Ecommerce is increasingly becoming the preferred mode of transacting commerce and is markedly different from the conventional systems of commerce. Ecommerce gives the consumer the flexibility to exchange goods and services electronically without the barriers of distance and time. Most of the exchange between a consumer and the business is through the internet and covers a range of businesses such as sites dealing with consumer retail, auction sites and business to business transactions between different business entities. With the new form of doing business using ecommerce, the requisite knowledge to manage the ecommerce platform is important for every business to have. The knowledge of managing ecommerce platforms is the determinant as to whether a business will be able to leverage the synergies that come with using ecommerce.
Knowledge management involves the management of an intangible asset which is not static but which is continually regenerating. Knowledge is different from other forms of assets such as capital and people and the more it is used the more it is produced. A broad definition of knowledge is that it is the level of reflection in the highest degree over the available data that is transformed to information and ultimately to knowledge. Knowledge management involves management of knowledge in three stages: knowledge creation, knowledge transfer and knowledge application. (Spitze & Lee, 2012).The functions of knowledge management are undertaken by incorporating both human and organizations which are internet based. Before delving into the process of ecommerce knowledge, a brief summary of the difference between traditional and ecommerce is important.
Ecommerce contrasted with Traditional Commerce and the Knowledge Process
The first difference is the limitation in the number of items on offer in a physical store verses an online store which can offer almost an unlimited number of items. A business entity that acts as an intermediary between multiple sellers various customers is able to generate a huge commodity search space than the traditional store that is limited. (Boeuf & Senecal, 2013). The business entity that is running its operations online must be able to manage the large amount of data that is generated.
While running a traditional brick and mortar business has high overhead costs, an online store has lower overhead costs, but requires that the process of should run with minimal interruptions. (McCoy, 2015). Traditional stores can afford the luxury of having downtimes when they are closed and work offline. This is not the case with online stores which have to be online continuously.
Physical stores run on the traditional models of commerce, is limited to managing knowledge that is localized within the context of the local market. An online store has to manage has to manage the diversity of knowledge of different cultures which is global as well as managing differences in time-zones. (Herring, 2013). A good example is an American businessman in logging in an online store in Japan ordering goods in Europe to be delivered to his company in America.
Empirical knowledge encompasses knowledge that governs the principles and rules of a particular economic activity. This type of knowledge is generalized but is necessary for building a system that can compete in the marketplace.
Model knowledge refers to the models of behavior that can be seen in customers in relation to specific commodities and how it can be incorporated into an ecommerce system. The models deal with different entities and processes such as sales and marketing within a business.
Situational model is specific and is limited by time constraints and is limited to application in the use which may be single or multiple. (Mittal, 2012).Situational knowledge is mostly concerned with situations that gauge a single customer and their experience in using the ecommerce platform.
Knowledge creation involves a continuous process that involves the transforming of knowledge which is tacit into knowledge which is explicit and which can then be turned into a representation which is formal. (Mayzlin, Dover & Chevalier, 2014). In the context of ecommerce, three sources of knowledge are critical in the process of knowledge creation: the users of the system, the environment and topology of the system and the experts involved.
System users are primarily the customers and suppliers and how they interact with the business entity. Knowledge about customer preferences can be inferred by using questionnaires, while data can be collected about the different suppliers and their terms of service. The data collected incorporates the quality of delivered products, prices, volumes and timelines of delivery as well as the reaction time to requests for delivery. (Jennex, 20120. This will assist in decision making when negotiating the terms of business as well as with whom to do business.
The environment is the prevailing space and topology which surrounds the business entity, the suppliers and the customers. The environment includes factors such as the current fashion trends, the economic policy of a country, the emerging new technologies as well as the culture within which the business operates. The environment is also the most difficult to point out exactly with specifics in the process of knowledge creation.
The experts are important in creating knowledge as the knowledge they possess is transferred to the persons who shall operate the ecommerce platform. As the system begins to expand, the input of the experts is still critical in dealing with situations which are atypical such as interfacing new systems to an already existing system. (Mellor, 2011). The above considerations will ensure that the process of knowledge creation is continuous: dead knowledge will be deleted; irrelevant knowledge will depreciate while existing knowledge can be updated.
