B2C AP Accounting: Exposing Problems & Delivering Solutions

Here is the simple reason why — B2C businesses succeed by selling current and new products and services to existing customers, and then, they sell to those...
Written by:  Allison Reich
Last Updated:  April 16, 2024

B2C business success brings its own headaches.

Here is the simple reason why — B2C businesses succeed by selling current and new products and services to existing customers, and then,  they sell to those customers more often. B2C businesses will also acquire new customers, and then repeat the whole process over again.
Having more customer orders means ordering more supplies from current and new vendors, and that is what causes headaches for many businesses. COVID-19 has made it worse. More people are working remotely, teams are introducing new monitoring and checking procedures, and flaws are coming to light. Managing the increased orders and deliveries leads to workload problems because much of it is not standardized and the work is done manually. Your team must then process everything through the accounting system.

The entire accounts payable (AP) process has been in place forever. It is often cumbersome, flawed, inefficient, and leads to dislocations in supplier relationships. In this article, we will discuss:

  1. The accounts payable system, its shortcomings, and how to fix them.
  2. How fixing problems is not just about making some improvements.
  3. Specific and measurable benefits to changing the way AP accounting is done and how the AP department works.

Accounts Payable shortfalls

Staying on top of your accounts payable accounting system is essential. Non-standardized and inaccurate purchase order processing, inaccurate bookkeeping, and imperfect account balances all create problems for the accounts payable department and the C-suite (once the company's general ledger and balance sheet are produced), as well as for suppliers. Late, missed, or short payments caused by those inaccuracies can damage vendor relationships because payment terms are not met. It also generates inaccurate financial statements for the FD and CFO, which negatively affects cash flow and, usually, adds burdens to AP accounting team members' already heavy workload. This then impacts productive workflow and encourages more errors.

In the age of COVID-19, B2C business employees are already under stress from worry, staff absences, potential illness, home-schooling demands, family emotions, and so on. Those problems and performance shortfalls escalate.

When they are working in isolation or as part of a skeleton crew, errors can increase. This wastes time and money and strains vendor relationships.

AP accounting success

Managing AP accounting well has the opposite effect:

  1. Vendor relationships improve.
  2. Staff workload goes down.
  3. Morale stays high.
  4. Costs go down.
  5. Liquidity improves.
  6. You get ahead of competitors who are not on top of everything.
  7. Your profits rise.

In B2C accounts payable accounting, the ordering process tends to operate differently across each outlet, studio, store, or restaurant. In addition, if all truth lies in the balance sheet, you sow the seeds in the accounts receivable and accounts payable accounting functions.

hidden ap risks

The Hidden Risks Behind Your AP Balance Sheet (Some Will Surprise You)

If your company’s balance sheet is not portraying an accurate picture, you’re shooting in the dark. Download the ebook to learn how to avoid this lethal pitfall.

Download the ebook

The AP accounting cycle

Accounts payable is based on the expenditure and purchasing cycle. This, in turn, is part of the overall procurement to payment process (P2P). The steps include:

1. Customers place orders

These may be regular orders for in-stock items and services or included in regular delivery schedules. Consumer orders may be poorly explained (especially if done over the phone or by text) or may need to be corrected. Also, what could have been a bulk order often comes in parts. Servicing those orders requires that direct materials are available to meet known and expected customer demand. It also requires other items such as equipment, cleaning supplies, and office supplies.

2. You place orders with vendors

To meet display, production, customer use, or factoring demands, managers and other individuals in each outlet place purchase orders directly with vendors. Separate ordering systems develop, even if the vendor supplies other outlets Quite often, so do separate order- and delivery-monitoring systems. Vendors then deliver, often to separate sites or to one site for subsequent internal distribution to separate departments within the site.

3. Received deliveries trigger internal controls

Deliveries trigger internal controls, which result in delivery documentation receipts or vouchers. These are checked for accuracy against the original purchase order paperwork. The paperwork is then either passed for processing, or the vendor is contacted to check details or correct any errors.
Once delivery details are approved, vendor invoices are received and checked against delivery records. They are then passed to the AP accounting team for processing. Again, if discrepancies are noticed, then internal checks are made and the vendor is contacted to solve errors.

4. Documents receive approval and enter the system

After documents receive approval, AP accounting team members input invoices to the vendors' accounts as ready for payment. A single invoice for multiple deliveries, or situations in which items in a single delivery are allocated to different sites or functions, will then be analyzed and costs allocated accordingly to generate management accounts. In many B2C businesses, there are additional internal analyses and controls, all of which add to the pressure people feel.

