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The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Insight Into Gaining Insight: Sonesh Shah from Bosch

sonesh-headshotGuest Author: Sonesh Shah

Director of Digital at Robert Bosch Tool Corporation

I was asked to co-present a session at the 2016 IRCE conference with Scott Kincaid of Usability Sciences. The theme of the session was “B2B and usability research.” For this session, our team paired up with Usability Sciences to collaborate on a round of user research and then present the results in an interactive session with video clips and audience participation. It was an interesting process, and I thought it would be helpful to share my thoughts on the overall research experience.

For background, I manage several different parts of the digital experience for Bosch, and this round was targeted specifically at the BoschLink part of our site. It’s a closed system that targets B2B distributors selling our tools and parts.

The site is geared around three key use cases:

  1. Placing and tracking orders
  2. Looking up prices
  3. Checking inventory

Similarly, the site is geared around three key user types:

  1. Bosch field sales employees (e.g. district managers)
  2. Independent dealers who own small shops that sell or repair Bosch equipment
  3. Regional dealers that represent our bigger customers

Going into the study, I was skeptical about doing a moderated usability test. We had recently done our own internal discovery process to understand the pain-points of our customers. That process took significant time and costs to complete, and provided us with a firm feature roadmap and solid personas to target moving forward. While I was confident about the internal path we were headed down, I was convinced we should try performing a usability test with an external research company. This would allow us to see what else we could learn and how it differed from what we were able to do on our own.

My group owns both of the digital properties of our company: the B2B side and the B2C side. For this reason, we try to combine as much functionality as possible for consistency and efficiency. During the study, one of the more interesting things we learned was around our assumptions of functionality for the B2C customers versus the B2B customers. Since we had a five-star rating system on the B2C side, we thought that the B2B side would also want ratings on the site. However, when you watch this clip, you will see that our dealers were somewhat skeptical of the ratings included on the manufacturer’s site.

The learning from this clip was not that we shouldn’t include ratings, but instead how to position the source of the ratings displayed (i.e. emphasizing that the ratings come from an independent source on the web). In hindsight, we realized it was a feature we added to the B2B roadmap without fully understanding how the location would play a role in customer perception. We would not have learned about this potential misunderstanding of product ratings on our site had we (as Bosch employees) asked this question directly to our distributors.

Main Insights After the Research:

While the discovery process and ground work we did was very important (e.g. built personas and feature roadmap), the insights from watching the sessions were invaluable. Some of the high-level themes we learned include:

  • Momentum + Confidence: By far the most important thing we got out of this research was clarity in what we are building, and that goes a long way.
  • Collaboration + Iteration: Ultimately, the features we tested were simply jpeg images displayed in a clickable prototype. This allowed us to make very quick changes based on suggestions from researchers, comments from participants and real-time questions from stakeholders observing the sessions.
  • Updates to our backlog: For some features, priorities were bumped higher, and, for others, moved down the list in the backlog. Being able to gauge these features based on moderation from an independent, third party and looking at them through the eyes of our customers was priceless.
  • Additions to our personas: In addition to the three sales personas we had internally built, the research raised the importance of a fourth persona that was previously lower on our priority list.
  • B2B is not B2C: There is too much talk of the B2C world being the same for B2B. In our experience, this is not always true. While B2C has some easy usability templates (such as putting the cart in the top right, displaying the “Add to Cart” button in a different color, etc.), in the B2B world, you must understand WHY they are visiting your site and what they want to do in your environment. Even though it is easier to assume, you have to test and prove those assumptions.

For questions about the research contact:

Sonesh Shah on LinkedIn

Scott Kincaid on LinkedIn

For more information about this session, here’s an article from an IRCE reporter who attended:

B2B E-Commerce World: Bosch Retools Its E-commerce Portal Business Customers

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