Mar 13, 2024 | Trends and Research

What is cXML? Explained In 4 Quick Points

Mar 13, 2024 | Trends and Research

cXML is one of the languages that faciliates the transaction between buyer and seller systems. It derives its name from the XML standard and the “c” refers to commerce. cXML allows buyers and sellers to communicate purchase orders, invoices, and advanced shipment notices in a digital fashion. In the 1990’s online procurement or “eProcurement” had begun to take off and cXML became one of the preferred languages for buyer and seller systems to communicate. Punchout Catalogs use cXML among other languages such as OCI and xCBL to simplify B2B marketplaces.

How do Punchout Catalogs use cXML?

The first thing that happens to initate a connection between buyer and seller is called a punchout setup request. The punchout setup request is sent from the buyer’s eProcurement system to a punchout gateway that translates the request, validates the user credentials, and logs them into the seller’s Punchout store. Once in the buyer is successfully logged in, they are free to shop the catalog and build a cart.

After adding all desired items to the cart, they will begin the checkout process. This is where cXML and the Punchout process provide most of the value. Instead of a normal checkout process, the cart items are returned to the buyer’s eProcurement system via cXML. In the eProcurement system, the buyer will go through all internal approval processes before a purchase order is sent back to the supplier, again via cXML.

What happens after the Purchase Order is sent?

The seller will receive a purchase order that passes through the Punchout gateway. The seller will then be able to deliver on the items ordered and communicate back to the buyer using cXML. Advanced Shipment notices and Invoices can also be sent back to the buyer all through cXML. cXML and Punchout Catalogs allow two systems that are otherwise incompatible, send and receive documents.

Let’s think about a real world example:

Martha works in the purchasing department of XYZ Inc. XYZ utilizes Ariba’s eProcurement software to manage indirect spend and facilitate B2B purchasing. ABC Inc. sells office supplies and has a contract with XYZ to provide items at a discounted price. Because XYZ wants all purchasing managers to buy the discounted items, they require ABC to be Punchout-enabled and listed as a preferred supplier in their Ariba eProcurement system. The PunchOut Catalog connection that is set up between Ariba and the supplier’s ecommerce site is based on cXML.


When Martha wants to purchase office supplies for XYZ she logs into Ariba and selects to shop the ABC catalog. Behind the scenes, Martha is generating a “cXML Punchout Setup Request” and her user credentials are being verified via the Punchout Gateway. Once she is granted access to the catalog, she will be able to add items/services to the cart at the contract price.

When Martha goes to checkout, her cart items are transferred back to Ariba via cXML. Angela, Martha’s manager, is then able to approve the cart items for purchase in Ariba. Once the approval process is complete, a purchase order is sent to ABC, again via cXML. ABC will then ship items to XYZ and communicate advanced shipment notices (ASNs) and invoices using cXML and a PunchOut Gateway.

So what are the benefits of cXML and Punchout?

cXML allows customers to use eProcurement systems to track and manage their indirect spend, while at the same time making B2B commerce easier for the supplier. Punchout ensures that purchasing managers are always buying on contract and that the necessary approval process is being utilized. At the same time, suppliers can set themselves apart from their competitors by becoming the preferred “Punchout-enabled” supplier for their large accounts.

Interested in testing your cXML connection?

Try out our cXML Simulator!


If you have a cXML connection set up to your ecommerce site, test it out using our simulator. Not sure what you need to test the connection or how to do it? Reach out to our friendly team via our contact page and we can walk you through the process!


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