The Role and Function of the Online Community in Research and Marketing
Online communities are both diverse and similar just as traditional offline communities. However, they converse over a virtual space based on specific points of commonality. Online communities support a particular subject, such as a product or a brand. Based on this definition, it is clear that online communities are an essential resource for online or offline enterprises seeking to obtain specific information about their businesses or industry (Chaffey & Smith, 2000). Hence, to delineate the role of the online community in research and marketing, the focus will be on BigCommerce Inc., a business-to-business (B2B) enterprise based in the U.S.
The Interrelationships between the Internet, Government, and Society
The government and society are highly complex social institutions that constantly interact. Based on the virtuous circle theory, Ceron (2015) demonstrates the characteristics attributed to the groupings, such as the norms, roles, values, complexity, and the ability to reproduce themselves. As a platform, the internet acts as a connection that links the two social institutions over a virtual space. In business, these interrelationships are regarded as enterprises seeking to maximize benefits for investors virtually. On the other hand, the government performs checks and balances to ensure that the law, policy, and guidelines are observed while also deriving other financial benefits through taxes and levies. The intricacies of these relationships are further examined through the lenses of an actual online enterprise that conducts its business solely over an online platform.
BigCimmerce is a leading technology-based vertical B2B company. The firm develops innovative software that seamlessly integrates with any systems that clients might already have in place. According to Warner (2010), the organization opened in 2009 and has approximately 500 employees in its U.S. and Australia offices. It is currently valued at more than half a billion dollars. The platform provided by the enterprise also assists other B2Bs to navigate the complex world of virtual business relationships efficiently. Through its innovative solutions, the company has been instrumental in enabling clients to translate inquiries into sales and in generating more profits.
Being a technology firm, BigCommerce focuses on software development sub-category with the best return on investment (ROI) in the sector. B2B virtual marketplaces are usually grouped in accordance to the markets they serve, the products or services they offer, the geographical region in which they operate, the functionality of business processes, and nature of value added to the merchandise or services (Laseter & Bodily, 2007). Based on this trend, BigCommerce targets wholesalers and bulk purchasers who consequently offer the products or services to end consumers through online platforms and offline stores. The focus is a clear indication that BigCommerce has mastered its targeting strategy.
Type of Net Market Served
BigCommerce is a successful B2B e-marketplace, also referred to as a Net Market Makers (NMM). The firm is a third party providing the required infrastructure upon which retailers reach and supply their markets. Some of the top companies served by BigCommerce include Cargill, Georgian-Pacific, Restaurantware, Du-Pont, among many other Fortune 500 firms from around the globe (BigCommerce.com, 2019). Despite the target market being significantly varied, the company narrows down to bulk sellers and buyers.
Proposed advantages to Purchasers and Suppliers
As much as BigCommerceBigCommerce promises suppliers an extensive and varied market, purchasers are assured of finding a wide range of products to suit their needs. As recommended by Myler (2017), the company has adopted a specific strategy for the growing number of buyers by focusing and mastering on a vertical business approach. The method is highly recommended for B2B marketplaces, especially if clients are in different vertical markets. Since BigCommerce specifically serves other B2B companies, it assists both big and small companies to adopt its e-commerce platform to reach wholesalers and large-scale retailers, which is secure, reliable, and quickly responds to whatever structure that a company employs.
Therefore, to succeed in a virtual marketplace, the company must attract a large number of sellers. Hence, the firm must provide a reliable platform that seamlessly allows suppliers to offer their goods to the market. The value is further enhanced by enabling service providers to pool together and provide interrelated products or services. The company collects a wide array of consumer behavior data that is invaluable to its suppliers. The information assists in attracting and retaining significant suppliers on its platform. In addition, BigCommerce has a robust strategy of creating communities on its platform (BigCommerce.com, 2019). Such a goal is achieved after including timely communication in chat rooms, bulletin boards, among other technical features that ease the process of sharing information.
Analysis of the Net Marketplace
Bias (Buyer versus Seller)
BigCommerce Company is essentially a neutral e-marketplace that does not favor either the buyers or the suppliers. As much as they are operated independently without any bias towards one type of user, third-party ownership B2Bs must appreciate that suppliers are not willing to come on board unless they are assured of a broad marketplace. On the other hand, buyers may hesitate until they are guaranteed that they can find the products they require.
Ownership (Suppliers, Buyers, and Independents)
Initially, the NMM operates as an enterprise seeking to make profit by creating a virtual marketplace in marketing and technology. The net value proposition created by the NMM is intended to appeal to a large number of potential buyers and sellers (Lucking-Reiley & Spulberr, 2000). While other forms do exist, the NMM offers its value proposition within a vertical market that is narrowed to the most prevalent market. By providing the common ground, buyers are assured that they will find what they need on the site while sellers are confident of obtaining customers on the platform.
BigCommerce is a Third Party ownership e-market based on venture capital. While third-party owned B2Bs were initially faced with technical and market challenges, Lucking-Reiley and Spulberr (2000) observe that they have currently developed to become real market makers since they tend to be independent and unbiased against one category.
On the B2B virtual platform, the focus is usually on creating real value through robust online communities and relationship value on commodities, unlike B2C platforms where the emphasis is on competitive pricing and superior customer service. BigCommerce typically charges a small amount for clients using its integrative platform while purchases are free of charge.
Scope and Focus
The B2B e-marketplaces domain has been rapidly expanding owing to the growing migration of consumers from traditional shopping to the internet platform. BigCommerce exploits this growth by focusing on the online market. In 2015, the company also launched a platform for high volume retailers as scope enhancement (BigCommerce.com, 2019). The dual-prong strategy is intended to offer more variety to purchasers while enabling retailers to sell larger quantities.
Access (Public versus Private)
The BigCommerce platform is publicly accessible to any supplier or purchaser. Hence, to complete a transaction, both parties have to create a private account that they can use any time they wish to conduct business on the platform.