Self Service Best Practices

B2B Self Service Best Practices

Self Service Best Practices

Our goal in B2B eCommerce is to help our customers do their job easier on our site.  Self service is about giving your customers tools outside of the purchase funnel that make their job easier. If they can do their job easier on your site then your competitors they will come back.

Self Service Best Practices

Paul Miller, VP of eCommerce at Grainger said this in an interview

how do you create things, experiences, services that really delight that customer and have them want to come back? Because it’s made their life so much easier, it’s made their job easier, which in turn is a really positive benefit for them.

Self Service Best Practices are about making your customers job as easy as possible.

My Account

B2B Users need rich dashboard and account information.

  • Orders – view, print, download
  • Reorder
  • Quick order
  • Scheduled Orders
  • Items ordered
  • Invoices
  • Aging reports
  • Order Approval
  • Quote Approvals and Convert to Order
  • Credit Limits
  • Organizational hierarchy – departments, division, user delegation
  • User onboarding and administration
  • Contract terms

User Roles

Many customers visiting your site are not the actual ones with purchasing authority. Your users need to be segmented into roles such as:

  • Buyer
  • Purchaser / Approver
  • Quoting
  • Administrator

Buyers should be able to complete a quote or an order using the traditional methods.  The order or quote can then be routed to another role like Purchaser to approve the order.

PunchOut and Round Trip

Wikipedia states that a Procurement PunchOut is the interaction between a vendor’s web storefront and a buyer’s procurement application. The buyer leaves or “punches out” of their company’s system and goes to the supplier’s web-based catalog to locate and add items to their shopping cart, while their application transparently maintains connection with the website and gathers pertinent information. A vendor catalog, enhanced for this process, is known as a punchout catalog. PunchOut enables communication between the software and the website so that relevant information about the transaction is delivered to the appropriate channels. Sometimes, buyers and suppliers use intermediaries to ensure authentication and version matching.

In simpler terms, PunchOut or “punching out” allows your customers to start from their e-procurement systems and “punchout” to your website to shop (search, find and browse). After finding the information and/or products they are looking for, instead of putting items into your shopping cart on your commerce site, the items being added to the cart actually goes into the buyer’s e-procurement system of which you have no connection to. The e-procurement system then collects all of the items from that buyer and all of the other buyers and submits an order to you using whatever methods are customary to that system. The method most standard is Electronic Data Interchange or EDI. Starting and finishing in the e-procurement system is also why PunchOut is sometimes called Round Trip.

Essentially, PunchOut is a way to combine legacy EDI with a better customer experience

  • Finding solutions and products using a companies e-procurement system is clunky – so PunchOut solves that problem
  • Customers get to take advantage of using that great customer experience on your site (easy to navigate catalogs, quickly find products, rich product information) but not worry about the purchase process.
  • You have to be able to manage identity (and SSO – Single Sign On) of a user passed from another system – their e-procurement system is passing you the users credentials for you to log them into your site
  • Based on their credentials, you should only show products and pricing that the customer has access to via their contract (this is called a custom catalog or custom contract)
  • It needs to be fast – they need to be able to search, find and navigate to find the products that they need quickly.  The expectations that follow all other website still apply to a punchout.
  • Most e-procurement systems use cXML to receive the information back from your website about what the user wants to purchase.
  • Ariba is one of the originators of PunchOut and therefore one of the main e-procurement integrations that companies start with.
  • There is not true standard for PunchOut, so most companies make decisions about which customers they will support and customize their punchout to fit that customers requirements and systems

Thousands of companies use PunchOut. The e-procurement system that I use at work punches out to 8 – 10 different sites –,, AT&T, Verizon, etc. CDW provides a great customer experience – great ability to find products, using a smaller catalog that has contract products and pricing already shown, but when I checkout, I checkout on my local system and my boss approves my orders using our local intranet like all the rest of the purchases.