What’s new in retail e-procurement?

July 16th, 2010

Since more than 80% of all retailers do not use e-procurement tools there could be a lot that’s new even if it’s old.

A small retailer said to me last week that he did a form of reverse auction on his own. I asked how he accomplished this. The answer did not shock me, but I did chuckle a little. I’m glad he was a friend because he asked why I was smiling. The answer was that he sent out an email to three suppliers that he knew and asked for a price on a specific product. He told them in the email to make sure their price was there best offer and then called each once received and pressured them down with the threat of the other offers. We won’t get into the number of calls he had to make, the time it took to create the specification, the number of emails sent back and forth or lack of knowledge as to any new or additional sources of supply. We also won’t discuss the underlying psychology of a reverse auction and the tools that encourage quality bidding. The basic premise was solid and helped to reinforce why an automated system would out perform his results every time as well as provide a detailed audit trail.

At least in the example above, my friend was trying in his mind. What continues to concern this author is that many retail companies from lower tier I companies through all of tier II companies are not using any type of e-negotiation solution. Most of these solutions are relatively low cost hosted or SaaS oriented tools and available to them covering the entire P2P (procure to pay) process. In addition many of them belong to wholesalers that may use these tools themselves but don’t pass on all of the benefits to their customer.

I will continue to focus on this issue in the hope that if one company reads, watches, prints and uses any of this information and then executes because of it any or all of the following benefits may befall them.

1. Profits can and should improve
2. Quality can and should improve
3. Product Safety can and should improve
4. Environmental impact can and should improve
5. Prices can be compressed
6. New sources of supply can be found
7. Risk can be mitigated
8. Evergreening of contracts can be held in check
9. Existing jobs can be protected
10. New jobs can be created.

If these were the only reasons to try and get out the message as to the stunning effect that today’s e-procurement tools can have on an organization it would be enough. But we all know there are many more good reasons beyond the ten listed above.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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