B2B Web Sites Are Dropping the Ball
Most B2B Web sites provide a far worse user experience than their B2C cohorts, despite the money at stake in B2B opportunities. The result, according to new research by the Nielsen Norman Group, is that people using B2B sites accomplish what they set out to do only 58 percent of the time, as opposed to 66 percent of the time for consumer e-commerce sites.
"Most companies haven't realized yet that the Web has reversed the relationship between companies and customers," says Jakob Nielsen, cofounder and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group. "Most interactions are now demand-driven and you either give people what they want or watch them abandon your site for the competition."
Nielsen Norman Group's study, "B2B Website Usability: Design Guidelines for Converting Business Users into Leads and Customers," found three chief offenders behind the problems. Web site design was the first. Notable among the elements of bad design and the resulting perception were incomplete product description, which creates skepticism; overwhelming and convoluted content that creates confusion; poor navigational structure that causes prospects to lose patience; and pushy marketing tactics, such as constant price promotions and offers, which cause annoyance and distrust.
Nielsen says this is a result of companies still designing their Web sites based on outdated methodologies. "Most B2B sites are stuck in the 1990s in their attitude towards user experience," he says. "Companies are still designing for themselves rather than for their customers. They place serious barriers in the way of prospects who use the Web to discover companies to put on their shortlists."
Lack of pricing information is another problem. According to the survey, this is the one piece of information consumers are most interested in yet can never find. At the minimum, providing pricing levels, if not exact prices, will help move the sales process forward, Nielsen says.
Last, it is a common practice on B2B sites to make users register before providing them with deeper information. This practice can send prospects running. Nielsen says companies should place more information outside of this barrier, making it available to customers during their initial research. "Companies need to build up credibility before people are willing to give out their contact information," Nielsen says. "They know it will result in a sales call, so they want to first make sure the vendor has what they want."
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