– and why you should skip #1
As noted in previous posts, to access the lucrative e-procurement channel, just having an e-commerce web store wasn’t enough; it has to be PunchOut-ready to support the e-procurement ordering process.
B2B sellers have three options for getting PunchOut-ready:
- DIY (Do It Yourself)
- PunchOut “plugin” (aka extension)
- PunchOut-ready web store
Option 1: DIY
This option, unfortunately, is probably NOT an option for most due to the cost and complexity.
Should you decide to take this path, we wish you luck. And even if you did pull it off, the development and maintenance costs would dwarf what you’d pay for options 2 and 3, so in a “build or buy” scenario, PunchOut is a definite “buy”!
Options 2 and 3, on the other hand, are there for you. Let’s review.
First, although they are quite different, options 2 and 3 one thing in common. They are both delivered as SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions, via the Cloud, by a PunchOut Solutions vendor. Using a PunchOut Solutions vendor requires minimum IT department involvement and some cases, offers fixed monthly or annual fees, resulting in low startup costs. This alone should make any CEO, CTO or business owner smile!
Below is a high-level overview of each option:
Option 2: PunchOut Plugin
This is the best option if you have an operating web store with B2B functionality today.
The PunchOut Solutions vendor provides a simple, non-invasive Plugin (aka extension) that’s fully compatible with your web store platform. The Plugin’s job is to recognize PunchOut requests coming to your store, then help your web store manage the PunchOut sessions using information and functionality stored in the PunchOut Solution’s vendor’s Cloud.
The upside of Option 2 is that it makes YOUR web store PunchOut-ready, so you have control over branding, user experience, personalization, and store look and feel for all customers. This is also the lowest cost option.
Option 3: PunchOut-ready Web Store
This is a good option if you need to be PunchOut-ready ASAP, but don’t have an e-commerce web store today (or you are just starting to build it out), or you have limited retail business.
When using this option, the PunchOut Solutions vendor hosts and operates a Punchout-ready web store for you, but you manage your own customer catalogs and pricing.
The upside of Option 3 is it gets you PunchOut-ready fast, especially if you are new to B2B e-commerce. The downside is you have limited customization options. Bottom line, it does the job.
A word of caution regarding Option 2. Not all plugins (aka extensions) are created the same. A badly designed plugin can wreak havoc with your web store’s functionality and reliability. Take the time to look at multiple Vendor’s solutions and compare to ensure you get the best fit for your business.