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The artistic Marketeer | Blog

the CQ behind successful marketing

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E-catalogue 101

E-Catalogues have been around for some time and they are here to stay. This is a result of global economies and industries becoming more driven by technology.

An E-Catalogue, digital catalogue or online catalogue depending on your preference, is the cornerstone of successful companies’ marketing and growth strategies with good reason. Even though we can say with certainty that print catalogues had their benefits too, nowadays they become less and less used as Catalogues become more and more popular and it is also safe to say that they are now what is expected as the industry standard.

Digital catalogues are very convenient and allow your business to share your products with your retail and wholesale customers or prospects online in a matter of seconds. The digitisation of your print catalogues adds a whole new dimension of convenience for both your company, customers and prospects by allowing them to easily find your catalogue online and browse through your product offerings.

Moreover, utilising digital channels like social media, YouTube, online advertising, and more, can provide many more benefits that print catalogues and campaigns just don’t have the ability to. With that in mind, below we have put together the top 10 benefits as we see them and the key reasons why having an eCatalogue for your business is a huge advantage over your competitors.

What are E-Catalogues

A source for providing data to describe products. An e catalogue has far more information and data than a printed catalogue , and can be searched for specific data .An e-catalogue is an electronic catalogue which is a web resource that provides information on products and services offered and then sold by a vendor supporting online ordering and payment capabilities. An electronic catalogue is an online publication, that is to say, a graphic interface generally an HTML page in which the products and services offered by a company are shown. An e-catalogue or e-brochure is a resource that provides information on your products, services offered or your company corporate profile. This can then be digitally shared and distributed simply in the form of a readable and downloadable e-book or catalogue on your website. They are a digital representation of a company and are a powerful e-commerce tool.

What are the benefits of an E -CATALOGUE

  • Convenience and accessibility
  • Easily shareable online
  • Easy to update and maintain
  • They reduce admin, print, and distribution costs
  • They have another level of professionalism
  • They integrate with your eCommerce and your ERP
  • You can collect key customer data
  • Catalogues are easily scalable
  • They offer fast, smart product search
  • They offer an advantage over competitors

To understand in depth let’s explore these benefits and see how E-Catalogues affect the business .E-catalogues have numerous key features, in the comprehensive list below:

Convenience and accessibility

No matter what some might say, customers want convenience. After all, we all want an easier life right?

An eCatalogue acts as a reference for your business and it allows your existing and potential customers to view your products and services from wherever they are as long as they have access to the internet and a mobile phone.Customers want the ability to self-service and making it easy for your customers to buy from you can prevent them from looking around at other suppliers.something as simple as keeping a digital catalogue with real-time information for your customers online will keep them coming back for more.

Easily Shareable Online

Say goodbye to the old way of sharing your physical catalogues. Tactics like word of mouth and customer recommendations are just not enough in the age of technology and information.With an eCatalogue, you can share your latest catalogue online with your customers in a matter of seconds. Digital shareability is something great that all businesses who are online enjoy. You can simply share your catalogue using a simple link via text, email, or on social media and people can click on to and be directed directly to your online catalogue. Simple, right?

Easy to update and maintain

If your business is still using a physical catalogue then I am pretty sure you know first hand that making changes to it can be costly and not so convenient.Even a small change because a price needs updating or a product is available in a new colour or style can be a hassle.Whatever the reason, you normally have to re-print or personally inform your customers by phone or email about the updates.With a digital catalogue, updating product information, images, prices, or whatever else you need to change is simple, easy, fast, and most importantly in real-time. You can make the updates electronically and your eCatalogue gets updated instantly!No need to wait until the next print run to update your catalogue.

They reduce admin, print, and distribution costs

It’s a well-known fact that printing catalogues can involve frequent costs. Also, you need to distribute all these product catalogues to your customers which includes a shipping cost too. On top of that, your admin team needs to spend time organising and ensuring that everything is perfect before going to print.

