Take a moment to think about your ideal customer. The easy answer might be “the person who spends the most money,” but there’s really so much more that composes an ideal customer. Maybe it’s someone who doesn’t take a lot of your team’s time to make a purchase, or perhaps it’s the person who always pays in cash using exact change — it could even be the customer that shops at the end of the month when revenue matters most.
The point is, you place value on your best customers, whoever they are. That could mean you hold merchandise for them when you wouldn’t for most customers or you stay open a bit later to let them finish shopping. You take more care with them because you know that losing them is costly.
Now think about this: You don’t only have customers, you are a customer. Every vendor that you purchase from sees you as a customer. Like any business, they treat their ideal customers best and provide perks. And you don’t necessarily have to spend the most money with a vendor to be a great customer.
When vendors view their relationships with you in a positive light, they know that the cost of losing your business is high. As a result, they will often invest more time, money and resources toward your business. Those are all things that translate directly into boosting your ability to serve your customers better.
Here’s what you can do to strengthen those relationships and the benefits that you will reap.
Integrate Vendor Catalogs
When you digitally integrate vendor catalogs with your retail management platform, you can easily browse for items that you would like to carry and import them into your database. This automatically populates your database with SKU images and descriptions provided by vendors with no manual entry on your part, saving hours of work. Vendors love it because they no longer have to alert you to catalog updates — you can see all the latest products they offer with a simple refresh. They have confidence that you are working with the exact details and specifications they provide with no possibility of error.
Automate Purchase Orders
You never have to worry about unexpected out-of-stocks when your purchase orders are generated and fulfilled automatically. Just set minimum and maximum inventory thresholds and an automated purchase order system can replenish supply at the exact right time. This makes things much simpler for vendors since it saves them from having to sort through inaccurate SKUs, confusing purchase order templates and even illegible penmanship. Many vendors also fulfill automated purchase orders on demand and waive shipping minimums so you don’t have to wait until you have multiple SKUs to order before you can replenish the ones that you really need right away.
Empower Vendors to Drop Ship
When vendors fulfill orders on your behalf, you have the power to offer a massive range of SKUs without having to increase your inventory capabilities. If they make it, you can sell it. Using live online vendor feeds, you can provide your customers with instant visibility into what is available at any given time. Modern drop shipping is much more streamlined than it was in the early days of E-Commerce; many vendors will fulfill orders using your branding and packing slips so customers enjoy a seamless experience.
Relationships with vendors are some of the most important yet commonly overlooked aspects of running a successful retail operation. Cultivating mutually beneficial relationships that offer vendors a vested interest in your success provides you the power to service customers more efficiently. Be good to them and they will be good to you.
Michele Salerno is Director of Sales and Marketing, Asst. VP for Celerant Technology