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Academic year: 2021



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1. Information and entertainment products:

• Paper-based documents: Books, newspapers, magazine journals, store coupons, marketing brochures, newsletters, research papers, and training materials

• Product information: Product specifications, catalogs, user manuals, and sales training manuals

• Graphics: Photographs, postcards, calendars, maps, posters, and x-rays

• Audio: Music recordings, speeches, and lectures

• Video: Movies, television programs, and video clips

• Software: Programs, games, and development tools

2. Symbols, tokens, and concepts:

• Tickets and reservations: Airlines, hotels, concerts, sports events, and transportation

• Financial instruments: Checks, electronic currencies, credit cards, securities, and letters of credit

3. Processes and services:

• Government services: Forms, benefits, welfare payments, and licenses

• Electronic messaging: Letters, faxes, and telephone calls

• Business-value-creation processes: Ordering, bookkeeping, inventorying, and contracting

• Auctions, bidding, and bartering

• Remote education, telemedicine, and other interactive services



The Problem

Raffles Hotel, one of Singapore’s colonial-era landmarks, is part of a worldwide group of luxury and business hotels. Raffles Hotel operates in a very competitive environment. To maintain its world-renowned reputation, the hotel spares no effort on every facet of its operation. The suc-cess of the group and each of its hotels depends on the group’s ability to attract customers to its hotels and facili-ties and on its ability to contain costs. The group also operates the Swissôtel brand of hotels worldwide. Both the Raffles and Swissôtel brands share a reservation system.

The Solution

To maintain its image and contain costs, Raffles must address two types of issues—B2C and B2B. On the B2C side, Raffles maintains a diversified corporate portal,

raffles.com, that introduces customers to the company and its services. The portal includes information on the hotels, a reservation system, links to travelers’ resources, a CRM program, and an online store for Raffles products. The Web site capitalizes on the underlying qualities of the luxurious Raffles hotel product to communicate to the online audience. It has a clearly defined and well-constructed navigation that integrates the brand-level site with the individual hotel Web sites.

The Web site uses an architecture with logical and consistent navigational tiers, which has proven to be a highly successful approach. Based on the individual hotel strategy, product mix, and target audience, the Web site navigation reflects the multitiered navigation structure. Each tier represents an order of authority that helps lay out the organization of the Web site. The tiered structure moves users comfortably and easily toward a set of ser-vices, including the reservation process. This helps to focus on incremental reservations growth and dynamic content management.

The Web site has an integrated online reservation sys-tem that provides bookers with an instant online booking facility. One section of the site, Raffles Direct, is designed to provide the corporate market with a user-friendly tool to book with their negotiated rates online. The strategic focus of using the Internet as a key driver for distribution is based on its being the ultimate direct-to-consumer dis-tribution medium. It conforms to the lowest cost and most inexpensive method to distribute hotel room inventory. A direct-to-consumer model provides long-term competitive advantages. It decreases dependence on intermediaries,

discounters, and traditional channels that are slowly becoming obsolete.

The Web site has recently been updated with improved booking functionalities and new interactive fea-tures. The site includes information in multiple languages to leverage the fast-growing Internet booking trends in some of the company’s key markets.

On the B2B side, in 2006 hospitalitybex.com, an e-marketplace for the hospitality and service industry, was set up with a few strategic partners to offer a solution to streamline the procurement process and enable the hospi-tality and service organizations to reduce costs across the supply chain by eliminating inefficiencies. The portal offers product and service sourcing, negotiation, selection, ordering, fulfillment, payment, and reporting. Buyers and suppliers have real-time access to business intelligence to assist in the successful and efficient management of their procurement and supply operations. All procurement activ-ities are deployed through the HospitalityBex data center, so users do not need to purchase or lease any new hard-ware or softhard-ware. Buyers use online catalogs of more than 30,000 products and services including office stationery, laundry and cleaning products, and perishable goods, and submit order requests via a standard Web browser. User organizations incur considerable cost savings, because the portal aggregates orders through strategic partnerships with major suppliers and service providers. Procurement negotiations now take place online. Buyer–seller relation-ships have been strengthened by the private, online marketplace.

The Results

Increased bookings through Raffles’ proprietary Web sites resulted in a strong growth of 77 percent in rooms revenue from this channel, exceeding both 2004’s strong growth of 64 percent and the industry-wide 2004 Internet growth rate of 32 percent (as reported by TravelCLICK in its 2004 eTRAK report).

