When we speak about B2B relationships, a vendor portal becomes this very self-service option for multiple suppliers that increases the efficiency of complex selling processes, saves efforts and time of both parties and helps to demonstrate exceptional care for the suppliers (your vendors), thus earning their loyalty and trust. While suppliers enjoy their autonomy, buyers get a comprehensive inside view into the supply side and benefit from faster and more considered decisions. The vendors are cataloged and it’s easier to compare all costs and options available in the domestic and international market.
Let’s take a closer look at some salient features of this new trending B2B solution.
Super shelf for vendors
A B2B vendor portal is intended to become a single source of all the necessary information, saving supplier’s and buyer’s managers from endless phone calls and emails with basic questions. It always provides them with the most recent information. At any time, vendors can easily learn about cooperation conditions and procedures, as well as view and download basic documentation and templates and browse through the company news, thereby, more and more engaging themselves in the brand.
However, good advice is to make sure that all the information is well structured and your suppliers won’t have to scroll endless pages to find something they need. Otherwise, in 10 if not 5 minutes, they’ll pick up the phone again, which may well question the practical use of the new expensive solution.
E-procurement methods (like e-tendering, e-reverse auctions) make the communication between the company and its vendors smoother and clearer. This option is prominently featured in our demo. Buyers spend less efforts and time on tender publishing and evaluating participants and can easily engage far-away suppliers. Suppliers get better insight into the company’s requirements and values, benefit from the process transparency and reduce customer acquisition costs (CAC).
Enhanced visibility of the supply chain
A B2B portal significantly cleans and arranges the entire supply process. It allows continuous tracking of the relevant order status, access to the up-to-date information on shipment and, therefore, provides the buyer with the opportunity to plan his working process more accurately. As the order status is kept upgraded, it is always clear why it is not coming, when it’s going to be coming and at what stage it has got stuck, which reduces vendor-related risks, allows more considered decisions and again prevents both sides from follow-up and clarifying calls. Here the integration with vendor’s internal systems (such as ERP) that enable automated information upgrade is considered as a valuable increasingly growing trend.
Open work environment
An instant flow of information, greater openness and close cooperation that a well-designed B2B portal endows foster the involvement of suppliers in the R&D process. And in case the buyer’s side has the appropriate organizational culture to implement such cooperation, they can enjoy the new beneficial level of engagement. The priceless experience of suppliers can do well in boosting the buyers’ R&D process. For example, a while ago, Fuji-Xerox managed to reduce the time for development of a new model from 38 to 29 months. The secret was, among other things, that they placed all members of multifunctional team in one room, listened to what their suppliers were saying and always maintained the information channel open. With introducing various collaboration and data exchange tools, your portal becomes this very open work environment, «one room», that allows speedy and error-free development of new products.
Internal processes integration
The ability to integrate a B2B solution with multiple existing systems of the buyer (ERP, MRP) also brings tangible benefits to its users:
- they maintain the familiar order processing and make the cooperation look more natural as the users interact with the systems they already know;
- they ensure information transparency, provide reliable real-time information and reduce the possibility of human errors.
Most common pitfalls
Getting blinded by rewarding benefits, you can easily overlook some pitfalls connected with the portal implementation. But they do exist and here’re the most common of them:
It is not an easy task to hide the complexity of various possible scenarios, sophisticated pricing algorithms, recurring orders and complicated delivery schedules. However, the inconvenience would bring us back to the basic problems that a portal is supposed to solve. The user doesn’t have quick, direct and intuitive access to what he needs, which leads to endless clarifying calls/emails and errors in documents. As a result, both vendor’s and the buyer’s managers deal with the waste of time, increased delays and reduced efficiency. The only decision is never to skip out on effort-consuming process of creating clear and simple UI and ensure continuous feedback from the end users.
Too high barriers for new promising vendors
New vendors may bring additional benefits that none of the existing ones offer. A steady flow of new potential suppliers thus helps to maintain a healthy competition at the portal, providing a real possibility to win for those who offer better-quality products. And competition is a crucial driver for any marketplace, including those operating online.
When it comes to B2B portals, entry-level prices and integration efforts can prevent small and midsize companies from cooperation. Thus, it may be worthwhile to consider introducing a free trial version with limited functionality to make it easier for new vendors to enter the market and present their ideas. In addition, wisely designed registration process can make the portal a useful tool that allows automatic prequalification and further prioritizing, which greatly contributes to the viability of the e-marketplace through the involvement of really promising partners that are good for fruitful cooperation.
Lack of feedback and transparency
First, never should you try to make the portal just a dry self-service application. Primarily, a B2B portal is a place for effective communication. Too much automation can make the relationships between the partners pallid and bleached thus it’s incredibly important to keep the right balance between digital and human dimensions.
Secondly, to attract relevant suppliers and to ensure the trust of your business partners, you should try to keep the dialog as transparent as possible. The portal should communicate clearly what the buyer expects from its vendors in terms of delivery and price options, notify about coming purchasing events (tendering, reverse auctions) and introduce to vendors the rating systems. BMW, for example, applies such 24/7 tools as “LPKM (Supplier Performance and Competence Management) in their portal, that gives the supplier access to his assessments by a range of BMW Group specialist divisions, and TQP (Parts Quality in Production and Logistics) and SWS (Supplier Warranty Status) that provide overviews of current 0-km and field claims assessments and quality management in the series phase in order to facilitate collaborations between the BMV Group and suppliers”.
Implementing a B2B Vendor portal and going digital is sure to bring changes to the business. But whether they will be changes for the better or changes for the worse is another question. A truly successful and beneficial B2B solution looks simple and easy only for its users but is always a result of the intricate and complex process of planning and development.
Transform the procurement process in your company and enable strong vendor management with a tailored portal solution.