By Joshua Lucas

Issue # 15

Monday June 29, 1998


For the past several weeks, the focus of this column has been on business-customer communication. Its proliferation is the main reason why the Web has caught on so quickly with so many companies. They were looking for a way to communicate with their customers who might not live in the same area as the store. Now, by being able to communicate with customers outside their normal boundaries via remote access, new ways of generating income have been created. At the same time, while this might be the most common use of a business web site, it is by no means the only one.

Businesses whose customers tend to be other businesses instead of consumers are beginning to utilize the web to create easier business-to-business communication. This has allowed companies to focus on how they can cut costs by using the Web to communicate as opposed to more conventional means. There are many ways that any business can use the Web for communication with other businesses.

The first use is really the easiest form of communication, yet is very often overlooked. Using email between businesses can cut much of the overhead that is incurred when one business needs to get in touch with another. Before email, you either had to wait on the phone or hope the fax machine would not be overlooked. Obviously, in some critical situations, email would not be the most appropriate form of communication but in the majority of cases email can be used quite effectively. One added bonus: by using email, you also have an archived record of all of your communication with various companies. Having this record can be helpful in many situations.

Businesses can also use a portion of their web site as a forum for inter-business communications. If your business offers supplies to other businesses, a form that allows that business to order those supplies could be included, thus cutting down on the time needed to fill these orders. As we have discussed before, thought needs to be given as to your plans for fulfilling these orders. If many companies like the Web-based ordering, you will need to have staff ready to handle the load. You can also have a section that serves as a sort of FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) for businesses. This could significantly cut down on the number of phone calls you receive just for simple information.

The final means of employing E-commerce involves a little more thought and development and might not be practical for some businesses. This is the use of an extranet. An extranet is an extension of your internal web site (Intranet). Only businesses would have access to portions of the extranet and this would allow you to offer information to each individual vendor in ways you couldn't with the use of a normal web site. However, extranets require security measures as well as some answers to basic logistical questions. Talk with your design and hosting company if you feel you could benefit from an extranet.

"Lucas, Joshua Lucas". . .writes for a living. By day he writes software, and by night he weaves words. Josh has coded in Java, C, C++, and Perl for some of the hippest and most recognizable companies in the US, including The Gap, Starbucks, Nike, and Nordstroms. Josh's rich experience, coupled with his diligent daily research, places him as close to the "cutting edge" as you can get without falling off. He and his wife recently moved from Los Angeles, CA to Boston, MA.

Look for ways in which your business can offer its services to other businesses via the Web.

And don't forget to keep sending me topics you'd like to learn more about!

Even though many companies only look at the consumer as their potential Web customer, the truth is that businesses can benefit from offering their services to other businesses via the Web as well.

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