Rebates can be a powerful tool for driving growth and developing strategic trading relationships, no matter which side of the deal your business falls on. Learning to understand business rebates from both perspectives – supplier and customer – may yield valuable insights that can inform and improve your B2B rebate strategy, allowing you to craft a more thoughtful and well-rounded approach that benefits both your business and your trading partners.
As many wearied finance teams can attest, rebates can get complicated rather quickly. As rebate agreements are tailored to business goals, they become more layered and complex, introducing new points of ambiguity and complication that must be ironed out. Huge profits rest on a customer’s understanding of and adherence to every part of these intricate deals; needless to say, handling time-sensitive and intricate rebate deals with so much at stake puts an enormous amount of pressure on rebate accountants and finance teams.
When engaging in supplier rebates, it’s critical that you understand every word of the deals you’re agreeing to, lest you end up losing out on rebate earnings and leaving significant profits on the table. For some companies, rebate profits can make up a majority of the bottom line – under these circumstances, simple misunderstandings can result in major losses. In the age of digital collaboration, it’s essential to ensure that your team and trading partners are always speaking the same language when it comes to rebates. There is no room for ambiguity or confusion in our shared terminology with millions of dollars at stake.
What are Supplier Rebates?
At a basic level, a rebate is an arrangement in which suppliers agree to return a portion of a purchase price to customers if they buy a specified value of products within an allotted period. Many rebates feature additional requirements or layers of specificity suited to the supplier’s goals. Rebates differ from discounts and coupons in a few distinct ways, namely in that the savings occur after the sale and the purchases are made at full price.
Supplier rebates and customer rebates are two sides to the same coin. The distinction between the two is simple: it’s a matter of perspective. Rebates are only paid in one direction – from the supplier to the customer – and your POV determines which side you’ll be managing. If you are a customer receiving rebates from a supplier, you’re engaging in supplier rebates. If you’re a supplier paying rebates to customers, you’re engaging in customer rebates.
No matter which side of the coin you fall on, it’s important to understand how the whole rebate process fits together. Both sides must know how to understand, accurately track and share the data in their deals. This is critical for suppliers hoping to avoid overpaying on rebates and customers hoping to avoid underclaiming rebates.
What are the Differences Between Supplier and Customer Rebates?
Customers and suppliers share several common responsibilities when it comes to rebate management, but each side ultimately bears its own priorities and concerns. Some of the central concerns for finance teams managing supplier rebates include ensuring all rebates have been claimed, making strategic purchasing decisions to maximize rebate earnings and ensuring all data is accurate and auditable to back up rebate claims. In the event of a dispute, you’ll want a clear paper trail showing that your purchases were made in accordance with the terms of the rebate agreement in order to prove your claim and collect your rightful earnings.
Rebate agreements can be beneficial to businesses on either end of the supply chain (and anywhere in between). Customers get better deals on the products they buy while suppliers incentivize customer loyalty. However, many rebate deals are more complex than simple percentage returns on purchases in a single product line. Rebates often involve multiple parties, specific purchase parameters and mountains of data to manage, which can quickly become quite cumbersome for finance teams to keep up with.
What else do I need to know about Managing Supplier Rebates?
While many businesses typically only engage in one type of rebates (either supplier or customer), some businesses – especially merchants and retailers – can find benefits in both. Managing supplier rebates and customer rebates at the same time can feel like trying to look at both sides of a coin at once (if you don’t have a coin handy, trust us – you can’t). Many businesses, being neither the producer nor end-user of the products they sell, find themselves in this position. Keeping up with the intricacies of both supplier and customer rebates is enough to keep a rebate accountant’s head spinning.
This is why many businesses – whether they deal in supplier rebates, customer rebates or both – choose to implement a rebate management system.
As specific stipulations are added, individual rebate agreements can become very intricate; some vendors require specific product mixes, specific delivery or pickup locations, purchases of one product to earn rebate on another and other layers of complexity. It is even common for rebates to involve third-party sellers through which the purchases are made, with no direct sales between the customer collecting the rebate and the manufacturer paying it.
Gathering data for these agreements may require a few extra steps to collect from the retailer and calculate for the customer, making data transparency and collaboration essential parts of any rebate strategy (and vital functions of any rebate management software).
A few Reminders Regarding Supplier Rebate Management
Managing rebates can be a source of stress on either side of the coin, but fortunately supplier rebates are only as complicated as you need them to be to motivate customer purchases – whether that means implementing a flat percentage rebate structure, a tiered structure or special stocking rebates. Customer rebates typically entail greater obligations and layers of complexity that supplier rebates don’t have, but that doesn’t mean that managing supplier rebates should be undertaken with any less diligence. When it comes to your company’s bottom line, you don’t want to miss out on opportunities to increase your profit margins and maximize your returns. Rebates can be a powerful engine for strategic growth for companies that know how to manage them or employ the right software.
Take your B2B Rebate Strategy to the next level with Enable
No matter where you stand in the rebate ecosystem, taking a step back to understand how the whole puzzle fits together can provide an invaluable perspective, allowing your team to make more informed decisions about your business’ rebate strategy.
If you choose to implement rebate management software, first ensure that it provides you with the functionality you need to track and manage your deals’ many moving parts. All deals are different, and your rebate management software should be able to account for any layer of complexity you may encounter.
Interested in tackling supplier rebates? Enable can help. Get a demo of our rebate management software today.