Using an eCatalogue can help you remove lost time and cost once and for all. Once you’ve launched an online digital catalogue, all you’ve to do is send it to your customers digitally. Even better, make your customers visit your website where you have your catalogue instead. A digital catalogue will not only save you a lot of money, but it will also save you time as now you will be able to make updates in a matter of minutes, or even seconds and immediately let your customers know about the new update.

A win, win no matter how you look at it.

They add another level of professionalism

When you’ve a sales team using e-catalogues with clients you create a dynamic, professional impression with your customers. It shows that you’re a well-organized business who’s interested in having the most up-to-date data available to your customers. This will instil confidence and trust in your company from your customers and build a strong relationship.

They integrate with your eCommerce and ERP

This benefit is linked back to the convenience benefit that we mentioned earlier. Integrating your full eCatalogue with your eCommerce solution provides a whole new level of professionalism and convenience for your customers and prospects. Your online store will help your business drive more sales with very little effort.

As customers and visitors have access to your full online catalogue, they can just add products to their cart and make the purchase. The ERP integration means that when customers view your products, they will be viewing product descriptions, prices, and stock availability in real-time directly from your ERP system. The orders can be placed directly into your ERP system too as it’s a two-way flow of data, saving you the manual labour of re-keying in orders.

Catalogues are easily scalable

Ask yourself the following question. How easy is it for you to collect customer information on all your marketing material and efforts? Well, if I were to answer that question I would say that it was very, very hard. Being able to collect accurate customer data is key when it comes to understanding what works and what doesn’t. All of your online marketing campaigns can now be monitored and accurate, targeted customer data can be collected.Remarketing to customers who view certain products in your catalogue but do not purchase can be very powerful in helping them to make a purchase decision or just to come back to the product page again.

Online data analytic tools like Google Analytics can help you do all that and much more for free, as long as you have an eCatalogue implemented. Such tools will allow you to see how long each user spent viewing each product page, how they interacted with your content, what parts got their attention, how many users in total visited your catalogue and much more.

You can collect key customer data

A digital catalogue ensures that as your business grows and your catalogue expands, you can increase the size of your online catalogue without having to worry about cost and maintenance. Updating your catalogue is fast, easy and costs very little, just a small amount of admin work. That’s all. You don’t have to divide your catalogue into smaller pieces as you would normally do with print catalogues. Now, you can divide your catalogue into categories and subcategories that allow your customers to search much easier for your products. No matter how big your business grows, it will be much easier to scale with an eCatalogue.

They offer fast, smart product search

Digital catalogues are great when it comes to finding products fast. With the smart search function, you can type a keyword, product name or product code and it will show up in a fraction of the time it would take you to find it if you had a print catalogue. Smart search is one of the most significant advantages that an eCatalogue solution offers to businesses and their customers. Your customers can access the online catalogue from anywhere, at any time on any device and search for products they need.

They offer an advantage over competitors

So far, we have listed a number of great benefits. However, we’ve kept this one as the cherry on top for a reason.All the benefits we’ve listed contribute equally towards a common goal. To make your business get ahead of your competition who may be lacking in comparison. eCatalogues give your business a direct advantage over competitors who have not yet gone digital. A digital catalogue opens your business to a wider audience and the chance to attract new customers online. You can implement some great online marketing strategies to add more value to your business and eventually leave your competitors behind.

Summary

It’s safe to say that eCatalogues are the best alternative to old-fashioned physical print catalogues in many different ways. Digital transformation is now accelerating all around us and digital catalogues are here to help businesses to reduce costs, streamline their business processes, increase sales, and much more using new technology. No matter how you look at it, eCatalogues are for the better and are here to stay. Now is the time to adapt to how consumers and B2B businesses want to purchase goods online. If you are looking for a solution, why don’t you take a look at the After eCatalogue solution? If you’re interested, book a free demo at a time that suits and see how our eCatalogue solution can help your business to start selling smarter online.

4 Important functions of online catalogues

More than 70% of today’s B2B buyers are tech-savvy millennials. They prefer to research on their own about your company to see if you would be a good fit for their projects. So if you’re selling industrial products or components and don’t have an online product catalog, they might turn to a competitor. The good news is that there are many technology platforms that can provide you with the functionality B2B buyers expect your website to have.

