Sales & Management: B2B Commerce: Standards Streamline the Process
 
March 1st, 2006

 

By Kate Simpson

March-April 2006

Like any new technology, the acceptance of the Internet as a business tool has taken time. Yet over the past few years, it has become apparent that distributors who don’t include e-commerce, also known as B2B commerce, in their business plan will be left behind.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the flooring industry, where manufacturer, dealer, supplier, and distributor organizations have worked together to develop a list of standard transactions between their respective groups. In addition to identifying the shared business processes, this group has established a specific format in which to conduct these transactions.

Recognizing the challenges a trading partner has to consider prior to implementing these standards, the group has defined common mapping specifications of data, taking into consideration the cost of getting started. Ultimately, they agreed upon low-cost data exchange methods that allow participation by trading partners of any size and flooring commodity.

Why Now?

As a tile distributor, you may wonder why you need to adopt the e-commerce flooring standards within your business. But, given how quickly manufactures, dealers, suppliers, and even some distributors are adopting these standards within their organizations, the need might be more immediate than you think.

Distributors are continually looking for ways to differentiate themselves from their competition and offering B2B transactions provides a value-added service for customers while increasing your margins by streamlining processes.

What Can B2B Standards Do For You?

The e-commerce standards will enable you to more efficiently conduct business processes, such as buying or selling through the distribution channel. These streamlined operations will result in lower operating costs, shorter time to delivery, and reduce communication, shipping, and keying errors. Using the B2B standards will also help you realize lower transaction costs and eliminate VAN charges.

The benefits of using a solution that supports the B2B standards goes beyond the supply chain to improve your business processes.

Specifically, adopting B2B standards will reduce the amount of time employees spend re-keying data. For example, a purchase order you send to your trading partner can be acknowledged, invoiced, and reconciled electronically.

Similarly, when you receive an order, B2B standards allow you to confirm the item, quantity, and price electronically, vastly reducing material returns or credits resulting from incorrect shipping and invoicing.

In addition to improving your processes, the B2B standards can help you improve service and retain customers, all the while freeing your staff to grow your business and give you the visibility and flexibility to keep ahead of changing market trends.

It Takes Commitment

Of course, just the desire to use the industry standards won’t help you achieve the anticipated reduced costs, increased efficiencies, and improved service. You must have the technology in place to support the current accepted standards while having the capacity to grow with your business over time. While this may require some initial costs, the benefits you receive from complying with the industry standards will quickly maximize your return on the investment.

When choosing a B2B solution, make sure it will meet your business needs as well as support the B2B basics. The solution must be reliable, secure, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Above all else, it must support the common flooring industry documents in use today, including EDI 810 and 832.

As a business executive, you should always be on the lookout for how technology can bring value to your company. E-commerce, and the flooring industry standards, can take you to the next level of success.

In addition to serving as a Product Manager with Activant Solutions Inc.®, Kate Simpson serves on the marketing and education committee of the CTDA. For more information, visit www.activant.com or call 1-800-776-7438, press 1.

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