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Streamline purchasing through online procurement

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Electronic marketplaces aggregate suppliers of a specific product or service, helping you locate one who can best meet your needs. (©iStockphoto.com) Electronic marketplaces aggregate suppliers of a specific product or service, helping you locate one who can best meet your needs. (©iStockphoto.com)
 

The Internet has made it easier than ever for small businesses to track down and work with high-value suppliers. Whether a company needs a carton of printer paper, or is looking to create strategic relationships with key industrial product suppliers, the Internet provides a range of cost-effective options that can help a business purchase more efficiently. Your business can use Web-based purchasing to:

Locate new suppliers

The global nature of the Internet allows your business to locate a broad range of suppliers that can provide you with the greatest value. Through search engines and other Web tools, you can find information on specific products or services, and reach out to suppliers you otherwise would not be able to track down. Electronic marketplaces aggregate suppliers of a specific product or service (such as health insurance) or within a particular industry, helping you locate one who can best meet your needs. Online business-to-business directories -- such as the Web site of the Thomas Register -- are searchable databases that can be used to hunt for suppliers of tens of thousands of products.

Comparison shop

With a list of suppliers in hand, you can access the Internet to gather additional information that you can use to compare vendors. Search through Web sites to locate pricing, payment terms, delivery options, and other critical data to help you make informed purchasing decisions.

Explore new procurement methods

The Web has created several new ways for small businesses to buy goods and services. Aggregators, for example, allow small businesses to post their specific needs for certain services such as health insurance or long-distance phone service, receive bids from suppliers who can meet those requirements, and then choose the best solution. Similarly, online auction sites such as eBay now offer a large number of business and industrial products such as office equipment, industrial supplies, construction gear, laboratory equipment, and more. This can be a cost-effective way to locate both used and surplus equipment.

Improve efficiency

Using the Internet can improve procurement efficiency. Paper catalogs can be replaced by online catalogs. Purchase orders can be created and sent to suppliers electronically, reducing the time and effort involved in placing orders. Many Web sites allow you to jump immediately to frequently purchased items, saving you time on subsequent orders and invoices. Staples, for example, has a feature that lets you create lists of the product categories you visit most often. These features not only boost ordering speed, but can also reduce procurement errors that are common with paper invoices, further increasing efficiency.

Track performance

Using Web-based purchasing tools can help your business track its spending and purchasing activity. Data captured by an Internet-based procurement system can be used to analyze purchasing activity, helping you see where your money is being spent. In some cases, this data can be linked directly with your business' accounting software, streamlining your record keeping and helping you keep closer tabs on your cash flow. Finally, buyers can also use this data to gauge supplier performance, which helps businesses link up with those partners who are most beneficial to their strategic goals. 

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