eCommerce Weekly Checklist: Vendor Questions

The Problem/Opportunity

Vendors are more than happy to tell you that they can provide the best solutions to match your needs, however, taking information completely at face value could lead to problems because even a small overlooked component could put your business at risk.

The Solution

Knowing the specific questions to ask will help you get a better look at how vendors operate. Below are examples of some key questions that you’ll want to get answered before finalizing your vendor selection:

  • How does the vendor want your orders placed? Fax, email, electronic data interchange, online, by phone? Figure out which one best fits your processes.
  • How do they charge for drop ship fee – per item or per address/billing?
  • How many days from receipt of PO do they ship? What is the cut off time?
  • How do they bill? By monthly statement or per transaction – to match your PO issuance. How do they send the bill – by email or snail mail?
  • How do they prefer to receive payment – by check or will they take credit cards for 1 lump payment? Do they bill against a credit card per transaction?
  • What’s their policy for pricing – MAP or MSRP?
  • Who else carries the product online?
  • Are they okay with blind shipping?
  • Do they ship internationally? Ask how they charge and if there’s a cap.
  • What does the label or paper work look like? Ask if they provide custom papers.
  • Do they fill out W-9? Ensure that they are a legitimate vendor and issue 1099.
  • What are the payment terms? Net 30, 15, or is there a discount if invoice is paid within 5-10 days?
  • What’s the policy for damage claims for both drop ships and inventory items?
  • How do they notify accounts for out of stock items and items that are to be adjusted on the website?
  • Do they provide product images and descriptions? Is it web-based or on a CD?
  • Do they pad shipping charges? Can you use your own UPS/FedEx account?
  • What’s their way of sending tracking numbers back to customers? Can they provide text file transfer so that it can automatically go into your order management software like StoneEdge Technologies, saving you tons of time?
  • How do you know what orders are still open or shipped? How would you know an order has been shipped?
  • What is their backorder policy/process? Do they ship backorders? What is the communication process so that you are informed?
  • What is their return and exchange policy?

In the Long Run

Keep a vendor profile with answers to each of these questions, to help you keep track of each vendor. Before you start any new relationship, the questionnaire will help you understand how best to incorporate the new vendor into your current processes.

Getting to “eCommerce heaven” is a marathon, not a sprint – but you can get better every week.

By: Shirley Tan

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eCommerce Weekly Checklist: Vendor Questions

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