Rhobi, a Web-based service that allows businesses to engage customers, process orders, and market inventory, has released a new community platform for business-to-business social commerce. This interactive platform connects existing business Web sites to a larger global market and then enhances them with integrated sales, marketing, order processing, and live communication tools.
The goal of the offering is to allow companies to market inventory once and make it searchable from thousands of Web sites all across the Internet.
Once a business has joined the Rhobi Community and completed the copy/paste installation, it can list inventory, post deals, jobs, ideas, and company news, right from its own Web site. All material is accessible, not only from the Web site where it originated, but from all Web sites that are part of the community.
Steve Edwards, chief operating officer of Rhobi, explains, "Now, the same way Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn connect people, we connect companies, but for the sole purpose of doing business. To help understand what we mean by that, imagine being able to process an order on LinkedIn... Now imagine if LinkedIn powered your Web site, he says.
"Other marketplaces are OK for searching and listing inventory, but they are stand-alone Web sites that are isolated from normal business processes and require faxing or emailing [to complete deals]. Our Community platform solves that by providing an end-to-end solution that combines our marketplace with sales and marketing tools like social CRM, a complete order management system, and communication tools, such as instant messaging and click-to-call phone calls," Edwards said.
Edwards asserts that this type of Web 2.0 technology advancement has the potential to change the way people think about buying and selling parts. "We've taken something that was once isolated and expensive, [part locator services], and integrated it to make it affordable and flexible. It's like turning every Web site in your industry into a proxy sales force for your brand."
The community itself is organized by industry, sub-industry, and company. Searches are targeted with any level of granularity, ranging from the entire community all the way down to an individual business' products and services. "A large problem [with other solutions] is that inventory is thrown in one big pile. Valuable time and money is wasted trying to locate what you need and who actually has it," Edwards says.
Rhobi is using feedback from the community to drive the development of the product. Members can post thoughts, feature requests, and issues out to the community, to be directly voted on by other members and acted upon by the development team.
Companies can join the community with unlimited users for a nominal monthly fee. The integrated order processing system, which connects to QuickBooks for AR/AP, has a utility-style billing method. Companies only pay for what they use.