Increasing the B2B eCommerce user experience with punchouts

February 24, 2014 Written by NetSphere Category: B2B

If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times: the user experience is one of the most integral elements of an eCommerce site. And while this mantra is essential when developing an online store, the problem with the ever-repeated declaration is that there are so many elements that make up a good user experience. Take for example the differing characteristics of a B2C site and a B2B site. They are reason enough to go beyond blanketed statements and start pinpointing the wants and needs of a specific business’s demographic.

For businesses with a B2B contingency, there is nothing more frustrating for their customers than to make them manually enter order information into their procurement system. Although repeat orders can be automatically scheduled, changing a pre-existing order or introducing new SKUs can be time consuming and can also open up the door for human error.

To improve the user experience for B2B businesses, punchouts can be an incredibly valuable tool. Giving the most basic definition, punchouts are the link between a buyer’s procurement system and a seller’s eCommerce site. They allow a buyer access to third-party online catalogs by “punching-out” from their procurement system to the supplier website for the requisition of products.

Unlike a B2C experience, buyers don’t make the final purchase on a seller’s site. With punchouts, they instead transfer the shopping cart and its contents back to the procurement system for processing and fulfillment. With this model, purchasing managers can take advantage of the user experience a seller injected into his or her full website. Taking it to the next level, a seller can also create microsites designed with specific customers in mind.

By punching-out of a procurement system and into a microsite that contains a product catalog tailored just for them, customers will find what they need quickly and easily instead of wading through an entire site. They’ll also find previously negotiated pricing that eliminates the need to make manual calculations.

Therefore, when creating microsites, a seller can drill down on a very specific demographic and then develop a user experience just for them. Compared to the old way of doing things, using a punchout system has drastically improved the method for B2B procurement.

To get a feel for how the punchout system works, here’s a quick run down: A buyer selects a supplier within the procurement system and is then pulled into login screen. Once the proper credentials are inserted, a new window opens where the customer can start browsing through his or her custom catalog. When the buyer is ready to check out, the content in his or her cart is converted into a purchase order and sent to the procurement system for approval. Once approved, the order request is sent to the vendor.

Although the process for procurement sounds fairly straightforward, setting up punchouts isn’t always as simple. To get assistance with that task or with creating microsites, contact the team at NetSphere Strategies to schedule a consultation. We’d be happy to help.

Trackback URL for this blog entry.

Abbe Miller is the marketing manager at NetSphere Strategies, located just outside Chicago. NetSphere Strategies is a boutique eCommerce company positioned to help businesses transform their online presence by providing a full complement of services that starts with our strategic consulting and creative design teams, then continues with building innovative solutions and providing ongoing post-project support.