There is no easy answer to this question. Looking at simple definitions on Wikipedia, all three are forms of Electronic Billing and the definitions are just confusing or unclear to readers.

So, here’s how we describe them:

eBills

In simple terms an eBill is the electronic representation of a printed bill. Either presented online or sent to the customer via email rather than via the post. The format of the document is likely to be Adobe (PDF), Microsoft Excel (XLS) or similar and treated in the same way as a paper bill. The customer enters the information into their purchase ledgers as they would normally, therefore adoption levels are high.

The cost of implementing eBills is lower than printed and posted bills. In the case of ‘push’ models – eBills sent via email – the customer receives their bill faster, often pays quicker and no processes are altered.

For most B2C companies sending eBills is already standard procedure but B2B’s are catching up fast.

eInvoices

eInvoices are sent to the customer as a raw data attachment. The data is presented in a file (typically XML or CSV) and there is no other formatting. When the file is received by the customer, they can import it into their finance application.

eInvoices are more expensive to set up than eBills, because you have to know which format to export in, as well as how your customer will import it. There are aggregators that have standard import and export formats, but you still have to do the export and the customer still has to import the data. However, once this ‘one time’ setup is complete, the subsequent processes are much faster. Data integrity is guaranteed and there is less operator input required.

Customers may still require a printed copy of the invoice – there could also be governmental or compliance requirements to do so. As a result many companies send both eBills and eInvoices to their customers.

EDI

Electronic Data Interchange is a method by which both you and your customer transfer actual data between two programs. There is no file transfer, just pure data connected directly to each other or through an aggregator like OB10.

EDI programs can be expensive to build, they require development by you and your customers. Not all of your customers will have the means or the intention to create an EDI interface. Extensive programming knowledge is required, unless you’re lucky enough to have programs with built in API’s.

Which to choose?

The 80/20 rule applies here as the majority of your customers will be able to work easily with eBills delivered via email. This is because there is no change to their billing processes.

Both eInvoices and EDI are factored within the remaining 20% of your customers with eInvoices being the easier of the two to implement.

EDI requires expensive programming and is often used by the largest of your customers. It is likely they will already have the programming skills or the relationships with an existing aggregator to make it work.

Still unsure which electronic billing solution is best suited for your business? Let’s chat through your requirements…