For 10 years I have consulted with B2B ecommerce companies around the world. I’ve assisted in the set up of new sites and ongoing support for existing ones.
This is the fifth and final post in a series in which I address common mistakes of B2B ecommerce merchants. The previous installments were:
- “Part 1: Catalog Management, Pricing,“
- “Part 2: User Management, Customer Service,“
- “Part 3: Shopping Carts, Order Management,“
- “Part 4: Shipping, Returns, Inventory.“
For this installment, I’ll review mistakes related to accessibility, mobile devices, and localization.
B2B Mistakes: Accessibility, Mobile, Localization
Not accessible. Many B2B sites are not accessible for visually-impaired users. The sites often do not function well with screen readers, resulting in a loss of revenue from customers that need this capability — and legal risk in the U.S. and other developed countries.
Poor mobile experience. B2B sites are gradually transitioning to mobile commerce. Historically, however, many B2B sites were not mobile responsive or did not otherwise support mobile devices.
Poor user experience. Most B2B sites do not emphasize user experience. This, presumably, is because B2B merchants believed a limited number of customers used the website and, hence, usability was not important. Moreover, merchants sometimes assume customers can “be trained” and overcome poor usability. This hurts revenue and increases customer service expense in resolving related issues.
Unfriendly error messages. Similar to usability, most B2B sites do not have user-friendly error messages. I’ve seen instances of buyers receiving a technical error message, and they have to take a screenshot or share the code with the customer service team to resolve the issue.
No omnichannel integration. B2B customers interact with merchants across multiple channels, including email, web, physical store, mobile, and a printed catalog. But often these channels are not integrated or inconsistent with messaging. Thus a physical store may not know if a shopper uses the website, or email offers are different than, say, web banners. Most B2B sites struggle with omnichannel integration.
Limited browser support. Many B2B sites are tailored for a specific browser or version. Some of those sites detect the incompatible browser and inform the shopper. But most, in my experience, require customer service to resolve issues related to unsupported browsers.
No service level agreements. Another missing aspect of usability on B2B sites is the lack of service level agreements. SLAs could address page load time, order-processing time, and customer service response, among other items. Absent an SLA, B2B customers do not know what to expect from the merchant.
Limited localization. B2B customers expect a localized experience — language, currency, shopping norms. Most B2B sites do not offer comprehensive localization, only basic assistance such as currency and prices.
Not legally compliant. B2B merchants tend to launch ecommerce sites before reviewing legal requirements, such as accessibility, taxation, environmental laws, and customs rules. But larger customers often require legal guarantees. And failure to follow laws and regulations can lead to severe penalties.
International shipments. Many B2B merchants ship products to customers across borders. This requires calculating foreign taxes and customs duties. If the merchant is unfamiliar with cross-border sales or uses the wrong vendor, problems related to taxes and duties can quickly arise. The result is often extensive dialog with a customer, which can destroy a healthy relationship.