In 2005, the global portal community consisted of over 5,900 organizations. Annually, more than 470,000 purchase-order transactions worth over $100 million are accrued. Forty-two active buying organizations including hotels, offices, and retailers from around the world pro-vide more than $1 million in savings. The portal also generates regular reports for buyers, showing savings gained from this competitive pricing model. Buyers and sellers garner improvements by using technology to






increase productivity per human capital, linking to supply chain solutions through the Internet, increasing inventory management, procurement operations, and B2B collaboration in a knowledge-based environment. The hotel was purchased in 2006 by an investment group that has made it the second-largest luxury hotel chain in the world.


1. Identify the e-marketplaces in this case.

2. List all the EC mechanisms used by Raffles and how they are used.

3. What other EC mechanisms would you recommend to Raffles?

4. List the EC business models used by the company.

5. List the type of transactions conducted by Raffles.




(accessed November 2009).

TravelCLICK. “Major Hotel Chains Grew Internet

Reservations by 24 percent 2004 YTD.”


com, January 24, 2005.



(accessed August


Wikipedia. “Raffles Hotel.” 2006.



(accessed November 2009).

The following five generic types of portals can be found in organizations.

Portals for Suppliers and Other Partners

Using such portals, suppliers can manage the inventories of their products that they sell to each specific customer online. They can view what they sold to the portal owner and for how much. They can see the inventory levels of the portal owner, and reorder material and supplies when they see that an inventory level is low; they can also collaborate with corporate buyers and other staff.

An example of a partners’ portal is that of Samsung Electronic America’s Digital IT. The company must keep in touch with 110,000 resellers and distributors. As part of its partner relationship management (PRM), Samsung developed a portal that enables it to personalize relationships with each partner (e.g., conduct promotions, provide special pricing, etc.). The portal helped to increase sales by 30 percent; related expenses dropped by 25 percent. For details, see Schneider (2004).

Customer Portals

Portals for customers can serve both businesses and individual customers. Customers can use these customer-facing portals to view products and services and to place orders, which they can later track. They can view their own accounts and see what is going on with their accounts in almost real time. They can pay for products and services, arrange for warranties and deliveries, and much more. These portals include a personalized part (e.g., under “My account”). For example, UNICCO

Online File W2.3

Types of Corporate Portals


Service Co., a cleaning, maintenance, and other services company, established a B2B customer portal, myUNNICO (my.unicco.com), for about 200 business customers who use the portal to track work quality, invoice processing, and compliance with contracts. The portal integrates many disparate software applications. It is also used by about 1,500 employees. For details of the portal and the benefits achieved, see Bennett (2007).

Employee Portals

Such portals are used for training, dissemination of company news and information, discussion groups, and more. Employee portals also are used for self-service activities, mainly in the human resources area (e.g., change of address forms, tax withholding forms, expense reports, class registration, and tuition reimbursement forms). Employees’ portals are sometimes bundled with supervisors’ portals in what are known as workforce portals(e.g., Workbrain Enterprise Workforce Management, infor.com/workbrain).

Example: DuPont

DuPont implemented an internal portal to organize millions of pages of scientific information stored in information sys-tems throughout the company. The initial version of the portal was intended for daily use by over 550 employees to record product orders, retrieve progress reports for research products, and access customer-tracking information. However, today, DuPont uses the portal for its 60,000 employees in 30 business units in 70 countries.

Executive and Supervisor Portals

These portals enable managers and supervisors to control the entire workforce management process—from budgeting to workforce scheduling. For example, Pharmacia (a Pfizer company) built a portal for its executives and managers worldwide, the Global Field Force Action Planner, which provides a single, worldwide view of the company’s finances and performance. Business goals and sales figures are readily available on a consistent and transparent basis, allowing corporate manage-ment to evaluate and support field offices more effectively. Country managers also can share best practices with their peers and learn from other action plans, helping them to make better decisions.

Online File W2.3





Bennett, E. “Clearing Up a Dirty Job. (Portal Software).”


February 2007.

Schneider, M. “Samsung’s Partner Portal Delivers a 30

Percent Sales Increase.”

CRM Magazine

(May 2004).


Application Case


Boise Cascade Office Products, now a part of OfficeMax (officemaxsolutions.com), is a $5 billion office products wholesaler and retailer. Its B2B customer base includes over 100,000 large corporate customers and 1 million

small ones, as well as individuals. The company’s 900-page paper catalog used to be mailed to customers once each year. Throughout the year, Boise also sent mini-catalogs tailored to customers’ individual needs based on past






buying habits and purchase patterns. The company sells over 200,000 different items and has a global reach, allowing it to serve multinational companies.