There are a few features to look for in a platform that should be your non-negotiables to deliver the best digital customer experience possible to your customers and prospects. Let’s review those four important functions that you’ll want to see in action when it comes time to choosing your dynamic online catalog platform.

Does your online catalogue have these functions?

An online product catalog lives on your website and allows your buyers, engineers, and procurement managers to easily and clearly find all relevant product information you are offering.

While simplicity and clarity are essential, your product pages must provide all the necessary detailed specs that prospects’ design projects require. According to a recent industrial buyer’s search habits survey, 40% of respondents said the quality of a supplier’s website impacts their decision to partner with them.

One respondent said, “Having more online information like specifications, pricing, lead time, and stock levels online are important when I’m vetting new suppliers. My job would be so much easier if I had the ability to order products directly with an online product catalogue.

40% of industrial buyers said the quality of your website impacts their decision to partner with your company

— 2021 Industrial Buyer’s Search Habits Survey

1. Your Online Catalog Should Have Real-Time Functionality

Your data is important to both you and your customers, so your online catalog shouldn’t give you trouble when you need to access it.Pricing data, parts information, and in-depth specs make it easier for distributors, repair services, and companies to select and order the products and parts they need, when they need it. An online catalog should deliver this information seamlessly using the cloud, so your customers can discover your products on their preferred devices, like tablets and cell phones, in the field or at the office. That data also needs to be up to date.

A truly dynamic catalog uses all of the latest technology to deliver a positive digital experience to your customers so they can successfully search and get the data they require to satisfy their sourcing needs — more on their needs in our article, “Persona Targeting: The Three Most Influential Industry Buyers.”Whether that’s updating information everywhere with a single click (gone are the days of emailing and mailing out spreadsheets to everyone and then trying to verify their receipt) or listing a new part option that can improve machinery lifetime, dynamic platforms help you share and download information in ways that are easier for everyone.

2. Online Catalogs Should Be Optimized For SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) plays a significant role in any company’s ability to drive customers to multiple points across the sales funnel. When formatted correctly, an online catalog’s content vastly improves the quality of data, which Google rewards with higher search engine rankings.

Your content is essential to good SEO. This means having high-quality product images too. Pages with relevant images get more views (by nearly 100%), increase page time, and ultimately increase conversions. This is particularly true in industrial B2B scenarios — careful visual inspection of a product, crucial to purchasing engineers, can only be achieved online via large, high-resolution images that can be moved and zoomed in. Put some serious consideration into 360° view capabilities, especially if your products are geometrically complex. The more literal visibility you provide into your products, the more conversions you’ll get.

Your online catalog should be able to provide on-page optimization of your catalog’s elements, link architecture, proper tagging, and smart domain naming usage while increasing your ranking on Google. The higher your website ranks on Google, the higher your chances of getting more website visitors.

3. Functionality To Support Your Distribution Partners

A strong online catalog doesn’t just support your marketing and sales efforts — it also facilitates how your customers navigate and purchase products. You’ll want to look for features specific to your business and your distribution partners.

  • Foreign language support
  • Distributor syndication
  • Unit of measure handling

Top Article: How To Improve Your Supplier-Distributor Relationship

When you use an online platform that provides customizable templates, you’ll have a uniform experience that improves customer access to information — it’s a win-win because it’s not only good for your distributors and customers, but it acts as brand marketing for prospective customers too. You’ll also see time savings for customer service reps as clients make orders without having to constantly relearn layouts or regional formatting.

Optimize your product page with your buyer’s job focus and behavior in mind and make sure all product pages have the same design layout. A product page with no “standard” content can be imposing or off-putting to buyers without technical backgrounds (or those investigating new products for the first time).

4.Easy Ways To Convert Visitors Into Paying Customers

Your call to action (CTA) — your “Order Now” or your “Add to Cart” button — is a major player in conversion rates. If a potential customer has to search for a purchase CTA, they will not place an order with you — they’ll leave your page, find a similar product on a competitor’s site, and order that one.

