A wide range of businesses are now making the important choice to engage in the online sphere. Various services are now available and executed online, whether through websites or apps. There are B2C (business-to-consumer) companies that offer their services directly to customers, and there are B2B (business-to-business) companies that offer their services to another company's business activities.
This time, we'll take a closer look at B2B products. Every successful business-to-business (B2B) product is fueled by extensive user research prior to the design phase. It serves as the foundation for the design strategy and the development of a user-friendly product.
As compared to B2C research, B2B research can sometimes be more challenging to conduct. What are the challenges, and what are the dos and don’ts for doing so? Check out this article to find out!
In short, B2B products are products made not for individual customers but for businesses. A B2B website could allow one business to make a commercial transaction with another. It could also be a marketing tool to promote its product for the target market, which is another business. Then there are B2B apps, which are typically designed to streamline business operations, simplify business processes, or meet the needs of a specific industry.
Asana, for instance, is a workplace management platform that facilitates team communication. Natuno has also collaborated with a number of B2B companies to design or redesign their products. One example is Kargo, Indonesia's largest B2B trucking platform. Kargo's product suites can integrate with any business and enable supply chains to work more transparently and efficiently.
Erin Sanders introduced a five-step process for conducting user research, also known as the research learning spiral.
Objectives --> What information do you need at this point in the design process? What knowledge gaps do you need to fill?
Hypotheses --> What are the assumptions of your team? What do you believe you know about the users, both in terms of their behaviors and your potential solutions to their problems?
Methods --> Research planning. What methods should you choose based on the time and people available?
Conduct --> Collect data using the methods you've chosen.
Synthesize --> Make sense of the information you've gathered to support your design decisions.
In a more practical way, the process would go more or less like this:
Conduct a kick-off meeting (understanding the context and learning about the product's desired outcomes).
Prepare the research plan (identifying participants' criteria, selecting the research or test outcome, developing the interview guide, etc.).
Execute your research plan.
Synthesize the results.
As compared to B2C research, B2B research can be more challenging to conduct. One significant difference is the more niche users. You can’t just show up at any coffee shop and expect to run into someone who can be a participant in your research.
Take a peek at these dos and don’ts!
Dig deeper during the kick off meeting
Before you begin your research or design project, make sure you thoroughly understand the context, especially if you’re a designer and your client's business is in a field that you are unfamiliar with. If you’re unsure about something, ask and confirm it upfront to ensure that you’re on the same page with everyone in the team.
Investigate the problem thoroughly and map any assumptions or biases that you or your client may have upfront. Discuss the overall project's goal as well as the research that needs to be conducted.
Conduct a desk research
Prior to the user interviews or testing, conduct desk research to gain sufficient knowledge about the related field and product. Keep in mind that the person using its product is a representative of another company.
Even if it’s your first time handling or being involved in a project related to this industry, you must be professional when conducting the test. Remember that you will be the face of your company (a design firm) as well as the face of your client's team.
You simply cannot proceed with no knowledge in your head. For example, you must be familiar with the terminology used in that industry. It can make the interview and gathering insights from participants go more smoothly.
Conduct users’ interviews efficiently
User interviews with the actual product users are an excellent way to obtain in-depth, detailed information. Since it’s more challenging to get participants for B2B product testing or interviews, you need to make the most of the opportunity you have. Sometimes another challenge is the limited time they have.
So you definitely need to be well prepared and prioritize asking the most strategic and important questions. This is where the results of your effort conducting desk research and preparing interview and test guidelines can be shown.
Stop speculating and assuming. Start testing. If you are unsure about something, discuss it with your team and client directly, and confirm it during the user interview session. There are many cases when many people fall victim to unconscious bias by allowing original hypotheses to stand in the way of new ideas or relying too heavily on past experience.
Rely solely on desk research
Desk research is an important step in gathering relevant information. However, that is just the beginning. In some cases, the only way to obtain information is to directly ask your clients or the clients' users, who are the actual business players.
Overall, when designing a product, your mantra should be "stop guessing, start researching, and testing." You won't truly understand what users want unless you directly try to obtain their input. In the case of developing a B2B product, you should go above and beyond to help improve the business process between several entities.