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What is an order form?
An order form is a type of business document that customers fill out to request goods or services from a supplier. They are most common in the business-to-business (B2B) space and are often used by companies and individuals to make bulk purchases from wholesalers and manufacturers.
That said, they do also appear in other contexts. Some business-to-consumer (B2C) online retailers, for example, use order forms instead of shopping carts and require customers to manually input each item they wish to buy, along with the corresponding quantity.
Are most order forms hosted online?
Nowadays, order forms are usually integrated into web interfaces. Corporate and small business buyers log into a B2B portal and complete an online form, which can be submitted with the click of a button. Often, credit card and payment integrations (with providers like Stripe, Paypal, Authorize.net, etc.) enable customers to make payments digitally immediately after submission.
Integrations with modern inventory management apps add further layers of efficiency to the re-purchasing process by automatically generating and sending customer order forms to suppliers whenever stock levels drop below a predefined amount.
What is an order form used for?
On the buyer side, an order form is a straightforward document that is used to request goods from a business supplier or retailer. On the supplier side, purchase order forms clearly stipulate which items (and in what quantities) make up an order, which customer the order relates to, where it should be sent, and how it should be billed.
Buyers can also use order forms to provide any extra relevant information they want the supplier to be aware of. They are issued by the company providing goods or services (not the customer) and are intended primarily for internal use. As such, entry fields should reflect the needs of the supplier.
What are the benefits of order forms?
Order forms have several benefits for both buyers and suppliers. For corporate customers that regularly purchase large amounts of the same or similar items, order forms provide an easy way to restock inventory. Managers can measure current levels of stock, quickly fill out an order form, and send it to the supplier for immediate processing. With the right tech infrastructure, it’s also possible to automate significant parts of this process.
For suppliers, order forms are useful because they allow for the collection of customer purchase details in an uncomplicated format, with exact specifications and quantities. Suppliers can also use order forms to verify billing and delivery address details, create invoices after an order has been sent, and update their own internal inventory management and parts databases.
Is an order form the same as an invoice or shopping cart?
Order forms are not the same as either invoices or shopping carts. An invoice, or payment request, is sent after an order has been processed. It usually includes a line-by-line summary of the whole purchase along with instructions for payment and wholesaler or manufacturer bank account details.
A shopping cart automatically updates whenever a buyer selects products from an ecommerce store’s product pages, usually by clicking an “Add to Cart” button. On the pre-checkout page, the customer reviews their cart before selecting from payment options and entering delivery details. Shopping carts are software solutions (as opposed to forms) that integrate with popular payment gateways and ecommerce platforms.
Order forms, on the other hand, have to be filled out manually and require customers to input specific item names or codes and the desired quantities of each item. With online order forms, customers may be able to select items from dropdown menus.
While shopping carts are much more common than order forms when it comes to consumer-facing online stores, some businesses do opt for them. Restaurants and food delivery services, for example, may use online order forms, where customers can specify quantities for items on a menu.
What should an order form include?
Order forms are unique to each business, and suppliers should include any fields that they deem relevant. Generally speaking, order request forms include the following form fields:
- Date – By including a date, customers enable suppliers to schedule orders for processing in the right sequence. They are also useful for the accounting department when creating invoices.
- Customer contact details – A customer’s contact information, such as their address, phone number, email, etc., is essential for obvious reasons. Suppliers will likely want to tie orders to existing customer accounts and may wish to apply discretionary discounts and use existing payment information.
- Item name, specification, product number, pricing, and quantity – All order forms should include two separate fields – one for the item identifier (usually a name or number) and one for the amount. It may also be necessary to ask for information like model numbers or customizable specifications (these specifications may be listed with checkboxes for customers to mark). Individual pricing, total amount, and discount information may also be required.
- Delivery details – Customers use the delivery details section to tell the supplier where to send goods.
- Additional information – It is good practice to include a section for any further details that a customer considers important. Often, customers will specify additional delivery information.
- Signature – As order forms can be useful in a legal context, especially if a customer disputes an invoice, it is good practice to ask for a signature.
Nowadays, most order forms are hosted online and are compatible with digital payment methods. If you’re still relying on “pen-and-ink” documents, then transitioning to a digital alternative that allows for online payments and card payments will almost certainly save you significant amounts of time and money.
Should you use a template to draft your order forms?
Order forms tend to be relatively straightforward documents. Because your company likely requires multiple simple order form variations, often with only minor differences for different customers and product categories, using an order form template is a good idea.
Download the template provided by PandaDoc to get started. It’s fully customizable and includes a wide array of fields, including a space for customer signatures. You can also use our intuitive drag-and-drop order form builder to accept payments, streamline your approval workflow, and access even more customization options.