B2B4B Part 6: B2B eCommerce for Beginners

We've covered a range of topics throughout the B2B4B Series - strategy, the parts of a website and systems. The last system we review here is Punchout. What is it? Why do you need it? Read on to learn more about how Connected Commerce works to build your ecommerce business. 

The origin of e-procurement systems (and Connected Commerce) began with the use of Punchout platforms. This system enables B2B buyers to stay within their e-procurement platform and "punchout" to supplier websites. Here's a visual: maybe you can imagine going (or maybe you still go) to vendor websites to search products, only to have to return to your own buying system to re-enter the SKUs, pricing and order detail. Since this process is cumbersome. prone to errors - and avoidable - distributors invested in Punchout integrations: or a gateway from their buying platforms to supplier catalogs within their system. In essence, buyers shop a digital shelf and then, post-purchase, the shopping cart data routes through a feed to the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning System - see Part 2.) This improved flow provides for a more seamless buying process, not only for buyers during the ordering process, but also for distributors with golden record management.

Research from DigitalCommerce360 shows that e-procurement sales increased 16% in one year alone (2022-2023), and, in the past three years, each year has seen double digital e-procurement sales growth. It's a trend that doesn't show signs of slowing either. Why? The investments made to improved ordering processes - the heart of Connected Commerce - can be a B2B growth engine.  With less impediments and greater efficiencies on a B2B customer journey, the buyer gains speed and accuracy. This translates into revenue and loyalty to distributors and manufacturers. 

Here is a short video from an Xngage customer, EECO, about the value of connected commerce environments including punchout. Adam Sheets, Director of eCommerce, notes that prior to his integrations, his revenue from ecommerce was less than 1% and following implementation, revenue has grown by a multi-fold factor. As he states, "Getting those customers onboarded has opened a lot of doors" beyond traditional revenue growth, including growth in ship-to accounts and more meaningful conversations with customers.

The future of e-procurement (including punchout) and connected commerce is driven by machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI.) In a typical ecommerce environment, the ERP connects to a PIM (see Part 4) and possibly an e-procurement system to help create an optimized flow of data. When each portion of the journey (from search to product discovery to procurement and checkout) is enhanced by smart, AI-powered systems, the result is a more relevant and meaningful connected commerce buyer experience. Who wouldn't like a more curated set of choices at every step? Who wouldn't like real-time information powered by previous purchases? The answer is not only the people who buy from you, but increasingly, new-to-market machine customers (see article here) or custobots that are the wave of the future. 


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