Supercharge Revenue: Better Data Brings Better Sales

Supercharge Revenue: Better Data Brings Better Sales

Revenue on your B-to-B site not as high as you hoped?

The problem could be too little product information and a poorly designed interface.

It is almost impossible to do business with most B-to-B sites. How often do the sites provide the answers to the simplest questions a business must ask before deciding on a vendor: Exactly what does the product or service do? What are the terms and conditions? What is the price?

This latter question goes unanswered on almost all B-to-B sites. This despite the feedback I get from business users saying, “I need to know at least a ballpark number before considering this service.” The number is necessary to allow a prospective customer to assess whether the solution is suitable for his or her company.

The lack of prices compounds the problem of vague product descriptions that are dominated by buzzwords and devoid of specifics. Business buyers are savvy enough to understand that a list price is not always firm: Sometimes one can negotiate volume discounts or other deals. B-to-B sites often try to get away with approximate pricing, because of the assumption that the two companies will meet in person to negotiate. Even so, users still like detailed price information that discloses how much each feature or option will cost.

Bottom line: B-to-B sites often lose customers because it is impossible to discover the answers to essential questions early in the process, while the user is still evaluating potential vendors. Here are two examples of B-to-B sites. One does a poor job of providing basic purchasing information. The other offers enough information to encourage and facilitate a transaction.n

“Sites lose customers who find it impossible to discover the answers to essential transaction questions.”

BAD:

The screenshot from AvantGo shows a particularly clueless example of B-to-B usability: A prospective customer cannot see the customer agreement without having to complete a long, inquisitive form (the screenshot only shows the top of the form).

AvantGo has it wrong: At this stage in the buying process, I don’t want to “apply” to become a customer. I want to see what the company has to offer and at what terms. In particular, I don’t want to disclose sensitive information about my own business. The site asks for information such as the number of visitors to my Website and my audience demographics. How do I know who will see this information? In any case, I am not going to reveal confidential company information to some Website just because it asks for it. Most users, when faced with such a screen, will either go away or enter fake data. As well they should.

BETTER:

SparkLIST.com clearly discloses its prices for hosting email newsletters on this page, which is one click from the homepage. Of course, no site is perfect. The fourth bullet item is unclear: Are all customers subject to a three-month minimum or is it a three-month contract? The “have a salesperson call” area uses a U.S. format for phone numbers and time zones, a disadvantage if trying to attract global customers. And the prices for dedicated servers could have used an explanatory link (which is found in the upper right, where nobody will look).

Despite these small usability mistakes, SparkLIST.com comes across as a company unafraid to be upfront with customers. And sure enough, I ended up making a purchase at the site.

Posted by on May 13, 2001