What the Coupa/Amazon Business tie-up means for procurement

A B2C purchasing experience may soon be a reality for procurement executives

If there is one thing I hear time and again about what buyers and their colleagues across the business want when they are purchasing goods, it is an Amazon-like buying experience.


The B2C marketplace is one of the main buying portals for consumers. Most people who need to efficiently order a Christmas present and ensure it is delivered quickly would instantly turn to Amazon.


Over the last few years there has been lots of talk about how that could be replicated in the B2B marketplace. In 2012 the company launched AmazonSupply, its first foray into the B2B arena. The platform ended up offering 2.2 million products for sale across 17 different categories, from tools and home improvement goods to janitorial supplies.


Then in 2015 the company decided to relaunch its offering and replaced AmazonSupply with Amazon Business.


"Amazon Business has hundreds of millions of products for sale – already many times what’s on offer on AmazonSupply," said Prentis Wilson, Amazon’s wholesale czar at the time of its launch.


"We continued to hear that they [customers] wanted an Amazon shopping experience when they were buying for work," he said.


As the Amazon juggernaut continued, many wondered what impact it would have on buying patterns. Would all spend eventually head into the platform? Would buyers turn away from the spend platforms they already used and instead try and use Amazon Business – regardless of whether it was allowed?


Those questions, it seems, are now being answered.


Coupa, the cloud-based spend management platform provider, has today announced the launch of Open Buy with a link into the Amazon Business platform.


In a press release announcing the launch, Coupa said the system will allow its customers to "quickly search, find, and buy goods with all their organisation’s required spending and budget controls applied automatically".


The company said it will give users "embedded visibility and instant access to millions of items beyond the catalogues managed by their employer", which will help "reduce the rate of ‘item not found’ and decrease the likelihood of employees buying outside their organisation’s approved processes".


Catching up with Chandar Pattabhiram, Coupa’s new chief marketing officer, ahead of the Coupa Inspire event in London, he explained a little more about what he thinks the offering will give to its customers.


"Software today is all about platforms of choice," he said.


"Customers need choice to drive efficiencies in spend. By maintaining our network while also partnering with Amazon, we are offering more choice to our customers and from that, we hope, they will find more efficiencies."


These spend efficiencies should help the function drive out savings but also save time, which be can use to engage in other value-adding exercises in collaboration with key stakeholders either inside or outside of the business.


What’s more, Open Buy should open up new levels of spend analytics, which will provide procurement executives with valuable information about what they spend, when they spend it and with whom.


Those can only be positives.


It’ll certainly be interesting to see how this partnership develops over the next couple of years. At Coupa and among their customer base there is a lot of enthusiasm about what Open Buy will do. If it helps functions focus their attention on more meaningful tasks and brings maverick spend into line, that enthusiasm will grow. If the function doesn’t spend the time it gains wisely, it could lead to bigger questions about what exactly procurement does.

Tim Burt
Posted by Tim Burt

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