Manual Dictionary of e-Business: A Definitive Guide to Technology and Business Terms

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We can thus write the periodic revenue as the sum of subscription revenue, listing revenue, and transaction revenue, where each of these in turn has different drivers. The cost structure specifies the activities that drive the different costs of the business and how fixed and variable costs add up to total cost. For example, in a manufacturing operation, materials costs are proportional to the volume of units produced, whereas delivery costs may depend on both shipping distance and volume. Variable costs may be proportional to volume, or they may exhibit economies of scale—for example, purchased materials with a quantity discount.

In some cases, they exhibit diseconomies of scale, for example, when an operation approaches its capacity limit, or when key resources are so scarce that their marginal costs are increasing. Each of these scenarios gives rise to a different cost structure. The logic of the business explains how the business will meet its profit and growth targets.

It comprises an argument showing why the business will be successful, that is, how it will attract customers, be competitive and profitable, and grow. There are a few recurring business model archetypes, each characterized by its own logic. I outline below the logic of three archetypes: one based on customer intimacy, where the business tailors solutions to customer demand at the front end; one based on operational excellence, which is based on superior back-end processes; and one based on value chain coordination, which creates value by coordinating front- and back-end elements of the value chain.

I chose these three business model archetypes as I believe each will play an important role in structuring the company of the future. Our first business model archetype uses customer information to tailor solutions that satisfy unique, or highly-targeted, customer needs.

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This logic is often called customer intimacy. Customer intimacy has been practiced for literally thousands of years, but as I argue below, developments in IT will make it one of the central building blocks of the company of the future. As an example of traditional customer intimacy, consider Ritz-Carlton, the operator of five-star luxury hotels and resorts around the world. We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.

The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

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Developments in IT will make customer intimacy one of the central building blocks of the company of the future. To achieve its mission, the company focuses on customer loyalty via customization which relies on extensive data gathering and capitalizes on both employee attitudes and IT capabilities. Information is gathered and recorded during each customer interaction and service request. The information is systematically entered into a database which is accessible to all Ritz-Carlton hotels worldwide.


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Using the database, hotel staff strive to anticipate on a daily basis the needs of each guest and initiate steps that ensure a customized, high-quality service experience. Returning guests give Ritz-Carlton increasingly refined information about their preferences and needs, which enables the company to provide them with a superior experience. Because of this experience, guests are loyal to Ritz-Carlton and tend to book a Ritz-Carlton hotel whenever possible.

This in turn gives Ritz-Carlton information that enables its staff to serve guests better than the competition, creating a virtuous cycle: information enables a superior experience, resulting in customer loyalty which generates yet better information. A different logic governs operationally excellent business models, which strive to minimize the delivered cost of the products or services they offer to customers by creating superior back-end processes. Having a lower cost base, they can have a price advantage over competitors. Alternatively, operationally excellent businesses may price their products or services competitively while reducing the intangible costs borne by their customers as the product and service is delivered to them.

Walmart provides an example of operational excellence in retailing. It sells a large variety of quality merchandise at lower prices and higher availability than most competitors based on its back-end processes. The goal of operationally excellent business models is to minimize the delivered cost of the products or services they offer to customers. Profitability in retailing is driven by the return on inventory investment, given by the product of inventory turnover how many times a year the retailer turns over its inventory by the markup over the cost of goods.

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A department store that reduces its markup to say Walmart achieves lower markups coupled with high availability and low inventory levels by focusing on procurement, logistics, and distribution and using IT to track and identify demand on a product-by-product basis, to increase transparency and to lower supply chain costs. Value chain coordinators create value by coordinating the front- and back-end of the value chain. A value chain coordinator may orchestrate major activities along the entire value chain or be focused on a narrow slice of the chain. In the electronic commerce domain, value chain coordinators are often platform businesses which facilitate transactions or interactions among the users of their platforms.

They relegate direct value creation to other participants in the value chain, while the platform itself coordinates activities, streamlines business processes, and reduces search and transaction costs. While the platform users themselves shoulder the burden of direct value creation eBay does not hold or sell product inventories—only the sellers do , the company is focused on matching buyers and sellers and facilitating transactions among them. Value chain coordinators such as eBay continuously improve and refine their platforms to enhance the performance of the value chain.

They often engage in acquiring new customers and seeding new activities to create additional sources of value for their customers. The eBay.

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As a result, eBay can focus on the development of its technology platform and on creating a vibrant trading community and developing vertical marketplaces such as eBay Motors, its collectibles marketplace, and its event ticket marketplace StubHub. In the electronic commerce domain, value chain coordinators are often platform businesses which facilitate transactions or interactions among their users.

They relegate direct value creation to other participants in the value chain. First, buyers attract sellers to the platform. With more sellers, buyers are more likely to find any product they are looking for at a desirable price, which increases the number of buyers and the frequency of their visits to eBay. This, in turn, makes the platform more attractive to sellers, who are looking for buyers, so more buyers join the platform, and the cycle continues.

As discussed above, business models play a key role in the innovation process. It is initiated by identifying a customer need which is not well addressed by existing marketplace solutions. Empathy comprises three types of activity:. The empathy stage is followed by a definition stage that unpacks and synthesizes our empathy findings into compelling needs and insights which allow us to come up with an actionable problem statement. The goal of the ideation stage is to explore a wide i. The ideas are then sorted out using the business model construct discussed above: each idea is analyzed in terms of the value it may potentially create for customers, what it takes to deliver that value, and the resulting profitability and growth potential.

This means that the analy-sis starts at the front end focusing on value creation potential but is then filtered using a back-end perspective focusing on feasibility, cost, and profitability. The initial business model resulting from this process is incomplete; it is in effect a business model prototype with a given logic. To prove or disprove this logic, we need to test its central assumptions or premises.

We thus identify the key premises and proceed to test them. The results of each test are used to revise the business model, modify its logic, identify the new central premises, test them in turn and continue to iterate. This iterative process ultimately results either in a business model which is believed to be viable, or in abandoning the specific innovation on the grounds that based on the tests to date, it is unlikely to lead to a viable business model.

The latter outcome is often manifested in the form of running out of funding.

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At the front end, the focus of the process is on customer needs and value creation. At the back end, the focus is on putting together a solution that efficiently fulfills that customer need, costing it out, and trying to make a profit. In both cases, the business model development process calls for extensive human judgment, combining experience and creativity. As a result, it takes months, quarters or years to develop a proven, viable business model. The business model concept has been used often in the context of electronic business.

The next century is going to turn our world upside down. The Internet combines people and ideas faster than they have ever been combined before. And that combination changes everything. The SFU Library has many specialized business dictionaries.

Dictionary of e-Business: A Definitive Guide to Technology and Business Terms by Francis Botto

There are many dictionaries and thesauri in the SFU Library. Try a subject search in our catalogue for the following subjects. Writing well includes writing ethically.


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