Until a few months ago, conventional wisdom held that packaging e-marketplaces, also referred to as exchanges, hubs, portals, and so forth, were to dominate business-to-business e-commerce. Then the bottom fell out of the stock market, and e-marketplaces--publicly held or not--started going out of business: Arborex.com and PackagingInsider.com are two recent examples.
More doubt cast on the role of e-marketplaces as facilitators of online transactions comes from packaging suppliers themselves. When a recent Packworld.com survey on e-commerce intentions asked packaging suppliers where they expected to derive the largest source of e-commerce income, 49% of 280 respondents picked their own Web sites.
In the survey, which concluded this month, packaging-specific e-marketplaces rated second at 29%, and industry-specific marketplaces, such as those set up to serve the food or pharmaceutical industries, came in a distant third at 16%. Reverse auction sites, in sharp contrast, received barely 3% of the vote. The low rating represents the disdain that suppliers hold for reverse auction sites, in which prices are bid down by competing suppliers hoping to win a contract from a packaging buyer.
When asked the importance of neutrality of an e-marketplace--that is, whether buyers, suppliers or associations own the e-marketplace site in whole or in part--54% of packaging suppliers preferred neutral sites that are independently owned. Another 26% didn't have a preference, and 20% preferred industry-supported sites. Those numbers mirrored the feelings expressed by end-users in a survey conducted last summer on Packworld.com. In that survey, 50% of buyers preferred a neutral site, 32% didn't have a preference, and 18% preferred an industry-supported site.
And in a quantitative confirmation of what Packaging World editors have been hearing anecdotally for the past year, the number one obstacle preventing e-commerce at packaging suppliers was clear: Customers simply aren't set up to buy through the Internet. The second and third biggest e-commerce obstacles, respectively, were that suppliers don't want to lose the human contact/relationship with customers, nor do packaging suppliers have clearly defined e-commerce departments or executives to lead the way.
A complete report on the survey results will be published in a future issue of Net Sourcing, the packaging e-procurement supplement to Packaging World.