Don’t Let eCommerce and Purchase Orders Get the Best of You


Ah, the lowly purchase order. It may not look like much, but it plays a big part in eCommerce. Fulfillment services depend on the purchase order to track and monitor incoming and outgoing shipments. Purchase orders, along with quality distribution services, make success possible.

Yet, in the midst of all the technology involved in warehousing and distribution, the lowly purchase order is feared and maligned. But love them or hate them, purchase orders are essential.  They’re a prime means of communication between manufacturers, suppliers and businesses.  In fact, once a seller accepts a P.O., it becomes a contract between seller and buyer.

But for many, purchase orders generate a lot of headaches. In particular, paper purchase orders are fraught with problems – from misplaced pages to missing approvals.  Many businesses are tempted to run without them or give them insufficient attention. Bad move.

There are alternatives that can save money and time and pain – you just need to find the method that works best for your company.  With the lines between brick-and-mortar sales and Internet sales blurring more every day, you need to find a system to handle eCommerce fulfillment that manages purchase orders in an efficient and cost-saving fashion.

Purchase Orders are not the Enemy

Repeat after me: Purchase orders are good. Without them, eCommerce order fulfillment would be a mess, which would reduce profits for everyone involved.  And, in the event of a dispute, purchase orders provide records showing the parties’ intent. So, treat them right.  Merchants initially setting up an Internet site should ensure their management software allows for easy purchase order tracking and review. Make sure you can export a variety of purchase order data in one process, or that there is an app that will enable this.

Managing Purchase Orders

By taking a little time at the front end to set up your business in a way that optimizes how you access information on purchase orders, you’ll save money in the long run.  Managing them from the outset results in the smoothest interaction with your eCommerce order fulfillment service.  On the warehousing end, using a WMS that adapts to interfacing with various customer systems is important.

Well-managed purchase orders produce many benefits; they allow you to keep tabs on costs, with a constant ability to compare those costs to all the rest of your sales information.  If you are not at the point of totally doing away with paper orders, there are still ways to manage purchase orders to your benefit.  Be it paper or electronic, there are several ways to maximize the power of a purchase order for both sellers and buyers:

  • Do include specific details, but don’t over-stuff it with information. Be sure to include:
    • PO (Purchase Order) Number
    • Date
    • SKU Number
    • Quantity
    • Costs: Wholesale and Shipping
    • Shipping locations
  • Use an eCommerce order fulfillment provider that integrates purchase order information into their WMS.
  • eCommerce fulfillment companies should enable receipt of purchase orders by various means, including email, fax and/or EDI.
  • Buyers, sellers and warehousing and fulfillment providers should work together so that there is a direct flow of information regarding all purchase orders and other business information.

The Value of Purchase Orders

Purchase orders are chock full of terms and conditions, all the “standard language” that no one pays very close attention to.  Supposedly, the PO should make the agreement between buyer and seller crystal clear. However, contradictory terms or inconsistent numbers on a purchase order may lead to major problems, including disputes that go to court due to shortages of items listed on a PO, damaged inventory or untraceable shipments.

Get the best from your purchase orders by fully managing them, preferably through electronic means that can be integrated with other business management systems.  You’ll protect yourself in the event of a dispute, and you may end up saving yourself time and frustration in the long run.

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