Who’s your No. 1 salesperson?
Since most B2B buyers do online research well before they contact a salesperson—if they do at all—a good argument could be made that it’s your website. Keeping it current, relevant and technologically up to date is imperative to your brand and your bottom line.
If you haven’t done a B2B website redesign in a while (since before the pandemic), it’s probably time to do so. McKinsey found that post-pandemic, B2B buyers prefer a cross-channel mix of interactions with you, split fairly equally between in-person conversations, remote interactions and digital self-service. That is true for throughout the B2B buyer’s journey, from research and evaluation through ordering, reordering and customer assistance. In fact, more than 80% of B2B leaders believe that omnichannel selling is a more successful way to prospect and secure new business than traditional, “face-to-face only” sales approaches.
With so many companies investing in the online experience as a way to convert prospects into buyers and buyers into loyal customers, it’s impossible to separate the expectations for B2B sites from those for B2C sites. After all, every person who visits a B2B site in a professional capacity has likely visited hundreds of B2C sites in a personal capacity—and they expect no difference in quality between the two. It’s safe to say that a person’s best online experience becomes the standard against which all their online experiences are judged. Sites that feature effortless navigation, frictionless purchasing, easy access to relevant information and even pleasing aesthetics will be noticed—and so will those that fall short. You definitely want to be on the right side of that equation.
When you’re ready to begin a strategic website redesign, here are 10 things to keep in mind.
Omnichannel is table stakes now
Think like a prospect and take a stroll through your site on all types of devices. Then do the same as if you were a current customer. Is the experience consistent—and consistently good—on a laptop, PC, tablet, smartphone screen and (if you have one) a kiosk in your lobby? If you also sell products or services on your site, buy something and see what that experience is like from research through purchase and return. Money is on the line—sometimes more than you may think. It’s a common misconception that B2B buyers won’t purchase expensive products or services online. McKinsey notes that 20% of B2B buyers would be willing to spend more than $500,000 in a fully remote/digital sales model, and about half of those would spend more than $1 million.
The B2B buyer’s journey isn’t linear
B2B purchases are often big investments for a company, and they want to ensure those investments will pay off. That leads to a long sales cycle with lots of decision-makers and influencers in the mix. From a website perspective, it means that you need to be providing relevant information for each stage of the buyer’s journey, and each likely persona, at all times. Balancing relevance and completeness with brevity is critical—consider your site a finely curated collection of images, content and assets, making sure that:
- Information addresses pain points, counteracts concerns and answers commonly asked questions
- Important points are clear even if all a visitor has time to do is scan the headlines in the first few sections
- Data sheets, case studies, white papers, etc., are easy to access
- Calls to action are meaningful, and any assets they point to aren’t excessively gated
- Contact information (salespeople, maps, locations, customer service) is up to date and easy to find
- Images, videos, graphics and other design elements are current, professional, legible and intrinsic to the sale
Keep SEO top of mind
The importance of SEO in website redesign should never be underestimated. Even small changes to your site can have big consequences. Evaluate keywords and design elements to determine what is driving traffic to your site before you dive into a redesign, and proceed with care. Think about how any new technology you’d like to use will impact the site as well. Introducing new functionality through coding may inadvertently hide content from your site, which could impact search rankings.
Focus on emotions, not just information
Objective criteria such as price, specs, regulatory compliance, performance, etc. have come to be expected, especially as products or services commoditize. But once a buyer confirms that the product or service meets those table stakes and that it addresses their company’s economic, performance and ease-of-doing-business needs, emotional concerns come into play—and they can influence the decision in a big way. While you’re refreshing your website, keep these less quantifiable aspects in mind—the purchase’s impact to a decision-maker’s professional reputation (good and bad), whether it reduces their stress level, if your company’s values jibe with theirs, and even if they find the aesthetics of your site pleasing. All may be influential, and you ignore them to your detriment.
Aesthetics matter—a lot
A visitor makes a decision about your site—and by extension, your company— in the blink of an eye. Actually, it’s faster, since a blink takes 400 ms, and that first impression happens in just 50 ms. Overall, websites with low visual complexity (not cluttered or crowded) and high prototypicality (things are where people expect to find them) are perceived as highly appealing. Turns out people can (or at least will) judge a book by its cover, so to speak. Regardless of device type, 75% of your website’s credibility—the perception of you as a trustworthy business—comes from design alone.
Get comfortable with AI
Artificial intelligence (AI) is getting more sophisticated all the time and has improved to the point where website visitors actually expect some level of AI-based assistance online—or at least, they expect a user experience that’s driven by them (whether they’re aware of that or not). AI can improve a website through:
- Chatbots that make support available 24/7
- Semantic search that makes navigation seem intuitive
- Personalized recommendations that increase sales
- Better access for all people in line with The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Avoid roads to nowhere—and elsewhere
No one wants to see a “page not found” error pop up as they’re looking for information or trying to get to an often-used site they’d had bookmarked. Search engines don’t like them either and will punish such oversight by reducing your site ranking. As you update your site, make sure to repair all broken links with an automatic 301 redirect or a custom 404 error page to keep your customers and the search engine bots happy.
Site navigation should receive considerable attention as well. When potential or current clients visit your site, they expect to find the information they are looking for quickly. Confusing menu structures and convoluted breadcrumbs make it difficult for people to maneuver throughout your site and return to pages they’re interested in. As you add and delete pages, make sure your navigation continues to take visitors where they expect to go, not to somewhere else. And once they’re there, don’t bait-and-switch. Provide the information they expect to see. Here are some more common B2B website design mistakes you’ll want to avoid.
Don’t neglect social responsibility
Every year, more people in the U.S. and Europe regularly purchase from brands aligned with their personal values—by 2022, 50% will be doing so. That makes featuring your Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) stance on your website incredibly important, because half of your site visitors (and growing) make values-based buy/no buy decisions. Company values and brand strategy have to be tightly coupled, and that needs to be reflected on your website.
Avoid slow load times—thoughtfully
Research on slow load times is abundant, but not everyone agrees on what “slow” means. Half a second? Two seconds? Essentially, your web page load speeds need to be as fast as you can make them without compromising the customer experience, and the slower they load the more apt people are to abandon them. Same goes for online shopping carts. There are a lot of variables involved in load times (browser, page content, device type, etc.), and each should be judged against the visitors you’re trying to attract to (and keep on) your site. Are more people visiting via a mobile device? Optimize page load times for that. More coming via a desktop computer? Focus on that.
Beware the marketplace takeover
Forrester reports that in the U.S., 57% of B2C e-commerce sales flow through online marketplaces5—in other words, not through a brand’s proprietary website. In China, it’s 98%. Although this is a B2C statistic, B2B companies should keep an eye on this trend, especially those that sell products online. While a presence on a marketplace may boost sales, keep in mind that marketplaces are focused on attracting their own customers (in other words, you), not on building your brand. Make the customer experience on your own site—desktop and mobile—the best it can be to keep customers engaged and coming back for more.
So, is it time for a redesign?
How do you know when it’s time for a B2B website redesign? Short answer: when it’s no longer working well for you, current clients or prospective customers. Think like a site visitor, keep abreast of trends and align with the latest behavioral research to ensure your next B2B website redesign is a success.