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Five Broad Ways of Using the Web to Add Value

When most developers think of using the Web in a business, they think of uses between a business and its customers, commonly referred to as "business-to-consumer" (B2C) e-commerce (see Figure 1 ).

Figure 1

But interacting with customers is just one activity that businesses participate in. Consider a business that manufactures a product. The product doesn't magically appear. The business needs to first get supplies from a supplier (see Figure 2 ).

Figure 2

Businesses can use the Web to support the information interactions between the business and its suppliers. This kind of Web use is an example of what is commonly called "business-to-business" (B2B) e-commerce (suppliers are businesses, too!). With supplies in hand, the business makes its product. Once made, it must be delivered to distributors, both wholesalers and retailers (see Figure 3).

Figure 3

This is another opportunity for B2B e-commerce. Plenty of information is exchanged between the business and its distributors, which the Web can help support. Finally, the distributor delivers the product to the customer (see Figure 4 ).

Figure 4

A business can use the Web to help its distributors better sell its products to customers. So, there are at least four broad ways in which a business can use the Web—and actually five when you consider that there are many information activities occurring within the business itself (see Figure 5 ).

Figure 5

Each of these five areas is a potential avenue for a business to use the Web to add value in terms of—but not limited to—increasing the quality, timeliness, or output of the information interactions, leading to increased revenues or reduced costs.

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