The availability of the Internet and the development of electronic tools result in a constantly growing number of enterprises that manage purchase/sale transactions electronically. The Marketplanet’s report shows that the current value of purchase spending of Polish companies on an electronic B2B market reaches as much as PLN 215 billion, and along with global trends, the value will further increase in the following years.*What is a B2B market? In short, it is a set of different electronic tools supporting purchase transactions between enterprises that are conducted solely over the Internet. Electronic B2B markets offer the seller and the buyer an opportunity to find business partners and build relationships that would not be possible if the parties used only traditional ways. However, how the two parties meet and start cooperation?
Firstly, the majority of electronic B2B markets operate in-built bases of enterprises that are regularly updated and developed. There are several reasons for having the base:
- activation and searching activities of an electronic B2B market operator to extend its base,
- using an electronic B2B market by a growing number of buyers – a supplier base is enlarged by current suppliers who cooperate with a company,
- sellers’ interest in electronic B2B markets as another and increasingly important distribution channel of products and services.
Every buyer may also become a seller (and vice versa), which significantly increases the group of potential business partners.
What are the benefits for users? Firstly, a great time-saving potential, which has been confirmed by the results of a survey conducted by Marketplanet. As much as 26% of buyers responded that they were searching for suppliers using key words entered on the Internet. Electronic B2B market enables a company to gain access to many suppliers in a short time and to address its request for proposal to entities that would not be reachable if the company used only Internet searching engines. In this way, the competitiveness is growing, which further translates into costs savings.
There is no doubt, however, that an extensive base of companies is worthless if a buyer is not able to contact a seller. This issue has been solved by the application of electronic requests for proposals (in short: e-RFX). A buyer creates an e-RFX and describes all its requirements and technical specifications of the product in such a manner to guarantee that the needs of its entity will be satisfied according to the expectations. When the selection criteria have been chosen and the request has been published, the e-RFX is automatically displayed to sellers. It is also possible to invite suppliers who are not using a given electronic B2B market to make their offers – it is sufficient to know their email address. However, if a buyer wishes to start cooperation only with selected suppliers, then the solution is to use a close procedure, which enables the buyer to indicate suppliers who may submit their offers.
How does it work from suppliers’ perspective? When a company defines its need by way of an e-RFX, the information about the request is displayed on a seller’s panel. Additionally, not to miss new requests, a seller may receive automatic (email, SMS, etc) notifications. A seller may ask a question: “Will I be flooded with requests that I will not be able to respond to because of my line of business?” The answer is simple – no. The e-RFX transfer is based on product line categories, and the information about requests displayed for a company refers only to the product categories that were marked by the company. Some electronic B2B markets enable a company to manage e-RFX visibility in even more precise way. For example, Marketplanet OnePlace offers its users the opportunity to define filters based on any key words of their choice – which is a very useful function for companies with specialised sales where different people are responsible for managing a narrow range of products. In such a case, each of the salespersons deals only with requests matching their specialisation.
As soon as the seller decides to make an offer, the buyer immediately receives the response together with all the documents. When the deadline for sending offers expires, the buyer may automatically select the best offer based on pre-defined assessment criteria. However, if it the received offers are not satisfactory, the buyer may set up an electronic auction addressed to selected offerers to maximise the level of savings.
An example of searching for a supplier using an e-RFX on an electronic market has been presented below: