How Vendors Can Better Meet the Needs of Store Owners
Giftbeat asked reporting stores how satisfied (or not) they were with the current ease of ordering from vendors, whether through sales reps or directly online since most have chosen not to attend tradeshows during the pandemic.
The majority (43 percent) rated their satisfaction level at three on a five-point scale with five being highly satisfied and one being not satisfied at all.
“I think vendors did pretty well actually,” says a store owner from South Carolina. “It’s just that it takes three times longer to order through catalogs, pdfs and zoom calls.”
That time commitment is something some store owners aren’t making. “I’m only buying from vendors I see in person or virtually as it is too hard to do big orders over the phone or online,” says a retailer from Illinois.
When we asked what vendors could do to improve their satisfaction levels,
the flood gates opened.
Bring Paper Catalogs Back
“Catalogs are so much better for me because I can use them at home in whatever time I have left in the day,” says a Nevada retailer. “So many reps/
vendors want to walk me through their showrooms or websites during
business hours. I don’t have time to take away from the few customers I
see each day.”
“While I understand the economic benefits (to vendors), it’s very cumbersome to look at an online flipbook-type catalog,” says a store owner from Wisconsin. “Many
websites require you to click on the item and wait for another page to load
just to find out more information, which is very time consuming. With print catalogs you can physically go through the catalog, circle the items you’re interested in and flip back and forth to review your choices and see how they fit together.”
“I wish most companies hadn’t stopped with printed catalogs,” laments a New Hampshire store owner. “It’s so much easier to shop from a printed catalog and then finish with online ordering.”
Beyond the demise of print catalogs, many store owners were frustrated
by how long it took some vendors to produce catalogs and update websites
during this last buying cycle.
“It has taken forever to get a catalog, even an electronic one,” says a Virginia store owner while an Oregon retailer writes, “Get the new catalogs out to us or your reps,” and “keep your websites updated.”
Provide All The Details
When buyers can’t see items in person, they require all the information they possibly can get about that item, but it appears many vendors are falling short in their catalog descriptions, leaving store owners frustrated.
“They need to provide descriptions which include the dimensions, fabric type and whether the item is washable or not and they also need to provide scales for size references,” says a retailer from Tennessee.
The approximate ship date is another data point retailers mentioned would be helpful to have in a catalog description.
Tell a Story
“I enjoy seeing items grouped together (in a catalog),” says the aforementioned store owner from Wisconsin. “It makes it easier to visualize and decide what to order.”
“It is very difficult to look at individual items and get an idea for a display,” says an Idaho retailer who suggests vendors share videos and pictures of displays.
“My reps don’t think in terms of fresh ideas, themes or stories,” says a California retailer who buys for multiple locations. “They’re more tunnel vision on the lines they carry, not how they could cross-merchandise with other lines to bring together a ‘look’.”
Where Are The Reps?
“It seems like my reps are overwhelmed with business,” says a North Carolina retailer, “because it takes them longer to respond to emails and texts and longer to help you with your problems. This new way of doing business is slowing them down.”
“I’m disappointed by the lack of follow-up by sales reps,” says another retailer from North Carolina. “We should not be having to hunt them down, and I feel that a lot of companies have pushed the sole responsibility for ordering onto us as buyers.”
“I wish reps would take a cue from the old days,” says a Kansas store owner. “They used to call to tell you they had something new and hot, and they wanted you to be first to have it.”
“What I’ve been getting from sales reps is a long list of links to their online catalogs,” says the store owner from Wisconsin. “It’s hard to get excited about a link in an email and who has the time or attention span to click through 25 links?”
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