In my previous blog entry on the success factors in e-commerce, I argued those factors can be found by looking at the process of buying goods and services—since each process step can be a competitive advantage or disadvantage. So far, I think we are on pretty firm ground.
Let me venture a bit further, and look at what this means in the B2B vs. B2C parts of e-commerce, and yes, I know this is ambitious.
In B2C, I agree with the point that Google gives away massive value for free. Need a zip code? Google it! Need traffic information? Google it! And so on. Is it necessary for Google to provide all these features? I think the free search would be sufficient for me to keep using Google and live with the sponsored links, even without all that nice extra Street View pictures, etc. On the other hand, I see more and more products or service-related searches moving off of Google, and to specialty websites.
For example, when I need books, pants, skis, I don’t Google – I use one of the online stores I know, and they help me find my way around. No need to search for more stores with the same brands. Between the stores, I see differentiation in the searching options – Dawanda provides special sources, Zalando helps find a style, Amazon has mostly everything else I need. And now, the online giants are falling into the trap they had for offline stores for awhile: I may search on the one with the best search option—but then, I’m free to find the best price, shipping, and customer service… elsewhere.
So, overall, I think it is the nature of the beast that advice or recommendations are hard to sell; you always end up giving some of it away for free. Which explains why Amazon focuses on improving the delivery process, rather than search.
In B2B, things look different. In B2B, the number of customers may be smaller. In B2B, prices are customer-specific. In B2B, servicing contracts may be more relevant than the original product itself. In B2B, shipping procedures and delivery times may have more meaning than the color of the product. International tax rules and customs procedures are relevant. In B2B, it is often machines doing business, rather than humans. Ironically, it is these complex interactions that require even more human help to work out smoothly.
All these pieces of information and business processes are not fully automated today, and much of it is that way on purpose—hidden from the outside world. That creates a difficult starting point for search engines scanning billions of pages and tracking keywords. It is also not an ideal world for an e-commerce marketplace that survives on big volumes and easy comparisons. It is a world where smart access and usage of data will win. It is a world where combining supply chain management and the financial supply chain will truly drive differentiation for businesses.
Which explains why Traxpay’s unique approach to B2B payments has become a critical element for successful B2B business – both e-commerce, and offline.