What’s the difference between B2B and B2C? UX Question #41

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Linda from Ontario, Canada, asks: What’s the difference between B2B and B2C?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Linda. This is UX Question number 41 and I am Ben Judy.

What’s the difference between B2B and B2C? Well, B2B stands for business to business and B2C stands for business to consumer.

B2C UX design focuses on meeting the needs and expectations of individual consumers. We create products and services that are intuitive, user-friendly, and emotionally meaningful. We help people find relevant content they are looking for, or book travel, or buy shoes, or find government services.

B2B UX design, on the other hand, focuses on designing systems that streamline processes and improve efficiency in the interactions between businesses or organizations. The question there is, how can better UX design help the company spend less on those transactions between departments or organizations?

I’ve done plenty of B2B and B2C UX work. I’ll provide two examples from earlier in my career that should make the differences clear.

Back in 2005 I worked at Traveocity.com. This is the travel booking website with the ‘roaming gnome.’

And I did B2C design. For example, I designed the main page on Travelocity where you would begin booking a hotel room. My entire focus was: how do I make the experience of booking a hotel more intuitive, user-friendly, and enjoyable for travelers—consumers.

A few years later, I was the UX manager at Aptitude.com. This was a very specific B2B service. We created an online marketplace for hospitals to buy medical supplies. It was a marketplace for groups of buyers and groups of sellers to meet and sign contracts based on algorithmically generated pricing models. The software facilitated business to business transactions.

Two key differences emerge in a career spent bouncing back and forth between B2B and B2C design.

One: B2B is more strategically complex. You have to understand multiple businesses, their business strategies, and how they are either competitors or partners—and you need to understand their end customers. With B2C, you only usually need to understand one business and their customers.

Two: B2B design is similar to enterprise UX design in that your users are often skilled professionals who are well trained at doing their job. This means the workflows and the UI patterns you can use in your designs can be more complex. You can design for professionals, and that opens a whole different UX playbook.

Fundamentally, I think B2C is about customer satisfaction, and B2B is about business optimization.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: What is Waterfall?

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