5. Payments are scheduled and made

Unpaid invoices form part of current liabilities. So payment schedules must be prepared and approved. The purchase ledger balance includes trade payables and forms part of the liability account (which includes utilities, bank interest, etc.). Payments are then made according to the internal protocols and current liquidity.

How different B2C businesses handle AP accounting

Accounts payable accounting processes are detailed, complex, and time-consuming. Some businesses automate the entire cycle, while others process some of it manually and integrate those parts with automated financial accounting practices later in the cycle. Managing individual orders, monitoring each vendor's shipments and deliveries, handling paper invoices, and paying vendors by check is also how many B2C businesses operate now. It’s also how they see their future.

The inefficiencies systemic in accounts payable have grown because of COVID-19 lockdowns, social distancing, and basic human stress. There is a better way, and the pandemic can be the match that lights the fire of change.

hidden ap risks

The Hidden Risks Behind Your AP Balance Sheet (Some Will Surprise You)

If your company’s balance sheet is not portraying an accurate picture, you’re shooting in the dark. Download the ebook to learn how to avoid this lethal pitfall.

Download the ebook

The fire of change for AP accounting

Successful businesses approach AP accounting as an integral part of the entire process, from ordering through to the paying cycle. Integrating and automating delivers real results. It begins with ordering via a centralized and controlled system. It then moves on to monitoring logistics, managing physical deliveries, and handling delivery and purchase records. Then, accounting for those purchases continues through to payment scheduling and to final payment.

This complete-cycle system generates a level of efficiency and accuracy that a traditional ordering and accounting system cannot. This comprehensive approach is, as we have said, called "Procurement-to-Pay" or P2P.

The result of introducing a full P2P system is that the time spent processing all those records goes down — and accuracy goes up. Costs go down, internal efficiencies rise, vendor relationships improve, and the net result is greater profitability. You also gain the real ability to increase your business's marketplace footprint without all the on-the-ground stress too many people are currently living under.

Customers may still place orders in their old, inefficient ways. But the time saved on P2P and AP accounting can improve the customer experience by introducing methods to raise their game. More time can go into assessing customer profitability so you can let the costly and unprofitable ones go. This enables systems to be put in place to coach the profitable customers to place their orders in ways that benefit them, your business, and your staff.

The practical benefits of fully automated and integrated AP accounting

It is easy to talk about increased efficiency and lower costs, but where do they show themselves? Consider these two different B2C examples, one in Japan and one in the United States. 
MINISO Is a retail business with 33 locations selling beauty supplies, household items, and fashion accessories. By introducing a consolidated vendor order and invoicing system, the process became streamlined, managers became more conscious of expenditure, and their hands-on involvement increased. Apart from obvious efficiencies, everyone saw better control, more staff involvement, and a feeling of empowerment. This boosted morale and created a real sense of camaraderie.

[solidcore] is a health and wellness business. It originally had 25 locations. By automating its AP accounting process, it then expanded to 50 locations. The company saved approximately 356 labor hours a month by not having to manage and reconcile separate purchase orders placed independently by studio managers operating their own accounts with common suppliers.

These two examples show that — by centralizing purchase orders and logistics management, and by automating accounts payable — real savings are there for the taking. It is much easier for individual staff members to contact a central hub online to place orders, check progress, and monitor processing using appropriate accounting software than for them all to do it separately and with no comprehensive standards to work to. Having all of that managed and controlled for them doesn't just relieve pressure. It also reduces the stresses associated with operating in lockdown isolation and eases the feeling of "it is all on my shoulders."

Delivering the solutions

Accounts payable accounting has always been bound up in complex inefficiencies. The way COVID-19 impacted businesses and team members made those inefficiencies worse. It was easier for many businesses to hunker down and hope.

There is an old adage in business, "Winners make it happen. Losers let it happen." Making AP accounting happen in ways that deliver worthwhile savings, greater efficiencies, greater accuracy, and better vendor relationships make financial planning easier and more certain. It also helps raise team member morale. Your marketplace footprint grows, and competitors are left behind.
In summary, when you link your AP accounting with Order.co's purchasing process — coupled with integrated payments and consolidated billing — you will:

  1. Simplify your purchase order and AP accounting process.
  2. Lose the traditional AP processes problems.
  3. Shorten the whole accounts payable cycle.
  4. Increase control over orders, supplies, the company's cash, payments, and reconciliation processes.
  5. Lower operating costs and improve vendor relationships.
  6. Boost team member morale.

Order.co's platform excels in maximizing the benefits of effective order processing and accounts payable systems. Request a free demo to learn more about how your business can remove AP processing problems and get the benefits. We look forward to working with you.

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