Special Issue in Industrial Marketing Management.

Extending and sustaining B2B engagement in a digitalized and automated world: Future challenges

Guest Co-Editors: Blasco-Arcas L., Azer J., Alexander M. & Kowalkowski C.

Deadline: 1 June 2023

Customer engagement and more generally, the concept of engagement has emerged as a critical concept in marketing in the last decade as a means to create competitive advantage primarily focusing in how to build longer lasting and more relevant connections with customers (Kumar and Pansari, 2016; Wiersema, 2013).

Initially defined as a customer’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses toward brands or firms (Brodie et al., 2011), the concept has been explored in a range of consumer contexts, primarily to date as an individual phenomenon that occurs in dyadic interactions (Brodie et al., 2011; Vivek et al., 2016). More recent studies also explicate the role of engagement in service ecosystems, here considering a broader spectrum of engaged actors and the role of engagement in systemic change (Brodie et al, 2019; Alexander et al, 2018; Storbacka et al, 2016). Empirically, engagement has been analyzed in a range of different settings such as brand communities, online and social media (Azer et al., 2021; Azer and Alexander, 2018; Bowden et al., 2017) and the role of engagement platforms (Blasco-Arcas et al., 2016; Breidbach and Brodie, 2017).

Recent research also highlights importance and relevance of engagement in business-to-business (B2B) contexts (Alexander et al., 2018; Ekman et al., 2021; Jaakkola and Aarikka-Stenroos, 2019; Reinartz and Berkmann, 2018). In this regard, different conceptualizations such as actor engagement, (Brodie et al., 2019; Storbacka, 2019; Storbacka et al., 2016), collective engagement (Kleinaltenkamp et al., 2019), multi-actor engagement (Li et al., 2017; Verleye et al., 2014) or business actor engagement (Ekman et al., 2021) have emerged to reflect the diverse nature of the involved individuals in engagement creation processes.

Engagement in business networks has been explored addressing its impact at a collective level (Kleinaltenkamp et al., 2019), highlighting its networked nature and the importance of engagement platforms in fostering sustained and purposeful engagement (Blasco-Arcas et al., 2020; Marcos-Cuevas et al., 2016). Such platforms are based not only on technical architecture but also on the architectures of participation that members use to co-align their actions (Perks et al., 2017). Further, the potential influence of institutional contexts and other actors involved in shaping engagement in business networks has also been considered (Jaakkola and Aarikka-Stenroos, 2019; Koskela-Huotari and Vargo, 2016).

Despite those recent valuable contributions there is still a need to further explore and deepen knowledge in B2B engagement, to provide practical insights about how engagement can be facilitated and sustained in organizational settings. The diversity of the B2B stakeholders and the complexity of their relationships especially in the online communicative space necessitate a clearer theorization and exploration of B2B engagement in complex business settings. Specifically, viewing all ecosystem actors as able to interact, means that engagement applies to a much richer, and more diverse, set of actor combinations in B2B networks which may not only include humans but also technology and machines as actors (Storbacka et al., 2016). Practically, a fine-grained understanding of B2B engagement within the online communicative space, enhances business engagement in ecosystems that includes multiple actors/stakeholders in the online environment.

The main objective of this special issue is to deepen the knowledge about engagement in B2B relationships, taking into consideration both current and future challenges. For example, as digitalization is evolving quickly in many industries worldwide, the role of autonomous solutions and technology as actors is unclear, yet worth understanding. What are the key aspects in creating and maintaining business actors’ engagement in more technological and automated business processes? What it is the role of artificial intelligence devices and applications in engagement development in business networks? How to integrate and balance out both physical and virtual engagement platforms to foster sustainable and beneficial engagement in a system overtime?

This special issue seeks submissions that address any of the topic areas below as well as similar field-based aspects and examinations:
– Develop a more comprehensive and cohesive conceptualization of engagement in the B2B field
– Analyze the role of institutional contexts in facilitating more collective forms of engagement
– Identify the potential role of specific engagement platforms in fostering B2B engagement behaviors
– Explore the role of AI and automation in creating, expanding, and maintaining individual or collective engagement in business settings
– Examine multilateral construction of engagement among different stakeholders within the B2B communicative landscape.
– Explore the characteristics and motivations of the B2B engagement in various network structures (e.g., online, offline, internal, external, and intraorganizational)
– Apply different methodological approaches to study B2B engagement (e.g., scale development, quantitative measures, qualitative comparative analysis)
– Examine engagement’s relation to customer success management, customer experience management, and performance implications.
All in all, we welcome both methodological papers on experiments in B2B as well as substantive applications of experiments for B2B.

Preparation and submission of paper and review process
Papers submitted must not have been published, accepted for publication, or presently be under consideration for publication elsewhere. Submissions should be about 6,000-8,000 words in length. Copies should be uploaded on Industrial Marketing Management’s homepage through the Editorial management system. You need to upload your paper using the dropdown box for the special issue on VSI: B2B engagement.

Important dates
Submission opens: January 1, 2023
Deadline for submission: June 1, 2023

Guest editors
Lorena Blasco-Arcas (ESCP Business School)
Jaylan Azer (University of Glasgow)
Matthew Alexander (University of Strathclyde)
Christian Kowalkowski (Linköping University)

See full CfP here.