How organisations are using Internet technologies

There are many examples of how companies operating in B2B markets have utilised the Internet at different stages in the supply chain (see Figure 11.3). Typically, an organisation will begin by establishing its intention to use Internet technologies, then there will be an initial developmental period, prior to implementation. Implementation can

Figure 11.3 Solar Turbines - a Caterpillar company

Source: Screenshot from Solar Turbines web site http://mvsolar.cat.com/cda/lavout?m=6637&x = Caterpillar Inc. All rights reserved.

_7.Copyright 2005,

Figure 11.3 Solar Turbines - a Caterpillar company

Source: Screenshot from Solar Turbines web site http://mvsolar.cat.com/cda/lavout?m=6637&x = Caterpillar Inc. All rights reserved.

_7.Copyright 2005, involve adoption of a wide range of Internet technologies and web-based applications. Primarily, customer-facing web-based applications focus on a) serving a communications objective, b) serving a transactional (sales) objective, and c) pursuing both a) and b) simultaneously. Supplier-facing web based applications focus on a) serving a transactional (sales) objective (e.g. e-procurement) and b) managerial objectives, i.e. supplier-relationship management, supply chain management, knowledge management and application service providing.

In the case of industrial companies, web sites can be used to provide buyers with a high level of specific product information (see Figure 11.3).

Online communications

A dilemma faced by organisations operating in B2B markets is just how much information to communicate (specific principles and techniques of online communications are discussed in detail in Chapter 8). Take the example of the world's train manufacturers, where there are just five key companies. To provide potential and existing clients with information, each manufacturer will publish information about new contracts, new products and testimonials from existing customers. However, whilst this information will also be of great interest to potential customers it could also be of great value to competitors. The web provides easy access to many data sources and this has led companies to employ staff specifically to find and summarise information from competitors. Therefore it is important to strike a careful balance between disclosing too much information (for competitors) and not enough (for customers). This problem has largely been overcome by the use of password- and firewall-protected extranets (see Chapter 1 for further details).

Nevertheless, for some organisational markets being able to link customers to information is a key advantage. Take the UK government for example, which is using the Internet and the web to modernise and improve many public services by providing more web-based customer service information. The UK government has set a target that 100% of government services should be capable of being delivered online by 2005. The outcome is portal sites like Directgov (see Figure 11.4) that provides information about a wide range of government services and links to around 1,500 different contacts. According to the site you can:

• 'Browse by audience groups such as 'disabled people' and 'parents' or by topics including 'money, tax and benefits', 'employment', 'education and learning' and 'motoring'. Or you can access definitive government directories or use the search engine.

• Book a driving test, tax your car, renew your passport, find out about child safety, parental leave, special educational needs and lots more.

• Link to government departments as well as relevant third parties which can offer additional trusted advice and support.

Online communications offer an opportunity to create highly tailored, fast communications that can deliver high information content at comparatively low cost (Gattiker et al., 2000). The online advertising spend has increased significantly during recent years in terms of the number of organisations advertising online and the size of the online promotional budget being spent, but recently there is a reported slow down in the growth rate of the online advertising sector. However, this slow down is not uniform as interestingly organisations are beginning to use a wider range of online promotional tools; search engine marketing is becoming particularly important in ensuring web content is visible to the chosen target market audience. Another example of a new and increasingly popular mode of online communication is online video (see Mini Case Study 11.2), which has become technologically viable as more end-users (B2B and B2C markets) have broadband Internet connections.

Figure 11.4 Directgov

Source: Directgov www.direct.gov.uk/Homepage/fs/en

Figure 11.4 Directgov

Source: Directgov www.direct.gov.uk/Homepage/fs/en

Mini Case Study 11.2

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