cXML:  What you need to know

What is cXML?

cXML (sometimes referred to as commerce XML or c xml) is an open-source XML-based standard developed by Ariba and other eProcurement companies in the late 1990s. cXML allows organizations to send and receive transactions between a buyer’s eProcurement system and a seller’s online store. Many cXML standards include electronic purchase orders, invoices, and advanced shipping notifications. Punchout catalogs use cXML as the communication standard, and cXML is currently the most widely adopted B2B e-commerce protocol.

cXML vs XML for eCommerce

cXML is based on the XML markup language. You can think of it as a version of XML developed specifically for eCommerce. cXML uses a series of standard documents that eProcurement and eCommerce developers implement. In addition to the document specifications, cXML also describes a pair of protocols for communicating data between platforms, including a Request-Response model and a one-way model. The Request-Response model is used more widely and provides a protocol for two-way communication using standard HTTP(S) requests.

Is EDI the same as cXML?

No, EDI is an older standard that was developed to allow organizations to transfer information among business partners.  However, today some eProcurement systems may use EDI for transmitting electronic purchase orders to sellers.

What are the advantages of Punchout and cXML catalogs?

Punchout catalogs offer many benefits to both buyers and sellers. A cXML punchout catalog integration enables a connection between a buyer’s eProcurement system for the buyer and a supplier’s eCommerce site. This secure connection creates a data pathway for the transfer of purchase orders, product order placement, order receipt, as well as fulfillment updates. Punchout integration also helps B2B companies build a bridge between incompatible platforms so that any eProcurement platform can integrate with any eCommerce store for Punchout catalogs and other automation features.

For the buyer, the process of using a punchout catalog is entirely automated, simple, and intuitive. They choose a supplier, put items in their cart, and “check out” in an experience that is similar to shopping on a consumer website. The eProcurement platform and the eCommerce store invisibly handle authentication, data exchange, and requisition order creation within the buyers originating eProcurement system or ERP.

The process can be extended further with purchase order automation, which sends a purchase order to the seller’s eCommerce store and order management system when an eProcurement requisition order is approved. Other documents include order confirmations, shipping notifications, and eInvoices. A major advantage for sellers using punchout integration is the savings they retain from not having to pay employees’ time to do manual data entry for orders.  Of course, automating the data exchange also reduces errors, leading to a more efficient order fulfillment process and a better experience for the buyer.

How Is cXML Used in Punchout Catalogs?

PunchOut catalogs allow the buyer to select a supplier from their eProcurement platform. These are passed through and authenticated at the supplier’s eCommerce store, where the buyer can shop for products. When they are finished shopping, the order details are sent to the buyer’s eProcurement platform, where a requisition order is created in accordance with the buying organization’s procurement protocols. In nearly all cases, cXML is the data format that powers the integration and automation.

How does Punchout Catalog Integration work using cXML?

On the buyer side, when the buyer chooses the vendor, their eProcurement system sends a cXML message with the Punchout Setup Request to the supplier’s eCommerce store, which replies with a Punchout Setup Response.  The Punchout Setup Response message includes the URL for the web page dedicated to the buying organization, or, in the case of a Level 2 punchout, to a specific product page.  This initiates the punchout session.

During the punchout session, the buyer selects the products and quantities desired. When the buyer is done shopping, they submit the order via a “transfer order” button which sends a Punchout Order Message to the eProcurerment system. The cXML document that is transmitted with the order includes details including product descriptions, UNSPSC codes, pricing, and currency.  The cXML document can include other details if required by the eProcurement system and company’s purchasing protocols.For a more detailed explanation of punchout catalogs, download our ebook, So Your Customer Wants Punchbout. Now What?


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