Sometimes there’s an assumption that because we’re in the business-to-business sector, our websites are entirely informational and we’re not really involved in selling online. I’m guilty of making that assumption, which suggests I don’t know my audience; I just had a look at the websites belonging to ten random readers, and two offered online shopping. If the sample can be scaled up, that means over 100 of you have to address the particular technology and operational demands of a “web store”, a task which can be tricky.
Anyway, here’s a really nice article which will help you ensure your web store isn’t offputting to purchasers. 12 Tips For Designing an Excellent Checkout Process from Smashing magazine runs from ensuring you put the barriers as far down the line as possible (“Dont require registration to shop”) to reassuring customers that they’ve ordered what they wanted (“Send out a confirmation email”). There are real examples for each tip, and a selection of real checkout page designs at the end.
I suspect that a number of business-to-business website owners acknowledge that their online buying process isn’t up to the standards of, say, those nice groovy Web 2.0 software providers – but hide behind the excuse that unlike the consumer sector, buyers are more likely to need the product and are more likely to put up with an awkward buying and checkout process. Not good enough. The same business customers also use consumer sites, and expect yours to be better, not worse, because you’re probably dealing with higher-ticket items. Why shouldn’t your web store be as nice to use as
this one this one?