While every customer approaches online ordering and shopping differently, the biggest differences we’ve observed have actually been between B2B and B2C customers.
While the B2C buyer experience is generally straightforward, eCommerce platform design and user experiences for B2B customers can quickly become complicated.
Single vs. Multiple Users
Most B2C buyers are purchasing for themselves. They go directly to an eCommerce site, browse for the products in which they’re interested, add them to their cart, and checkout using whatever payment method they prefer.
It’s generally a linear process, with one person handling the browsing, selecting, ordering, and purchasing steps in their entirety.
Yet B2B buyers don’t have the luxury of such simplistic shopping processes.
In fact, one of the most interesting things we learned from our clients is that for B2B customers, shopping and checkout may not necessarily be done by the same person.
Quite often, one employee (a technology subject matter expert, for example) would identify the products that their colleagues need. A different employee (i.e. procurement or accounting) would verify the items and pricing levels, and eventually process the payment method and submit the order.
Consequently, B2B shopping cart functionality needs to be far more intuitive and less disruptive than B2C. Anyone should be able to jump in at any point in the shopping process and be able to navigate easily.
While B2C interfaces can be designed with just a singular user in mind, in B2B eCommerce the user experience, online store, ordering process, and accompanying customer service protocols all need to be created for multiple users.
Multiple Carts vs. Wishlists
Another example of accounting for this scenario is via multiple shopping cart functionality. While B2C customers can typically store everything in one cart, having multiple shopping carts makes the process much smoother for a B2B shopper.
As the business employees shop the store for the products they need, they can add these items to different shopping carts so they can later be purchased either by them or their colleagues. B2B shoppers can also assign specific names to these carts as well as configure them under specific organization accounts or contracts. When a shopping cart is complete, it can then be activated and checked out. This streamlines project expense tracking and order management, among other routine tasks.
Additionally, B2B buyers need to be able to save their progress and processes. For example, if you’re a tech company that routinely performs equipment and software upgrades for other companies, you may have multiple people adding various products to a cart. Ultimately, you’ll create a large order of everything you need to implement the upgrades for your client.
But in the interim, each of your team members needs to be able to add and remove products and track their progress as they identify each piece of equipment or software needed. Nobody wants to waste time or repeat work by being unable to save their progress as they browse, identify, and add products.
Wishlist functionality may seem like a great alternative to multiple carts, but it’s not so simple.
One reason is that the technical implementation of this solution may not be as straightforward as it is to configure multiple shopping carts. Wishlist APIs often have some out-of-the-box limitations that may not always accommodate all B2B shopping patterns. Such limitations can cause workarounds which add unnecessary complexity to the overall functionality and make it harder to build on top of that in the future.
The other, much more compelling reason for eCommerce brands, is that adding items to cart implies more commitment to the purchase than simply adding products to shopping lists or favorites.
Supply Chain Streamlining
Beyond just its multi-user, multi-cart functionality, B2B shopping carts serve yet another purpose for their customer group.
Many B2B shoppers utilize their carts to manage their supply chain.
If the cart integrates directly into the company’s accounting systems, they can use it to assign purchases, manage negotiated pricing, and further oversee their resource planning. They’ll not only make purchases via corporate credit card, but create and pay invoices electronically, and track enterprise expenses.
Supply chain management integrations may still be relatively new B2B cart functions, but thanks to massive B2B retailers like Amazon Business, they’re quickly becoming standard features.
B2B shopping carts are entirely different beasts than their B2C counterparts, far more complex with a wide variety of functions. Properly configuring your cart to best serve your B2B clients will help you attract and retain corporate customers.
If you’re struggling to configure your online shopping experiences in ways that result in a user-friendly experience for B2B customers, reach out to the team at Object Edge.