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E-Commerce Supplier Relationships: 5 Tips for Long-Term Success

E-Commerce Supplier Relationships: 5 Tips for Long-Term Success

November 3, 2015

It’s no secret, in any business, relationships are gold.

In e-commerce, building long-lasting and reliable supplier relationships brings many opportunities such as discounted prices, better stock availabilities, and sometimes even buybacks. Therefore, any e-commerce manager should always aim for improvements in her/his company’s supplier relationships to realize all these potential opportunities.

Here, we are focussing on the most common model of e-commerce, where merchants basically purchase products from various wholesalers (suppliers) and resell them to consumers by adding the desired margins on top of the wholesale price. In this model, there is the unavoidable dependence of merchants on the suppliers – either the manufacturer of the product or the distributor – regarding the payment terms, costs or availabilities.

Let us list down 5 simple tips that would help you to build sustainable relationships with your suppliers:

Know that you are not the only one

In today’s wildly competitive e-commerce market, there are tons of other mid or small-sized retailers supplying the same product assortments from the very same suppliers. In short, your most crucial business contacts are also crucial for your competitors.

Therefore, your contact over at the supplier might be a little busy from time to time, as she/he also has other tasks to take care of. Don’t overreact to such bottlenecks and show patience. Be sure that your patience will pay off because all the long-lasting relationships are built with patience and trust.

Pay on time

Paying on time will have a huge impact on your relationship with suppliers. No one likes late payers, even your friends.

In e-commerce, consider your suppliers as your best friends, and work on maintaining the image on your suppliers’ mind that you’ll always pay on time.

Remember that retail mostly runs on tight margins, and cash flow is extremely crucial. Therefore, if you cause a crisis that’ll impair the business of your suppliers, their reaction wouldn’t be nice. That might harm your supply cycles in the future, and might cause a loss of those products’ supply.

Deal with problems smoothly

Like any business, e-commerce has its own hardships.

The idea of professionalism in business-to-business relationships should be kept in mind. But if you drill B2B relationships down, they are all human-to-human relationships, and human makes mistakes.

In case of a problem, don’t blame your suppliers, instead, focus on solving the problem together.

Make sure that, such an approach will be remembered, in case of an error at your end.

Train them further

As soon as you prove yourself to be a reliable retailer in the eyes of your suppliers, don’t avoid going the further mile. Companies value clients who want improvements even when enjoying current products/services. There’s no exception to that in supplier relationships. Offering improvements such as automated notifications or new payment methods that’ll attract more customers can strengthen your relationship. Every supplier wants to improve their business, and helping out will also help yourself.

Become friends

As we mentioned above, B2B is actually human-to-human, and your suppliers – let’s call them friends from now on – would be willing to help you much more if they consider you as a friend. But you have to be sincere. In case of a mistake or emergency, you can also bend your rules a little, and try to trust them in turn.

Final Words

Suppliers are your friends. To strengthen this your relationship, you must build trust. You can add to what you already have by:

  • Dealing with problems smoothly
  • Being understanding
  • Paying on time
  • Making an effort to improving their business.


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