Mobile apps are garnering a lot of attention in the world of B2B eCommerce. In a recent survey of global product and supply companies, 65% of respondents said that they offered a mobile optimized site. The same percentage said that they offered B2B mobile apps. More than two thirds of these companies cited brand awareness and customer engagement as their primary motivations for offering B2B mobile apps, while nearly half gave increased sales as their primary objective.

Surveys like this underscore the growing importance of mobile for online marketing success. We recently noted that there are more than 176 million mobile users in the US, and that more than 75% of B2B buyers use mobile at some point during their purchasing process. While mobile traffic today accounts for around 16% of B2B eCommerce visits, the vast majority of B2B decision makers believe that number is only going to grow, making mobile the future of B2B eCommerce.

So, is it time for your business to consider introducing B2B mobile apps into the mix? In this post, we’ll talk through your two key mobile options – mobile optimized web or native B2B mobile apps – and some reasons why native mobile apps offer significant advantages over a standard mobile website.

Mobile Optimized, or Native B2B Mobile Apps?

There’s a significant difference between a mobile optimized site and a native B2B mobile app. A mobile optimized site is generally more readable on a mobile device than a non-optimized site. However, the layout and navigation of the site may not change much from the desktop version. The purchasing functionality may also be more similar to a desktop experience, with components such as pull down menus and fill in boxes that can make the mobile user experience more challenging.

A native B2B mobile app, on the other hand, is more than a mobile optimized site. A B2B mobile app is essentially a complete rethinking of the user experience for the needs of a mobile user. It avoids components that don’t work well on the small screen, such as pulldowns, opting instead for slider bars, large buttons that are easy to see and use on the small screen, and simple, consistent navigation.

B2B mobile apps may also be centered around a specific function. A B2B company could, for instance, offer a branded mobile order app that incorporates a barcode scanner to allow users to scan an item as it goes out of stock and automatically order from the app. The app could also allow them to research past orders to create a reorder for the item.

Mobile users account for a growing number of B2B buyers, but they remain a comparatively small percentage of online sales. B2B users show a preference for using mobile in the research portion of their purchasing cycle, but they tend to make the actual purchase in another channel. B2B mobile apps help to overcome one of the major obstacles in mobile eCommerce: converting site visitors into buyers.

Three Reasons You Need B2B Mobile Apps

Research indicates that mobile users spend the majority of time on their mobile device inside of apps – that is, using apps like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. Why do mobile users seem to prefer apps over mobile optimized sites?

  • Mobile browsers aren’t user friendly. Mobile users report that the experience of using a mobile browser rather than a mobile app provides more challenges, such as having to pinch and zoom screens, or the lack of push notifications to provide rapid, relevant updates. Mobile sites are also slower than apps, a crucial consideration for B2B buyers who are likely crunched for time.
  • Better personalization. Personalization is a crucial consideration for B2B mobile apps because this is where the mobile experience can really shine for your B2B customers. Unlike a website that you have to sign into every time you want to access your account, a B2B mobile app automatically signs users in at the tap of a button, providing instant access to their personalized site. For business users who may have multiple accounts on multiple websites, the ability to quickly and easily log in, search for the products they need, review past order history and complete their transaction quickly is a real bonus.
  • B2B mobile apps work, even offline. The ability to continue researching purchases and entering orders even offline is another important reason why mobile users prefer B2B mobile apps over mobile optimized sites. Mobile devices were made to use on the go, and it’s often the case that connectivity may be lost while traveling through areas with a limited data signal. In the life of a time-crunched B2B buyer, being able to continue working even without an internet connection is a significant advantage of B2B mobile apps over an optimized site.

For companies that want to deliver on the promise of mobile, B2B mobile apps offer a way to increase engagement with mobile users, and turn more of their site visits into actual purchases. Furthermore, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendors are making these kinds of apps more accessible than ever, and companies at all sizes and stages are beginning to implement them.