Webhelp B2B Marketplace

Which Purchasing platform models are best suited to B2B? This is the question we put to three experts in the field: François Duranton, CEO at ZeTrace; Julie Dang Tran, Managing Director for Southern Europe at Manutan; and Julien Duméry, International Development Director at Webhelp Payment Services. Here are their answers in the form of 7 practical tips.

  1. Identify the two main families of solutions for making your Purchases
  2. Choose the purchasing model that suits your business size
  3. Consider the punch-out solution
  4. Check whether a “Manutan” model would suit your requirements
  5. Payment services: comply with the B2B codes
  6. To onboard your Sellers, rely on an optimal KYC solution (automated systems + human input)
  7. Key Accounts: don’t underestimate the difficulty of operating a marketplace

1. Identify the two main families of solutions for making your Purchases

François Duranton (ZeTrace): To help you get your bearings in the vast universe of corporate purchasing platforms, we can distinguish two families that correspond to two ways of buying: shopping vs purchasing.

  • In a shopping model, which we can also call a “seller-side” model, strategic purchases are set aside, and we look for the best solution for everyday purchases – bearing in mind how easy B2C platforms are to use. B2B distributors often have an e-commerce site of their own and are sometimes grouped into B2B marketplaces. In the latter case, the current software reference is Mirakl – a publisher that came out of B2C. In this particular context we would also mention Izberg, which has a few B2B solutions, and Uppler, a specialist.
  • In a purchasing or “buyer-side” model, – we find the historical Purchasing and e-procurement platforms. They are more supervised from a contractual point of view and make it possible to manage strategic sourcing, but they are less attractive from a UX point of view (research, navigation, customisation, single multi-seller basket, etc.). In this family of solutions we would also mention products such as SAP-Ariba, Coupa, Ivalua and Determine.

In both cases, these families of solutions should be compared with certain key elements: the company’s internal Purchasing processes, for example, or integration with its IS.

2. Choose the purchasing model that suits your business size

François Duranton (ZeTrace): The larger the size and requirements of a business, the less suited the marketplace model is. In general, a VSE or a small SME does not see itself as a “Buyer” and does not think in terms of a “Purchasing function”: it is often the manager who deals directly with major purchases. As for average SMEs, they sometimes have this function for class A or B direct purchases, but indirect purchases are poorly controlled: there is no question of having single invoices or grouped deliveries, for example. This need for supervision increases with the size of the company, as the Purchasing function becomes a focus of value creation. But the greater this need for supervision, the less relevant the marketplace model is: it is well suited to a many-to-many distribution model (users, buyers) while the Purchasing function of a large company is more of the few-to-many type.

Julie Dang Tran (Manutan): From our point of view, the marketplace model is actually not well suited to managing the peculiarities of a Key Account Customer. Suppose, for example, that special conditions are granted – discounts, payment deadlines, delivery conditions, etc. – these conditions will be difficult to impose or enforce on third-party Sellers in the marketplace. Similarly, it will be practically impossible to impose a price, since this would affect the Sellers’ margin.

3. Consider the punch-out solution

Julie Dang Tran (Manutan): To the family of purchasing solutions we can add punch-out systems. These are dedicated and personalised websites for a Customer – which Manutan can deploy for some Key Account customers, e.g. on an SAP-Ariba basis. When the Customer connects to Ariba, it will see a Manutan icon among its Suppliers: with a click, it can access the punch-outsystem. This is where it will find its usual purchasing processes, in compliance with internal validation systems. In fact, under this solution, we do not place an order directly: we issue a purchase request, which will then go through the company’s internal validation system, and finally be converted into an order.

4. Check whether a Manutan model would suit your requirements

Julie Dang Tran (Manutan): Class A and B purchases are well formulated in large companies, unlike class C purchases. However, the latter, which represent a very large number of references spread across all areas and departments, account for the majority of indirect costs, even though they are presented as small amounts. At Manutan, for these class C purchases, we start from a basic premise: the company manager or the Purchasing manager is responsible with regard to their employees. Indeed, the teams use these products on a daily basis, informed by safety, ergonomics, and often CSR.

The Manutan model is therefore based on product selection, which must meet certain criteria. In contrast, with a marketplace model – where it is the Sellers that are selected – the choice of products rests with those Sellers. This means that the Manutan model is focused on referencing selected products, in the context of a partnership with Suppliers. From the Customer’s perspective this makes it possible to guarantee the origin of the products and to supply the corresponding certificates, while providing them with advice and monitoring the commercial relationship.

5. Payment services: comply with the B2B codes

Julien Duméry (Webhelp Payment Services): Everyone knows that B2B processes differ from B2C processes, and that they must be scrupulously observed. For example, certain key operations must be initiated prior to payment:

  • facilitate the creation of a customer account;
  • ensure a customer’s solvency from the outset;
  • manage the entire order up to invoicing (i.e. checking the content of the order and the invoice; an incorrect or incomplete invoice may result in late payment and compromise the relationship with the customer);
  • offer a recovery solution, automated or human;
  • facilitate reconciliation (to avoid costly manual processing);
  • and finally, manage the payment transactions associated with B2B codes (bank transfer, direct debit, card, etc.).

We therefore recommend ensuring that the operations leading to payment are also managed in a spirit of value addition.

6. To onboard your Sellers, rely on an optimal KYC solution combining technology and human input

Julien Duméry (Webhelp Payment Services): To ensure that the B2B marketplace remains a trusted space, in full compliance with the latest regulations at all times, ensure that you have effective KYC procedures in place. These will enable you to onboard Sellers, regardless of their geographical location and their local legal constraints.

Offering your salespeople good onboarding experience is important. We recommend that you ensure human support is made available; this is essential, because automation cannot meet every need, especially when the items expected are not the right ones. This is why you should favour hybrid solutions that combine technology and human input, and ensure that they are perfectly integrated. What if the automated system has failed to resolve the problem? It sends the file to an expert so that they can provide an immediate solution, or enter into dialogue with the Seller in order to obtain the information or documents essential for finalising onboarding.

7. Key Accounts: don’t underestimate the difficulty of operating a marketplace

Julie Dang Tran (Manutan): Learning from some of the failures or difficulties encountered on purchasing platforms, it must be recognised that it is easy to underestimate certain key processes. For example, the onboarding of Sellers may be seen as nothing more than a straightforward large-scale administrative operation. The reality is much more complex and does not allow the operator to rely entirely on existing tools: for example, some reference suppliers of turnkey platforms, coming from B2C, do not provide a satisfactory response in B2B. To put it briefly: it’s not the same business as negotiating with suppliers when buying products from them, or referencing them on a platform by taking charge of all administrative aspects.

Julien Duméry (Webhelp Payment Services): I also think it important to advise great caution: some platform projects are started without taking sufficient account of certain obstacles. As far as Key Accounts are concerned, it is not enough to launch a project around a platform publisher, hire a payment intermediary, and then hope that customers will on their own initiative go to the new marketplace without communication, training of buyers/sellers, or prior marketing. In reality, these Key Accounts are then the only ones managing and running a marketplace – which is not actually where their expertise lies. Bringing this distribution channel to life is a real challenge! It will require integrating the costs associated with marketing and communications, or the recruitment and training of buyers/sellers, into the business plan.

 

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