Marketplace users divided on needs, united on benefits

Buyers piloting Biolab Scientific's OneZone marketplace say they were drawn to it because it spanned a number of industries, while several suppliers say they were lured at their customers' request.

Buyers piloting Biolab Scientific’s OneZone marketplace say they were drawn to it because it spanned a number of industries, while several suppliers say they were lured at their customers' request.

While suppliers say they see the logic in giving their customers a simplified administration tool for purchasing across industries, several joined because of OneZone's big-order public-sector buyers – the country’s universities in particular – and many belong to other e-commerce initiatives.

But both sides are united in wanting to see the initiative take off and in listing its benefits.

The two main university buyers piloting the service, Auckland and Waikato, hope that they will have the chance to collaborate together and with other universities to leverage better deals and agreements with hooked-up suppliers. Waikato also hopes it can use its weight to attract good suppliers common to all the universities, and compare notes on how to improve its processes.

Waikato University chief operating officer Andrew Simpson says his university "wants to put better tools in the hands of department administrators" - letting them avoid going in and out of a number of websites placing individual orders. For this, he says the variety of industries within OneZone suppliers "is a positive".

It was at the request of one of the universities, easily one of its largest customers, that printer supplier Laser Plus says it began to consider joining up. Managing director Scott Pearson says joining is “all about having lots of irons on the fire”, increasing visibility online, and offering their customers another tool.

“Will it work? I haven’t a clue,” says Pearson. “But I hope it will and some of these things have to take off.”

Piloting supplier, OTC, won't comment directly but makes it clear the only driver for joining marketplaces - its also trialling SupplyNet and e://volution - is customer demand. OTC would rather see customers coming directly to its own website, as participating in marketplaces adds to its IT costs. OTC says its local catalogue sales are growing faster than through any of the other marketplaces, but recognises that customers may want more than one port of call and is hoping OneZone will succeed.

There is a high prominence of printing and office suppliers both on OneZone and other e-commerce marketplaces. Other piloting suppliers on OneZone include Computerland, Moore Gallagher, Dick Smith Electronics, Corporate Express, UCC (University Computers Consortium, gas supplier BOC Gases and office supplies company O Com.

Moore Gallagher, which is also on Telecom's Ariba-based portal, says this prominence is because they are trying to capitalise on head-office ordering - as that's where most stationary orders come from and where e-commerce technology is first implemented - and because the industry works best on a preferred supplier basis. But others say it is because their products are not considered mission-critical and are easy to commoditise - therefore an ideal test product.

Moore Gallagher's customer service manager Tim Scott says it joined because of the potential to make business easier, to streamline its back office functions, provide 24 hour service, and make fewer ordering errors and consequent credits.

Several users say they considered the "big boys" approach of OneZone - which was built by Arthur Andersen using Ariba marketplace software and hosted by esolutions - as a significant factor in their decision to join.

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More about AndersenAndersenAndrew Corporation (Australia)AribaArthur AndersenBiolab (Aust)BOC South PacificComputerlandCorporate ExpressDick Smith ElectronicsLaserOneZonePearsonScott Corporation

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