Your CTAs should encompass many things:

  • They should be intelligently placed, above the fold, and ideally near your product price information.
  • They should be large enough to be prominent and easily identifiable but not so large as to become the page’s focus.
  • Ideally, they should be colored in an aesthetically pleasing way that fits your brand’s or website’s color scheme to draw attention.

Read More: Even more ways to increase clicks on your manufacturing website.

Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment — it can take some trial and error to get placing, color, and size fully optimised, but once you do, you should see an increase in the quality of leads. (And we can help you with that! Click here to get started with our lead generation services.)

5.Your Online Product Catalogue Should Save You Money

An online product catalog seems like an additional expense until you realised how many hours of manual labor, resources, and web services you’re already paying for. Designing your catalog means you can bring production completely in-house and cut out any printers or formatting contractors. You also save time on getting updates out to customers thanks to cloud-based publishing and delivery.

If you have an existing website, like WordPress, you can keep all your existing content while adding e-commerce capabilities across the site, and you can certainly tackle creating an online product catalog yourself — but it can get complicated. Thomas Navigator is a solution that solves your biggest product management pains by providing you with an online catalog complete with all the functionality you need from a product perspective and marketing standpoint. See how customers have saved thousands of dollars and headaches with solutions specifically built for them — OEMs, distributors, and custom manufacturers.

See Tips: 10 Ways Manufacturers Spend Their Marketing Budget

A Product Optimization Page That Increased Visitor Registration Rates by 46%

Purchasing products or services online requires either a quote request process or an e-commerce store, and there are different opportunities for optimization depending on which method your website uses. Let’s review how one manufacturer optimised their product pages to get more online registrations.

The Idea

In the case of a manufacturer of cleaners and assembly lubricants, registered website users can access an e-commerce store to purchase products online. It’s normal for e-commerce customers to leave during the purchasing process for various reasons; in fact, within the conversion rate optimization (CRO) sphere, it’s referred to as “shopping cart abandonment.” We wanted to make it easier for users to register when ready to order.

The TestVariation A (The Control):

Variation A (The Control):

OFS Variant A – Get more sales with the product webpage

Originally, a website visitor interested in purchasing a product online had to complete the following steps:

  • Press the “place an order” button
  • Click the hyperlink “register” on the “place an order” page
  • Complete the form on the registration page
  • Choose products to order

Variation B (The Treatment)

OFS Variant B – Get more sales with product webpage

We cut out the second step, which required users to click onto a separate registration page. As you can see in the Variation B screenshot, the registration form is embedded directly on the order page. Users interested in placing an order can complete the registration process without visiting another page, reducing friction.

The Result

So, how did this embedded form test improve the user registration rate?

Blog + Website Featured Images

By optimizing the online order process and reducing the number of steps the buyer had to take, we increased the conversion rate of a website visitor turning into a registered user by 46%!

Learn More: A/B Testing Examples For Manufacturers

Get a health check of your website

There are anywhere from 10 to 100 different best practices that you should consider when designing and implementing product pages — everything from the inclusion of safety logos/trust seals and customer reviews, to live chat support and navigation tracking tools.

Oriental Motor offers an extensive product line-up of about 50,000 that provides an optimal motion system, such as AC motors, speed control, position control, mechanical motion and thermal management requirements. In addition to a dynamic online product catalog, their product pages feature videos too — a crucial online content component manufacturers can benefit from to increase website engagement and online sales.

💡 Thomas Tip: We offer free video production with the purchase of an advertising program. Get started with a free advertising company profile here.

The marketing methods you pick depend on your company, your products, and the target audiences you’re looking to partner with. Ready to invest your marketing budget into a platform that helps drives customers through easy sales and referrals? Contact us to find out what digital improvements you can make today. Our product solutions help you get spec’d and purchased again and again. We’ll run a free digital health check that lets you see exactly what you can improve online to get more customers.

“Partnering with Thomas has been a tremendous success. We have enough new work that the cost of Thomas will be less than 5% of the new sales in the first year. We are seeing 1-3 inquiries a week now and are working on expanding our supply base to support the new opportunities.” – Conformance Coatings & Prototyping

What are B2BE CATALOGUES

The B2BE e-catalogue product provides organisations and their respective users the ability to search and display product data, provide online ordering capabilities, facilitate catalogue data exchange between trading partners and provide punch-out functionality for companies who have customers who they need to support with this requirement.

