What Is A Vendor Portal?
A Vendor Portal is a method by which Distributors and Manufacturers (Suppliers) can quickly and easily share relevant data and images. In the majority case, this will be the Manufacturer providing some product info, specifications, or images for the Distributor. This can also be initiated as a request by the Distributor for specific product information or images they are missing or have incomplete data.
Typically, getting this information back and forth will involve sending Excel spreadsheets through email, or possibly a special FTP site set up by the Manufacturer where they give access to the Distributor. These Excel files are then used by the Distributor to fill out whatever gaps in the product information they have. In most cases, this will require multiple follow-ups as the Distributor requests further information or clarification on existing data.
As A Manufacturer, Why Do I Need A Vendor Portal?
You might be fine managing your Excel update files and passing on the FTP access details on to however many Distributors need them. But, from their point of view, they aren’t managing a single FTP access: they are managing dozens, if not hundreds. Most likely it is a mix of FTP access methods and those who send Excels exclusively via email, or perhaps a Dropbox shared folder or some other similar method. In other words, even if it’s not a management nightmare for you, it is for them.
As a portal, it’s no extra work for you. Once you set up access, you are still sending the same information you always did. You’re still providing a spreadsheet with product updates; that part never changes. If the Distributor requests a lot of revisions, that doesn’t change either, although the overall process could be shortened just due to increased efficiencies. It’s just that, instead of it being multiple email chains and/or phone calls, it’s done through a Vendor Portal that you both access.
You Want To Serve A Lot Of Distributors With Data They Need
It’s to your own benefit to grow your relationships with Distributors, because they are very much like “salespeople” for your company. They are the outlet through which Manufacturers reach the marketplace. Distributors often have extremely demanding requirements, much like customers do. If Manufacturers don’t meet those needs, the relationship will falter over time. The Vendor Portal was designed with this relationship in mind, and exists as a bridge so that the product information and images they need can be managed and maintained by the Manufacturers as well.
It is vitally important that a Manufacturer participate as much as possible in a process that determines what information will ultimately flow down to the consumer. How else is it possible to maintain the integrity of your brand promise? To take a passive approach, or worse-to ignore incoming requests from your Distributors, is to essentially raise your arms and give up while declaring “do whatever you want with our brand”. In a recent study of two well-known brands that use distributors, Gallup found that only four in 10 consumers could name one of the supplier companies’ brand attributes correctly. Obviously, your brand promise can get scrambled or lost in a system that includes multiple tiers between suppliers and consumers. The best way to fight that, is to take a more proactive approach to the information flowing from the Supplier to the Distributors. And that, quite frankly, is what Vendor Portal was already designed to do.
The more Distributors you deal with, the more that use Vendor Portal, and the efficiency of the process only increases with time. Your ability to manage data and images for multiple Distributors through a single point of entry is vital to ensuring that your brand doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. The process becomes simplified for them, which is their incentive to use the Vendor Portal. For the Manufacturer, the simplification is nice, but the real benefit is being able to take more ownership of your products and the data the Distributors are using. If you aren’t providing them correct and updated information in a timely fashion, how can you expect them to filter that on down to the consumers correctly and in a timely fashion?
You Are Easy To Do Business With Since Your Distributors Have To Go Through Fewer Hoops
Since you obviously value the relationships with your Distributors and recognize the important role they play in promoting your brand properly, you want to be as easy to deal with as possible. Opting in to the Vendor Portal to keep them updated with the latest product info and images is one of the easiest ways you can send that message. You are not forcing them to deal with yet another FTP site, yet another set of hoops to jump through, in order to accomplish the simple task of data requests & approvals.
Gallup’s studies of B2B relationships show that Suppliers/Manufacturers that create “impact” (those that have knowledge of the Distributor’s business, helps give them valuable ideas, and helps them reach their goals) develop powerful partnerships that improve performance. Some might think that working to create this level of impact is intrusive, but it’s not. The most respectful thing any company can do is help another company succeed. It’s important to remember that it’s a two-way street: a Manufacturer opting in to Vendor Portal so data requests are easier for the Distributor, can more readily expect that the Distributor will work with the Manufacturer to help enforce their branding as it continues on to retail and the end consumer.
Your Content At The End E-Commerce Or E-Tailing Sites Is Going To Be Rich Since You Can Provide Item Data, Specifications And Images
Have you ever heard the term “Garbage In, Garbage Out”? It’s an old computer science term that basically refers to how computers, using logical processes, will process unintended or even nonsensical input data (“garbage in”) and produce undesired or nonsensical output (“garbage out”). In plain terms, if you feed it bad or incomplete data, you should expect whatever it spits out to be bad or incomplete. Why expect anything different when it comes to the data we as Manufacturer-Suppliers give to our Distributors?
Ultimately, they rely on the product information, images, and technical specifications we provide to help them sell. If we provide incomplete or erroneous data or specs, or old images that no longer accurately describe the product, we are crippling the Distributors’ ability to move our products. This is simply because in this day and age, if consumers can’t rely upon what is being conveyed to them during the purchasing phase, then the consumer simply moves on to something that will. This is the cold, hard reality. A Manufacturer-Supplier that cares about the product information that flows down through the supply chain, is one that is already keyed for long-term success. You simply can’t afford to ignore the problem and hope that the Distributor will magically fix the holes in your data. Remember: Garbage In, Garbage Out.
It Is Cheaper Because You Don’t Need To Engage An EDI Specialist To Create Outputs
Another side benefit to organizing your data digitally using the Vendor Portal database, is that you can leverage that ability to create export files down the road. Your spreadsheets that are initially used to pass data along to Distributors, continually builds up this database. Essentially, whatever you’ve passed along in the form of product information: sku’s, descriptions, specifications, images, etc., gets added to your database as you continue to use the Portal. This might not seem like an important benefit at first glance, but consider that you can easily do a full export at any time using this same product database you’ve built up.
It means the latest and greatest data that you’ve already been working with, probably over dozens of individual spreadsheets and manual updates, is available to export at any time. You can even do so as one big blob if you wish, or as a more specific slice-something like an entire category, or multiple categories of product. In most situations, you would need to have an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Specialist use their time to create this export, or output, for you. Thanks to the Vendor Portal tool, this is yet another function that you have at your fingertips.
Over The Long Term, Your Changes Will Flow To Distributors More Quickly
A new process such as Vendor Portal may provide an immediate benefit as far as making it easier to share data and communicate exactly what product info is needed or requested. But, that isn’t where the real value is found. Vendor Portal is designed from the ground up to be structured very much like a social network. It’s designed so that as Distributors adopt the portal, they get Suppliers to adopt along with them. Multiple Distributors can have many Suppliers, and vice versa, so as time goes on, there is a snowball effect. The more Distributors and Suppliers in the network, the more efficient the portal becomes. It becomes a one-stop shop instead of merely an alternative to FTP access or shared folders.