When Identity Works started building QuickBrand Online Stores 20 years ago, we were able to instantly transform the ordering and procurement processes for the companies we partnered with. At that time, online stores gave buyers instant access to a wide variety of custom branded swag and the ability to charge purchases of that swag to a corporate credit card. As purchasing evolved in the years following, so did company stores. Clients began asking us for things like the ability to bill back to their company using purchase order numbers entered at the time of checkout, custom approval workflows, functionality that restricted company billing to specific users, and other advanced features. Today, more and more clients are using technologically advanced ERP and purchasing systems that change the way organizations interact with their online swag stores. Those who take advantage of the newest advances and system integrations continue to see cost savings, new efficiencies, and site experiences that are increasingly user-friendly.
PunchOut Joins the Party
While many procurement systems have allowed for EDI purchase orders and invoicing for many years, most modern systems also support a new type of integration called PunchOut. In a basic sense, PunchOut allows a company’s procurement system to use a common set of automated workflows to interact with their supplier’s ordering systems. This integration not only works for online stores offering custom branded promotional merchandise, it can also be used for potentially any business-related supplier that has an online store.
With PunchOut, a company controls which suppliers they integrate with, which buyers have access to particular products and suppliers, and all approval workflows. The PunchOut advantage occurs during the time of purchase: After adding products to their shopping cart, instead of checking out, the buyer transfers their shopping cart directly into the company’s procurement system using PunchOut technology. Once in the procurement system, the order goes through the standard PO generation process, order approvals, and other internal steps. When a PO is generated, the procurement system sends a message to the supplier’s online store that automatically submits the order to the supplier and includes all necessary purchase information.
How It Works
Companies are able to enjoy successful integrations using PunchOut thanks to the cXML.org industry consortium. The Consortium developed a new language for procurement systems to talk to supplier systems called the Commerce eXtensible Markup Language (cXML). By enabling these systems to talk to each other in a common language, data is able to be shared in real time. Data that can be shared between systems using this language includes products, pricing, product configurations, and customer service information (tracking numbers, order status updates, and messages). Most major procurement systems used today are able to communicate order information using cXML. This means that if you work with a company store provider that supports PunchOut and cXML, it is likely that your procurement system will be able to integrate with your online company store. Read on to see what benefits your company and online store could realize with this kind of integration.
Benefits for Company Stores
Organizations enjoy a number of benefits when their company stores are paired with PunchOut technology. Here are the five most impactful advantages we’ve witnessed with Identity Works clients:
1. Centralized Resources
Integrating a company store with an internal procurement system’s online catalog of products and suppliers can be a game-changer. With PunchOut integration users only need to go to one central location to get what they need from any approved supplier instead of having to navigate to number of different ordering portals. They also spend less time remembering logins and checking out at each individual site.
2. Increased Sales and Adoption
Simply put, the easier it is for buyers to purchase items in a standard way, the more likely they will be to purchase products through approved suppliers. PunchOut integration makes the process so easy, consistent, and straightforward that, in many cases, it’s more challenging for buyers to go outside of the process.
3. Improved Buyer Experience
With the large variety of products buyers may be purchasing, shopping individual ordering portals may not give them the best online buying experiences if those ordering portals are disparate. The structure, look and feel, and functionality of the site for purchasing apparel may need be completely different than the portal for purchasing cleaning supplies. In comparison, when buyers are allowed to PunchOut to individual supplier stores, organizations can take advantage of the amazing user experiences their suppliers have tailored to their product lines, while also offering a consistent user experience. As a result, companies often see an increase in buyer satisfaction within the buying process.
4. Faster Processing
The transfer of data between PunchOut-enabled online stores and procurement systems happens instantaneously. Delays from purchase-to-PO-issuance and to start-of-order-fulfillment are obviously reduced because of this. Really, the entire purchasing cycle is optimized, automated, and accelerated to meet the needs of today’s business environment when companies take advantage of PunchOut integration.
5. Cost Reductions and Increased Efficiencies
And finally, from the point-of-order to the point-of-invoicing, everything is handled electronically when a system is integrated using PunchOut. This means, there is no need to print, fax, email, or otherwise communicate information about an order to the supplier because it’s all in the system already. This process change saves countless amounts of time and consistently decreases supply costs across businesses who use it.
Futureproofing Your Online Store
While there are many factors that play into choosing an online swag store partner, selecting one that takes the future of corporate purchasing into account is key. Providers who understand the importance of things like PunchOut integration and have ingrained those integrations into their solutions will provide critical support to ensuring your company’s online store is futureproof.
Looking for more?
Find additional tips and considerations to think about when choosing an online swag store provider, read our blog post, 5 Questions to Ask Before Partnering with a Company Store Provider.