In 1996, the company placed its catalog online. Now customers view the catalog at officemaxsolutions.comand can order straight from the site or submit orders by e-mail. The orders are shipped the next day. Customers are then billed. In 1997, the company generated 20 percent of its sales through the Web site. In early 1999, the figure was over 30 percent. The company acknowledges that its Internet business is the fastest-growing segment of its business. By 2004, the majority of sales were made via the Internet.

Boise prepares thousands of individualized catalogs for its largest customers. As of 2002, the company has been sending paper catalogs only when specifically requested. As indicated earlier, the vast majority of cus-tomers use the online catalogs. It used to take about six weeks to produce a single paper customer catalog, primar-ily because of the time involved in pulling together all the

data. Now the process of producing a Web catalog that is searchable, rich in content, and available in a variety of formats takes only one week.

One major advantage of B2B customized catalogs is pricing. If everyone has the same catalog, you cannot show the customized price for each buyer, which is based on the contract the customer signed and on the volume of goods being purchased.

Boise estimates that electronic orders cost approxi-mately 55 percent less to process than paper-based ones. As of 2005, Boise sells to small companies and individuals under the OfficeMax brand (OfficeMax is a Boise



1. What are the advantages of the electronic catalog to Boise Cascade? To its customers?

2. What are the advantages of customized catalogs?



(no longer

available online).

Internet Retailer.

“OfficeMax Drives Up Conversions

After Redesigning Site with Customer Input.”

February 10, 2006.




(accessed March 2009).

Netscape Customer Profiles.



(no longer

avail-able online).




March 2009).


Application Case


The Opportunity

EBay is one of the most profitable e-businesses. The successful online auction house has its roots in a 55-year-old novelty item—PEZ candy dispensers. Pam Omidyar, an avid collector of PEZ dispensers,

came up with the idea of trading them over the Internet. When she expressed this idea to her boyfriend (now her husband), Pierre Omidyar, he was instantly struck with the soon-to-be-famous e-business auction concept.


The Solution

In 1995, the Omidyars created a company called

AuctionWeb. The company was renamed eBay and has since become the premier online auction house in many coun-tries, with millions of unique auctions in progress and over 500,000 new items added each day. Almost 194 million registered buyers and sellers use eBay. Today, eBay is much more than an auction house, but its initial success was in electronic auctions.

EBay’s initial business model was to provide an elec-tronic infrastructure for conducting mostly C2C auctions. EBay auctions do not require an auctioneer; technology manages the auction process.

People can buy and sell just about anything on eBay. The company collects a posting fee up-front, plus a com-mission that is a percentage of the final sale amount. The posting fee is based on the amount of exposure the seller wants the item to receive, with a higher fee if the seller would like the item to be among the featured auctions in a specific product category, and an even higher fee if the seller wants the item to be listed on the eBay homepage under Featured Items. Another attention-grabbing option is to publish the auction listing in a boldface font (for an additional charge).

The auction process begins when the seller fills in the appropriate registration information and posts a descrip-tion of the item for sale. The seller must specify a mini-mum opening bid. If potential buyers feel this price is too high, the item may not receive any bids. Sellers may set the opening bid lower than the reserve price, a minimum acceptable bid price, to generate bidding activity.

If a successful bid is made, the seller and the buyer negotiate the payment method, shipping details, warranty, and other particulars. EBay serves as a liaison between the parties; it is the interface through which sellers and buy-ers can conduct business. EBay does not maintain a costly physical inventory or deal with shipping, handling, or other services that businesses such as Amazon.com and other retailers must provide. The eBay site basically serves individuals, but it also caters to small businesses.

In 2001, eBay started to auction fine art in collabora-tion with Icollector.com (icollector.com) of the United Kingdom and with the art auction house Sotheby’s (sothebys.com), whose auction page is on eBay’s main menu. Due to a lack of profit, as of May 2003, eBay and Sotheby’s discontinued separate online auctions and began promoting Sotheby’s live auctions through eBay’s Live Auctions technology while continuing to build eBay’s

highly successful arts and antiques categories. The Sotheby’s Web site still exists, but now it is focused on supporting Sotheby’s live auction business.

In addition, eBay operates globally, enabling interna-tional auctions. Country-specific sites are located in over 31 countries, including the United States, Canada, France, Sweden, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, and Japan. EBay also has equity in or owns several country-specific sites, such as those in China, India, Korea, and Japan; these sites generate 46 percent of eBay’s business. Buyers from more than 150 other countries participate. EBay also operates a business exchange in which SMEs can buy and sell new and used merchandise in B2B or B2C modes.

