Vikram Borar

Many a times I come across a question — is there any difference between UX for enterprise products versus consumer products — or do organizations follow a different process while finalizing UX for B2B and B2C companies. A simple answer would be YES, there is a difference — because of the varied business model, the mindset to innovate and the challenges designers face while dealing with UX. I will try to explain these in detail a little later — let me start with defining what B2E and B2C are, quickly.

B2E (Business-to-Enterprise) most commonly referred as B2B (Business–to–Business) is nothing but the exchange of products, services or information between businesses. For example, SAP selling CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to Vodafone or Vodafone selling high speed network to GE or Volvo selling busses to a large tour and travels company. It is different from B2C where businesses sell products or services to the end consumers. This could refer to individuals shopping for clothes or buying mobile for themselves, or even buying a new motorcycle. Because of these fundamental differences in business model — i.e. serving the end user (in B2C) and serving an organization (in B2E)— the orientation toward UX also differs in both these models.

If we classify it broadly, the below are key differences one would note:

  1. Targeted Users vs Broad User Base: The products which are B2E are targeted to a very niche user base whereas when you make B2C products you try to accommodate a large user base. For example, the USER of Facebook or Instagram is probably all and everyone, whereas the USER of a particular banking application — say Finacle — is a few users who work in specific banks. Even in the banks, only those users who work on a particular process would be using the application and not every bank employee.
  2. Purchases are rational vs emotional: When you go to buy a new cellphone, shirt or car for yourself, your first wish is, it should look good. It should have good brand name. It should elevate your status in the social circle. You may stretch your budget a bit to get the things which you want rather than the one you need. But for B2E purchase, you keep your emotions sideways. These will always be driven more by rational and pragmatic thought rather than emotions. If you have to buy a car which is going to be used as a taxi, you would always go for the one which delivers better fuel average, lower operating and maintenance cost or robust durability. Basically, you would buy a Toyota over a Volkswagen.
  3. Enterprise task are long and complex whereas consumer products tasks are simple and engaging: The tasks which user performs in enterprises are elaborate and detailed. For example, let’s take UBER. If you want to go from one place to another, you would just type ‘FROM’ Place and ‘TO’ Place and book it. But if I ask you to send a truck full of cargo to London from Frankfurt via Paris. It would not be that simple. Users need more details — whose material is it , where to deliver in London, what’s the value, what’s the weight and what permits do it need, how is this going to be taxed, what is my return on investment, how do I increase/enhance it, etc..
  4. Users have domain knowledge: Business users are experts in their domain. It’s difficult to build that knowledge unless you are part of that ecosystem. In fact, the people who make products for enterprises need to thoroughly research the user’s needs to come up with the solution. A lot of functional requirements have to be documented. But in case of consumer applications, you can try to imitate being a USER. For example, in order to make a new consumer application to book tickets, one can easily start with the own self as the user and ask few friends on how they book tickets and come up with fairly useful UI.
  5. Value instead of love: Lastly, when enterprises make applications, they think of creating long-term value because of their product life cycles being long. In case of consumer applications, companies really focus on building love and attractiveness of the application so that you remain engaged. The ERP software stays in company for more than 10–15 years but Orkut (erstwhile popular social networking site) did not survive for many years. In fact people are now bored with facebook also and moving to Instagram.

Because of these above mentioned differences, the model of innovation also is skewed.

Model of Innovation

This is a standard model innovation. To briefly explain:

Desirability — A desirable solution is one that your customer really needs. It should not just address the pain point but also be aim at giving pleasure {don’t think otherwise :)}.

Feasibility: A feasible solution, which is building on the strengths of your current operational capabilities. New development should aim to provide competitive advantage to the business.

Viability: New solution should focus on the entire value chain of your solution to ensure that it is viable now and in the future. If the customers see that they can earn from solution then, they will buy it.

Every enterprise, whether B2E or B2C, tries to ach­­ieve a sweet spot between desirability, feasibility and viability but because their priorities are different, their innovation focuses on few things and not all.

Innovation Model is skewed because of different priorities

Consumer application Vs Enterprise Application

Consumer Product Vs Enterprise Product

Tesla is prominent example of innovation in the B2C space in recent times. They are transforming the entire auto industry. The cars have a waiting period of over 2 years. But people are not buying it just because it saves money on fuel or because it’s sustainable — they buy it because its looks cool to own a Tesla. It represents technology which the owners would like to talk over lunch or create stories around. Also note, that it’s not cheap either — priced higher than BMW 5 series or Mercedes E class with no proven track record.

On the other hand, if you see a backhoe loader, it looks almost the same as it used to look 20 years back. The design hasn’t changed much. In fact, now companies are thinking about enhancing the user experience of the driver by thinking about reduced NVH levels and improving space inside the cabin. Till now the (manufacturers) focus has been on making the most reliable and durable loader which does its work properly and not worry about looks and experience.

SAP’s new design language. SAP Fiori

B2E enterprises are realizing that “Good Design is Good Business”. B2E software companies are working towards making software which are user friendly and looks good. They are on the path of embracing complexity while reducing complications. And designers play a huge role in this ecosystem. They will be the ones who will work towards providing delightful experiences and meaningful solutions.