Guided Buying – for personal and business decisions

By Lucy Day, Senior Solutions Specialist at Proactis

The term “Guided Buying" has been circulating recently, as if it’s something new. It’s actually something that we see every day. For example, when we are in the supermarket we see displays showcasing a new product, or 3 for 2, or a “limited time only” offer. These are all mechanisms that retailers, online and instore, use to guide us towards what they want us to purchase.

But is it the same in business?

Procurement departments invest significant amounts of time building a supplier network that meets the needs of the business and ensures compliance risk mitigation – all while keeping it competitive. This involves vetting suppliers, going through price negotiations, and managing contract pricing agreements. But how can you ensure that these efforts deliver savings, compliance and drive the right policies?

The answer is through Guided Buying.

Put simply, Guided Buying directs your users to the preferred, authorized suppliers, contracts and policies. Search capabilities enable easy access to supplier content via electronic catalogs and/or websites to ‘guide’ an employee from a basic expression of need to products/services that satisfy that need from qualified suppliers. Note, if it’s not easy for users to find what they need from the right supplier, chances are they’ll either simply use one they’re familiar with – who may not be authorized – or even worse, will just circumnavigate the system and go out directly to a new supplier. Otherwise known as Maverick spending.

I’ve actually seen a lot of Procurement solutions implemented without the buyer in mind, where the time and effort is spent on approvals, and coding. While this is important, end user adoption and using the technology available to ensure purchases are made from those suppliers you’ve spent countless hours negotiating terms with should be given equal attention. By employing a designed purchasing experience, end users are able to eliminate the wonder of “am I allowed to buy this?” and “will this purchase be approved?”, making the experience much more positive.

Buyers being able to self-serve more effectively is increasingly important. Historically, buyers simply going on to Google, finding a supplier and picking that supplier meant that Procurement had to create that supplier. By enabling self-service for buyers reduces these tasks. Buyers within the organization can have access and insight into the approved suppliers they should buy from, based on contract agreements, compliance with company policies and risks.

There is technology available to do this, integrating your P2P solution to the suppliers website through the use of internal catalogs which can then include contract priced items. The main benefit for users here is that they are able to speed up the searching and buying process. After all,  we want to know we can get something quickly when we need to. Internal catalogs, when used and implemented correctly, should be as easy to use as walking into a supermarket and picking something from  the shelf.

Typically, requisitions that come through a guided buying experience facilitate faster approvals. This in turn helps Procurement teams direct their focus on more value-add activities such as mitigating risk and developing supplier relationships. These relationships are vital to any business, especially with core suppliers which the organization relies on for key goods and services. While the wider business may not see it, there is a significant amount of time invested in these relationships – which is why guiding buyers through the process is so important.

With the right digital tools in place, employees should be able to access the right information at the right time, providing a more Guided Buying experience to the right suppliers and contracts.

So if you’re seeing orders being raised that don’t align with your internal policies and preferred suppliers, ask why. Perhaps put yourself in their shoes and go and experience using the system. Is the  system guiding them to what we want them to do? If the answer is no, get in touch and we can help you create the right Guided Buying experience.