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eBusiness versus eCommerce:
Getting the Most from Your Web Presence

By: Laurence Kaufman

Laurence Kaufman is a partner of Kaufman Ryan Stral Inc., an ad agency/PR firm, and of BigWorld Communications, web site developers.  He counsels numerous manufacturers' representatives and their associations, and also works with manufacturers and other business-to-business marketers.

This article originally appeared in The Representor, published for manufacturers' representatives in the electronics industry.  However, the principles articulated are applicable to businesses of many types, especially service businesses.
If you ever want to engage in a silly argument over an important topic, just ask someone to tell you the difference between eBusiness and eCommerce.  You’ll have knowledgeable people telling you that they are different terms for the same thing, and equally with-it folks who’ll learnedly maintain a distinction.

If you must have a distinction, try this one:  eCommerce involves an actual financial transaction that happens on line, while eBusiness can include supporting the collection or the dispersion of information leading up to the transaction itself.

Assuming that most of the readers of this column are manufacturers’ representatives, your involvement in eCommerce is most likely limited to the purchases you make on line, while your involvement in eBusiness is potentially unlimited.  You’re doing eBusiness when you post your line card on your own Web site for the benefit of manufacturers "shopping" for a rep, and equally so when you go on line to check something out in a competitive catalog.  

Listening to the presentations at EDS concerning one form or another of eBusiness, and talking with reps about their own Web sites (or listening to “reasons” for not having them), I couldn’t help but contemplate how far we have to go to realize the profit potential inherent in the Internet.  I am not crystal-balling here about future technological advances; I am referring to things that you could be doing today.  It’s not about what we can do.  It’s about what we can think of doing!.

Most reps with Web sites use them to post their line cards – whether for the convenience  of customers or for providing information to potential principals is unclear.  Because the investment has been so negligible, there is little demand for ROI.  Because the mission is so amorphous, there is little analysis of whether it is being fulfilled.

You have the right – in fact, the obligation – to make demands of your Web site.  Start by demanding of yourself the answers to these questions:
  1. What can I do on my Web site to help my customers?
  2. How can I use my Web site to serve my current principals better?
  3. How can my Web site help me acquire new principals?
  4. What can I do on the Web to forward my operational goals?
  5. What will drive traffic to my Web site?  (Hint:  the answer is not search engines.)
  6. What will induce people to come back?
As you think about your responses, keep in mind that, in academic terms, this is an “open book” exam, and you are allowed to get help.  Even better, in the world of the Internet, there is no such thing as a “final.”  The answers that are right for you may be wrong for your neighbor today, and even for you tomorrow. Your Web site is not carved in stone, and, if you’ll pardon the pun,  one of the biggest mistakes you can make is taking it for granite.

© Copyright 1999, Laurence Kaufman, Kaufman Ryan Stral Inc./BigWorld Communications.

Other Articles by Laurence Kaufman

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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