Strengthening Vendor Relationships: 4 Tips Retailers Need to Know

Cultivating strong business partnerships with your solution providers is paramount to running a successful and profitable retail business. As we move further into 2018, an increasing amount of retail operations are centered on facilitating an enjoyable and consistent omnichannel shopping experience for customers… as well as building relationships with the vendors whose technological solutions can help retailers build and maintain a seamless omnichannel presence.

Keeping this in mind, when entering a business relationship with a solution provider, it is important to choose a partner with the potential for long-term collaboration. Building a strong and lasting relationship with solution providers has a variety of advantages – including first access to educational resources they offer, product updates with minimal or even zero costs associated and fast response times to service inquiries and other operational questions. The catch up, of course, is creating a partnership that fulfills your company’s needs while also delivering on the solutions you need to effectively operate your business.  

Before you can create a lasting partnership with any particular service provider, you must first determine which potential business partner is best equipped to meet your goals. To help, consider the following important factors before embarking on a new client/vendor relationship.


1. Agree on terms of partnership

When aiming to understand any specifics of a partnership, it is essential to have a written agreement ensuring that your company and the vendor in question have the same expectations for the terms of your relationship. Many factors of the client/vendor relationship fluctuate depending on the beginning expectations of both parties, as well as it’s important to identify what operational risks and other variables may exist that could include inaccurate orders, late shipments and faulty products. Review and confirm specific expectations with your service provider before you begin your business partnership – including the identification of any limitations of external partners they may have in combination with their services. These key details can help you not only make decisions on what vendors you may or may not want to work with, but can also enlighten you on the company’s benefits at large. In addition, consider partnering with a comprehensive multi-platform service provider such as Brightpearl, which comes with a pre-vetted list of partners offering a wide range of solutions to service all of your business’s operational needs.


2. Request product education

Content is a key point of differentiation for retailers of all sizes. In fact, whether you are a brick and mortar retailer or sell exclusively online, there is value to providing product information through quality content that includes helping to retain customers and attract new ones. This means that unless your company is equipped to take your own product photos, write your own image descriptions or create social media content to promote your inventory, a certain level of product education should be included in the contracts you sign with your inventory vendors. If you are in need of assistance in identifying and promoting key selling points for your company or its products, ecommerce brand development platform, EYStudios, has certified ecommerce experts to help. The main takeaway here? You want the inventory you sell to stand out among your competition – and to help, both written and visual content can do this.


3. Consolidate your VRM

We often talk about CRM (customer relationship management) when discussing how to facilitate a company’s retail operations. Yet in many of these conversations we fail to acknowledge how technology can also play a key role in selecting and maintaining your relationships with vendors or business partners. Your VRM (vendor relationship management) system is just as important as your customer relationship management system – and it has the same opportunity to be consolidated and simplified through automation. To maintain positive relationships with vendors, you need total supply chain visibility to enable you to locate the source of errors and immediately address them when they occur, as well as to track orders throughout every touchpoint in the delivery process. Brightpearl offers retailers a comprehensive omnichannel purchase order management solution to automatically track inventory and sales, as well as to build better vendor relationships through complete supply chain transparency. This transparency, as it turns out, is an ideal goal to meet when looking to ease your vendor relationships in 2018 and beyond.


4. Assess the potential for data utilization

Data-based analytics should be a leading factor in determining the specific capabilities which your company needs from a potential vendor, as well as providing an indisputable framework to assess your existing business partnerships. Metrics such as a vendor’s delivery error rate, the size and the frequency of orders they place and the consistency of service you receive from a vendor can give you valuable insight as to whether a particular relationship is beneficial for your company or not. Plus, this same data can help you identify wheher it is time to start researching other options. Additionally, factoring analytical data into your business partnerships can help you gain a deeper understanding of your company’s needs so that you can approach negotiations with clear-cut, measurable standards and expectations. An example of this is how Brightpearl can facilitate relationships with service providers such as BigCommerce to connect your storefront and streamline your company’s operations… ensuring your inventory is completely transparent and traceable on whichever channel your customer uses to make a purchase.


Finally, maintaining positive relationships with your service providers should never interfere with your daily business operations. Because of this, it’s important to connect with a comprehensive technology provider such as Brightpearl to manage all of your business operations in one place. The future of retail is rooted in data, so don’t be the last retailer to implement data-based decision making into your business operations. Instead, embrace this now to ensure your business is well equipped to excel in 2018 and beyond.

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About the Author

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the Founder and Publisher of Retail Minded, a publication committed to supporting independent retailers through news, education and support, as well as the Co-Founder of the Independent Retailer Conference. Recognized for her expertise in independent retail, Reyhle has published thousands of articles about small business and is the Author of the book “Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business” from McGraw-Hill. Additionally, Reyhle has contributed to Forbes, Fiverr, IBM and more, and has been the Spokesperson for Small Business Saturday from American Express since 2014. Learn more about Retail Minded at www.retailminded.com, at @RetailMinded on Twitter or at Facebook.com/RetailMinded.