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Business-to-business e-commerce is any Internet-based information or product exchange between companies. Also referred to by the shorthand B2B, business-to-business e-commerce is a category of business dealings that covers basically all of the ways that technology helps companies do business with each other. Corporate marketing done through Websites, online software sales, computing services, and electronic data management can all be part of the B2B e-commerce equation. Business-to-business e-commerce only includes online sales and marketing between businesses. Interactions with consumers are considered business-to-consumer, or B2C, exchanges.
The advent of the Internet has changed the way that businesses compete and participate in the marketplace. The ability to manage information electronically has made many corporate tasks more efficient, and the ease of digital communications has simplified many aspects of sales and marketing schemes. One of the most important changes that the Internet brought to businesses is the ability to solicit and sell goods and services electronically, and it is precisely this ability that comprises the bulk of business-to-business e-commerce.
Business-to-business e-commerce activities can be as simple as maintenance of a Website, or as complex as the creation of specialized industry portals for cyber marketing and corporate contracting resources. If the thrust is attracting other businesses, as opposed to attracting customers, the transaction is B2B. As much as companies do business with customers, they also do business with each other. Clothing retailers, for instance, do business with manufacturers and wholesalers; advertisers and designers; Website builders; credit card companies; and banks, to name a few. When any of this business is conducted online, it is business-to-business e-commerce.
The rising ease with which technology can assist B2B transactions means that most service companies’ sales and marketing departments work in the business-to-business e-commerce sector at least part of the time. Much of corporate communication is electronic, be it through e-mail or direct Web searching. While companies used to rely on phone calls or in-person meetings at regional or national trade shows to make sales, they increasingly connect with each other through innovative Web presentations and other online communications. Even corporate sales that are negotiated in person will likely be fulfilled online, particularly for services like Web-building or software installation.
Business-to-business e-commerce is also closely related to, and is in many ways driven by, business-to-consumer e-commerce. Customers who buy products online or who see and respond to corporate Internet ads need to be sure that any personal information they electronically transmit to the corporation is protected. Payment and shipping mechanisms on store Websites need to work properly. Locating a retailer’s Website or finding information about a business on a smartphone is something that customers increasingly expect that they will be able to do. All of this requires companies to make changes to the way they do business: all of this requires business-to-business e-commerce.