June 24, 2014, 10:22 AM

Five best practices for B2B mobile commerce

Companies must design mobile sites specifically for the use cases and needs of B2B customers.

Every year, consumers become more dependent on mobile; by 2015, more Americans will access content on mobile devices than on desktop computers. Companies are under tremendous pressure to reach customers with effective mobile experiences that emphasize speed, transaction capability, and usability. To remain viable in a competitive digital environment, business-to-business brands must adopt mobile business practices that benefit both customers and companies alike. For years, consumer brands have wanted to create great online user experience, or UX, and attract mobile customers. However, the same factors that influence consumers in the new mobile-focused e-commerce environment now increasingly affect B2B customers. According to Andrew Gaffney at the Content2Conversion Conference 2014, 86% of customers access content on their mobile devices and 70% do so on tablets. Similarly, mobile commerce currently accounts for 3-5% of B2B sales and mobile drives 7-10% of B2B traffic for tasks such as research and search.

Additionally, B2B employees will increasingly use their mobile devices to deliver and provide customer service efficiency.

With mobile use only expected to grow in the coming years, B2B teams should invest heavily in mobile upgrades to remain relevant for their target markets. To build a fantastic mobile experience, brands must design specifically for B2B use cases and needs. A modern customer does not engage with a brand a single time, on a single screen, but searches for information and content across different channels at different times. Therefore, content across all devices must be re-imagined as part of a multichannel experience that is not only accessible, but also optimized, for every screen from desktop to smartphone.

To create a great customer journey, B2B brands face big decisions on how to design for speed. Transaction capability, content speed, and performance are prerequisites for any mobile experience, especially B2B, where transactions are likely to be made on a large scale.  

Whether researching a product, making a purchase, or contacting customer service, customers want to complete specific goals quickly and efficiently. Designing for these situations requires developers to face technology choices: use adaptive technology or build a responsive web site.

Adaptive technology is a web server-side approach to mobile that emphasizes building unique ways to interact with m-commerce with the user in mind. It enables software developers to deliver ways to let mobile business shoppers research and buy that are consistent across all selling channels, including web sites accessed on desktops, tablets and smartphones. Adaptive, server-side technology is especially beneficial for organizations with complex sites that offer a variety of interactive buying features and functionalities, as well as for those seeking to let their marketing and business teams quickly update time-sensitive promotions and campaigns.

Responsive web design is an approach aims to ensure that desktop content is kept consistent across all screens by relying on pre-set screen-sizes. These are written into a single set of code that looks to the device browser to determine which content is displayed and which is hidden. However, this means that the entire legacy desktop file is delivered to all screens. This often results in content and shopping applications that are slow to download, an important drawback given that fast navigation is crucial to every interaction. Responsive web design can work well for content-centric sites where the content or presentation does not vary much by device.

Five best practices for B2B mobile

No matter the route that B2B companies choose to follow in creating mobile experiences, it is imperative to design according to customer needs. The following principles provide a basic set of guidelines to follow when developing a B2B mobile site:

  1. Optimize the journey for every user on every device. Tablets and smartphones differ in format, and the manner in which users consume content and are guided along the path to purchase should emphasize speed and navigability.
  2. Reduce site clutter. Provide a simple, clean interface for quick navigation, accessibility, and browsing speed.
  3. Prioritize research and discovery functions with slide-out menus so that customers can easily find what they need. This matters a lot when the product set is extensive and navigation is complex.
  4. Image sizes below 50 kilobytes and file sizes below 25 KB are optimal for increasing site speed across the site.
  5. Use location services to promote partner distributors and make it easy for buyers to continue the shopping cycle, across multiple sites.

The common thread in optimizing UX is providing a  mobile design that allows users to quickly complete a specific goal—whether it’s researching a product, making a purchase or contacting customer service. These solutions, successfully deployed by B2C e-commerce companies across the world, help provide the model by which B2B brands can find success on mobile. Companies that can adapt to changing consumer preferences and deliver strong multichannel experiences will remain relevant in a mobile-focused future.

Usablenet is a provider of m-commerce technology and services. Follow Carin Van Vurren on Twitter @CarinVVuuren and Usablenet @Usablenet.

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