Procurement is a process that takes time and requires a back-and-forth transfer of documents between buyer and seller. While it might sound complicated, it’s a necessary evil from a business perspective. The only way a company can be sure that it’s getting what it wants is through in-depth research about the products it’s acquiring. From a provider’s perspective, procurement is akin to B2B sales and marketing.

Business procurement, therefore, depends on having an easily accessible system with the efficient generation of purchase orders. Time is money in business, and procurement systems that don’t respond rapidly enough to customers don’t seem desirable. Customers that have to deal with slow processing times, lack of communication from the seller, and other issues in the transfer of information quickly grow tired of their supplier and go looking for a new one. New technology has sought to address these shortcomings in typical business-to-business marketing websites.

Introducing PunchOut Catalogs

Today’s B2B sales and marketing environment need to be more agile and flexible in its approach. The technology was spearheaded by Ariba, which defined a PunchOut catalog as a listing that resides on a business’s eCommerce website but is accessible through a purchaser’s procurement software. In a nutshell, PunchOut catalogs are a method for companies to purchase goods through their own procurement software. Naturally, the procurement software would update all the associated software modules (inventory management, administration, etc.) and streamline the process.

Due to how easy it makes procurement for businesses, a company that deals with supplying companies would do well to invest in a PunchOut system. There are several providers of PunchOut catalog development, making it easy to acquire a supplier. The flexibility in PunchOut catalogs comes from the fact that the business can develop different lists depending on what category of goods they’d like to provide. This flexibility also streamlines the procurement process. Instead of a consumer having to pore over the website to find what they’re looking for, the relevant catalog is delivered directly to their procurement software front-end. They spend less time browsing and more time focusing on the products related to their industry.

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Increased Efficiency and Automation

One of the most forward-thinking developments that PunchOut catalogs have brought to procurement is the ability to interface with existing inventory and procurement software. This interfacing uses an information standard for data transfer, to make sure that the data that PunchOut sends is readable by the recipient software. Initially, procurement suites would use a document management system called Catalog Interchange Format (CIF), which is still ideal for businesses that don’t change their product listing all that often.

In addition to CIF, a second format known as Commerce eXtensible Markup Language (cXML) is added to PunchOut to speed up the process further. cXML enables a supplier to send electronic acknowledgments of purchase order generation to the client at a much faster rate than traditional procedures. The data format is based on the XML standard and allows the PunchOut catalog to transfer data back and forth between the user’s procurement system and the supplier’s website.

More Than an eCommerce Website

PunchOut catalogs and eCommerce websites both operate on the same principle – helping buyers find and purchase the items they want. However, how they approach this process is vastly different. An eCommerce website focuses on customer experience and guiding the buyer to the products that he or she may want. PunchOut isn’t concerned about user experience as much as it is about customizability and flexibility. A PunchOut catalog directs users to the most relevant products and offers them a system that they can put in large orders via purchase order. Additionally, these purchase orders are generated and updated in both systems automatically. The ease of use and rapid service sets suppliers that use a PunchOut catalog miles ahead of the competition.

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What This Means for Suppliers

PunchOut doesn’t just provide benefits to the purchaser. It imbues a handful of benefits to the supplier as well. Among the benefits that PunchOut brings to the table for the supplier are:

  • Security: The user automatically logs into the eCommerce site from the buyer’s ERP system. There’s no need to re-enter passwords as the tokens for authentication may persist.
  • Seamless Interaction: The buyer goes directly to the store page from a link within the buyer’s system. There’s no need to open a browser and navigate to the website. The user can then browse items that align with what he or she is looking for immediately.
  • Ease of Acquisition: When the buyer is satisfied with his or her purchase, they can start the checkout process from inside their own procurement software suite. Once the buyer decides on which products they want, the system can request approvals for those acquisitions immediately, reducing paper usage and time before generating a purchase order.

Improving Operations Through Technology

The field of procurement has had several significant leaps in technology over the past decade. However, despite the increasing growth in this field in tech, businesses seem slow to adopt a new way of doing things. An example of how innovation has changed the way procurement works positively is the creation of PunchOut catalogs. These systems are just like eCommerce websites but are a lot more streamlined. They don’t offer everything the business has for the purchaser but limits the selection to the most valid products. Additionally, ease of use means that the buyer doesn’t have to spend too long waiting between purchase and receipt of goods. With all these benefits, alongside the ease of finding a supplier for PunchOut Catalog technology, a business