Paul Hill by Paul Hill

6 Customer Insights from the B2B Electrical Component Ecommerce industry

  • Design
  • ecommerce
  • User Experience
  • User Research

The things we enjoy most about our work is having the opportunity to solve problems, find customer insights, design and innovate across a variety of industries. Merging design expertise with subject matter experts.

Recently we completed a research and design project for a B2B Electrical Component supplier to improve conversion and general customer experience. The product has added many features over the years, with a roadmap taking cues from large B2C ecommerce providers. Although some of these features, like ‘save for later’ made the product feel familiar, they were often not implemented based on user needs or insights.

e-commerce buying team

We began with a deep ethnographic research project, observing and shadowing customers at different technology firms that regularly order electrical components. We observed engineers, buyers, team administrators, and even CEOs!
Here are just 6 of the interesting things we uncovered…

1. Spreadsheets are widely used to compile large orders with at least 2 people involved in the ordering process (usually Buying and Engineering roles)

While the Engineer to Buyer handover generally follows a similar format throughout different companies (Engineer sends Buyer info they need), it’s clear that internal processes differ from place to place. These processes dictate where an Engineer can source their parts and how they provide their buyers with the relevant information to purchase. There are many 3rd party tools that are designed to ease the burden of these processes, yet both Engineers and Buyers seem reluctant to adopt. As a result they resort to ways of working which they are comfortable with, fitting within their workflows but accepting some inefficiencies.

2. Existing bulk purchasing tools do not meet user needs.

Data entry formats do not fit with many users’ internal processes. Additional checks and confirmations are required after adding to the basket. Existing tools from some suppliers don’t seem to improve their workflow. They hinder it.

3. Opportunities to create tools that integrate with, and speed up a buyer’s workflow.
Buyers are time pressured.

When using B2B e-commerce sites they need it to be fast, both in terms of performance but also time on task. Things need to work with distractions removed. “Just let me get my job done.” They seldom adopt ways which could speed up their workflow. This is status quo bias.

4. Customers want to know exactly when the order will be delivered, they do not enjoy working this out themselves.

Buyers need to know stock and delivery information as early as possible in the journey to avoid adding parts (which don’t meet their delivery needs) into a basket, only to be frustrated at having to remove them when they want to finalise the purchase.

5. Engineers have a job to do, and creating component lists is an admin task that they want to get done quickly and efficiently so they can get on with their work.

Engineers want to be able to make a decision on a component without having to wade through a cluttered interface or have to open many datasheets to check for the right attributes because the filters they require aren’t available. Engineers have a sole objective (find the right part to pass to their buying team) and gimmicky features (and content) create a barrier in their process.

6. Buyers need faster ways to complete purchasing a list of products. Their interaction with a supplier website is minimal. There is no desire for many B2C like features as they rarely add any value to their workflow.

They have no emotional connection to the products they purchase, unlike personal purchases on B2C e-commerce. They lack knowledge of the parts they are sourcing. Someone else dictates what they order and they don’t have impulsive tendencies. Their remit is to order items using an approved supplier (inline with their internal systems) and ensure requesters get the items when they expect.

B2B e-commerce design sprint workshop

We documented and replayed these insights internally through a series of design workshops, and that’s where the magic happened. We love bringing customer needs to industry experts, blending in our design expertise and processes and watching magical ideas appear! Then truly solve user needs.

As a number of these ideas were prototyped, tested, and then built out it wasn’t surprising for us to see figures like a 9% increase in orders. Design led, customer led, whatever you want to call it. The bottom line is we’re solving real customer problems, making things easier for people, inline with the insights we gathered, customers current workflows, and blending design and subject matter experts to solve real user and business problems.