B2b-ecatalogue
B2b ecatalogue

The product provides organisations and their respective users the ability to search and display product data, provide online ordering capabilities, facilitate catalogue data exchange between trading partners and provide punch-out functionality for companies who need to support this requirement. Electronic catalogues are digital publications that present products with the purpose of helping them sell. Using catalogue management to ensure the quality of product data and its configuration to the buyers required format. This is a dynamic process that can enable suppliers to quickly broadcast product and price changes and introduce new items.

What are the features of  B2BE CATALOGUES

  1. Secure customise access control:  the B2Be e-catalogue has customisable access so you’re able to provide content based on the type of user visiting the catalogue and presents pricing and content for public users or specific content and pricing for account users via a login.
  2. Fully customisable design:  B2Be offers a customisable design that allows the e-catalogue to emulate the same look and feel like your website to provide a seamless user experience for your clients.
  3. Easy content management and maintenance:  Product information such as images, pricing and technical specifications can easily be managed through secure accounts so you have full control over updates ensuring content remains relevant and accurate.
  4. Attribute management:  The B2BE e-catalogue product enables you to design the way in which you wish to set up and manage products based on key attributes. That is, you can build a logical and uniform way in which products can be categorised regardless of the actual data managed in the background and extracted from your ERP environment so it is logical when users search for your products.
  5. Online payment system:  The e-catalogue solution also provides an online payment facility to both your customer accounts and the public using a secure payment gateway. The B2BE e-catalogue can also be linked to your own bank’s payment gateway to provide seamless transactions using your current banking systems.
  6. Punch Out capability:  As your customers become more technically capable they may no longer wish to maintain your products within their system. The B2BE e-Catalogue supports punch-out functionality, (both OBI or OCI standards) the B2BE e-catalogue allows your clients to punch-out from their system, browse your catalogue, and select products through the online ordering system. The B2BE e-catalogue will also support the automation of reverse purchase orders.

E-Catalogue management

E-catalogue management is the process of supplier enabling electronic product content to be made available to buying organisations in order for them to procure goods electronically.

E-catalogue poster
Picture credit : wordpress

If you have any questions, feel free to fill out the form below or chat with us using the live chat box and one of our experts will be more than happy to assist you.

What is a product catalogue.

Product-catalogue-pintrest
Picture credit : Pinterest

The product content can be hosted by either the supplier or the buyer.A product catalog is a means through which a product or a brand communicates with its customers.Customers are informed of all relevant product details before they move ahead in the purchase funnel. For a business, it’s a tool that helps its product or services go online and become visible to potential customers. More visibility means increased sales prospects which in return assures better conversion rates.More visibility means increased sales prospects which in return assures better conversion rates.With an increase in internet penetration rate, retailers operating in brick-and-mortar models are making a move to online platforms.

Retailers with a significant online presence are attempting to mimic the traditional in-store experience within their e-commerce platform. While the transition from offline to online looks highly relevant, managing large amounts of product data, keeping it updated, and sending it across multiple channels could be a real struggle for any online retailer. However, tools like catalog management software help design product catalogues that consolidate all relevant information in one place and enable merchants to make timely updates with accurate information. Buyers also get the benefits of directly accessing product details on the catalog page without getting lost on the platform. Catalog management software can be used by any business having a set of products or services to sell over their own e-commerce website or via any marketplace.

https://www.bigcommerce.com/ Get complete insights on e-commerce platforms.

Benefits of a catalogue

Product catalogues present an opportunity for businesses to reach new shoppers, grow the customer base, and increase sales. Apart from creating a flawless user experience, these collections of product information offer multiple benefits that drive internal processes and external purchase decisions.

