PunchOut Catalog Technology Providers: Don’t Let ‘Em Fool Ya

By CoreXpand PunchOut Team on August 30, 2013

There is a growing demand for PunchOut catalogs by the purchasing departments of large companies and government organizations. And small software technology companies are smelling blood in the water.

A recent glut of PunchOut technology providers has some suppliers confused, and others feeling the sting of fly-by-night technology vendors leaving them with nothing to show for their time but a lighter bank account and higher blood pressure.

The fact is, not every company who hangs a sign out front with the term ‘PunchOut Catalogs’ is a viable resource… and some are downright unqualifiedEven a well-intentioned vendor can hurt you through their own inexperience.

We’ve been connecting buyers and sellers across technology platforms for nearly 15 years. And after working with thousands of businesses and millions of users – and processing billions of dollars in goods and services online – we’ve learned what it takes to make a PunchOut catalog work.

If you want your PunchOut catalogs to work seamlessly and truly satisfy your customers, here are some things to look out for when selecting a PunchOut Technology provider:

Standard Product Level, Level 2 PunchOuts

This is the current industry standard for PunchOut catalogs deployed in the most common e-procurement platforms. But not all punchout technology vendors can do Level 2 PunchOut catalogs, or even know what it is.

PO cXML

This is a software protocol necessary for automated purchase order passing between buyer and supplier. This capability is critical to many purchasing organizations, and another thing some punchout providers can’t do.

eInvoicing

This is another advanced technology function – automated invoice passing – that appeals to larger companies. It’s also another thing that an inexperienced punchout vendor would not know enough about, let alone be able to do.

Greater ‘Storefront’ flexibility

Some punchout catalog providers only offer a ‘cookie cutter’ storefront (or punchout catalog site ‘skin’).  Better providers allow you to choose from many different templates, let you use your own, or let you design one from scratch.

Multi-language capability

Surprisingly, in this inter-connected world, not all punchout solutions allow you to do business in multiple languages. For suppliers looking to expand globally, this is a no-brainer.

Universal E-Procurement Adapter

While some punchout vendors might actually be able to give you a functional page inside a common e-procurement system (Ariba, SciQuest and Unimarket for example), far fewer of them allow you the capability to punchout to any system anywhere.

Being able to adapt quickly to any e-procurement system quickly can mean the difference between landing a contract, and losing out to a competitor.

Best Practice eBusiness Functions, Tools, and Services

The very best PunchOut solutions are really more of an entire system. And the more powerful of these systems include such functions, tools, and services as;

  • proof-on-demand
  • print-on-demand
  • online request for quote
  • automated catalog/site audits (for supplier contract managers, e-procurement managers, etc.)
  • RFQ and other sales / marketing  assistance (for suppliers)
  • robust and detailed reporting.

PunchOut Catalogs That Can Expand to Other B2B eCommerce Environments

Of those rare punchout technology solutions that can truly be called a ‘system’, even rarer still are those that can allow you to leverage all your supplier data into other B2B eCommerce applications or environments.

PunchOut catalogs have a very specific purpose; to connect to an e-procurement system and display your catalog products and pricing in a way that suits that particular customer / contract. But what about your other prospects and clients who don’t have an e-procurement system?

The most advanced PunchOut systems are built on an adaptable platform that literally lets you create any environment that your particular prospects or clients need. In other words, the best PunchOut solution is one that gives you a competitive advantage everywhere, not just in the e-procurement systems of bigger organizations.

Full Service Provider

Some inexperienced, opportunistic punchout technology vendors are something of a ‘one trick pony’. They may be able to build you a catalog page but fall short of actually being able to connect to your customer’s system. Or they may connect to the e-procurement system but deliver a terrible looking page with awkward or confusing navigation. Still others may just hand you a ‘finished product’ and say, “You’re on your own.”

You want a provider that understands all the intricacies of PunchOut; from data preparation to data transfer, including the extremely complex world of financial transaction management.

Knowledgeable, Experienced Experts to Walk You through the Process

There’s nothing worse than investing time and money and getting an unexpected bag full of stress and frustration.  Experienced PunchOut Catalog technology providers will have inter-disciplinary teams of experts that can walk you through every step of the process.

These are people who know all of the things that can cause delays and problems, and help you take the proactive steps necessary to eliminate unnecessary delays and unhappy customers.

We hope this helps you weed out the qualified from the problem-makers. And regardless of who you choose as a PunchOut technology provider, we with you success.

Of course, we do have to mention that we think we have the best in the business. In fact, we’re one of the only providers who have proven their ability to provide a stable, adaptable platform that lets you share your PunchOut catalog data across other B2B eCommerce environments.

If you want to see real world examples, and see just how powerful PunchOuts can be, please take advantage of our FREE PunchOut consultations with one of our experts. You’ll be glad you did.

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Posted in B2B eCommerce for Sellers, B2B Sales and Marketing, Business Growth and Development, PunchOut Catalogs, Sellers Corner