It is imperative to understand the similarities and differences between the B2C and B2B worlds.
Let’s face it, purchasing something for yourself at home only requires a few keystrokes and the virtual swipe of your credit card. Conversely, corporate buying by comparison seems onerous and time consuming. While there is no doubt that the B2C experience has transcended into the B2B business world on many positive levels, it is still a transaction-based service in which the relationship between buyer and seller are tenuous. This is because they are usually limited to the immediate transaction.
In this context, E-commerce B2C platforms are a means to an end in that they are more of a fulfillment mechanism after the buying decision has been made. With the B2B world, E-commerce platforms are actually an extension of the relationship between buyer and seller or sellers. In other words, they enhance the capabilities of both existing as well as new buyer-supplier relationships, to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
This is not a minor difference.It is therefore safe to say that B2B E-commerce platforms are tools of integrative intelligence, in which the eventual fulfillment extends beyond a simple order and deliver functionality. The above statement is not meant to undermine or in any way diminish the importance of the B2C world. In fact, quite the opposite.
Gum At The Check-Out Counter
In a highly competitive transactional world, technological responsiveness by way of convenience and speed are the order of the day. Think of it in terms of a spontaneous purchase at the check-out line at the local grocery shop.
More often times than not, we purchase these strategically placed products because they are easily within reach. This to me highlights perfectly the B2C E-commerce world. If I had to think about it or go through an elongated buying process, I probably would not purchase that pack of gum. However the B2C convenience and expediency are replaced, in the B2B world, by business intelligence and the need for ongoing buyer-seller collaboration.
Managing this ongoing end-to-end process is significantly different than the single transactional model that defines the B2C exchange. All this of course raises the question, should we view the B2C and B2B worlds parallel one to the other? My answer would be no. Ironically I would view the B2B to B2C worlds as two distinct elements of a traditional extended supply chain – with a twist.
In essence, they form the cohesive elements of a true end-to-end make to consumer process. This process, in which the B2C platforms are the public interface for the products that come to reality through a manufacturer’s B2B platforms, recognizes the complimentary differences of each.
It is the B2B platforms, that enable the manufacturer to create the products on a cost effective and quality reliable basis. Yet without the transactional efficiencies of the B2C E-commerce platforms, the manufacturer to retailer would have a difficult time in getting the product to the end consumer market.
So while the B2B and B2C worlds are not parallel to one another in terms of functional capabilities and market defined focus, they are very much two important “links” in the emerging Indian E-commerce supply chain.