Is this the case with your current supplier: Minimum order: 1’000 CHF, Delivery time: 4-8 weeks ? Well, this will change very quickly thanks to Amazon.
Many times I just shake my head when I see what some suppliers allow themselves. Do they really try to avoid sales?
Minimum order volume
Small order fees
Expensive shipping fees
Long delivery times
5 days after the order placement you find out some of the items are not deliverable (at the order moment, you have no clue about the quantity in stock or even the price)
You have to fill out forms to make the purchase
Well, this will change very soon, both for direct and indirect materials. When you as a purchaser in a small or medium sized company get used to as soon as one product is sold, you can order a new one, it will be hard to change. It is also very easy to automise. Like the book stores, when you buy a book, they scan it, and a order is placed, so that sold book can be replaced in a couple of days.
One of the main drivers for this development will be Amazon, mainly through services called Amazon Business and AmazonSupply. Without increasing prices for small orders, they can deliver what companies need, relatively fast, and reliable.
This is for you as a sales person / manager for a supplier to online shops. Most of the points are kind of basic, but if you as a supplier manage to fulfil most of them you will be a stellar supplier outperforming your competitors. This post is based on my own experience as a purchaser for consumer goods for online shops.
Transparency: Keep me updated on what is happening with my orders. Is the delivery underway? Are there any delays? Are some items not on stock, and must delivered later? Let me decide if I would like to wait for all to be in one delivery or to split the order. It is much better to know what is happening – then I can give my customers correct information and save trouble. Also let me know in advance when you are on holidays or “team development events”, so that I can plan my purchasing after your schedule. (Secret hint: Keep a couple of people in the office to get at least some work done, when everyone else is in a hotel talking strategy and team building).
Make a notification of discontinued products: are certain products not longer produced, and will sell out in coming weeks or months? If the product is good and well known in the market I will buy it directly. The fear that no one likes to buy an “old” product is wrong.
Is a sold out product available again? Let me know. I do not need a fancy designed pdf newsletter with some words from your CEO once a year, only a short text email with useful information. And please send me as many emails you like, but only one topic per email. I know how to delete emails quickly, if I am not interested. To save time, make an email address group of your customers.
Keep the prices fair – just because I bought from you for 10 years, does not mean that I do not get upset when discovering that new customers pay 25% less. So much for “partnership”. And avoid 12 page contracts that your lawyer wrote so that you have no risks whatever happens.
Make sure to get the message thru to your logistics team that they should pack the deliveries really really really well. It is extremely annoying to receive broken products or packaging and I will keep you as my sales person responsible for it, even if you blame other parts of your organisation. The packaging will break sometimes even if you pack well. Keep some extra product boxes in stock for me, that you can send with the next delivery. Also spare parts for your products (including discontinued products) are highly appreciated.
If you have products with problems, let me know. I will be much less happy to have my customers discovering the weaknesses.
Send a correct original invoice, in a separate letter to the invoice address, with complete bank account information attached (if the bank information do not fit to your corporate design, add another page). Many times the shippers or customs remove all the documents. And why should all invoices be marked “pro forma” or “copy”, so that they are useless for tax reasons? The invoices are there for two reasons: for me to be able to pay, and for the tax declaration. So stop focussing on marketing messages and branding on the invoices, even if it is tempting. Running after invoices or missing information is not adding happiness to my supplier relation. Same here as with the logistics, you are my contact, so I will keep you responsible for the invoices.
Inform about price changes (both up and down) in advance, so that planning is possible.
Do not sell directly to our customers, especially not to a lower price than we get from you. And I will be disappointed if your list prices are not connected to your products’ market prices.
Quickly deal with warranty cases in a generous way. I already built up enough bad energy on the broken product to be prepared to end the supplier relationship immediately if you try to avoid any claims.
Include one user manual with all the languages I need. Not 14 different language flyers with different content, where I need to check each box to see what is in there in reality. And please make it possible for our customers to understand your user manual.
Have your product name, item number, and EAN number big and visible on at least 3 sides of the product packaging (6 sides would be perfect). Your product is then easier to store and find in the warehouse.
2015 was a tough year for many Swiss online shops. First the 20% increase of the Swiss franc compared to the euro, with falling prices as a result. Then the Amazon decision to ship most packages to Switzerland without shipping fees.
2016 will probably not be better. So what to do? In addition to the normal productivity steps: save where you can, slimming the product offering, find new niche products etc, there is untapped potential in exports for most shops. Especially to markets outside Europe. And Swiss companies have several advantages, one being used to deal with customers in multiple languages.
Step 3: Make a detailed investigation of the target country and test
When you found your potential target markets, it makes sense to get in touch with the consultants of Switzerland Global Enterprise to make a more thorough check of specific trading and legal challenges.
If your products are not too expensive, the best way to learn is simply to make a couple of targeted campaigns and sell a few items to the target market and see where the challenges occur.