In our last post, we noted that with today’s shopping platforms, which go well beyond first generation platforms to offer unparalleled opportunities to find and purchase products, consumers have never had it so good. It’s so good, in fact, that business buyers stuck on first generation buying platforms are envious.
Primitive terminals or old Microsoft Windows 3.1-like applications force users to do archaic SKU or abbreviation searches, order using EDI, export to get the data in the ERP, and so on.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. B2B can learn from B2C and, moreover, the best B2B shopping platforms can even improve on the B2C experience.
Catalogs with Multiple Taxonomy Support
Not only do modern systems support extensive catalogs, they support multiple taxonomies as well. That means that the systems store complete catalogs of products people in your organization might want to buy, and they can be indexed against the organization’s product master, the vendor SKU, UNSPSC, H(T)S, and any other taxonomy relevant to the organization.
Integrated EDI, cXML Punch-Outs, and Online Catalogs
Along with being extensive, the catalog can also integrate live EDI, cXML punch-outs, and even secure, restricted access vendor catalogs (via advanced middleware connectivity built into these modern platforms) into one single seamless cohesive interface. And even better, they can all be accessed through a single platform with just one search.
Powerful Search Against Contracts
These searches are as powerful as those employed by the most advanced consumer sites and they can integrate with organizational contracts, price lists, and inventory systems. This means that when a buyer does a search for a product, she can see all of the products that match, filter for those that are through suppliers on contract, see which are approved by procurement, and see which are recommended by her coworkers.
Multi-Dimensional Rankings and Cost Savings Potential
In addition to seeing which products are on contract, a buyer can see how she ranks by cost, peer group ranking, warranty term, total supplier spend, and other dimensions of interest. This allows a buyer to select a product that maximizes both cost savings and the value obtained from the product, such as maximum service hours before replacement, minimum spend, maximum spend on contracts with escalating discounts and rebates, etc.
At-a-Glance Order History and Auto-Generated Re-Order Templates
Not only do modern systems support complete and instantaneous access to order history, they also support the automatic generation of re-order templates where a buyer only has to change the quantities and press a button to place a new requisition.
Just like a consumer can check out on Amazon with just one click, a business buyer just needs to add the products of interest to her cart before creating her requisition the same way. The system will route the requisition along to the necessary approvers and automatically create it once approved.
Real-Time Approval Workflow Generation
First generation systems had limited approval workflows, sometimes so primitive they only allowed for and required a single supervisor approval. In modern B2B commerce systems, a procurement professional can set up simple or complex—or singular or parallel—approval workflows where it depends on the buyer, department, product, and/or dollar amount of the requisition. In addition, some modern platforms also support the creation of dynamic approval workflows in real-time, which change with each item added to or removed from the shopping cart so that a user can see exactly who will be required to approve.
Automatic Purchase Order Creation, Distribution, and Status
Once an approver with sufficient authority has approved the requisition, the system can automatically break it up into multiple purchase orders (one per supplier), deliver them automatically to the suppliers, and automatically collect receipt acknowledgements and future order updates. The user can then check the status of the orders at any time through the shopping portal to see when orders have been shipped, received, and paid.
In short, today’s modern B2B shopping platforms have capabilities that put even the leading B2C shopping platforms to shame. Multiple taxonomies, advanced merchandising and search capabilities, automatically generated (re)order templates, real-time approval workflow generation, and visual guilt that ensures the buyer always does the right thing provide organizational buyers with platforms that many never dreamed possible.