EBay has over 60 local sites in the United States that enable users to easily find items located near them, to browse through items of local interest, and to meet face-to-face to conclude transactions. In addition, some eBay sites, such as eBay Motors, concentrate on specialty items. Trading can be done anywhere, anytime. Wireless trading also is possible.

In 2002, eBay Seller Payment Protection was imple-mented to make it safer to sell on eBay. Now sellers are protected against bad checks and fraudulent credit card pur-chases. The service offers credit card chargeback protection, guaranteed electronic checks, secure processing, and privacy protection. Today, eBay owns PayPal, the P2P payment com-pany, which many buyers use to pay for their purchases.

After a few years of successful operation and tens of millions of loyal members, eBay decided to leverage its large customer base and started to do e-tailing, mostly at fixed prices. This may have been in response to

Amazon.com’s decision to start auctions, or it may have been a logical idea for a diversification. By 2003, eBay operated several specialty sites, as well as half.com, the famous discount e-tailer.

A special feature is eBay Stores. These stores are rented to individuals and companies. The renting compa-nies can use these stores to sell from catalogs or conduct auctions. In 2002, eBay introduced the eBay Business Marketplace, located at pages.ebay.com/sellerinformation/ growing/business.html. This site brings together all business-related listings on eBay at one destination, making it easier for small businesses to find the equipment and supplies they need. EBay also offers software for building customized storefronts that eBay hosts (ProStores products) and provides templates for building standard storefronts. EBay is used by individuals, small businesses, large enter-prises, and governments (see auctionbiz.com).






Many individuals are using eBay to make a living. Some of them are very successful. Holden (2006) describes how 10 different entrepreneurs have tapped into the power of eBay and are making millions. According to Kelsey (2007), in the United States approximately 1.3 mil-lion people are making their living on eBay.

In 2006, eBay launched eBay Express, which enables instant-purchasing using a shopping cart to buy multiple items at the prices set by the sellers. EBay also allows Web site affiliates to run contextual ads for eBay auctions in exchange for a cut of resulting ad sales. (The program is called eBay AdContext.) As of June 2006, eBay offers eBay Community Wiki, where buyers and sellers can exchange best practices and tips. eBay owned Skype, a VoIP provider of Internet communication until mid-2009. The application was used to streamline complex auctions (e.g., if you wanted to buy a car on eBay you could ask the seller a number of questions). Also, some sellers need information from buyers so they can customize their products.

The Results

The impact of eBay on e-business has been profound. Its founders took a limited-access offline business model and, by using the Internet, were able to bring it to the desk-tops of consumers worldwide. This business model consistently generates a profit and promotes a sense of

community—a near addiction that keeps traders coming back.

EBay is the world’s largest auction site, with a com-munity of over 220 million registered users as of spring 2008, about half of them outside the United States (see Komiak et al. 2008). According to company financial state-ments, in 2004 eBay transacted over $40 billion in sales for net revenue close to $6 billion and net income of about $500 million (ebay.com).

As a matter of fact, the only place where people are doing more business online than offline (and considerably more, at that) is auctions. By comparison, e-tailing is less than 5 percent of total retail sales.

Sources:Compiled from Coffin (2004), Jayner (2008), Holden (2006), Kelsey (2007), and Komiak et al. (2008).


1. What is eBay’s business model?

2. Why is the business successful?

3. To what extent can eBay be responsible for the nature of the items offered for sale on its site?

4. What is the purpose of the local sites?


Coffin, A. M.

eBay for Dummies,

4th ed. Hoboken, NJ:

John Wiley & Sons, 2004.

Holden, G. “Fast Forward.”


May 2006.

Jayner, A.

The eBay Billionaires Club.

Hoboken, NJ:

Wiley Publishing Inc., 2008.

Kelsey, F. M. “1.3 Million People Make Their Living

on eBay.”

Maui News

(paid advertisement),

November 29, 2007.

Komiak, P., S. Y. X. Komiak , and M. Imhof. “Conducting

International Business at eBay: The Determinants

of Success of E-Stores.”

Electronic Markets

18, no. 2




Home buyers like to get the lowest possible mortgage rates. In the United States, Priceline.com (priceline.com) will try to find you a mortgage if you “name your own price.” However, a better deal may be available to home buyers in Singapore, where reverse auctions are combined with “group purchasing,” saving about $20,000 over the life of a mortgage for each home owner, plus $1,200 in waived legal fees. DollarDEX (DollarDEX 2004) offers the service in Singapore, Hong Kong, and other countries.

