What’s the difference between B2B user experience and B2C user experience?

In this article, we look at the differences between B2B user experience and B2B user experience expectations. We know these two audiences are very different, but behind every business buyer is an individual. Discover the similarities, differences and the considerations you need to make when delivering B2B and B2B user experiences on websites.

Key takeaways

    1. Regardless of whether your site is aimed at businesses or consumers, it must meet basic user experience (UX) heuristics.
    2. Beyond basic UX standards, considerations must be made for B2B buyers who perform much more complex information gathering tasks over a longer period.
    3. One of the key differences that B2B sites need to accommodate is the multiple personas that visit a site. B2C businesses typically target a very narrow audience with similar traits. In B2B, website user experiences need to consider the needs of a variety of audiences that would be involved, from just one buying company.

The core principles of B2B & B2C user experience design are the same

B2B and B2C websites are both used by real people, regardless of their ultimate objectives, websites need to meet the everyday requirements of all users. Basic user expectations for websites are very similar and can be distilled down to:

  1. The website should be functional. This means links should work, buttons should be clickable, and on e-commerce sites, visitors should be able to check out. The website needs to work whether your audience is B2B or B2C.  The website should be navigable. Visitors need to be able to quickly and efficiently navigate websites. Navigation should be easy to use and clearly labeled. Both B2B and B2C audiences need to be able to navigate around a website using navigation.
  2. The website should be navigable. Visitors need to be able to quickly and efficiently navigate websites. Navigation should be easy to use and clearly labeled. Both B2B and B2C audiences need to be able to navigate around a website using navigation. The website should provide the expected content. The content on websites should be suitable for the intended audience and align with visitor expectations. If you have set expectations about content, then you should meet those expectations, whether your audience is B2B or B2C.
  3. The website should provide the expected content. The content on websites should be suitable for the intended audience and align with visitor expectations. If you have set expectations about content, then you should meet those expectations, whether your audience is B2B or B2C. The website should support interactions.
  4. The website should support interactions.  It should be apparent to the visitor of a website how to perform certain actions, what a link or button looks like, and when the user performs an action on the website there should be feedback. For example, on a data capture page, it should be obvious when the visitor has submitted the form, or equally if there are errors, and the form can’t be submitted, the user should be told that submission has failed. B2B and B2C visitors interact with websites, and they need to know when those interactions have been successful.
  5. Visitors should be aware of where they are on the website. A website should provide visual cues that help visitors to understand where they are on the website. The most common implantation being a breadcrumb. B2B and B2C visitors need to know if they are on a product page or the homepage. Design should support usability. Elements on pages should be well
  6. Design should support usability. Elements on pages should be well organized and the website aesthetics should support not detract from its usability. Whether a targeting B2B or B2C audience, putting flashy design above the need for usability will severely impact how well your website meets business objectives.

Does B2B user experience and B2B user experience differ?

Although the foundations of good user experience are the same whether you are targeting business buyers or consumers, the pillars we use to build on those foundations are different. B2B buyers and B2C buyers have different tasks to perform, different constraints and different expectations.

B2B websites need to support the long customer journey

The time a consumer takes to make a buying decision is much shorter than the time a business takes a business. Websites aimed at business buyers need to accommodate a longer journey which is also a lot more information-hungry. The B2B buying journey can take many months, involve multiple people and B2B buyers will have different information requirements throughout the journey.

Fundamentally the B2B buyer needs to make sure they are making the right decision on behalf their business; they will consume a lot more information and expect a greater level of detail.

B2B websites need to deliver a user experience which supports the long and research focused B2B sales cycle.

B2B websites need to answer technical and operational questions

In a B2B purchase, buyers aren’t just looking for the cheapest solution that solves a particular problem. Although the price is a primary consideration, there are many other factors. A B2B customer needs to ensure that their purchase is compatible with their existing environment, they need to consider training requirements, ongoing maintenance fees and service level agreements. A business will take into account all costs and risks involved with a purchase.

A B2B website must be capable of communicating a multitude of benefits and help to overcome fears and concerns.

B2B sites support multiple audiences, not just one.

A B2B buying journey involves multiple stakeholders. These stakeholders have very different motivations and needs. One of the most challenging aspects of B2B user experience design is knowing how to meet the needs of these audiences. The actual end user is just one type of visitor to consider.

B2B website must offer a user experience which can cater to the needs of very different audiences

B2B websites need to focus on information

Emotions heavily influence consumer buying decisions. The brand, design, and aesthetics of the website are much more important in a B2C purchase. In B2B, emotions play less of a role. The buyer is looking for information, often needing to put a business case together or comparing the products of multiple vendors in a shortlist. B2B websites must prioritize communicating vast amounts of information over aesthetics and eye-catching design.

B2B buying decisions are less emotional and more logical. The aesthetics of a B2B website must support providing the information needed to make rational decisions.

Conclusions on the differences between B2B user experience and B2B user experience

B2B and B2C user experience design share the same core foundations. However, beyond the core principles of UX, the differences become very apparent. Websites catering to B2B buyers need to take into consideration the complex business logic of the decision-making process. It requires an understanding of both the product you are selling and the environment you are selling it into and the ability to surface this information on a website in a clear and accessible way.