Silence of the Lambs – The Network Effect you may call it!
Eid al-Adha or Bakr-Id is that time of the year when the Bakri Bazaars (Market place where Lambs are sold) come to life. Sacrificial Lambs are bought and sold in large numbers. The bleating sound of these animals make up the background score, while buyers and sellers haggle over its price. This time, however, the noise was less than usual, if not completely muted. #Eid, which just concluded earlier this week, witnessed an interesting new change -This market place just went virtual.
Picture source – www.dailymail.co.uk
Enterprising ‘Lamb Sellers’ posted advertisements on various e-tailing sites displaying their ‘Lambs’ along with details on the various features and highlights that justified their price. Many people who wanted to avoid the commotion, hassle, dust and din that accompanies a visit to the physical market place opted to do the deal ‘Online’. For many, the ease of online comparison provided greater transparency and assurance of good value for money. Others doubted the integrity of online suppliers and felt they needed to ‘know what they were buying,’ so still made the trip.
Some interesting lessons here for everyone. The online marketplace is not just a trend. It is indeed emerging as the way people will prefer to conduct their business. It delivers efficiency, convenience, transparency and a range of other compelling benefits, to both buyers and sellers.
But concerns remain, which limit the initial adoption of such networks. Buyers will embrace it whole heartedly only when the network provides them with the conviction that they are protected from the uncertainties and vagaries of the trade. They need to be assured that they are dealing with a credible supplier; that they are buying at the best possible price or at least have an opportunity to compare competitive bids. An assurance that the product or service that is being delivered is what was committed.
With new networks, these concerns are greater. Buyers are unfamiliar with the network. Suppliers don’t have time to build credible online profiles, with buyer reviews and other qualifiers that reassure buyers. As networks grow, these risks decline, and the benefits increase as more buyers and sellers are present and network capabilities advance, enabling broader collaboration and new processes. This is one reason why one sees leading networks continue to grow their lead and advantages over newer ones.
Today we do find ourselves engulfed with various types of leading networks – Customer to Customer like #eBay, Business to Customer like #Amazon, Business Networks like #Ariba or #Alibaba. What makes these networks successful is an interesting question. Do they fulfill all of the above criteria? Well some of them clearly do. Amazon prides itself on its customer service, to the extent that it provides a replacement on customer feedback or complaint. Ariba, the largest and most global business network, with over 1.5 million companies and over $730B in commerce annually (bigger than Amazon, eBay & Alibaba combined), provides its enterprise customers with an end-to-end source to pay process for all categories of spend, enabling them to gain more insights into market trends and validate supplier qualifications.
Will business networks dominate the marketplace? There is no doubt about it.
Does size matter? Yes! At least in the B2B marketplace. Enterprises will like to rely on established and credible networks.
The question that begs attention then is ‘How long before business networks become THE channel for commerce?’
I welcome your thoughts here.
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