For big-ticket, online purchases, the value of the Internet is not simply that transactions can be executed faster, smarter, and more directly. Online B2B services can provide tremendous advantages -- including greater control over all aspects of the purchase and greater access to choices and potential customers. But what about more complex transactions such as purchasing used capital equipment? Up until now, sites that have attempted to facilitate these more complicated transactions may have caused more problems than they solved -- mostly because they do not emulate business practices buyers and sellers embrace. Auction sites provide a good example. Auctions have their place and are ideally suited to efficient liquidation, but the vast majority of transactions require direct contact between the buyer and seller, and this gets lost in the auction process. Perhaps the buyer needs more detailed information regarding the condition of the equipment or the warranty. Or maybe the buyer needs the equipment sooner than the bidding period allows. Auctions also do not adequately address the needs to establish terms of appraisal, shipping, finance, and other services. The vast majority of Web sites have not been maximized as a tool to establish and retain business relationships. Many B2B Web sites require a buyer to purchase from an unidentified seller. Even if the buyer is thrilled with the outcome, there is no guarantee he or she will connect with the same seller the next time around. Given these problems inherent in establishing sales relationships over the Web, the formula for online success becomes clear: The more complex the transaction, the more it needs to reflect current business practices. In other words, don't ask people to change the way they are used to doing business; simply improve it using the unique advantages of the Internet. Using the example of used capital equipment transactions, online B2B needs to focus on four principles:
Ben Coes is the president and CEO of eSprocket, a Boston-based online marketplace for capital equipment. This column was distributed by BridgeNews but does not necessarily reflect the opinions of BridgeNews.