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Should the UX of a website be treated differently and if so, how, when it comes to the difference between someone shopping for an e-commerce "buy-now" consumer product e.g. t-shirt, cellphone case etc., versus a B2B sell for a much larger ticket item, e.g. $500,000 (USD) building or engineered pump station for industrial plant?

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I may be wrong, but don't those involve substantially different workflows entirely? I'm under the impression that large purchases involve getting quotes etc. instead of putting five pump stations in a cart and keying in a credit card number and delivery address (probably followed by an overdraft fee from the bank) –  Jessica Yang Jan 15 at 23:12
    
Agreed lol.. that was funny though! So how would the sales/marketing website lead capture funnel behave differently on a website? Do you treat the website like a pure marketing brochure only? But that could ruin SEO to even be found online. Do you now have normal CTA's? –  redFOG Jan 15 at 23:16
    
Social networking like normal brands do is almost non-existent in this industry and there is not much online engagement with B2B large ticket items. –  redFOG Jan 15 at 23:17
    
Yes, I know. Most of the B2B sites I've seen are in defence contracting or scientific research equipment and they do tend to act solely like interactive marketing brochures. They also sometimes hide their 'contact Sales' in a corner - can't imagine why... –  Jessica Yang Jan 15 at 23:20
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I can see it right now. "Customers who bought this Oil Rig also bought: Oil Tanker, $200 million. Oil Refinery, $3 billion". In the checkout process: "Is the Shipping Address the same as Billing Address? Yes[]No[]". "Buy Two and Get Free 3-day shipping!". –  MSalters Jan 16 at 14:06
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2 Answers

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Yes, there are major differences between cheap consumer products and expensive business purchases. The things that customers care about differ greatly. Also, customers are going to spend a lot more time deciding about an expensive item, so providing extensive information about the product is more important than rushing the customer through the process. For this reason, many B2B websites will just ask you for your phone number and get you talking to a sales rep right away.

The most important consideration, however, is that the website emphasizes the selling points that are relevant to the product. For example, customers for expensive business items are likely to care about:

  • What type of service/maintenance plan comes with the product and how much does it cost?
  • How expensive is integration, and does the seller have the expertise to do it properly?
  • Do I need to purchase other products or services to go along with this product?
  • What is the overhead of training people to use the product?
  • What return on investment will I get from this roduct?

Compared to cheap consumer items:

  • How much does this cost?
  • How quickly will it arrive?
  • What is the return policy?
  • What does the product look like?
  • Is the product likely to break?
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ISO 9241-210 says user experience is "a person's perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service". It includes all the users' beliefs, perceptions, preferences, emotions, physical/psychological responses that happen before, during and after use. (See also UX on Wikipedia)

Given that B2B decisions are also taken by humans, your website UX needs to be whatever it takes to make those humans feel good about starting a business relationship with you. That includes careful, and usable website design and presentation, attractive and convincing product descriptions and presentations, usable sales and backend processes and experiences, and so on. In a nutshell, the feelings you want to evoke are different between B2C and B2B, but UX has the same importance in both of them.

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B2B decisions on enterprise scale are not made by humans but by committees. Committees behave differently than individuals, and this should be addressed. But there's a unifying theme: in low-volume B2B sales, you should understand your customer and his decision process. –  MSalters Jan 16 at 14:10
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