For a robotics and hardware startup company, an engineering director will typically oversee all purchases themselves. While the company grows and expands, time can easily slip away from those in charge, and resentment towards the procurement process can quickly build amongst employees. You need advanced machinery more often than not, and heavy-duty products like supercomputers and submarines need repairs around the clock.
This means that purchase orders need to be as seamless as possible, and it’s simply not an option to wait around for product deliveries. It can also be frustrating to have to spend time sending inquiries to your supplier — you simply don’t have time, you want the answers to be at your fingertips and you want to use your energy in areas outside of purchasing.
So what are your options? And what are your suppliers’ options? Let’s take a look at the differences between two ecommerce product catalogs: the hosted catalog and the PunchOut catalog. Today’s article will answer and discuss:
- What is a hosted catalog?
- What is a PunchOut catalog?
- PunchOut and Hosted Catalogs: pros and cons
- Should a Hardware and Robotics Startup Use a PunchOut Catalog?
- Key takeaways
What is a Hosted Catalog?
In the B2B commerce sphere, a hosted catalog is a simple listing of goods a supplier has available. Using a hosted catalog, customers can perform product research by taking note of price comparisons and easily searching for items with its standardized format.
When completing a purchase order, customers will generally need to reach out to their supplier to ensure item availability. Hosted catalogs do not provide real-time product availability updates which can introduce obstacles when time-sensitivity is a factor.
In other words, a hosted catalog provides customers with the most basic information about a supplier’s products. Raw data like name, price and a brief product description is the only information available.
With a hosted catalog, the buyer can manually load data into their eProcurement system, but it can be difficult to maintain product inventory and pricing data up to date.
What is a PunchOut Catalog?
A PunchOut catalog is an enhanced version of a hosted catalog. It offers features that many B2B companies need, and enhances the relationship between buyer and supplier by offering automation and a streamlined purchase order process. The main purpose of PunchOut integration is to eliminate as many purchasing challenges as possible.
The term “punch out” refers to the enhanced browsing process that allows the buyer to shop within their protected eProcurement system.
Using a single purchase order as an example, the action starts with a punchout request from the buyer, which starts the punchout session. During the season, the buyer browses for items that they need and can add them to a cart, similar to individual online shopping. The buyer can then punch out, which transfers the selected products to the buyer’s procurement system.
PunchOut and Hosted Catalogs: Pros and Cons
Hosted Catalog: Pros
- Suitable for companies with no more than a few hundred products.
- If products do not change often and new products are rarely added, a hosted catalog can be easy to manage.
- While there is a clear lack of automation, this does give companies more control over sporadic product editing.
- Raw data is clear and concise, reflecting accurate product descriptions, names and prices.
Hosted Catalog: Cons
- Businesses who want to participate in B2B marketing should refrain from using a hosted catalog.
- You can’t enable a hosted catalog to promote customization features.
- Hosted catalogs greatly limit the shopping experience for buyers, which can lead to difficulties with customer retention.
- Users can’t always see how much of a product is readily available for purchase.
- The lack of automation and the need for manual updates creates confusion for the customer. Sometimes, a buyer may not even realize one of their favorite products will no longer be available for the foreseeable future.
- Hosted catalogs are unable to fulfill orders as quickly as a PunchOut catalog.
PunchOut Catalog: Pros
- Suppliers can offer customers real-time updates and accurate information on product availability, price, description and more.
- Automation and precise product information saves time for the customer and allows companies to use staff resources in other areas.
- Bonus information like shipping dates and specific stock levels are available.
- Update themselves using data from the supplier’s main system.
- PunchOut catalogs generate invoices.
- PunchOut catalogs can often feature special edition products.
- Customers can enjoy consistent order accuracy and there is no need to make time consuming phone calls to fix mistakes.
- A PunchOut website gives suppliers a better chance of retaining customers.
- For both the buyer and supplier, productivity is a critical benefit of the PunchOut process. With streamlined ordering and orders arriving faster, team members can spend their time on other tasks.
PunchOut Catalog: Cons
- A PunchOut catalog requires more consistent updating, since companies with various, evolving products use them.
- More automation means a lack of manual control, which can make some companies uncomfortable.
- The seller has to keep up with maintenance, however, this eliminates redundancy and errors.
Should a Hardware and Robotics Startup Use a PunchOut Catalog?
For an engineering director overseeing a growing company, the PunchOut catalog is a better choice.
In fact, only companies with a lack of flexibility and a minimal desire to market their products would choose a hosted catalog over a PunchOut catalog. The PunchOut option has grown immensely popular over the years with its ability to satisfy both the buyer and seller by blending ecommerce stores with procurement systems.
For one, buyers need highly configurable products and specialized machinery. Purchase orders will also reflect the need for complex items that undergo consistent price changes and description modifications. A hosted catalog will not be able to accommodate the fluctuating circumstances that may occur with every purchase order. After all, a hardware and robotics engineering company will experience consistent machinery failure and repairs.
PunchOut catalogs are also more dynamic and provide a better shopping experience. They have updated, real-time pricing data, minimizing the need to contact the supplier of the PunchOut website for inquiry.
The customer service experience a PunchOut website offers is also a surefire way to save time. Order fulfillments happen at a faster rate than with hosted catalogs, and user experience is highly technical and automated. Never having to stray from your own e-procurement system also enhances the customer service experience.
PunchOut catalogs also enhance B2B commerce marketing capabilities. A business that wants to continuously update and market the strides they're making will use a PunchOut catalog instead of a hosted catalog. These businesses are often the ones producing technological equipment and machinery that an engineering company will need, so you want to establish a rapport with these companies and learn about how they’re modernizing the products you need.
When to Use a Hosted Catalog
It’s no surprise a hardware and robotics company should make use of a PunchOut catalog, but there are some reasons to appreciate the hosted catalog.
From a supplier’s perspective, a company with static products that rarely change in price or description may not need a PunchOut website. If your products are always available and there are no more than two hundred, an inflexible catalog can do the trick.
Furthermore, if a company has time to spend on managing a catalog and enjoys the control during the rare occurrence a product needs revisions, a hosted catalog can be useful.
- Suppliers can use either a hosted catalog or PunchOut catalog system for B2B commerce.
- The PunchOut system is a more intricate and automated version of the hosted catalog, offering real-time updates and additional product information. It also allows the buyer to save a massive amount of time, freeing up resources and creating opportunities to focus on other tasks. A hosted catalog is an inflexible and static option for companies that rarely change their inventory.
- For these reasons, a hardware centric engineering firm should shop for products with a company that uses a PunchOut catalog.