The following article was prepared by Mike Taylor, C.P.M. for distribution to NAPM affiliate newsletters. 

Swimming In A Sea Of "E"

Where do all the different e-commerce terms come from? What do they all mean?

We hear about web PORTALS, VORTALS, NET MARKET Sites, "MY"-sites, VERTICAL NETS, WEB BOTS and WEB COMMERCE destinations. Sometimes the proliferation of web terminology seems like a trick to keep us guessing. In many ways it really is!

Much of the hype we see surrounding the Internet today is free enterprise at its best. Each one is a company trying to differentiate their product from the rest and attract attention and business. Just because the net is new, the words can be challenging to understand. However, as purchasing people we have an advantage. Consider that all of these players with new names are really sellers trying to sell something. We've seen sellers in action before.

Years ago we learned the advantages, and disadvantages, of buying through a full-line distributor [with a big yellow catalog] (WEB PORTAL or NET MARKET site). There are times when it makes sense to buy through a one-stop shopping source for laboratory or office supplies (WEB VORTAL or VERTICAL NET). Sometimes we hire an agent to manage the purchase for us (WEB BOTS and WEB COMMERCE Destinations). Each solution has its time and place.

However, buyers have also become wary of seller services that claim to locate "all" the best sources and steer us to the "right" decision. The conflict of interest that a middleman can have makes us very suspicious. We analyze the motivation of all parties and like to do our own decision making.

If the price is small, then the benefits outweigh the risks. But, do I really trust someone else to locate all of the possible sources for a big purchase? Even if I know where I can buy it now, do I feel the need to solicit competitive quotes? Is the sales representative getting paid a fee contingent with my being convinced to buy and is thus inclined to exaggerate a little?

Yes it's much easier to stop in at the local mall than drive to the old-town shop. Yes it is convenient. Buyers can only afford to spend a little time on the low-value MRO items. For some types of items and services, it does make sense to take the easy way out. But, there are also many reasons why purchasing people will want to be skeptical and review the limitations and risks before making large commitments and big purchases.

How do we avoid the problems? By asking all the right questions. Who owns the site? Who makes money when I make a purchase? How are products and vendors selected? Which ones are excluded? How open is the market? Do the advantages outweigh the risks?

The tool is glitzy now, but the message is the same, "I have a new trick and I want you to buy through, my web site."........ Our job: Caveat Emptor!

Now let's not even think about all the "E"-web "E"-terminology that's really "E"-trying to change how we "E"-think and "E"-talk.

MLTWEB is assembled and maintained by Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M. 
Materials and articles prepared by Mike may be shared for purchasing education provided that this source is cited and no fee is charged. The rights for any other use are withheld.
Copyright;  Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M.
Last Updated: 02/26/2012