A different standard

E-commerce is a topic we write about every month, in some way or another. It’s one of the few topics that has an effect on the way every one of our readers conducts business.

Before you claim to be the exception, consider this: Even if you have one of the few companies today without a Web site, can you truly say that your company has never purchased a supply or service over the Web? Probably not.

This month, one of the articles in the Managing Your Business section of SBN addresses e-commerce from the consumer side of the B2B marketplace. SBN talked to several businesspeople who make purchasing decisions for their companies to find out why they are using the Internet to buy products and services for their businesses. Overwhelmingly, they agree that the Internet provides ease of use, reliability and immediate feedback on delivery status.

Additionally, many of the purchasers we talked to said their Internet purchases had saved their company money, not to mention time.

Because businesses are more open to purchasing over the Internet, vendors in the B2B marketplace enjoy a higher success rate than their counterparts on the consumer side. So as many consumer sites are failing, many B2B sites are thriving.

I talked to author and business consultant Jack Ricchiutto about the article he wrote, and he thinks B2B sites have a better survival rate because B2B buyers are more market savvy than their consumer counterparts. For one, many businesses that use the Web for purchases already have the infrastructure in place. They have grown accustomed to automated operations, from billing monthly office supply orders to confirming travel arrangements.

In addition to savvy customers, successful B2B Web sites have other characteristics in common. Here are a few our reporters have discovered while covering B2B e-commerce:

1. Successful B2B e-businesses offer more to their customers through supportive partnerships they’ve created with other industry players.

2. Business customers demand a high level of security and confidentiality. A successful B2B site offers both.

3. Most boast integrated offerings, such as local or phone-based customer service, and real-time status reports.

4. They respond quickly to customer requests. It’s not uncommon for e-mail messages to be returned within an hour.

5. These sites are frequently updated. Special promotions and graphics are changed often.

6. Lastly, while cost savings is one of the main draws of a consumer-product site, B2B customers are less likely to scoff at paying shipping charges if the above standards are met. Connie Swenson ([email protected]) is the editor of SBN Magazine.