Private: Innovation In Procurement Toolkit
Private: Guide To Market Engagement

Setting Up a Supplier Database Using Airtable


What is it?


This guidance will teach you how to set up a webform which links to a database to capture inbound engagement from suppliers. A webform like this can easily be embedded into your borough’s website, and act as the portal for suppliers to engage with the borough. We have set up a live demo here, for you to see how the form feeds into the database. If you fill in the form (you can use fictitious information), and refresh this page, you will see that the information you filled into the form appears as a new entry in the database below.

Once you have set up your own database, this is what the backend will look like for you. You can expand records to view the supplier information as a card by clicking the expand icon which pops up when you hover over the supplier name. We have grouped the suppliers in this list by service area, but as we explain below, you can customise how you sort, group and display suppliers in the database.

[insert table]

How should you do it?


Step 1: Register Account

Set up an Airtable account, and create a new empty base. An empty base will look like this:

Step 2: Define and customise your information fields

Each column on Airtable captures one class of information. The drop down arrow at the top of each column allows you to choose and name the class of information that will be entered into that field. This is how you create and customise fields:

It is up to you to choose what class of information you want to capture in each field, but as a beginners guide we suggest the following (the information in brackets indicates the appropriate type of field):

  • Company Name (Single Line Text)
  • Website (URL)
  • Description (Long Text)
  • Point of Contact (Single Line Text)
  • Contact Email (Email)
  • Country (Single Line Text)
  • City (Single Line Text)
  • Company Size (Single Select From Menu): 1-10; 11-50; 51-100; 101-500; >500
  • Service Area (Multiple Select): eg. Housing; Education; Adult Social Care
  • Technology (Single Line Text): eg. Chatbot; Cloud Services; Wearables
  • Frameworks (Single Line Text): eg. G-Cloud 11; DOS
  • Pitch Deck (Attachment)
  • Compliance (Multiple Select): eg. Cyber Essentials; ISO 27001; IASME
  • APIs (Long Text)
  • London Boroughs (Single Line Text): eg. Camden; Tower Hamlets; Greenwich
  • Preferred Supplier (Checkbox)

For selection fields where suppliers can choose either one or multiple options, you need to exhaustively list the option you want the supplier to choose from – when you link the base to the form in the next step, suppliers will not be able to add new options. For information such as Country and City, though you could set the field as a single or multiple select field, it would be unnecessarily time consuming to list all countries and cities of interest. However, for categories such as company size, compliance and service area, it may be worth listing these exhaustively as it will make it easier for you to group, search and filter suppliers.

Step 3: Manually Add Suppliers (Optional)

Once you have set up your base with these fields, you can manually add a supplier as follows (all information used in the demo is fictitious):

If your borough keeps a list of preferred suppliers, we suggest you add them to the base and mark them as a preferred supplier.

Step 4: Connect Your Base To A Form

To connect a form to your base, navigate to the ‘view’ menu on the left hand side and create a new view:

Airtable will automatically create fields in the form that correspond to the columns in your base. You can drag, drop and remove additional fields. You can rename fields, set required fields, and add descriptive or explanatory information to guide suppliers in filling information (see the live demo above). Additionally, if you upgrade to Airtable premium you can add your logo, branding and further customisation.

Step 5: Embed The Form on Your Website

To embed the form on your website, simple click the share view button and select embed. This will open up a new webpage where you can copy the code, adjust the content height, and preview the form for mobile and desktop. Once your form is live, any information filled in and submitted by suppliers will automatically be filled into your base.

Step 6: Sorting, Filtering and Grouping Suppliers

Airtable allows you to sort, filter and group information fields in the base, making it easy to find the information you’re looking for. In the video below, we show you how to:

  1. Sort suppliers alphabetically by country
  2. Filter for suppliers in London
  3. Group suppliers by service area
  4. Search for a keyword, in this case IoT

For more information on how to use Airtable functions to optimise your database usage, check out their tutorial.