August 9, 2011

The Ascent of the Social Buyer

While we’ve seen the rise of the social consumer in the past two years reshape the concept of social currency, we are witnessing the ascent of the social buyer embracing social commerce.  The B2B buyer continues to ascend and advance in the use of social technologies, networks, and commerce that are radically changing the notion of business as usual.  We are seeing the birth of a new era in B2B commerce that is more social, more connected, and more humanized.

The B2B buyer, for decades, has engaged in primarily offline buying activities.  With the advent of the Internet, we began to see the first shifts in online buyer behaviors influencing how plans and decisions were made in a B2B context.  As the constant motion of the social age evolves, offline and online buying activities are blending into a myriad of new buying behaviors that are yet to be defined clearly.  Like a lens, we are still trying to focus the picture on seeing clearing today as well as into the future how these new social buying behaviors will change B2B commerce as we know it.

A New Social Engagement Index

One of the more interesting developments in the ascent of the social buyer has been the new expectations of social engagement.  In recent ethnographic studies I’ve conducted, where I am talking with B2B purchasers and decision-makers, I am witnessing conversationally the new threshold of what we may call a company’s Social Engagement Index.  What I mean is an index of how a company is perceived in its’ efforts to utilize social technologies, networks, and etc. to advance its’ relationship with their buyers.  The important discovery here is that how a company is perceived to be engaging socially is beginning to influence the willingness to enter into a B2B relationship.

This insight brings back into focus the topic I recently wrote about – turning b2b buying into a social experience.  It is becoming more evident that not only do B2B buyers – as social buyers – desire more humanized social experiences; they are beginning to manifest it into an expectation.  This has profound implications for B2B businesses to think about remapping strategically how they align their efforts to engage with social buyers.  A tough assignment when the picture is yet not as clear as desired on knowing exactly how to do this.  B2B companies do know however that they must learn for the risk of being caught flat footed is too great.

Social Experience Becoming More Meaningful

One thing we can count on is that B2B social experiences are taking on meaningful contexts in terms of how buyers select who they choose to engage with for advancing their own causes – whether they be for finding solutions to challenges or how it helps them in the advancement of their careers.  I especially note here how social buyers have introduced the more humanized element of a social connection that plays into how they perceive doing business with a certain company.  The social buyer taking into account how a business will help them, within a social world, to advance their careers and how they think others will perceive the decisions they make.

Social Experiences Counting as Social Capital

This is an interesting development because it blends into a concept long held in consumer psychology and sociology.  That is consumer purchases are made within a realm of how it helps identify who we are as well as the statement it may make to others about who we are.  We may be beginning to see how this type of social psychology is becoming more prominent a factor in the B2B buying world and for the social buyer.  Who the social buyer chooses to engage with and the statement their decisions make becoming a reflection of their identity as well as social capital for advancing.

Who is the Social Buyer Persona?

Answering this question definitively is going to take some time and you can count on it shifting constantly.  What we do know is that a few things are beginning to come into a fuzzy picture – and I use fuzzy because we are only in the infancy of the social age – that help us to get a better idea of who the social buyer persona is:

  • Social buyers are exhibiting new behaviors resulting from the new remix of offline and online buying activities
  • Social buyers are beginning to internalize a Social Engagement Index calculator as they investigate businesses and relationships
  • Social buyers are desiring more humanized social experiences
  • Social buyer’s identity and affinity are factors in whom they choose to enter business relationships with

There is most definitely much more to learn.  The ascent of the social buyer is real and it is being reflected in how social experiences and social commerce is having an influence on buying behaviors and purchase decisions.  As mentioned before, the efforts of B2B companies will need to focus on how they remap their business models, functions, and social engagement capabilities to become the social business that B2B buyers are expecting.

-Tony Zambito,

Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing ,
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