If you’re a B2B company, chances are high that you interact directly with a buyer who is part of the purchasing department for his or her company. Such buyers are charged with helping their organizations procure the products and services needed to meet their operational or manufacturing demands.

The purchasing department duties range from finding suppliers that can deliver the materials needed, on time and within budget, negotiate contracts and payment terms, create shopping lists and other resources, place orders, and verify that all orders were correctly delivered and received on time.

The Delicate Supply Chain Balance

The purchasing department plays a vital role for the organization. The group is tasked with predicting and acquiring the right much material needed at any given time to keep the manufacturing or assembly of items for marketing humming along. Order too little and teams and machinery are kept idle; order too much and the company may need to pay to store the excess materials, or even risk spoilage.

For some organizations, like retailers or distributors, the purchasing department must be able to predict what consumers are likely to want and buy in the quarters and seasons ahead and ensure that inventory is received on time. The costs of making a mistake in those predictions are high and may lead to big markdowns and hits on margins (it’s easy to see why buyers have stressful jobs!).

Purchasing departments tend to have a hierarchy of roles, all of which play a vital role in ensuring the supply chain is optimized.

Director of Procurement

The Director of Procurement, sometimes known as the lead buyer, has overall responsibility for the performance of the purchasing department, including its day-to-day operations and operational efficiency (i.e. ensuring the company doesn’t overpay for materials or components and lower profitability).

Depending on the size of the company and the department, the Director of Procurement may very well be the person with whom you negotiate an annual contract.

Deputy Director

As the number two position, the deputy director helps to oversee the daily activities of the department and is likely the person that the buyers come to with questions or for advice.

Senior Buyers

These are the buyers who are charged with buying all of the materials that fuel the supply chain. The onus is on them to order the right amounts, or to predict what customers will want to buy in an upcoming season.

In larger organizations, the senior buyers are likely to be users who actually place orders through your eCommerce site.

Junior Buyers

Junior buyers report to the senior buyers and are responsible for a subset of inventory needs or consumer trends. They may also be charged with evaluating a set of suppliers who can meet their company’s price and delivery requirements.

In many organizations, junior buyers aren’t permitted to place orders; their job is to prep an order for a senior buyer to approve and submit.

No Buyer is an Island

Although every team member has their assigned role, more than any other department the purchasing team works in unison with one another, at times pitching in to help a buyer find needed supplies for a project or creating a purchase list for projects that can be shared with other buyers. The latter is especially true for certain kinds of organizations, such as builders, architects, lighting-design firms, and so on. These buyers will often create a list of materials to complete a certain kind project that will be shared with other buyers and serves as a starting point or reference for future projects.

Similarly, buyers for manufacturers will assemble a bill of materials (BOM), which is a list of the raw materials, sub-assemblies, intermediate assemblies, sub-components, parts, and the quantities the company will need to produce its end products. It’s easy to see why this is a highly skilled position! It is likely that a senior buyer may do the initial assembly of a BOM and share it with multiple junior buyers to use going forward.

While all buyers cooperate with one another, and share resources like project lists and BOMs, that’s not to say that all buyers have equal buying power. Many organizations place a spending threshold for their junior buyers, and some allow them only to assemble an order but require that order to be reviewed and placed by a senior buyer.

What Does This Mean for B2B Ecommerce Sites?

The buying experience for a B2B company is just as important as it is for a B2C brand. Buyers will favor a company that can support their internal operations without a lot of cumbersome workarounds, or worse, emails, phone calls, and delays to request approval and order. For this reason, the BundleB2B app for BigCommerce includes numerous functionalities to support the B2B user account hierarchy that is part and parcel of every purchasing department. For instance, the end customer of a B2B company can set user-based roles and permissions for ordering from your site. This functionality makes it easy for your B2B customers to configure their accounts on your site to conform to their internal operations. BundleB2B will allow your customers to manage their corporate account and set up multiple tiers of buyers who have specific roles and permissions. They can also name a company administrator who is responsible for managing all aspects of the company, addresses, users, approve shopping lists, make purchases, and view the company order history. Additionally, BundleB2B allows your customers to differentiate between senior and junior buyers, where junior buyer activities are limited to creating shopping lists and viewing the company order history, while the senior buyer can do all that as well as approve shopping lists and make the actual purchases. At the end of the day, B2B customers, like consumers everywhere, have a lot of choice when it comes to selecting suppliers for their supply chains. Supporting their user account hierarchy is an important way to distinguish your eCommerce from your competition, and to enhance your customers’ buying experience.
Categories: Blog


Bundle B2B is a SaaS application that offers enterprise level B2B functionality to businesses of all types and sizes. It enables store owners to facilitate their B2B operations online and provide their B2B customers with seamless transactions and convenient self-service account capabilities.