by Matt Springfield | October 05, 2022

Streamline Your Relationship with Retail Partners

As a supplier or manufacturer, you depend on reliable B2B communication with your retail partners. Any disruption in the ability to quickly and reliably process B2B transactions threatens the health of these vital relationships.

Given the importance of B2B communication to suppliers and manufacturers, building comprehensive and reliable B2B infrastructure is crucial. Manual intervention like data entry or order confirmation introduces the possibility of human error into a process that can rarely tolerate errors. Automation, therefore, is key for any supplier or manufacturer that wants to maximize their confidence in a continued positive relationship with retail partners.

Many modern organizations employ some degree of automation in their business processes, yet still fall short of fully-automated end-to-end B2B integration. In order to realize optimal B2B solutions, it is helpful to fully understand how B2B communication fits into your larger business goals.

How B2B Communication is Used by Suppliers and Manufacturers

B2B communication for suppliers and manufacturers is best understood by examining the specific documents exchanged with retailers and other external parties:

  • Receiving purchase orders from retailers

Purchase orders serve as the starting point for most B2B workflows. You only get paid when retailers stock your goods, and a purchase order is the first indication of this interest. Purchase orders contain specifics like what items to purchase, the quantity of each, desired shipping date, and more.

  • Sending purchase order acknowledgments

Retailers need to know quickly whether their purchase order is valid – that is, whether the items they are ordering are available and meet the specifications from the purchase order (PO). Before more complicated processes are invoked, a simple acknowledgment that a supplier can meet the demand from a PO is an important second step in B2B communication.

  • Invoicing purchase orders

A simple acknowledgment is not the end of the story, however, as it is also necessary to create and process invoices to ensure that your organization is being paid for the products it produces. Sending out invoices after a purchase order has been validated is perhaps the most triumphant element of B2B communication for suppliers and manufacturers.

  • Handling inventory inquiries

The ongoing B2B conversation with retailers includes consistent check-ins regarding the inventory of particular items. Receiving inventory inquiries and responding appropriately helps retailers maintain confidence in their trading relationship with you.

  • Sending shipment updates and confirmation

Advanced shipment notices and other shipment-related documents help keep retailers in the loop regarding the timing of deliveries. Sending a notice of shipment is frequently the last link of the B2B chain that encompasses order fulfillment.

What Makes B2B Communication with Retailers Difficult?

The next step in understanding how to optimize your B2B automation is to better understand the challenges involved in communication requirements.

  • Difficult data formats like EDI

EDI (electronic data interchange) is the exchange of business documents such as invoices, purchase orders, and shipping notices via secure, standard file transmission protocols. EDI formats are esoteric and largely only readable by machines. As a result, automating the translation, generation, and integration of these EDI documents can sound like an unmanageable burden on an organization's technical specialists.

  • Many different EDI document types

Order fulfillment requires a chain of messages, both sending and receiving, with your retail partners. Each link in the chain involves a different EDI document type in order to convey a specific message. The high number of necessary EDI documents multiplies the complexity involved in integrating the EDI format into other aspects of your business environment.

  • Tight turnaround windows between request and response

Most retailers expect efficiency when communicating with critical trading partners like suppliers and manufacturers. You should be able to receive, understand, and respond to messages from retailers quickly to avoid costly delays and cut down on the number of question marks in your partners' supply chains.

  • Quick recovery from errors and disruption

Interruptions in communication with retailers must be identified and addressed as quickly as possible. Prolonged blackouts can threaten the quality of your trading relationships and put your inbound orders at risk. This means that you must have alerts set up to provide visibility into any errors and transaction failures, what went wrong, and how to fix it.

  • Integration into resource planning systems

Suppliers and manufacturers need to check inbound orders against their ERP and other inventory systems to confirm the validity of the order. If you’re relying on legacy or piecemeal approaches to B2B communication, integrating B2B message exchanges into these back-end systems can pose a problem.

CData Arc Streamlines B2B Communication with Retailers

A modern B2B automation platform can solve supply chain challenges like those listed above. CData Arc is designed to simplify B2B automation so that reliable and effective communication is no longer a burden on your technical resources.

  • Simplified connections reduce overhead

Leveraging CData Arc, establishing a connection to your retail partner merely requires setting a few basic parameters like identifiers and URLs. This applies across all of the major B2B communication protocols like AS2, AS4, OFTP, SFTP, and more.

  • Streamlined EDI translation reduces your technical burden

CData Arc handles the process of converting esoteric EDI documents into more readable formats automatically. Arc knows the schemas and definitions of each EDI document, so you can get immediate access to your data without worrying about technical specifics.

  • Alerts, acknowledgments, and retries provide business relationship security

CData Arc automatically generates email alerts for visibility into communication errors, as well as acknowledgments for guaranteed delivery and retries for weathering temporary connection issues. Altogether, this provides a reliable and transparent pipeline for communicating with your partners.

  • Visual drag-and-drop data mapping enables end-to-end automation

CData Arc's visual drag-and-drop designer helps ensure that you do not need a technical specialist to integrate your B2B transactions into your ERP or inventory planning system. Anyone across your organization can take advantage of Arc's drag-and-drop mapping interface without having to be an expert in anything other than the data.

  • Universal back-end connectivity ensures seamless integration

Leveraging CData's industry-leading connectivity technology, Arc can connect to hundreds of data sources and repositories, including any ERP, database, warehouse, warehouse management system, and more. No matter how you need your B2B communication integrated, Arc can communicate with the entirety of your data ecosystem.

See CData Arc's Logistics Automation Solutions in Action

If you're interested in modernizing your B2B communication with retailers, there's no better way to get started than building out your own proof-of-concept. CData Arc keeps the barrier to entry low so that you and your team can easily and quickly get started using the application and see ROI within hours.

You can get started with CData Arc's free, fully-functional trial today! For more resources tailored to Arc newcomers, please visit our Getting Started Guide.