Let us begin by clarifying the exact meaning of the terms Supplier, Trading Partner and Customer as used in this chapter, so as to distinguish this business problem from other commercial interactions involving customers.
- Supplier. For the purposes of this chapter, a "supplier" is a company that sells product or services directly to another business. In this context we are not focusing on the business aspects of selling directly to a consumer. Through the rest of this chapter we will focus on how a supplier can sell more effectively to other businesses by taking advantage of electronic commerce via the Internet.
Note While this chapter focuses on business-to-business (B2B) interactions, suppliers often do market their products directly to consumer and business customers using retail Web sites, conventional paper catalogs, and/or a physical storefront.
- Trading partner. For the purposes of this chapter, "trading partners" are other companies that sell products on behalf of a supplier. Trading partners might be companies that are offering these products to their own employees, using a procurement system and are, in effect, buying the products themselves. Or trading partners might be companies that are offering the supplier's products to other companies and/or individuals. In any event, with respect to electronic product catalogs and purchase orders, suppliers interact directly with their trading partners, and only indirectly with the "customers" who are buying the products.
In order for a trading partner to know what products and/or services a supplier is selling, the supplier must provide the trading partner with an electronic version of their product catalog. When a customer uses a trading partner's buyer application to make a purchase from the supplier's catalog, the trading partner sends the supplier an electronic version of a purchase order, which the supplier fulfills using established procedures.