If you want to sell products without maintaining inventory, you must be certain your supplier is properly drop shipping to your customers. This often places the burden on you, the E-tailer, to help your drop ship supplier work efficiently with you. Many manufacturers and distributors are new to drop shipping or have such an inefficient or outdated system in place that they cause their drop ship E-tailers to drop like flies.
When I opened my first E-tail store, I thought my drop ship supplier should bend over backwards for me. Shouldn’t they be grateful to me for selling their products? They didn’t have to pay my business startup costs or do any of the work. Heck, I even thought they should give me a free demo of each and every product that I sold. After all, I was selling their products for them without any expense to them, right?-WRONG!
Lets look at the world through the drop ship suppliers’ eyes. Drop ship suppliers significantly reduce their prices to you so that you can operate with sufficient margin. They have to maintain an inventory and ship directly to your customer. They may likely offer a toll free number for you to call them to ask all sorts of questions from how to operate their products to checking status of particular orders or to help handle the more challenging customers. This means they have to employ the manpower to meet our needs. They may accept customer returns even if the remote control for the product never gets returned by the customer or if it looks like the Samsonsite gorilla got his hands on it. These are all real costs for the drop ship supplier.
Now that the playing field is a little more leveled, maybe the title of this article should be changed to “How to work in Harmony with your Drop Ship Supplier”. The fact is you are both in business together, to earn together while completely satisfying your customers-together. You both want to do this with accuracy and in the shortest amount of time. So lets look at the basics in order to understand how it can be performed more efficiently.
First of all, you chose your drop ship supplier for a reason. They may have a shiny new product that has tremendous reliability. They may have been in business for a long time and have a widely recognized name. Or, your first conversations with them led you to believe that they had an efficient system and they have been doing it for years. The fact is, if the system were truly efficient, you wouldn’t have to do anything except reporting your income to the IRS from your yacht. Since they were chosen by you, you now have to work together by phone, fax, email or snail mail.
If you have a canned E-tail store like a Yahoo store, you probably have to process orders yourself. This means that when you peel yourself off the floor after receiving your first customer order you will have to instigate order activity with your drop ship supplier. Numerous drop ship suppliers ask you to place that order by phone. If you get caught in voice mail hell or wind up listening to the sappy songs of the seventies while on hold, you can begin calculating the reduction in your income and start thinking about the rowboat you’re going to buy instead of that yacht. Some drop ship suppliers prefer fax copies of orders. If margins are good then faxes are fine, however, e-mail is king. Try to persuade your drop shipper to accept orders by email. This is truly the efficient method. Some of these bricks and mortar companies are afraid of the internet.
A little tactful instruction goes a long way too. I think we are regarded as the “Father of the Internet” (sorry Al Gore) by some drop ship suppliers. They’re usually thankful for technical assistance especially if it cuts down on their paperwork. With email there is always some risk that our drop ship suppliers did not receive an order, so we ask them to merely send us a forwarded copy back to acknowledge receipt. Some suppliers give delivery information along with a confirmation receipt. Some do not have to because we know the product is in stock and will ship the next day. This brings us to the next step.
SHIPPING! Yahoo states that the number one reason for customer dissatisfaction is delivery. This is broken down between not knowing when a product is going to arrive and untimely and incorrect deliveries. If you happen to operate on a Yahoo store site, you will learn very quickly about the importance of positive customer ratings. They actually move you up or down on their search engine lists based on customer surveys they send to your customers! If delivery is the number one reason for customer dissatifaction, it could have a serious effect on product marketing. The most preferred method of shipping our products as chosen by our customers is UPS ground track. Whether it is from one US city to another or to another country overseas (UPS Worldwide), the most popular method is UPS. The customer likes it for the cost and tracking ability. We love it for the tracking ability. We suggest strongly to our drop shippers to use UPS. UPS on-line (www.ups.com) has a very quick tracking section that provides information on where and when the delivery is scheduled along with current status. A very important service that UPS can provide the drop shipper is UPS Worldship. As the drop ship supplier scans in the shipping product at the time of UPS pickup, UPS worldship sends us an email message stating the ship date, product, PO#, delivery destination, scheduled day of delivery and the tracking number all on that same day of shipping. This can be tied to our customer database so that the customer is now fully aware of the status of their order.
The benefits of e-mail and well established shipping methods reduce time and increase accuracy which equates to increased profits. We don’t question whether our drop ship supplier dropped the ball on our orders. We don’t hear Barry Manilow pounding our eardrums while on hold trying to determine customer order status. Utilizing an effective shipping and tracking method can give on time, real time tracking information for products shipped to your customers. All this makes for a completely satisfied customer. This is harmony with our drop ship suppliers.
Jim Ritzel is co-publisher of “The Drop Ship Source Directory” a product of Worldwide Brands, Inc. which lists wholesale manufacturers and distributors with over 435,000 products and over 1000 brand names. Jim and the partners and staff of Worldwide Brands, Inc. own and operate a series of successful Internet retail stores where all products come from drop ship suppliers. Send e-mail to email@example.com or visit http://www.dropshipsource.com/