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Supplier Relations: 9 Advice for E-Commerce Success

Having good relationships with your suppliers is an essential part of e-commerce success. In a time in which times are getting shorter and shorter and consumers are more demanding than ever, being able to trust in your suppliers to accomplish your requirements in a timely manner is a real relief and a great asset to your competitiveness.

1. Take care of personal relationships

Even though most of the time you may manage everything you need by mail and other technology stuff, it is important to keep personal relationships active. Many times the trust between two people are stronger than any signed contract. Don’t forget to be polite each time you communicate, even when you have to claim because an issue with your order! And try to write from time to time to show them your business is made of people. Christmas or any other important event can be a great excuse for a warm greeting.

2. Open the door to make their life easier

Let your suppliers know that if there is any way in which you can make all the processes involved between you both easier, you are willing to consider it. Sometimes it can lead to developing best practices that may even be applicable to other business areas.

3. Build an innovative culture in your relationships

Changes are very inconvenient for people and always meet with resistance. However, they are the only way to improve. Build your relationship within a culture in which changes are welcomed. If you are willing to listen to their suggestions, they also would be ready to listen yours.

4. Treat them as partners

Your success should be theirs. If you grow and sell a lot, they will also sell more to you. And if you let them know, they will be motivated to give you the best service possible.

5. Set formal procedures

Bureaucracy in its accurate level brings efficiency. You should have a process set to make orders, claims, and other repeated actions. However, these procedures usually are a great enemy of innovations, so be careful and always make it clear that a process is only there to help, not to be a barrier.

6. Only offer what they can achieve

It is great to offer same-day delivery on your website but in order to do that, you need to ask your supplier to do something, for example, to send the product materials to you. Then you have to take into consideration your suppliers’ times as well as your own. Think of them when you create your offers and do not overstress them. If they are not ready, chances are that the quality of the final product will decrease.

7. Let them walk in your same path

Having very low prices from your suppliers is, of course, desirable. But if your unique selling proposition is quality, you can’t force your suppliers to lower their prices as if your products were low cost. It is important that both of you work on the same level and with similar objectives regarding the products.

8. Analyze their performance

This shouldn’t be an exam, but a way to improve. By analyzing the key factors you need them to achieve, you will know the real value they are giving to you. It is a good idea that you share the indicators that you are going to measure. A second step would be having a regular meeting in which you both discuss how to improve even more.

9. Categorize them by importance

Though it is better if you have excellent relationships with all of them, not all the suppliers have the same importance. It is not a bad idea to categorize them to see which ones are giving you a competitive advantage.

Not long ago, relationships with suppliers were based on negotiation and prices were almost the only point to discuss. Price is still important and when the moment of price negotiation comes, remember to go to the meeting with objective data to strength your negotiating position. However, the competition is getting harder and both sides need to give each other value in order to survive. Don’t focus on cost saving but on adding value and follow these tips, so you will make your relationship stronger and more profitable.


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