Here is how dollarDEX arranged its first project: The site invited potential buyers for three residential proper-ties in Singapore to join the service. Applications, includ-ing financial credentials, were made on a secure Web site. Then, seven lending banks were invited to bid on the loans. In a secure “electronic room,” borrowers and lenders negotiated. After two days of negotiations of interest rates and special conditions, the borrowers voted on one bank. In the first project, 18 borrowers agreed to give the job to United Overseas Bank (UOB), paying about 0.5 percent less than the regular mortgage interest rate. The borrowers negotiated the waiver of the legal fee as well. From this first project, UOB generated $10 million of business. Today, DollarDEX allows customers to participate in an individual reverse auction if they do not want to join a group.

The banks involved in the auctions can see the offers made by competitors. Flexibility is high; in addition to interest rates, banks are willing to negotiate down

payment size and the option of switching from a fixed-rate to a variable-rate loan. On average, there are 2.6 bank bids per customer.

By the summer 2003, in addition to mortgages, dollarDEX offered car loans, insurance policies, and travel services. It also allows comparisons of mutual funds that have agreed to give lower front-end fees. It also offers insurance (including health, motor, home, home content, and SARS insurance). Customers also can choose one or more unit trusts in which to invest and set up online gift registries for weddings or specials events and invite friends to place funds in them. Reports and advice are available online as well as face-to-face.

By 2009, dollarDEX has become one of Singapore’s top wealth management companies with a wide variety of financial products partnered with over 80 brand-name local and global banks, fund managers, and insurers. The com-pany advises and analyzes investments, offer numerous types of insurance, and is still in the business of interme-diating home loans.


1. How is group purchasing organized at dollarDex? What services are offered?

2. Why does a reverse auction take place?

3. Can this model exist without an intermediary?




(accessed November 2009).

Internetnews.com. “DollarDEX Initiates Mortgage

Auctions.” August 16, 2000.



(accessed August



Stonyfield Farm Adopts Blogs for Public Relations

Stonyfield Farm (stonyfield.com) is the third largest organic company in the world, producing more than 18 million cups of yogurt each month and generating more than $50 million in annual sales in 50 states. The company’s core values are pro-moting healthy food and protecting the environment. It guarantees the use of only natural ingredients in its products and donates 10 percent of its profit each year to efforts that protect the earth.

The company employs “word-of-mouth” marketing approaches that are compatible with its grassroots “people-friendly” image. Recently, Stonyfield turned to blogs to further personalize its relationship with its customers and connect with even more people. The blogs provide the company with what the management calls a “handshake” with customers. Stonyfield publishes four different blogs on its Web site: (1) “Healthy Kids” encourages healthy food consumption in pub-lic schools; (2) “Strong Women Daily” features fitness, health tips, and stress-coping strategies; (3) “Baby Babble” pro-vides a forum for child development and balancing work with family; and (4) “The Bovine Bugle” propro-vides reports from organic dairy farms.

Stonyfield hires a journalist and almanac writer to post new content to each of the blogs daily, five days a week. When readers subscribe to the blogs, they will receive automatic updates, and they can also respond to the postings. The blogs have created a positive response for the Stonyfield brand by providing readers with topics that inspire them and pique their interests. They are also, of course, persuaded to try and buy Stonyfield products. The management believes that blogs are an excellent method of public relations.

Using Blogging to Facilitate Collaboration

Organizations use mainly blogs, wikis, and RSS feeds to facilitate collaboration, communication, and information sharing internally as well as externally. They use an intranet (internally) and an extranet (externally). Here are a few examples: ◗ Dresdner Kleinwort bank (Germany) is using wikis to supplement regular collaboration tools within its global teams. The

wikis also provide a complete audit trail (see socialtext.com).

◗ According to Weinstein (2006), wikis, blogs, and intranet knowledge bases are used by many companies to facilitate train-ing of both individuals and groups (classes).

◗ Procter & Gamble uses RSS feeds for news and business information dissemination, wikis for collaboration, blogs for com-munication and sharing, and more. They even launched a social network that makes it easier to find people with needed expertise (Hoover 2007).

◗ Stormhoek Vineyards, a small South African winery, tripled its sales in two years by using a wiki and blogs to create groups for wine-tasting parties (see Chapter 7).

◗ Motorola is using 4,400 blogs and 4,200 wiki pages; 2,600 people actively do content tagging and social bookmarking (Hoover 2007).

◗ McDonald’s blog, called “Open for Discussion,” brings together all those interested in social responsibility for the company. The blog is maintained by a professional corporate blogger. Customers, suppliers, and employees make contributions.

Online File W2.7

How Companies Are Using Blogs


Hoover, J. N. “Enterprise 2.0,”


February 26, 2007.

Weinstein, M. “On Demand Is in Demand.”


Magazine, October 2006.


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