It sounds like the high-tech equivalent of live auctions, only not every online product vendor bargains. In fact, as e-procurement has evolved over the past few years, portals have been forced to merge, redesign and even drop out of the market completely. As the economy tightens its belt, it's questionable as to whether the benefits and demands of online procurement impact traditional business practices. And though more companies may be logging in to make print and paper purchases, paper has hardly lost its steam. Quite the contrary, since paper constitutes the legitimizing factors for most online transactions in the form of bills, contracts and checks, and more direct mail campaigns are developed to hype online business, more paper is thrown into the advertising mix, thus creating a new market demand in a traditional industry.
For companies that do business online, the list of advantages are many. First, efficiency is important when a print buyer can begin the shopping process directly from the desktop. At Noosh, for instance, a user can register, log-in and immediately consider an array of vendors to suit his/her publishing and graphic arts procurement needs. Similarly, at Paperloop.com, a user can also browse news and other industry-related content that is designed to enhance the overall "online buying process." The Web site recently launched "Paper Help," an online encyclopedia for the paper and pulp industry built to search, troubleshoot and research energy and manufacturing processes.
Enthusiastic users also cite comparison shopping as a benefit to e-procurement. Many online sites featuring auction forums wherein a user can submit a job on which a variety of community vendor members bid. Fortunately for the user, most bids do not have to be accepted to participate, and in many other cases, lower-priced bids can be compared to other characteristics of job completion, such as time and quality. Many of the managers of these online bidding cites take great pain to welcome only legitimate vendors so as to avoid any problems in the transaction and end product.