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Who's Your Customer? More Consumer Firms Try B2B Options

A growing number of companies are developing business-/consumer-oriented hybrid models, reports the New York Times.

Zillow, a website which focuses on real estate, sells more than just advertising space to other businesses.

Trying to decide between serving other businesses and catering to consumers? A growing number of tech companies are aiming to do both.

Aiming to tap new sources of revenue and make it harder for other companies to steal their customers, a greater number of Web companies are combining consumer sites with business tools, reports The New York Times.

"We're moving from a day and age where you're just a Web site to one where we're automating the connections between businesses and consumers," Bill Gurley, a venture capitalist and board member of B2B-B2C hybrid Zillow, told the paper. Gurley calls such mashups "B2B2C"; Zillow, for instance, lets people check out the market value of properties but also provides tools for real estate professionals to advertise and manage rental listings).

The Times highlighted several other companies that are blurring the line between B2B and B2C:

  • LinkedIn: Although the company started as simply a place where consumers could advertise themselves and build a network, LinkedIn now makes more than half of its revenue from selling services to recruiters. Among other offerings, LinkedIn sells packages that can help recruiters improve search capabilities or track job candidates during the hiring process.
  • GrubHub: The company, which lets consumers order takeout from more than 15,000 restaurants online and through its mobile app, is changing the way that those restaurants receive orders. To replace an unwieldy fax-based system, GrubHub has offering a service called OrderHub; individual eateries get the tablet hardware for free but then pay a commission on food orders.
  • Uber: Uber gives consumers a mobile app that allows them hail town cars. For its drivers--who are all independent contractors--it has also developed a "heat map" that indicates areas where drivers are most likely to find paying passengers.
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