Even though they don’t sell their products to consumers like you and me, B2B sellers carefully watch general economic conditions to anticipate consumer buying patterns. The firms do so because the demand for business products is based on derived demand. Derived demand is demand that springs from, or is derived from, a source other than the primary buyer of a product. When it comes to B2B sales, that source is consumers. If consumers aren’t demanding the products produced by businesses, the firms that supply products to these businesses are in big trouble.
Fluctuating demand is another characteristic of B2B markets: a small change in demand by consumers can have a big effect throughout the chain of businesses that supply all the goods and services that produce it. Often, a bullwhip type of effect occurs. If you have ever held a whip, you know that a slight shake of the handle will result in a big snap of the whip at its tip. Essentially, consumers are the handle and businesses along the chain compose the whip—hence the need to keep tabs on end consumers. They are a powerful purchasing force.
For example, Cisco makes routers, which are specialized computers that enable computer networks to work. If Google uses five hundred routers and replaces 10 percent of them each year, that means Google usually buys fifty routers in a given year. What happens if consumer demand for the Internet falls by 10 percent? Then Google needs only 450 routers. Google’s demand for Cisco’s routers therefore becomes zero. Suppose the following year the demand for the Internet returns to normal. Google now needs to replace the fifty routers it didn’t buy in the first year plus the fifty it needs to replace in the second year. So in year two, Cisco’s sales go from zero to a hundred, or twice normal. Thus, Cisco experiences a bullwhip effect, whereas Google’s sales vary only by 10 percent.
Because consumers are such a powerful force, some companies go so far as to try to influence their B2B sales by directly influencing consumers even though they don’t sell their products to them. Intel is a classic case. Do you really care what sort of microprocessing chip gets built into your computer? Intel would like you to, which is why it runs TV commercials like the Homer Simpson commercial shown in the video clip below. The commercial isn’t likely to persuade a computer manufacturer to buy Intel’s chips. But the manufacturer might be persuaded to buy them if it’s important to you. Derived demand is also the reason Intel demands that the buyers of its chips put a little “Intel Inside” sticker on each computer they make—so you get to know Intel and demand its products.
B2B buyers also keep tabs on consumers to look for patterns that could create joint demand. Joint demand occurs when the demand for one product increases the demand for another. For example, when a new video console like the Xbox comes out, it creates demand for a whole new crop of video games.
B2B markets differ from B2C markets in many ways. There are more transactions in B2B markets and more high-dollar transactions because business products are often costly and complex. There are also fewer buyers in B2B markets, but they spend much more than the typical consumer does and have more-rigid product standards. The demand for business products is based on derived demand. Derived demand is demand that springs from, or is derived from, a secondary source other than the primary buyer of a product. For businesses, this source is consumers. Fluctuating demand is another characteristic of B2B markets: a small change in demand by consumers can have a big effect throughout the chain of businesses that supply all the goods and services that produce it.
- Why are there more transactions in B2B markets than B2C markets? Why are there fewer buyers?
- Explain what derived demand is.
- Why do firms experience a bullwhip effect in the demand for their products when consumers demand changes?