A Dynamic Catalogue – What is That?
Dynamic catalogues is a generic name for a solution where the supplier store, maintain and develop both the content and the interface. Dynamic catalogues are called a lot of different things, often linked to the supplier of the system.
The most common names are punchout, OCI (Open Catalogue Interface), linkout and roundtrip. They all though work in the same way. Instead of that suppliers send information about thousands of products to the customer, the customer goes to the suppliers webshop, place products in the shopping basket and send back this information to their system.
Who Will Benefit From Dynamic Catalogues?
There are a number of situations where there will be huge benefits with using dynamic catalogues.
- Update frequency, if you for instance have daily updates you will save a lot of time by using a dynamic solution.
- Number of suppliers, if you have a lot of suppliers the work just to maintain the static e-catalogues will be very time consuming.
- Number of products, e-catalogues with thousands of products will take a lot of time to upload, control and publish. In same cases can even the huge files be difficult to handle.
- Products that need configuration, when you have products that needs configuration, for instance computers and cell phones it will be very beneficial to go to the suppliers online store and use the tools there and send back the ready product to your system with all attached features and services.
What are the Benefits
For buyers the benefits will be less work with uploading, updating and maintaining the suppliers e-catalogues. As a customer you are also guaranteed to have a match between order and invoice. That will streamline the process and save a lot of time in manual work.
For suppliers the benefits are that they will get rid of the work with updating, sending and approving static e-catalogues. Just to keep track of the content of thousands of products in hundreds of different e-catalogues is almost impossible.
Many customers that implement an e-business solution want to be able to facilitate the e-invoicing process. There are often problems to update the prices at the seller and the buyer exactly the same time. With a dynamic catalogue it will never be an issue. All prices are only at one place and are therefore only updated once.
There are a lot of benefits with using a dynamic catalogue compared to a static one. Below I will give deeper information about some of the benefits.
The information in a dynamic catalogue is always updated. Every time information is updated in the sellers ERP system, such as product short or long descriptions or pictures, are updated the information is correctly displayed for the customer. When you have a dynamic catalogue you will in real-time get information about new products and products that are or are to be delisted. For products that are temporary out of stock you can link to a replacement product. That will be a service to the customer and as a supplier you will not loose sales.
In a market specific online store the customers demand will be met in another way than in a generic solution. One example of this is the amount of information. In a specific market it could be a huge value to be able to provide data security sheets, video, more pictures, longer texts or links to the producer. All this will be in the interface from the seller. If the 3rd party e-catalogue template doesn’t contain the field, you are not able to show this information to the customer.
Better Search Features
No matter how good your layout is or how much you have invested in usability, if the customers don’t find what they are looking for the webshop will not succeed. Therefore it is very important to have good tools for searching. With a static catalogue you will be limited to the generic search facilities as the 3rd party provide. If you though choose a dynamic solution you will have access to the market specific needs. This could be that one product is linked to similar products or complementary products. It could also be that you can link, individually customer by customer, one product to another that the customer would prefer. This could for instance be of environmental reasons.
Tailoring the Interface
It is possible to tailor a dynamic solution much more that a static one. This can be everything from:
- Products perimeters
- Buyers logo type
- Customer specific welcome information
- Adapted messages
- Contract information
Perhaps this doesn’t sound very important, but it could be. The interface of the webshop is in many cases the only relation the user gets from the supplier. With your own company’s logo type in the supplier webshop, the user feels more secure to buy. The purchasing manager will also be more keen to promote the solution since he/she know that the user will find the right products in the webshop. It is very important to make the user to feel secure.
Order to Invoice Process
Most organisations that implement e-business solutions say that what they want to achieve is a better match between order and invoice. With a dynamic solution you are almost guaranteed to have a match of 100%. The product information for the order is taken from the suppliers online real-time production system, just as the invoice.
With a direct orders integration there is no middle hand between the person who made the order until the order is picked in the warehouse.
The dynamic solution is really the best of two worlds. The buyer gets the order and invoice match and don’t have to maintain a lot of different static e-catalogues. The seller don’t need to update e-catalogues each time something is updated in the product database.
One objection I sometimes hear is that with dynamic catalogues the users have difficulties with using many different interfaces. That was perhaps true many years ago, but today the webshops are more mature as well as the users. In your private life you don’t have difficulties to handle the different interfaces when you buy CDs, books or trips online from different suppliers. Why? Because you have interfaces that are developed for specific business need. When you buy exactly the same products at work this becomes a problem. Could that really be the case?
To succeed with dynamic catalogues I will give three advices – What, How and Who.
What – Implementation guide
An easy way to secure success is to create an implementation guide. This document should contain the information needed for the supplier to make the implementation. The guide should cover which fields that are mandatory, how the information should look like (number of characters, capital letter, values in percent or amount). The guide will secure quality and save a lot of time for all parties.
How – Formats
I often hear the objection that there are too many formats to support and therefore it is not worth the effort to create a dynamic catalogue solution. At Lyreco we have developed three different solutions that cover 100% of the customer needs. The solutions is
- iProcurement – Oracle
- Open Catalogue Interface (OCI) – SAP
- Punchout – Ariba
Who – Qualify Suppliers
When you have a clear idea of what you want and how you want it you can start to look for who you want to implement this solution with. Qualify the suppliers from your implementation guide you created and you then know that the project will be a success.
Also see another article about the best practise ideas Lyreco has shared at EBG: >>A french perspective