  • Consolidating product information: Product catalogues enable the consolidation of all details that are useful to showcase to the customers. For better engagement, customers must have all the information related to the product that helps drive purchase decisions, such as features, images, prices, reviews, user guides, etc. It also helps customers get a visual feel of the product from multiple dimensions. A well-designed catalog always boosts confidence in the purchase decision, which is a positive metric for any retailer. 
  • Contribute to sales effort: It is also an excellent tool in the sales process because a product catalog can be distributed among the existing marketing and sales channels to build brand awareness and increase the customer base. It also helps the sales team communicate information to clients or customers during a sales call or product demonstration. It helps save valuable time by making information easily accessible. 
  • Improve user experience: Well-designed product catalogues reflect the company’s brand and create a unique user experience, which helps with brand awareness. With consistent and updated information across product categories, it moves customers one step closer to a purchase. It is essential to anticipate customers’ needs and create catalogues that enhance the desire to visit the online store again. 

Basic elements of a product catalogue

Although the product catalogues may vary based on the company and its solutions, there are several basic elements that should exist in all versions:

  • Product name: It is essential to assign a distinct name to each product to help customers differentiate. 
  • Product description: This element contains detailed information about a product such as weight, dimension, specification, and so on. 
  • VisualsVisuals or pictures are an important element of a product catalog. Eye-catching visuals always boost customer confidence and build trust.
  • FeaturesFeatures include the most important key points that build knowledge on the product and explain what makes it unique among the competitors.
  • PricingCorrect pricing ensures buyer’s trust and it should be represented in local currency that matches the buyer’s location.
  • DiscountsIf the company has offered any seasonal discounts or coupons, it should be displayed in the catalog. 
  • Call to actionCall to action buttons help the target audience to take necessary action on how to buy the product or make further enquiries.
  • Certification: Certification ensures the list of certifications earned by the product such as International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) certification.
  • Usage guide: A user guide or manual to use the product is an essential element, and if it requires safety measures, the catalog must inform and educate customers.
  • Warranty or guaranteeIt specifies the product’s warranty or guarantee clauses and returns policy.
  • Terms and conditionsIt includes company terms and conditions of using the product and possible disclaimers to maintain transparency with customers. 

Product catalogue best practices

In order to make a product catalog work, companies must follow these best practices:

  1. Selection of products: It’s important to decide which product to include in the catalogue keeping in mind the category they belong to. Specifying the right solutions under the right category product catalogues saves customers a significant amount of time and leaves no space for confusion.
  2. Design of catalogue: Product catalogue design must be consistent across all channels and reflect the company’s branding. It is essential to adhere to the company’s guidelines in the selection of colors, logos, fonts, and so on.
  3. Product data: Product data provided in the catalogue must be accurate, consistent, and uniformly written across all catalogue pages. It is crucial to check and update the data in order to maintain the authenticity of the platform.

Catalog management vs. product information management

Catalog management software consolidates product information in one place and enriches product data by facilitating editing, adding, and modifying information. Product information management software acts as a data warehouse for all product-related information. It is mostly used by the marketing and sales department to syndicate product data internally to automate workflows, close business deals, and drive campaigns.

Management (PIM) software has overlapping capabilities but still possesses distinctive features.

E-catalogue poster
E-catalogue designers manual. photo credit: google

What are the different types of E-Catalogues

This section begins with a look at electronic online data storage, the infrastructure for e-sourcing. Then, we proceed to explore internet auctions and issues encountered with conducting reverse auctions.

  1. E-CATALOGUES.
  2. E-AUCTION.
  3. REVERSE AUCTIONS

Online or electronic catalogue (e-catalogue)

Printed catalogues or product lists provide specifications, prices and frequently, illustration of the items that suppliers can provide. The disadvantages of hard copy catalogues are that they may be obsolete even before they are published and are too slow to provide information in a dynamic marketplace.

An online catalogue is a digitised version of a supplier’s catalogue. It benefits both buyers and suppliers in that they:

  1. Facilitate real-time two way communication between buyers and sellers.Allow for the development of closer buyer-supplier relationships due to improved vendor services and by informing buyers about products or services of which they might otherwise be unaware.
  2. Enable suppliers to respond quickly to market conditions and requirements by adjusting prices and packaging.
  3. Virtually eliminate the time lag between the generation of a requisition by a catalogue user and the issue of the purchase order as:
    • Authorisation, where required, can be done online and notified and confirmed by email.Users are authorised to generate their own procurements (subject to value and item constraints).
    • The order can be automatically generated without the intervention of the Procurement function.

