While business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce is taking on the look and feel of business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce, some key differences between the two still remain. One of the largest differences is how product catalogs are displayed and how a site’s search function interacts with that product catalog during the online shopping experience.
In the traditional B2C ecommerce shopping experience, every customer sees the retailers entire product catalog. Likewise, pricing for the products available is the same regardless of who logs in to shop. In the world of B2B ecommerce, the products that are displayed when Customer A logs in could be–and very likely are–completely different than the products displayed for Customer B. Similarly, pricing for products shown to both customers might show completely different pricing on the same items. These differences in product catalog and pricing are due to a number of factors that come into play with B2B business transactions including negotiated pricing, volume discounts, and approved products. Unique product catalogs and pricing are linked to the log in credentials of the user and might be driven by company, location, or applicability to job function.
In addition to serving up the right content when a specific user logs in, a B2B ecommerce site must also help the visitor navigate through their specific catalog and find what it is that they need while improving the online experience. How does search contribute to user experience? First of all it needs to be easy to use. Shoppers who cannot use your search tool to find what they need will quickly leave your site for the competition. Second, your search tool must be smart enough to take into account who is logging in and show them only the products they are supposed to see.
Imagine for a second that Customer A logs in to place an order. They are initially shown the correct “Customer A” product catalog but when they search for a particular product, the results include products from Customers B & C. Talk about opening a can of worms! Or instead of showing incorrect products, perhaps the search feature produces empty categories. Either way, it’s a search FAIL.
In the following video, Darwin Zins, Chief Technologist at Insite Software explains how faceted search enhances the B2B ecommerce experience:
To learn more about how you can leverage the power of B2B ecommerce for your organization, download the white paper, B2B Ecommerce Success – Seven Questions to Consider When Beginning an Ecommerce Initiative.