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Interactive Websites in the B2B Marketplace

E-commerce Web Design

I recently read an article about emotional triggers and it got me thinking about activities I undertake in the office and the different emotional triggers they set off. One activity in particular I do every day without failure is surfing the web and so I took five minute to reflect on what emotions surfing the web and interaction with the internet can deliver. Only last night I was cursing my four-year-old iPad2, lamenting some of the challenges it has delivering new, content rich websites. Website design has come a long way in the last four or five years, but one of the greatest changes is the interactivity users demand from their web experiences. And it is now up to the web designers to understand and play on the emotional triggers that will drive a user to interact with their websites. As a result, the majority of websites we consume today when online shopping are content rich with multiple different types of interaction.

To put some perspective on this, Christmas is fast approaching and I have two choices; I can either physically go to the high street to do my shopping or I can do it online. I chose online, hence my frustrations with the iPad. Overall, the websites I visited were content rich with many interactive features designed to help me through my buying process. If I’m honest, some of the features were excellent and some of them just frustrating, but in all cases it made me remember the website. It did however get me thinking about some of the differences between B2B and B2C websites, particularly since I work for a B2B cloud, colocation and managed services organisation and the majority of work related surfing I undertake is B2B.

It is a commonly shared statistic that 47% of visitors expect their pages to load within two seconds and 40% of visitors will leave a page if hasn’t loaded within three seconds. On reflection, I would surmise these statistics are mostly driven by B2C engagements. Would the impact be the same in a B2B environment where a user is looking for a specific product or service?  Would the user be more inclined to wait in a B2B environment even though the user interaction was poor? In the B2C world I can buy identical products from multiple suppliers so the suppliers have to differentiate themselves using website engagement. B2B organisations often use their websites to communicate information as opposed to thinking about end user interaction. After all it is often the value added wrap around a specific product I am interested in, not how pretty a website is. But in reality why should I put up with a somewhat dull and dysfunctional website just because I am looking to procure B2B services in a business environment?

Through a project I am currently engaged with I came across an organisation that has developed an online engine combining rule-based engagement with on-site behaviour to deliver a unique customer recommendation. 15Gifts works with some of the leading television and broadband providers to deliver an online experience that allows them to offer a recommendation to the user based on their responses to multiple questions in a decision tree. The engine learns from these interactions and can provide accurate recommendations that adapt with your business, as well as research and analysis that feeds into marketing and re-marketing campaigns.

So can this interactive, B2C focused decision tool be used in a B2B environment? Why not?  Granted there are fewer site visitors so the deviations in data may be greater with a smaller data set, but you could also argue the people using this sort of tool would take more time to answer the questions more fully thus delivering a more targeted result. Either way, it is too early to tell, yet initial indications are that making a B2B website more engaging and interactive provides the user with an enhanced experience and delivers to the supplier a unique insight into the visitors to their website. If you are interested in how this happens, why don’t you try it?

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