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Chapter 2. The Commerce Value Chain > Who Is the Customer?

Who Is the Customer?

One of the most important questions for any business is “Who is the customer?” This may seem to be an obvious question, but often businesses (or other organizations) do not have a clear understanding of the answer, and sometimes the answer is more subtle than it first appears. For example, consider a company that sells electronic components used in personal computers. In one sense, the customer is the organization that assembles the computers, which buys components in large quantities. It is the organization that places the orders, negotiates terms, takes delivery, and pays for the components. But perhaps a more important group of customers are the specifying engineers—the people who decide which parts go into the computers. Once that decision has been made, much of the rest follows more or less automatically, as long as a satisfactory contract can be negotiated, and as long as the supplier can provide the correct items on time and with good quality.

To sell effectively to these two types of customers, the company would probably adopt very different strategies. Similarly, in designing online commerce systems to work with these customers, the company would create very different systems. The specifying engineers, for example, must be able to find the parts they need in the catalog quickly. They must also have access to detailed information, specifications, and sample schematics illustrating how parts can be used, and a way to order sample parts for building prototypes.


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