mind, it’s still important to note that not all text pattern match search products are bad.
If you have a large search team, text pattern matching solutions SOLR and Elastic are excellent.
Yet the reality is that most B2B businesses don't have huge teams who can fine-tune search everyday. Many don’t even have a PIM and struggle to just address something as simple as product synonyms well.
How to Fix the Problem
Fortunately, there are ways to fix the problem. In fact, there are several quality search discovery platforms with different unique benefits and capabilities.
Object Edge helps with vendor assessments to find the right product discovery platform for a company’s brand, audiences, and technical stack.
By focusing on these three key areas - accessibility, performance, and conversion - digital businesses can optimize and outpace their competitors.
Yet many B2B businesses are already under increasing pressure to provide sales and marketing ROI and strong CX scores. Unfortunately, they have lean teams, tight budgets, and limited customer feedback mechanisms - like one-off surveys, stand alone NPS scores, etc.
Regardless of these obstacles, they still need to see how the money spent aligns with customer satisfaction and revenue. This is where Voice of the Customer (VOC) can help.
Customer Gauge is a powerful solution to this dilemma. In fact, Customer Gauge is the only solution that ties VOC data with sales revenue. This empowers marketers, sales, and support to direct their resources on the accounts and products that yield the highest returns.
So, the good news is that wherever businesses are on this journey, there are concrete steps they can take to optimize their UX and boost revenue and customer satisfaction.
Sarah is a nimble and creative marketing leader with 15 years of experience in a mix of agencies, B2B, and B2C enterprises. She brings a background in building and driving impactful marketing practices and processes for growing businesses. Sarah has expertise in brand, content marketing, lead generation, and marketing operations. She’s a co-author of the 2019 book on B2B eCommerce Digital Branch Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors.