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

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

In e-commerce, building long-lasting, reliable supplier relationships bring many opportunities like good prices, better stock availabilities, and even sometimes buybacks. Therefore, any e-commerce manager should always be aiming for improvements in her/his company’s supplier relationships to yield all these opportunities at stake.

Here, we are focussing on the most common model of e-commerce, where merchants basically purchase products from various wholesalers (suppliers) and retail 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:

Tip #1: 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 as crucial as that for your direct competitors.

Therefore, your contact over at the supplier might be a busy time to time, as she/he also has other tasks to fulfill. Don’t overreact to such bottlenecks and show understanding, and make sure that your patience will pay off, because we are talking about a long-lasting relationship to be built.

Tip #2: Pay on time

Maybe the easiest task in the list, but oftentimes retailers fail to fulfill this. No one likes late payers, even your friends.

In e-commerce, consider your suppliers as your best friends, and create an image in your suppliers’ mind that you’ll always be paying your invoices in time and also as expected.

Always remember that retail mostly runs on tight margins, and cash flow is extremely crucial. Therefore, if you cause a crisis at that level for your suppliers, simply, they will not enjoy that at all and that might harm your next supply cycles and might cause you to stop selling those products anymore.

Tip #3: Deal with problems smoothly

The world is full of problems, alongside many beautiful things, like doing e-commerce.

The idea of professionalism and business-to-business relationships are always valid and should be kept in mind, but at the end of the day, businesses are also made of people, and actually, 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 them as the first thing, but instead, focus on solving the problem together.

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

Tip #4: 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 improve them while enjoying their current products/services. There’s no exception to that in supplier relationships. Offering some addition of smart details like automated notifications or any other thing that you can imagine, can leverage your relationship, but beyond that, it can improve all relationships of your suppliers.

Tip #5: Become friends

Let’s break this down into two.

Firstly, friends are great. We enjoy doing things with them, so we’d also prefer doing business with people we like. This is crucial at both ends and strengthens the relationship.

Secondly – and actually, more pragmatically – as we said above, B2B is actually human-to-human, and those people at your suppliers – let’s call them friends from now on – would be willing to help you much more if you could build an image in their eyes beyond just a corporate account.


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