Knowledge Transfer is ontology within the ecommerce platform that provides for the appropriate channels and mediums of knowledge transfer as well as eliminating the barriers that arise in the process of knowledge transfer. The transfer of knowledge makes it possible for the knowledge within the platform to be accessed seamlessly within the system while mapping out the knowledge and the channels that will guarantee a smooth flow within the ecommerce platform.
Knowledge application is the last stage in the management of knowledge that is necessary for the successful implementation of an ecommerce platform. The end application builds on the process of creation and transfer and deals with the actual application with various user interfaces that will work with variables created from the creation process. (Qin, 2007).The application allows for the different ontology’s to be manipulated within the system without compromising the integrity of the system as a whole.
Application within Bunnnings The starting point for Bunnings would be to do a system review of its current system by using questionnaires to gauge the levels of satisfaction by the customers. The same questionnaires can be used with the suppliers to also gauge the levels of ease of seamless interface between Bunnings and the suppliers. Once this knowledge has been created, experts can be involved to give technical advice as to how the ecommerce platform at Bunnings can be improved. The application of knowledge management within Bunnings will involve two perspectives: the supply support and the customer perspectives. These two perspectives will have the end result of updating the current system to delete knowledge that is dead and update knowledge that is current and beneficial to the company.
Customer support sub-system The customer support works with the ontology of personalization of the customer to the ecommerce platform. (Romero, North, Gutierrez & Caliusco 2015).From the perspective that the customer is always right; Bunnings can setup a system that is authentic and genuine and can be verified by the customer. Currently Bunnings has a case in court over its claim that it offers the lowest prices in New Zealand.(Wade, 2017). A customer sued the company over that claim in New Zealand. The ability to manage knowledge in the ecommerce platform would have seen the company take a different marketing approach in New Zealand from that taken in Australia as each market is different. What it offers in the ecommerce platform of each country has to be tailored within the context of each market.
The customer support sub system must also be clear on the range of products which are available, out of stock, available within the nearest store or those which can be ordered from a centralized store. Bunnings can integrate the computer systems of each physical store to show what is available within the physical store within its greater ecommerce platform. The ability for a customer to get products should be a key consideration in linking all physical stores and making sure that the physical store can deliver products for online customers as well as the traditional brick and mortar customers.
The system in place at Bunnings should have reliable systems within the platform that can guarantee the privacy of the customer and not share their private data with internet-based marketing companies. (Ablon, Libicki & Golay, 2014). This is closely tied to making sure that payments are safe and secure to ensure that their financial records are not compromised. The customer support subsystem should incorporate a feedback loop that can monitor the quality of service in terms of timeliness in responding to orders and queries and the responsiveness of the feedback mechanism.
Supply support subsystem The supply support subsystem which is a business to business interface, has to incorporate the timeliness of response by the business in terms of delivering new stock while at the same time dealing with returns which may be having defects and rejected by the customer. (Buntings, 2013).The supply support should also address the payment systems of the ecommerce platform in interfacing it with the banks of the supplier and the seamless transfer of funds without the need for a trail of paper work. The supplier support subsystem should incorporate a system that is able to monitor customer preferences of goods offered by the suppliers and continuously updating orders automatically.
In conclusion, the ability of a business to effectively manage an ecommerce platform requires the business to begin by first creating the relevant knowledge that will be used within the platform. The second step would require the process of knowledge transfer and ultimately the application of the knowledge. The application will involve in addressing two important subsystems which deal with the customers and the suppliers. Applying the knowledge created with reference to the customer preferences, the business can then put into operation the ecommerce system successfully. This will also result in implementing a user interface that seamlessly interacts with the suppliers so as to make sure there are no gaps in the supply chain. Going into the future, business entities such as Bunnings will need to have embrace systems of knowledge management that specifically address ecommerce in order to stay relevant in the ecommerce platform.
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