As we (re)discovered in the recent Forrester Wave™ reports for B2B and B2C commerce suites, the experience of the business user increasingly influences vendor selection. As a retailer or brand, you already know this. During our recent commerce suites Wave evaluation process, we interviewed current customers of each vendor, and of those we spoke with, senior retail and brand execs tended to be happier with their commerce provider than the “boots on the ground” business users. This is because:

  • Executives are less aware of the day-to-day frustrations and challenges of running the digital business and base their satisfaction on big-picture factors such as total cost of the solution and business results.
  • Middle managers, who may see some of the frustrations, are unlikely to be personally dealing with the solution and will be privy to the bigger-picture wins.
  • Ground troops — i.e., the business users logging in and making the business “go” every day — reflected the struggles in their sentiment.

Why It Matters: It’s The Business User’s Job To Get The Work Done

  • Businesses are running lean — and look to their tech providers to improve efficiency.
  • A frustrated admin is an ineffective admin. And if users can’t figure out how to use the nifty functionality that systems offer, vendors get no credit for the innovation.
  • As my colleague Andrew Hogan says, commerce platforms are caught up in the design revolution — just like customer-facing systems. Real next-generation designs can run circles around established ones, and user interfaces must enable efficient work for the end user.

So As A Digital Business, How Do You Make Sure Your Tech Choices Enable Your Efficiency?

You don’t need to be a usability expert to fully evaluate an interface before buying: Just bring your business users into the vendor selection process — early. This growing trend reflects how these expectations are changing in the market. Jon Panella, group vice president at Publicis Sapient, told me, “As commerce — from a technology perspective — has become more of a commodity, we are seeing much greater focus in clients’ selection processes around experience and business tooling; this extends to having business users participate at a much higher level than in the past.”

Specifically, Work With Your Internal Business Users To:

  • Prioritize functions that will help them run the business most effectively. Ask your business users what practices they think have the biggest impact and where the opportunities are to improve those processes.
  • Build demo scenarios that reflect realistic daily work. Require potential vendors that you’re evaluating to demonstrate these workflows in detail as an admin. This practice will uncover usability issues and obstacles in common processes.
  • Evaluate solutions for workflow by role. Determine whether a single user represents the roles within the org or whether, in fact, multiple admins contribute. Make sure to honor the specific needs of each function.

Retailers, need help figuring out how to evaluate solutions with your business users in the mix? Please get in touch and let me help you build this into your selection process. Vendors, reach out so we can talk about how your customers need you to offer solutions that obsess about their users’ needs. And in the meantime, have a look at our Forrester Wave evaluations on B2B and B2C commerce suites.