There are three types of e-catalogue:

  1. Sell-side catalogues: These provide potential buyers with access to the online catalogues of a particular supplier who provides an online procurement facility. Sell-side catalogues provide many benefits to suppliers, including ease of keeping the contents up to date, savings on advertising costs and the costs of processing a sale. The benefits to potential buyers include 24/7 access to information and ease of ordering.However, they also have disadvantages. Buyers may not have sufficient time to surf all the available supplier websites. Buyers tend to be overly dependent on particular suppliers as training in the use of new software may be required if suppliers are changed.
  2. Buy-side catalogues: These are catalogues created by the buying organisations. Normally, such catalogues are confined to goods covered by pre-negotiated prices, specifications and terms and run by a program that is integrated in the buying organisation’s intranet.The benefits to buyers of such catalogues include reduced communication costs, increased security and many catalogues can be accessed via the same intranet application. However, the compilation and updating of buy-side catalogues does require a large investment in clerical resources that will be uneconomical for all but the largest organisations. Suppliers wishing to be included in the catalogue will also be required to furnish their content in a standard format. For suppliers dealing with a large number of buyers, the workload in terms of providing information in the form required by each online catalogue will be unsustainable.
  3. Third-party catalogues: The disadvantages of sell- and buy-side catalogues can be minimised by outsourcing the process to an electronic marketplace or buying consortium. This can be done by linking the in-house e-procurement catalogue to a master catalogue administered in the marketplace. Standard information for inclusion in the ‘market site’ or ‘master catalogue’ is provided by the suppliers. This information is then made available to the in-house catalogues of individual buying organisations. The responsibility of managing and updating products and other information rests with the suppliers. In this case, the suppliers have a good incentive to provide the information in the specified standard format as the master catalogue will be available to a large number of buying organisations.
    Product information can be divided into two parts — public and encrypted. Public information will include a basic product description and specification, often accompanied by an illustration or diagram, while encrypted information will provide details of prices, discounts and similar matters applicable to specific buyers that cannot be accessed by unauthorised users.

ONLINE AUCTIONS , E-AUCTIONS

Auctions have been used for commercial transactions for centuries and there are many different types of auction methods.Generally, auctions can be classified on the basis of competition, between sellers or buyers; and forward or descending prices. For example, the online property and used cars auctions in Malaysia are a price auction with multiple buyers.

Other examples are Le long Malaysia Auction and Malaysia Free Auctions, which include multiple items. These various auction models have been married with internet technology to provide buyers with new techniques for determining price, quality, volume allocations and delivery schedules with suppliers.The actual internet auction events can be conducted in a number of ways, including open offer auctions, private offer negotiations, posted prices and reverse auctions.In open offer auctions, suppliers can select the items they want to place offers on, see the most competitive offers from other suppliers for each item, and enter as many offers as they want up until a specified closing time.

In private offer auctions, the buying organisation offers a target price and quantity. Suppliers select the item(s) they wish to bid on and enter an offer by a specific time.The buyer evaluates each supplier’s offer and enters a ‘status’ for each item. The levels of status are accepted: the supplier is awarded the contract, contingent on final qualification.

closed: the supplier may no longer submit offers for the item in question; BAFO: the supplier who receives electronically the best and final offer status may submit one more offer for the item.

open: the supplier may submit another offer. Bidding may be continued for as many rounds as necessary to accept or close all items. 

In posted price auctions, the buyer indicates the price that is acceptable and the first supplier that meets this price gets the award.

Reverse auctions :A reverse auction is an online, real-time, declining-price auction between one buying organisation and a group of pre-qualified suppliers.

The bidding process is dynamic, where the suppliers compete for business by bidding against each other online using specialised software.Suppliers are given information concerning the status of their bids in real time and the supplier with the lowest bid or lowest total cost bid is usually awarded the business.An example of this auction could be a Penang multinational company selecting several local suppliers to participate in the e-auctions or e-bidding of its packaging items.

