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Conversion optimisation for B2B: What should you consider?

Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke
Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke
VP of Marketing, EMEA
9 min read
29 May 2018

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is becoming increasingly important as a result of ongoing digitisation within organisations. This is nothing new for many B2C and e-commerce organisations, as they have been optimising their websites for years based on what their data tells them. This also happens at B2B organisations to an increasing extent, although the process is still in its infancy. This should come as no surprise since conversion optimisation for B2B organisations is trickier than for B2C organisations and requires a different approach.

Although the process for B2C platforms is well developed, you can’t easily blueprint it for use in a B2B organisation. Not only because the customer journey is often much more complicated than that of an average webshop, but also due to the practical problem of much lower traffic across the B2B websites. Luckily, these problems are solvable.

The challenges

What kinds of challenges do you need to consider when designing a CRO process for a B2B organisation?

  • Low traffic

Low traffic is the first problem that many B2B organisations encounter. All the do’s and don’ts relating to A/B tests are rather useless when you only have 200 users a week to work with. In addition, the data-driven development of your platform is considerably more complicated; after all, you need a longer time span to identify possible improvement points based on data.

  • Longer and more complex purchasing process

Every marketer knows that B2B often involves a longer and more complex purchasing process than B2C. Buying frequencies and quantities are much lower, while each purchase is of a much higher value.

  • Numerous people are involved in a purchase

Another aspect that makes the B2B purchasing process different from the B2C process is that multiple roles are often involved, such as the user, decision-maker, influencer and actual purchaser. Each role has its own needs and requirements for the product, which are decisive for each customer journey.

What are the CRO limitations in B2B

Low traffic is no reason to refrain from carefully measuring and monitoring your website or testing solutions for your website. However, two important aspects must be considered:

Finding answers in data – quickly and easily
Data does help with the decision-making process, but the terms ‘fast’ and ‘easy’ make the difference here. Sometimes you’ll have to wait slightly longer before the data set is large enough to be able to deduce meaningful observations from it. In addition, the more complex customer journey also plays a role here. When multiple sessions are required for conversion, you can’t simply attribute it to the last channel. In other words, you’ll have to look at longer time spans and dig even deeper into the data.

Minor A/B test adjustments
Minor changes, like the colour of your CTA button, rarely have a significant effect, let alone when your website has low traffic. For a significant result, you need either a large test effect or a large number of users in your test. So, as a B2B organisation, you must aim for large effects if you want to test your website. In other words, you can run A/B tests but will have to look for larger differences between your variants.

For example, you could, very specifically, choose to test and compare two different checkout flows. Since the differences between both variants will be very large, the expected impact of the variant will also be higher.

Which principles remain important

Luckily, when it comes to B2B, we don’t have to abandon everything we’ve learned about CRO for B2C. The basics are still relevant.

Identifying friction points even when you have little to no data available, you can still identify where the problem lies. To do so, grab a laptop or phone on a regular basis and go through the main funnels on your website. Pay attention to the following:

  • Make sure that everything works: too often, technical issues are still at the root of poor numbers.
  • Keep it simple: your website is not meant to be a maze, so don’t allow your visitors to get lost.
  • Avoid nasty surprises: you want to download a whitepaper using your email address, only to discover that you also need to provide your phone number and address. There go your visitors.
  • Avoid confusion: inconsistent messages, repeated promotions, illogical calls to action; all lead to confusion for the visitor. Make sure things are clear right off the bat and don’t leave your visitors confused.
  • Explain the CTA: do you want a visitor to contact you? Want them to click through to a detail page? Make this clear and ensure that the action is easy to find.

The frequency at which you conduct your scan for friction points will depend on the tempo at which you develop your website. After every release, perform this scan again on the sections of your website that were updated.

Upping motivation is a little trickier than identifying friction points. Motivation depends strongly on the person’s decision-making role and position in the purchasing process. So, the way you motivate visitors depends on the persona and customer journey phase. This is especially important for B2B.

You can also plot these two factors against each other. Identify which marketing personas are important and develop the customer journey. The journey consists roughly out of four phases: see, think, do and care. This is often more comprehensive for B2B. So, develop the journey for your organisation, market or industry.

Next, for every phase, determine which questions the different personas may encounter. For example, if you are responsible for the installation technology for large project developers, the project leader will pay far more attention to technical knowledge and expertise during the think phase, while the buyer will focus more on price. Figure this out for every persona in every step of the journey. This will eventually provide a clear overview of the different information needs.

With this information on hand, you can then review your website. Is relevant information available for every target group? Is this information provided at the right point in the customer journey (i.e. website)? Make the necessary additions and changes to ensure that every customer is motivated during every phase of the journey.

Your CRO process for B2B in the year 2018

Do not make your processes more complicated than necessary. Did you know that you can easily link your processes to three easy steps? Eric Ries defines these phases in his book ‘The Lean Startup: Build, Measure and Learn’. The first step is to develop a minimum viable product, which is then used to launch the learning process. However, to be able to learn and optimise, you must first measure.

How do you apply this to CRO?

You can review your website’s design during the build phase using the Friction and Motivation principles discussed earlier. This is also referred to as the ‘conversion review’. You should always ensure that friction is kept to an absolute minimum and that the visitor’s motivation is addressed sufficiently for every release or new feature.

The next step is to measure. As stated above, low traffic is no reason to refrain from measuring. For example, use the purposes and funnel visualisation to make the flow direction in a lead generation form very obvious. At which point do visitors leave? Or check which landing pages are performing well and which are not. It is certainly worth incorporating extra measurability, especially when you have a complex website with many functionalities. You can, for example, measure how many visitors use the main menu or determine the number of certain button clicks.

Along with the use of quantitative data, it is advisable for websites with low traffic to also use qualitative data. This could entail heatmaps, polls and user recordings. The Measure step also follows the pace of your releases. Always check that proper measuring has taken place for new features and determine whether you might want to add extra measuring codes.

Data alone is useless. What matters is to gain insight from data. For example, what should you do when you see that very few users have registered for your newsletter? Check your scroll maps. Do visitors even scroll to the point where they see the Call to Action for registration? Or does a new tool or feature fail to provide results? In that case, create a poll to ask your visitors if the new tool or feature was helpful. This qualitative data will often provide useful information.

This information can then be used as input for the ongoing development of your platform. Make the necessary changes to the backlog and measure them.

One more thing

The major advantage of B2B is the good relationship you generally have with your customers. In other words, your account managers or other contact persons at your customers’ organisation are worth their weight in gold. They know the exact types of problems your (future) customers will encounter. They might even receive or hear complaints about the website once in a while. So, don’t forget to involve them in the process.

In summary, B2B and B2C differ to a much greater extent than merely the one letter. Each marketing method requires its own approach, which also applies to CRO. The important thing, however, is to keep the obstacles you might encounter along the way from driving you mad. Despite a few limitations, these tips and the right approach can help you get your B2B organisation ready to convert ‘visitors’ into loyal customers.

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VP of Marketing, EMEA

Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke