Have you ever noticed how some eCommerce platforms provide various products across a large number of suppliers? You might think they cater to the catalog of these suppliers and maintain them on their own, but actually – most of them use the PunchOut catalog to automate this transaction process.
So then, what is it? A PunchOut catalog is an eProcurement solution that provides access to the supplier’s catalog through the vendor’s website interface. This means that you can provide your buyer the facility to enter a supplier’s website, access their product catalog, and order any preferred items without even intentionally visiting the supplier’s website.
Most B2B and VARs eCommerce software applications with multiple suppliers prefer using the PunchOut catalog over maintaining the suppliers’ inventory by themselves. This, in turn, eases their entire process of selling goods without any importation and integration thus, saving time and money. It also ensures product accuracy and the speed of order processing. These factors always influence customer loyalty and satisfaction.
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How does it work?
The PunchOut catalog is based on Open Catalog Interface (OCI), which is one of the standard formats used by ERP/ Purchasing systems. The punchout transaction involves sending HTTP requests to and from the vendor’s system for authentication and data exchange regarding the order.
When a buyer leaves the vendor’s website, a punchout setup request is sent to their gateway system from the buyer’s procurement software. Upon receiving the request, the gateway system validates the login credentials of the buyer.
It returns a URL that redirects to the supplier’s PunchOut catalog. The storefront of the supplier displays items, prices, descriptions, etc., allowing buyers to add various products to the cart, mark them as favorites, or retrieve their quotes.
When the buyer is ready to complete their order, the ‘checkout’ button transfers them to the vendor’s procurement system via a standard data exchange protocol. The order is then processed using the vendor’s traditional system workflows and financial approvals.
For transactions like above, the PunchOut catalog uses some standard protocols to ensure a secure connection during data communication. And one of the most widely adopted B2B eCommerce protocols is cXML.
cXML for eCommerce
cXML, which stands for Commerce eXtensible Markup Language, is a data exchange standard. Ariba introduced it in the late 1990s as a standard protocol to be used in communication between procurement applications, eCommerce platforms, and other B2B eCommerce software.
It is an open-source and flexible language based on XML. Alongside, it provides formal XML schemas for B2B transaction integration with sales platforms. Many cXML standards contain electronic purchase orders, invoices, and advanced shipping notifications.
In addition to the transaction data specifications, cXML also outlines a pair of protocols for data communication between the platforms. These protocols are the request-response model and the one-way model.
The Request-Response model is used more extensively and provides a protocol for bidirectional communication between the platforms using standard HTTP(S) requests.
EDI v/s cXML
Many of cXML’s standards are rooted in Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) format. But as EDI is complex and expensive to implement, there is more inclination towards cXML. This is because CXML is tightly focused on procurement documents and PunchOut catalogs.
Since it is based on XML, cXML is extensible, which means that organizations can better adapt it to meet their needs. EDI is much more complex and is not designed to be extensible by the user.
So now that we know why cXML is a standard punchout protocol let’s see what a cXML PunchOut catalog integration looks like.
To break down the transaction, a typical cXML Punchout session looks like this:
- When the buyer selects a vendor, a punchout setup request is sent to the seller’s eCommerce store through the eProcurement platform. The request contains a cXML document that includes the contact details of the buyer. It also has unique identifiers for authentication setup by the eProcurement system. The identifiers vary by the system as well as the individual buyer requirements.
- After receiving the PunchOut Setup request, the seller’s store generates and sends a response. The response again is accompanied by a cXML document. This document, among many other data, contains a redirect URL of the seller’s eCommerce store. The Procurement platform then redirects the buyer to the seller’s homepage or directly to the product page.
- Here, the customers can select products and add them to their cart or save them in their wishlist. And when they are ready to complete the order, the ‘checkout’ button transfers their shopping cart directly back to the system. This is done via the Punchout Order message. The accompanying cXML contains product details such as description, Product ID, unit prices, UNSPSC code, and currency. However, the CXML response data may vary according to the system.
As cXML takes its features from EDI, the transactional process can further be automated for purchase orders. Here, a purchase order can be sent to a supplier’s eCommerce store for order management when a requisition order is approved. Other supporting documents in cXML include order confirmations, shipping notifications, and invoices.
If we see it from a buyer’s perspective, the entire process of the product transaction is automated, intuitive, and straightforward. It is as simple as regular shopping.
They go to the application, choose a supplier, add items to the cart, and then checkout. The authentication, data exchange, and requisition order creation are all handled in the backend of the eCommerce platform and the eProcurement store.
If you are running a B2B or a VARs business management software, the integration of CXML PunchOut catalogs is ought to create a superior experience for you and your buyers.
Advantages of CXML PunchOut catalogs
PunchOut catalogs offer many advantages to both buyers and suppliers. A CXML PunchOut catalog integration enables a secure connection that creates a data pathway for the transfer of purchase orders, order receipt, product order placement, and fulfillment updates.
Punchout integration also helps B2B organizations build a bridge between incompatible platforms, enabling any eProcurement platform to integrate with any eCommerce store for PunchOut catalogs and other automation features.
The good news is that, even if you are a small-scale office supplies distributor, you can cater to a large B2B organization. This can be easily implemented without any overhead charges and will benefit you in the long run.
VARStreet PunchOut Solutions
VARStreet offers you ready PunchOut integrations as per your requirements. The highly skilled team of engineers at VARStreet configures the desired PunchOut with your eCommerce store. With VARStreet you can choose from a list of eProcurement applications like PeopleSoft, Ariba, Coupa, Workday, etc. Here, the PunchOut requirements of your business and your customers are understood and the choices are made after testing and final approval from your side.
The integration of the PunchOut catalog in B2B E-Commerce Software serves as a significant turning point in how the organization’s entire ecosystem works. Automation frees up a company’s labor staff, which also helps eliminate the manual errors in the documents.
Paired up with CXML, and PunchOut catalog gets even more powerful. Even though there are other standard protocols in the market, cXML provides an overall better B2B automation experience.
With the underlying features of EDI, cXML holds the power of doing more than basic PunchOut transactions. cXML is easier to read with a simple paired text format; it is rapidly being adopted across businesses.
So if you are looking to automate your B2B solution, we would highly recommend that you check out the cXML PunchOut catalog. It is easier and cheaper to implement, but with a vast number of companies adopting it as their primary go-to solution, we can easily say that this is the future.