E-Commerce Drives B2B Innovation

As e-commerce becomes more of a business strategy than a productivity tool, CIOs are playing increasingly important roles in business growth and achieving a competitive advantage.

Take the airline industry, for example, where CIOs have transformed business models, reduced costs and boosted convenience for travelers. Today, airline passengers are booking tickets, selecting seats and obtaining boarding passes online. When they get to the airport, passengers use electronic kiosks to check in.

Airline CIOs have aligned incentives with desired behaviors by making the automated options more convenient than waiting for a person to provide assistance. Bypassing middlemen, such as travel agents, has also reduced costs. Even with recent tussles between airlines and online booking sites, travelers benefit from IT advancements.

While many industries have been quick to utilize e-commerce, the chemical industry has lagged because of the required back-end investment in a sound business strategy and an integrated IT platform. My organization invested in an SAP-based global IT platform more than 20 years ago, so when market forces required us to offer more choices, we were ready.

We developed a Web-enabled business model in an industry with few online options. The result was the creation of the XIAMETER brand in 2002, designed to offer high-quality but standard silicone products online at market-based prices. The business model is highly efficient due to its Web-enabled order platform and streamlined services. In contrast, our traditional Dow Corning brand offers customized solutions, product innovation, technical support and new specialty products.

My role includes ensuring that the online experience of our XIAMETER customers matches expectations, and that the Web-enabled brand operates effectively and efficiently. The business model utilizes strict business rules — a powerful factor in e-commerce — to streamline the ordering process, consolidate orders and improve inventory management, which help keep operational costs low. There also are multiple self-service options, including access to product information and prices, online ordering, order tracking and order histories. Our global IT platform provides the backbone.

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