Originally posted on the commonsku blog.
This is part two in a series on how our e-commerce experience led to engagement commerce.
In Part 1, I shared how RIGHTSLEEVE lost its way after building our own e-commerce site, but it also taught us an incredible lesson about how customers really wanted to work with us.
Let’s start with a story.
On the day we closed the e-commerce site, one of our largest customers called and said, “Where did your site go? We loved shopping on your site!”
As opposed to freaking out, we asked them what they loved about shopping on our site. They said they liked seeing new ideas and transacting online because it was easy.
We pushed a little harder to unpack what they were looking for. Easy was only part of the story. Creativity was the other part of the equation, and when pushed, they agreed that slogging through countless options wasn’t all that easy. Creativity and ideation were also starting to take a hit as they were busy and didn’t have the time to look for new ideas.
They agreed that buying a creative promotional product that solves a tangible business problem is not like buying a book on Amazon.
We had been working with this customer since 2000 in our pre-e-commerce store days. This era was defined by highly creative interactions where we helped them solve business challenges like uniform design, recruitment, retention, and brand recognition.
But they still wanted easy, AND they wanted creativity, AND they wanted a delightful customer experience.
This was when we realized that there was a new dimension to the digital experience that was a variation on traditional e-commerce. This was when we started thinking about this idea of a different kind of electronic commerce, one that was focused on engagement with the customer in a digital setting.
Electronic commerce vs Engagement commerce.
Designing our e-commerce site was not a complete waste of money. Tied in with the site was an entire backend architecture that took orders from the website and put them straight into our workflow. Orders on the site made their way into a supplier PO without any rekeying of information.
Inspired by the interaction we had on our social media pages, we designed a presentation platform that gave us the ability to interact with customers online. Customers loved working without paper as it sped up their ideation time as well as their ability to get buy-in from their colleagues.
This evolved into a project management system that tied all of our front-end customer interactions with our backend production systems. This completely changed how we worked with customers as it allowed us to scale the relationship-driven approach we had with our customers.
Customers loved ordering online so we realized that giving customers a clean order confirmation that could be reviewed and approved (or changed) online was critical. The transparency that customers expected from ordering online was still available to them with our online order approvals.
Giving customers the ability to interact effortlessly with us at the project level (vs. just the product level) was a revelation.
Speed was also very important to customers. By leveraging the backend workflow processes we had built into our original e-commerce site, we were still able to enjoy the efficiencies of getting orders in and out of the system without rekeying information and juggling multiple systems. Customers saw the difference with fewer order problems, quicker turn times, not to mention a more creative and transparent online process.
This was when we realized that our “modern customer” wanted the best of both worlds. They wanted an easy, slick digital experience but they also wanted a relationship with an account person that could offer creative solutions efficiently.
Engagement commerce sums up this blended approach beautifully as it has allowed us to be relevant to the young, modern buyer but also allows us to deliver on our differentiated creative solution to our customers.
This is part two in a series on how our e-commerce experience led to engagement commerce, for part one, please visit How We Lost Our Way with E-Commerce at RIGHTSLEEVE.