The B2B landscape is ever-changing and increasingly sophisticated, and as an industry that in the past has been reluctant to move into the digital age, B2B organisations are now taking full advantage of what online business has to offer.
B2B ecommerce sales are on the rise, with Frost & Sullivan projecting that e-commerce sales will hit $12 trillion, or £8 trillion, in sales worldwide by 2020, up from the £3.5 trillion that was seen in 2012.[i]
As a result, the latest thinking in ecommerce web design and retail functionality are being given much more attention as B2B businesses strive to compete and differentiate their business and move towards offering their trade customers a retail online experience.
This is certainly a trend we’re helping to drive forward here at Williams Commerce. Over the last five years we’ve built hundreds of B2B ecommerce websites, built on the Magento platform, that need to meet the demands of modern digital buyers. In this article, we examine the latest design trends for B2B ecommerce websites, and the types of results it can deliver.
Never has usability been more important. Buyers have higher expectations and are more impatient than ever before. They need to be able to get what they want fast and if they don’t, the result is frustration at best and at worst the loss of a potential loyal customer.
The design of an ecommerce website has a large effect on the way buyers use it and the conversion rates it can achieve. With Google’s guidelines suggesting that it should take users three steps to complete any task, a slick, streamlined design will help customers avoid taking unnecessary steps to find contact details, check stock, register for an account, add products to the basket or place orders.[ii] “Our mantra is to erase the questions marks, don’t make your customers think and use the analytics if available to add some science overlay to the logic when designing the user journey.” Says Robert Williams, MD at Magento ecommerce specialists Williams Commerce.
2015 will see greater emphasis on the user experience, with websites becoming more personal to a user like a store, as opposed to just a functioning webpage.
There are many creative and exciting templates that developers can make use of, including parallax designs, tiled or carded designs, hidden menus and many more to experiment with[iii] to creatively present a business online, all of which have different usability functions.
B2B businesses are becoming branded entities themselves. With businesses now so widely visible online with a click of a mouse, image is vital. B2B organisations are marketing their brand more than ever before through social media, public relations, blogs and of course their website, which acts as both corporate brochure and their best performing salesperson.
When a potential customer finds a website organically, the first three seconds is where they form their first impressions about that business. Do they like what they see, can they easily understand what the business offers, and are they immediately inspired to start looking further? Distinctive, memorable branding and a strong USP play an increasingly important role for B2B online.
In the past, the majority of B2B website homepages were simply an entry portal to inform visitors that this is a trade site with restricted entry. Nowadays, that approach is limiting a businesses ability to attract new customers. “The wholesalers website should be it’s best performing salesperson. Showcasing product categories and best-selling products with impactful high quality imagery, outlining the benefits of registering for a trade account and even helping consumers find their nearest retailer. It’s now much more common to see wholesalers investing in lifestyle photography and imagery to help demonstrate their product range in action.” Says Rob Williams.
There’s no doubt using impactful imagery will catch the eye of website visitors and cause them to reappraise the brand. 73% of buyers use Google to research, the majority of which will not look past the first page of search results[iv]. Striking lifestyle imagery will cause buyers to take those decisive few seconds longer to inspect a website, greatly increasing the chance of users staying on the site.
The home page is the prime real estate for an online business. The use of full width dynamic banners that rotate every 3-4 seconds are still widely used and have their place, but we’ve seen the rise of tiled design over the last 18 months. Tiled design enables an online business to showcase product, promotions, categories and call to actions in a streamlined, organised manner and enables a business to make so much more of their all important ‘shop’ window. There is an increasing use of effects like hover over to change image to text or vice versa which is helping keep the design clutter free.
A good example of the tiled design is www.landmann.co.uk and visit our portfolio page to see further examples of tiled design.
With more people now accessing the Internet via mobile devices than their desktop equivalents[v], it is impossible to ignore mobile when designing an ecommerce website, even for the B2B sector. Mobile friendly websites are ceasing to be a competitive advantage, and instead are becoming a necessity. Ensuring that a website functions on both desktop and mobile is vital.
Certain themed templates lend themselves to responsive designs better than others. Businesses also have the option of designing a dedicated mobile website. Both have their merits, and it is important for B2B businesses to consider which is right for their needs. Design is still key, and whether a mobile user lands on a responsive design or dedicated mobile website, it still requires the right branding, imagery and usability to turn that user into a conversion.
Rob says, “Trade customers now more than ever expect a retail style buying experience from their supplier online. Gone are the days of 10-day delivery, faxing orders and unreliable inventory information. Customers expect all the functionality seen on the best retail ecommerce websites. Next day delivery, live stock information, product reviews, great design and usability. B2B businesses which step up and provide this service will win over their competitors who don’t.”
By finding the right balance between usability, branding, imagery, design, and mobile friendliness, a website will be well on its way to being successful in 2015 on beyond.
Are you exploring the possibility of a new ecommerce website and want to ensure that it is up to date with the latest trends in the B2B industry? Give our team a call on 0116 326 1116 to discuss your requirements today. Alternatively, if you are in the market for Digital Marketing, call our team on 0116 326 1116 (ext.4)