Definition: Accounts Payable (AP), also known as payables, are funds owed by a company to other businesses as a result of purchases of goods and services from them. Online businesses typically process invoices for third party services, but AP can also include bank loans.

When do online businesses use AP Transactions?

Anytime a business obtains goods/services before actually paying for them, a short-term IOU is created, which counts as an AP transaction when finally paid. Some of the most common AP transaction types include:

  • Payroll transactions, including both regular salaries and bonuses
  • One-time service fees to contractors, consultants, and others for specific tasks performed
  • Invoices for new equipment/tools, packaging materials, office supplies, and other goods needed to continue operations
  • Utilities, Internet service, and Web hosting
  • Short-term loans used to expand facilities, launch new products, or to get through an economic downturn
  • Advertising expenses, both online and offline

The Importance of Good AP Management

The great importance of wisely managing accounts payable is clear from the basic fact that there is a time limit within which they must be paid in full to avoid going into default. Another factor is keeping suppliers happy by promptly responding to their inquiries and effectively communicating to them your requests. Finally, there are sometimes opportunities to gain discounts by paying accounts payable significantly far ahead of the due date (say around 45 days or more early).

Accounts Payable for Online Businesses: What You Need to Know

Ecommerce businesses rely on AP loans as much as anyone else, but in ecommerce (and increasingly in brick-and-mortar establishments), automation software has enabled far greater efficiency. Both time and money are saved, first of all, simply by eliminating the need to circulate paper invoices. However, there are other ways that ecommerce AP programs can be beneficial, including:

  • Save time and increase efficiency by automating AP processes on a network platform that integrates the whole procurement-to-pay cycle.
  • Easier access to line-item data invoice status and payment timing take the tediousness out of finding the information you need to make AP-related decisions.
  • Cash and working capital are freed up because there is greater visibility of cash inflow and outflow (both amount and timing). This also makes it more practical to take advantage of discounts that pay far better than the minimal interest banks are paying out at present.
  • Optimized payment processes from effective Accounts Payable management reduces a business' days payable outstanding (DPO), which, in turn, improves a business's reputation with suppliers.

Learn how Accounts Payable can be automated with an ERP: 7 Business Functions Affected by Sales Tax, and How ERP Integration Simplifies Compliance


Bigcommerce is the leading ecommerce platform for growing and mid-market retailers.

Learn more:
1. Visit our commerce blog
2. See our best-in-class features
3. Request a demo


Try Bigcommerce free for 15 days and see what plan is right for you
Start free trial
High-volume or established business? Call for a demo. 1-866-581-4549

Start your free trialHigh-volume or established business? Call for a demo.1-866-581-4549