When an organization selects their B2B ecommerce platform and embarks on a digital transformation it can uncover a lot of challenges. Everything from migrating customers off the old platform to setting customer specific pricing to product data or product information management (PIM) integrations. One of the things that is often overlooked is e-procurement and punchout catalog integrations.
Ecommerce and e-procurement platform support
If your organization is embracing a full B2B ecommerce experience, one of the things to consider is how your customers are buying. If your customers want to purchase directly from their e-procurement system, punchout catalogs are the way to go. Punchout catalogs allow your customers to instantly connect with your B2B ecommerce platform for your full product line including customer specific pricing. You may even have electronic quoting and retrieval to make shopping even easier.
Now that you have selected an ecommerce platform, you can determine how to best service those customers.
Identify key customers
The first step in your e-procurement journey is identifying customers that may have e-procurement systems. Without an e-procurement system a customer would simply shop in your B2B ecommerce system by logging in directly there.
Once you have determined which customers use e-procurement, the next step you can take is to start asking your customers questions. What e-procurement systems are they using? How are their users shopping? Do they need to request or retrieve quotes in the punchout? Does your customer need a restricted catalog to exclude certain items? Will your customers submit orders electronically or email them? How will e-procurement orders be invoiced?
That may seem like a daunting task but having a better picture of what your customers are expecting will help you decide which features you want and need to support in your B2B ecommerce platform. For example, if your customer cannot send orders electronically and will simply be emailing purchase orders, there may not be a need to support electronic purchase order submission into your ecommerce yet.
By identifying which of your customers are using e-procurement systems, you can take the next step in determining how to connect with them. The first question to ask yourself is whether your ecommerce platform supports punchout catalogs and/or e-procurement integrations. Some platforms offer app marketplaces where you can search for punchout vendors, while others use system integrators for implementation, or manage it internally. In either case, you can notify the developers that you have punchout requests. If you know your ecommerce system has the capability, the challenge is rolling it out successfully and getting started.
Selecting the right punchout partner
Having the right punchout partner is key to not only overcome integration challenges but provide your team the support to implement. You do not want to plan for just one punchout but as many as your customers are asking for. Punchout and e-procurement can be a challenging undertaking without the experience to lean on. The right punchout partner will:
- Have a direct integration with your ecommerce system.
- Support all major e-procurement systems (over 120+)
- Provide full support and project management for implementation of your punchout catalog.
- Offer training to your team as part of the implementation.
- Pre-sales support for your contracts/sales team when bidding on larger contracts that require a punchout catalog.
Having the right partner will allow you to focus on being proactive in offering your punchout and eProcurement solution vs. reactive when your customers ask for it directly.
Get buy-in from your sales team
Once your ecommerce platform supports punchout and you know which customers are using eProcurement, how do you engage with your sales team to drive business to your punchout? Your sales team may have some concerns about implementing punchout including potential loss of interaction with the customer, handling quoting and customer objections such as ease of use.
These are all common concerns because many account managers have been working with a customer for many years and value the individualized touch they bring when working with a customer.
It is important to engage with the sales team at the beginning of a punchout catalog project to get their buy-in and ally these concerns.
Punchout catalogs enhance relationships instead of putting a strain on them. Instead of taking orders for each item, a customer could easily purchase via the punchout. When a custom/quote request comes, the account manager can assist and even build a quote directly in the B2B ecommerce system for approval. The account manager is still incredibly involved, but the customer does not have to pick up the phone for every order anymore.
Another crucial point is that everyone shops differently, some customers may shop when the account manager is out of the office and just needs to order items after closing of business. Other users may just prefer to order online since they know exactly what they need. By having a punchout catalog you can now capture both user experiences, those who want to talk directly to the account manager and those who just want to order on the punchout.
By addressing these concerns, you can turn a punchout catalog into a strategic advantage and have your sales team embrace the e-procurement and punchout technology to start offering it to all accounts, new and existing.
Fully integrate to give the best customer experience
If your customer wants to send you orders electronically instead of via email, there is a huge opportunity here. Not only can you receive orders how your customer wants to send them, but your organization gets a benefit too by not having to manually key orders. Orders can flow electronically from your customer electronically and be automatically imported into your B2B ecommerce system and then into your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. You will reduce keying errors on order entry and potentially offer faster shipping by directly connecting to your ERP system.
To complete the full life cycle of an order, many of your customers may request electronic invoicing via cXML. Because the order is already in your ERP system upon shipment you can invoice the order and have it route back to the e-procurement system directly. There is no longer the need to email or manually submit invoices via your customer’s portal.
By offering the tools and integrations your customers are asking for you can tailor your B2B ecommerce system to make customers increase spend with your organization and have a better user experience with just one set of e-procurement and punchout catalog integrations. You will not only have satisfied customers, but sticky customers that will never stop buying from you.