If you’re keen to launch an online store in time for Christmas or to start one in the New Year, you undoubtedly have all sorts of tasks on your to-do list to handle.
One of the most crucial and urgent things to do is source enough suppliers to help you stock your store, whether you plan to dropship or purchase goods upfront and hold inventory on-hand yourself.
This process can be daunting, though. Even though there are thousands of suppliers to choose from, knowing which ones to pick and how to work with them is not as simple as it might seem. You can follow a few tips to help you along the way.
Get Clear on Your Business USP
You must first get clear on your venture’s unique selling proposition (USP). This term refers to the point of difference that your business has to set itself apart from its competition. To determine this, if you’re unsure, think about the niche you want your online store to fill in the market or your brand’s positioning.
What do you want consumers to expect from your store when they shop with you? Do you want to sell some particular types of goods that people can’t find elsewhere? Perhaps you’ll have business values you abide by or a way of selling or marketing your wares that’s a bit different. No matter what your USP may be, knowing this point of difference will help you better understand which suppliers will align with these factors and which won’t as you examine the various options available to you.
Research Shortlisted Options
Once you have a shortlist of potential suppliers you want to investigate further, it’s time to read up on a bunch of testimonials and reviews about each. You need to pick reliable, trustworthy suppliers who will provide you with consistently high-quality goods so you don’t disappoint your customers. Researching feedback from other clients will help you to see which ones seem to be able to deliver on this over others.
Also, look at forums, social media pages, websites, magazine articles, blogs, and other assets for feedback that might help you narrow down your shortlist further. In addition, you might chat with other store owners and buyers at tradeshows, conferences, and other events to get some insights on suppliers or chat with family and friends about goods they may have received from some of these companies over the years and what the quality was like.
Another critical part of your vendor risk management process should be looking at products in person before you commit to any big orders. Ask suppliers if they can provide you with one or more samples or visit their stalls at tradeshows or other spots to see wares first-hand. Items can seem good online, but what you or customers receive when they’re shipped can be very different. As such, this quality control aspect is vital.
Evaluate Prices Along with Other Factors
Next, carefully evaluate the prices different suppliers offer and examine various other factors. The base cost of goods will matter greatly, but these numbers don’t give the whole picture. Instead, you need to find out about shipping costs, whether items are returnable if you or customers aren’t happy with them, if there is a warranty included, insurance on shipments, or extra charges for using particular types of payment options or ordering systems.
Ask, too, about the level of product companies can supply. If your eCommerce store grows exponentially and you need to start ordering in large numbers, you need to feel secure that suppliers can scale their operations if needed to satisfy the demand. Furthermore, see if those on your shortlist are quick with deliveries, flexible with payment terms and order numbers, and will respond promptly to your queries and other communications.
Pay Suppliers on Time
Lastly, if you want to work well with suppliers over the years, you must build good relationships with them. One fundamental way to do this is to pay them on time. Paying people in full, on time, each time you order will show them that you’re good to deal with and can be trusted. In turn, they’re more likely to inform you about new products first when they release them, help you with quick shipments, and negotiate on payment terms and conditions.
They’re also sure to be more open to giving you a little extra time to pay bills here and there past the due date if you’re struggling with cash flow and have shown yourself to be a consistent payer in general. If you do have worries about making payments at any stage, let suppliers know ASAP so they understand your position.
They might be willing to extend the due date for that invoice or give you a payment plan if needed. Being upfront will help you keep a relationship healthy and pay off in many ways long term.
Regardless of what you sell and to whom, it’s vital to find and work effectively with suppliers if you want your online store to be a success. Be proactive and strategic to make this happen today and into the future.