The New E-Commerce is Engagement Commerce (Engagement Commerce Series, Part I)


After over twenty years of e-commerce, it’s apparent: we’ve had it all wrong. B2B buyers have still not flocked to purchasing through a shopping cart like we thought they would, but that doesn’t mean e-commerce hasn’t impacted the way they buy. Quite the opposite. E-commerce has revolutionized the way a B2B buyer thinks, even when they buy through traditional means.In this new series on Engagement Commerce, we will unpack what this means for the future of your business, and we'll discuss today's B2B buyer and the new attitudes that are now beginning to govern tomorrow's B2B buying experience. Every consumer is not a B2B buyer, but every B2B buyer is a consumer. That subtle distinction is changing the way B2B buyers interact and purchase with you.Though B2B buying habits differ from their B2C counterpart, B2B buyers bring their consumer purchasing influences into the buying process when they buy promotional products, most notably in the area of speed. The pace at which a customer buys now is on-demand, they require immediate answers and fast ideas. According to the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science Report, consumers spend an average of 13 seconds making a purchasing decision in-store and, when making a purchasing decision online, the average consumer spends 19 seconds to decide. For a distributor to win, time is of the essence. If they do not find a solution for their customer in a timely manner, they will likely lose the project. If they do so repeatedly, they could lose the client. For a distributor today, every project is make-or-break. There are several recommended shifts that distributors should make today, to become more relevant, quicker to respond, and poised to win more business in the future. The new buying habits of B2B buyers are even ushering in a new category beyond e-commerce that supersedes the shopping cart experience: engagement commerce. 

What is Engagement Commerce? 

 According to a Forrester research study, “68% of B2B buyers prefer doing business online versus with a salesperson, and when they engage with sales, they want that experience to be in a more problem-solving, consultative manner.”First, what does “online” mean? What it doesn’t mean is purely e-commerce. E-commerce is over twenty years old, it’s no longer new, and the years have proven that most B2B buyers still prefer to transact business in traditional ways. So, “online” may not mean they prefer to purchase through a shopping cart, but what the promotional products buyer demands today from distributors is less friction in the buying process through digital tools that will expedite the process, plus more consultation from their distributors when they interact. 

At the core of B2C e-commerce is the transaction; at the core of B2B e-commerce is the process+partnership.  

 B2B e-commerce is about complementing creative insights and strong relationships with a streamlined and simplified digital process. Engagement commerce fuses a fast and efficient digital buying experience for your customer with all of the deeply creative and strategic value your team offers through consultation. Craig Dunlap, co-founder of Dallas-based distributor Meyer-Dunlap, was a guest on a recent skucast episode and said that the method used by fast-responding distributors today has the promise actually to be “easier than e-commerce.”When Mark Graham, commonsku’s Co-founder and Chief Platform Officer, sat down with me to discuss what the new e-commerce, engagement commerce, really means, we didn’t know the response it would make in the market. We had an inkling it was something significant, a new category perhaps, but the responses we received were numerous, with lots of head nodding, and many of them, like us, were astonished at the promise of this new category. Here's Mark Graham to explain engagement commerce in a quick 6-minute clip:   Engagement commerce is marrying the efficiency of the traditional e-commerce company with the strategic and creative advice of the classic distributor, a distributor who solves their customer's problems and brings real value.   We hope you'll join us for this new series on Engagement Commerce. Through this series, we'll uncover what's broken in the buying process and how to fix it, plus we'll learn how to adapt and exceed the expectation of today's B2B buyer through both an enhanced digital experience plus a creative, consultative partnership.Join us for our next installment as we look at the friction in the buying process and what the buyer today expects from a progressive promotional products distributor.
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