The company, which offers the lowest price, would be invited to submit its sample product for quality approval. The contract will be awarded later subject to this sample approval. However, this e-auctions is still not popular among the smaller companies as the system implementation is quite costly.

There are various issues to consider when using reverse auctions for sourcing goods and services:

When to use reverse auctions?

Most reverse auctions are used for spot buying and to eliminate the time-consuming offline process of selecting suppliers, requesting quotations and comparing quotes received. Reverse auctions are particularly useful in the following circumstances:

  1. When there are clearly defined specifications for the goods or services, including technological, logistical and commercial requirements.
  2. Existence of a competitive market and a sufficient number of qualified suppliers willing to participate in the auction.
  3. When there is an understanding of the market conditions in order to set appropriate expectations for a reserve price.
  4. When the buyer and seller are familiar and competent in using the auction technology.
  5. When there are clear rules concerning how the auction will be conducted, such as conditions for extending the length of the auction and award criteria. 
  6. When the buyer believes that the current price is sufficiently high so that the savings justify the use of a reverse auction.
  7. In general, reverse auctions were not considered appropriate for complicated products or projects requiring collaboration or considerable negotiation.

Advantages of reverse auctions: Reverse auctions provide benefits to both buyers and sellers.

The benefits to buyers include:

  1. Savings over and above those obtained from normal negotiations as a result of competition.
  2. Reductions in acquisition lead times.
  3. Access to a wider range of suppliers.
  4. A global supply base can be achieved relatively quickly
  5. Sources of market information are enhanced.
  6. More efficient administration of requests for quotations (RFQ) and proposals.
  7. Auctions conducted on the internet generally provide total anonymity so time is not wasted on seeing suppliers’ representatives.
  8. The benefits for suppliers include:
  9. An opportunity to enter previously closed markets, which is particularly important for smaller firms.
  10. Reduced negotiation timescales.
  11. Provision of a good source of market pricing information.
  12. Clear indications of what must be done to win the business.

Disadvantages of reverse auctions: Some objections to reverse auction are that they:

  1. Are based on a win-lose approach — the seller is trying to get the most money while the buyer is after the best deal and the goal is to screw your opponent to win either a good deal or a profitable deal at the other person’s expense, so that logical progression is always towards cheating and, therefore, such a system cannot be sustained without burdensome watchdogs and regulators.
  2. Can cause an adverse shift in buyer-seller relationships as the supplier may feel exploited and become less trustful of buyers.
  3. Can have long-term adverse effects on the economic performance of both suppliers and buyers. First, some suppliers may not be able to sustain sharp price reductions in the long term. Second, buyers will eventually have reduced supplier base as suppliers that cannot compete at the lower price
  4. levels may be removed from the buyer’s approved supplier list. Moreover, in order to ensure that the exact goods and services required are obtained, considerable time may be needed to complete details specification sheets, when time can be ill-afforded in a fast-paced world.

ETHICAL ISSUES WITH REVERSE AUCTIONS

There are a number of ethical issues that buyers and sellers need to be concerned with when participating in reverse auctions.

Potential ethical transgressions on behalf of buyers are:

  • Buyer knowingly accepts bids from suppliers with unreasonably low prices.
  • The buying firm submits phantom bids during the event to increase the competition artificially.
  • Buyer includes unqualified suppliers to increase price competitions.

Some potential ethical issues involving suppliers are:

  1. Suppliers act in collusion.Suppliers bid unrealistically low prices and attempt to renegotiate afterwards.
  2. Suppliers participate in the event but do not bid. This behaviour is referred to as ‘bird watching’ and is a strategy designed to collect market intelligence.
  3. Some reverse auction events have participation rules where suppliers must enter bids before gaining access to the results.
  4. Buyers should always behave in an ethical manner and avoid the appearance of ethical conflicts in order to protect the reputation and integrity of their firm and individuals involved.
  5. Communicating clearly defined rules of the reverse auction upfront helps avoid ethical misconceptions.

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