Digital Purchasing Tools Are the Great Enabler, Says Amazon Business - Modern Distribution Management

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Digital Purchasing Tools Are the Great Enabler, Says Amazon Business

What used to be complex corporate spend-management technology is now available to any size of company, according to speakers at a recent Amazon Business virtual conference. It’s a wake-up call for distributors to clearly articulate their value and customer service tools.
Digital Purchasing Tools Are the Great Enabler, Says Amazon Business

In a recent Harvard Business Review Analytics Survey, 54% of respondents said agility and speed of sourcing is a top priority for their purchasing operations; 72% said increased operational efficiency is the top benefit they hope to achieve by digitizing more processes.

But companies often lack visibility into their spending habits across lines of business, says Molly Dobson, U.K. and Ireland country manager for Amazon Business. Luckily, company leaders can employ a range of digital purchasing solutions to effectively manage growth, Dobson said last week during Amazon Business’ Reshape conference, a global online event for procurement professionals across enterprise, public sector, and small and medium-sized businesses.

Companies that find themselves in a scaling stage can use digital tools — purchasing system integrations such as Amazon Punchout or ones offered by similar providers — to tap into real-time data and automate routine buying processes to save time and simplify operations. “Businesses of all sizes and sectors look for strategies to increase efficiencies, and they view digital tools as a means to help them scale,” says Dobson. “Organizations without insights into their spending can’t recognize opportunities to then guide employee buying and measure that savings.”

Digital tools foster agility and speed, which in turn can open up other efficiencies for business leaders, says Dobson. “These related points from this Harvard survey reinforce the need for organizations to think about adopting faster and easier purchasing solutions,” she says. “Digital purchasing technology is helping businesses move from complexity to simplicity. It is the great enabler, especially when it’s used in a thoughtful manner.”

Dobson says the desired outcome for leaders using these digital purchasing solutions is boosting employee productivity, reducing costs and improving budgeting decisions. “And, most importantly, these leaders having more time to focus on value-adding business priorities,” she says.

Automating and streamlining purchasing habits can help companies defeat challenges that come with scaling, including lack of spend visibility and too many purchasing methods or suppliers, often for the same product, says Kim Hur, associate manager of global indirect procurement for Mattel.

Instead of purchasing with a credit card and creating an expense report after side controls, these digital purchasing systems can allow employees already familiar with marketplace platforms to shift buying behavior — and see immediate increases in adoption rates, says Hur. “Functionality integration really allows us to bridge the gap from our personal lives into our professional day-to-day,” she says.

Hur’s comments, which were directed toward a broad mix of industries during the Reshape conference, could help distributors think how they position more effectively as process facilitators, and less as product sellers, to engage customers more effectively. She says Mattel is currently embedding and managing digital-driven purchasing processes companywide to encourage employees to purchase more efficiently and responsibly. “You may pick the cheapest one, or you may want to pick the best one for whatever you need,” says Hur. “So, it’s really just allowing them to feel a sense of empowerment: ‘This is my money. I want to spend this the right way.’”

Customers have come to expect digital tools that offer detailed, user-friendly catalogs that allow users to track orders, request returns and view their search and purchasing activities. And for procurement leaders, there are digital capabilities and workflows that can reduce administrative burdens and streamline some back-office processes, says Hur. “Really understand your spend and consolidate where you can,” she says.

It’s interesting that Amazon Business is sponsoring virtual “educational” events centered on how to improve procurement practices, with their management tools front and center of course. For distributors, the increasing expectation of deeper purchasing management tools for commodity-based transactions has become an even louder bugle call for differentiating the value of direct supplier relationships versus the marketplace customer experience. In a business climate quickly converting to more automation and streamlined processes, the bar for customer retention keeps getting higher.

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