eCommerce seems simple and straightforward enough. All a customer needs to do is visit an online store, add items to the shopping cart, and place their order when they are ready. However, new technology is constantly becoming available, and new trends are constantly emerging. One example is the rise in eProcurement systems, which many large-scale businesses now find indispensable to their day-to-day operations. In the past, these businesses relied on more traditional and analogue methods of filling, reviewing, and sending order requests, such as phone calls and faxed forms. These systems have removed, or at least reduced, the need for such methods, which in turn significantly cuts down on the time and expenses needed for that process.
eProcurement systems are extremely useful, but they come with a catch: if a purchasing agent wants to shop somewhere online with the system, they can only buy from suppliers whose shopping cart software is compatible with it. Not every B2B business has put in the work to make themselves compatible with any eProcurement systems, let alone as many as possible. This can cause them to turn away prospective clients, almost always unintentionally. Some do not even know that they are missing out on potential connections because of this issue, which will only grow more costly over time as more companies adopt these systems.
However, the situation does not have to be this way, and you do not need to be left behind because of changes in the market. In fact, a more recent technological innovation may be able to prove that the trends can work in your favor after all. The PunchOut catalog is capable of providing you with a way to bridge the gap between your eCommerce website and the growing number of businesses that regularly use eProcurement systems. You can find all the information you need in this guide.
The PunchOut catalog is a feature that can connect a business’s eProcurement system with an eCommerce website’s shopping cart software. Online stores may also enable this connection by integrating their eCommerce software with a PunchOut catalog application. Either way, the software makes use of data transfer protocols, also known as “PunchOut protocols,” to plug an eProcurement system directly to an online store’s product catalogue. Data from the shopping cart is converted to the format of, and then transported to, the eProcurement platform.
This bond synchronizes the two sets of software on your end, so that each item a user adds to the store shopping cart is also automatically added to their eProcurement purchase order. It can also transfer data related to quantity, as well as other factors like color and size. People can then make changes to the order as needed, including but not limited to adding or subtracting items and altering quantities, on their end and pass it along throughout the company. Once the purchase order is approved, you, as the supplier, will receive the information and the payment, and you can fulfill their order as if they had done it directly through you.
To put it simply, your customers can use the PunchOut catalog to bring a filled shopping cart from your website to their software. It gives them the optimized functionality of online shopping without fully abandoning the vital features of the eProcurement system.
When people want to order something for their business entity or organization, they can hop online and enter an eCommerce store. There, they can then search through or scan the site’s inventory for any products they need or want. After adding each desired item to their virtual shopping cart and adjusting the quantity of each item as needed, they typically proceed to the eCommerce website’s checkout page. All of this happens on the website itself, whose eCommerce platform can host the pages, inventory, and checkout process in the same place.
However, an increasing number of businesses prefer not to shop like this. They may employ an eProcurement platform, and they may prefer to stay on there as much as possible. Larger businesses in particular tend to depend on this software to handle many of their purchasing needs, in an effort to centralize more financial tasks and promote greater visibility and simpler management. The processes of the company, which may be heavily automated partly as a result of using this system, could mean that placing orders through an eCommerce website’s shopping cart is inconvenient.
In fact, this method is even prohibited under the policies of certain companies as a way of keeping their purchase order process simple. This would place these potential clients completely out of your reach — but only if you choose not to offer any alternative methods for them to place orders with you. Not every eCommerce website is even aware that they have this limitation, let alone that they can address it with a single, simple integration.
By integrating your website with PunchOut catalog software, you would no longer force your customers to either conduct their shopping session entirely on your eCommerce website or look elsewhere. Instead, you give customers who rely on their eProcurement software the opportunity to punch out. They can then continue with their standard process for B2B transactions, and send an electronic purchase order for you, the supplier, to fulfill. The compatibility problems we described earlier would completely vanish, replaced by a constantly growing list of potential new clients.
If you are a B2B manufacturer, supplier, or distributor, this new addition may seem strange to you. Of course, if your business has its very own eCommerce website, you are already tapping into a wider audience than the overwhelming majority of your competitors. In 2017, more than 80% of all B2B companies in that industry still solely processed orders by hand and had still not made the jump to the digital frontier. Being in the top 20% of the most accessible companies in that industry shows you are no stranger to adapting your business model for the digital realm. As a B2B business owner with that mindset, you should strive to broaden your horizons as much as possible.
Integrating PunchOut catalogs into your software instantly propels you ahead of many of your online competitors, the ones within that top 20%. This one feature can expand your reach to even more clients and make you one of the most convenient and flexible suppliers around.
Earlier, we spoke about trends in eCommerce. One other example is pertinent here as well: a shift in the behavior of B2B purchasing agents. As they come of age and enter the working world, digital natives — those who grew up never knowing a world without the internet — are increasingly taking on these roles for their businesses. They grew up as online consumers, which means that when looking for and negotiating with suppliers, they now approach the B2B purchase process in much the same way. eProcurement systems on their own can hinder them in that regard and makes the buying process more difficult. On the other hand, suppliers who integrate PunchOut catalogs provide these eProcurement system users with the online B2C shopping experience to which they are accustomed.
As complex as they may sound, PunchOut catalogs do not entail much sacrifice on the part of the supplier. Updating them with the latest information on discounts, promotions, inventory, and more is rather simple. As we detailed earlier, this software allows customers to automatically synchronize their shopping carts with the order forms on their eProcurement systems. In the same manner, you, as the supplier, can keep your customers posted on any changes to your products, their prices, and their availability without any delay.
PunchOut2Go is currently the only solution on the market that is completely dedicated to connecting online shopping carts with eProcurement systems. The software is comprehensive to the point of universal. It can connect with more than 70 different eProcurement systems, including popular ones such as Ariba, SciQuest, SAP, PeopleSoft, and Oracle. People can also use PunchOut2Go with just about any kind of PunchOut protocol, ranging from cXML to OCI to XML to EDI to HTTPs and more. All of this can happen without any transaction fees whatsoever.
In addition to all of this, purchasing agents can complete the shopping process without opening a new window. PunchOut2Go’s gateway technology can launch users from their eProcurement system’s interface to the inventory of the eCommerce business of their choice. It can then bring them back from the online store’s checkout page to the PunchOut page of their system. Users may not even notice that they are on a completely new website when making their purchase.