Digital Innovations Improve B2B Buyer-Supplier Interactions

Before the pandemic, businesses may not have viewed digital or automated payment methods as a necessity.

Trina Dutta, vice president and general manager, B2B payments automation, global commercial services at American Express, told PYMNTS in an interview that the pandemic has underscored the need for greater process and operational efficiencies.

The pivot toward work from home, she said, has changed B2B payments dramatically. Many finance and accounts payable (AP) teams are no longer going to the office — or if they are, they are doing so sporadically. Thus, it’s getting harder and harder to go into the office, print checks, stuff envelopes and mail payments off.

As a result, she said many business owners and chief financial officers (CFOs) have been approaching providers — American Express among them — to help make their AP departments fully virtual.

As Dutta told PYMNTS, “AP automation helps eliminate this manual paperwork.” With fewer time-consuming tasks and data entry steps required, business leaders can turn their attention to other projects that can help firms grow.

Related: PYMNTS Intelligence: Leveraging AP Automation to Improve Billing Processes

The mix of B2B payments continues to shift away from checks, she told PYMNTS, and there are a growing number of opportunities to innovate on top of existing and evolving payment rails for both buyers and suppliers.

For solution providers, including American Express, she said offering modern, “consumerized and intuitive solutions” that are seamless to implement and use every day will tie together accounts receivable (AR) and AP interactions more closely than ever before.

On the buyer side, Dutta said the increasing adoption of AP-focused automation solutions will drive volumes in commercial cards, along with other forms of electronic payments. For suppliers, there is a growing need to provide visibility, efficient processing and a simple way to close out their books across several payment types and receipts.

While in the past, supplier processes had typically evolved to meet buyers’ demands — and innovation had been skewed to the AP side of the equation — technology is leveling the playing field a bit, Dutta said.

“By tapping into the data that crosses B2B transaction networks,” she told PYMNTS, “we can start to help suppliers get more out of their trading relationships — especially how and when they receive payments.”

The Future of B2B Payments

Looking ahead, we can anticipate growth and innovation centered around efficiency and speed. The increased adoption of technologies like straight through processing and integrated end-to-end AP and AR platforms will generate even greater process and operational efficiencies between buyers and suppliers, she said.

Dutta further added, “The second area I think that’s really important is ease and flexibility. Products will need to meet customer demand for more modern, consumer-like intuitive solutions that are seamless to implement, easy to use day-to day and have the flexibility to support multiple use cases. And, delivered through robust digital experiences.”

“Data and intelligence innovation will be absolutely critical advances in technology to facilitate smarter payment decisions via data-driven, analytical tools like machine learning, as well as intelligent routing and pricing engines,” she told PYMNTS.

See also: B2C Developments Fuel B2B Innovation