The confluence of B2B and B2C technology expectations is progressing to the point of inevitability. From a technology standpoint, the blurring of distinctions between the sectors does not mean that products will be developed in exactly the same fashion for both. However, the business user is expecting a consumer-like user experience more than ever. The users and purchasers of B2B technology will favor those devices or software applications that look, feel and work like their personal technologies. In a recent Forbes article, David Edelman of McKinsey suggests, “businesses don’t really buy from businesses, people do.” As consumer experience gets better and better, business applications have to follow the trend.
To be clear, there’s no doubt that there are differences in product requirements for these two markets. As stated in an earlier blog post by CEO Mitch Maiman “Unlike consumers, commercial clients are only marginally concerned, if at all, with cool or trendy-looking devices.” Businesses have other factors to consider when purchasing products like battery life, ecosystem stability, security, ruggedization, and cost. He continues, “The properties and performance that enterprises seek in these tools varies greatly from what we expect as consumers.” However, the patience for poor user experience in B2B technology is fading. Why? One could argue that it’s because of millennials. The same Forbes article continues,
“When those people doing the buying are millennials, their expectations are really formed by the best of what is available in the digital and mobile worlds of retail commerce. They bring these expectations with them to their new roles within companies, and if a vendor’s website is clunky, has bad search, is kind of a half-baked version of a catalog pasted onto an online environment, they’re going to go running to a different vendor.”
Millennial employees require a different customer experience because technology is ingrained in their daily lives. Older generations are becoming increasingly comfortable integrating tech into their lives as well. According to an Ad Age article, “It’s actually a myth that baby boomers aren’t into technology. They represent 25% of the population, but they consume 40% [in total dollars spent] of it.” Today, technology use has ingrained itself into every generation and society as a whole.
Impact of sector confluence on product development
The fact is that B2B and B2C technologies are converging. This means that B2B product developers, designers, and managers have to pay close attention to the needs of both and understand where they overlap, especially in the area of user experience. The smart phone industry has already set the user experience “standards”. Today’s B2B devices need to ensure they maintain a consistent UI similar to what has been established by the smart phone market. If a product that is being developed for the B2B market is not consistent with today’s UI trends, it will most likely be perceived as defective or out of date. Sluggish, non-intuitive interfaces won’t pass muster any longer. Eventually, it won’t be worth it for businesses to invest in the cheap solution with all the time and money they’ll waste trying to make it work or getting employees to actually use the technology. Products should be delightful to use – or at least they should make the user feel as if they are accomplishing tasks efficiently and effectively. The kiss of death for any product – whether it be a device or an app – is if no one wants to use it. The onus is on those developing enterprise products to ramp up their UX/UI efforts.