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Best Practices

Add Trading Partners Without Growing Pains Through EDI Best Practices

by Peter Edlund

Today’s suppliers must be adept to master B2B e-commerce in addition to juggling standard bulk fulfillment. They must be nimble, ship orders accurately and comply with technological and process requirements from multiple retailers.

While many suppliers have already integrated with their customers, and are realizing the benefits of EDI, they also frequently struggle with adding new customers, which inevitably comes with an array of new EDI and business rule requirements.

How can you transition from working with one or two retailers to juggling requirements of five, ten or more customers?

Answering that challenge is a crucial component of establishing a foothold in B2B e-commerce. Increasingly, suppliers that can scale and answer retailer demands with minimal disruption are those that flourish. Retailers expect that new partnerships not be accompanied with headaches; they are busy enough with numerous suppliers, selling across multiple channels and transitioning to support an increasingly digital consumer.

The key for suppliers is to be ready to meet their retail customers’ growing list of requirements.

Transitioning from working with one or two retailers to five or more is difficult but manageable. It requires rethinking investments, adjusting roles and responsibilities and seeking out additional resources. However, there are a few things you can do as you add more customers to your EDI program to help boost your business without growing pains; here’s where to start.

1. Upgrade EDI Tools and Pursue ERP Integration

Suppliers need to handle massive amounts of data from retailers and partners. So, if you’ve only been servicing a single retailer your EDI tools might need an overhaul. Consider moving from a web-based EDI tool to an integrated solution that uses B2B software integrated with your ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system.

Upgrading to a full B2Bi solution will help you accommodate multiple trading partner business requirements by using configurable business rules like automated acknowledgements. It will also save time by automating the order to pay process by validating key retailer transaction requirements for items, purchase orders, shipping locations and invoice matching.

2. Consider Outsourcing EDI (But do your due diligence!)

Sometimes looking outside of your doors for help is the best bet. B2B integration partners can help connect the dots between physical supply chain operations and the digital world. The right partners can also help you master routine responsibilities like reporting and data analysis. With the right EDI partners, a supplier has comprehensive overview of supply chain data and interactions.

The largest benefit of a partnership like this is that EDI outsourcing providers can help companies scale without adding head count. This allows you to efficiently accommodate hundreds of trading partners across every aspect of your supply chain. Without the right transaction data, your ability to handle an increasing volume of orders, manage items and inventory, and streamline shipping will suffer. For more information, check out the In-house EDI vs. EDI Outsourcing whitepaper.

3. Plan Ahead to Prevent Roadblocks

New challenges will arise as retail trading partnerships evolve. Understanding that adding customers is more than just selling more product. It’s increasing the complexity of your operation as each new customer represents some unique business requirements.

But acknowledging that fact and anticipating that new requirements are a part of the process will help keep your inventory moving and avoid costly mistakes that result in charge backs. To proactively prevent charge backs, watch this webinar on exception management and business analytics.

Suppliers that invest in collaborative B2B integration can stop problems from happening in the first place. Being a reliable and flexible supplier by offering streamlined B2B integration will help capture the opportunities new customers represent. Enlisting the right partners and technology to master operations will curtail the issues often associated with growing your business.

EDI: In-house vs Outsource Whitepaper