You need an efficient method of sourcing products to build a successful eCommerce business — but, like so many other things in life, this is easier said than done. You must first choose a product sourcing method that works for you, then evaluate various product sourcing companies before deciding on a supplier to work with. If that isn't enough work, there are many options available — which ones should you consider?
You'll learn everything you need to know about product sourcing in this guide. First, let's double-check that we're all on the same page:
What Exactly Is Product Sourcing?
The majority of businesses today source products online via B2B marketplaces, but you can also source products locally or at trade shows. Product sourcing is the process of identifying direct source products to sell in your store, acquiring them from a supplier, and reselling them. Product sourcing is critical to the success of any retailer, whether brick and mortar, online, or both.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Direct Source Products
Working directly with manufacturers may appear intimidating at first. Typically, images of overseas trips, product design costs, and large prepaid initial orders come to mind. However, the global manufacturing marketplace is surprisingly accommodating to small businesses these days.
- Increased profits:
Most wholesalers profit by increasing manufacturer prices by 15% to 25%. Instead of depositing the markup in your wholesaler's piggy bank, you keep it when you buy directly from the manufacturer.
- Customized items:
It is impossible to stand out online if your products are identical to those of your competitors. Direct source products enable you to make minor or major modifications to a manufacturer's stock goods to offer unique benefits and branding products.
- Made-to-order items:
You can make made-to-order items with direct source products based on your exact design and specifications. This type of direct sourcing, known as "contract manufacturing," requires the most upfront work and cost but allows you to create products that are entirely unique to your brand.
- A difficult learning curve:
It is more difficult to source directly than to place a quick order with a wholesaler. You must understand all the moving parts, present a professional image, and understand what it takes to land a good deal.
- Compliance issues:
Government compliance requirements for materials, design, packaging, and labeling differ depending on product type. Understanding the rules that apply to your products is essential for indirect sourcing.
- Large orders:
Manufacturers typically have higher minimum order quantities (referred to as MOQs in purchasing jargon) than wholesalers. A wholesaler's MOQ may be a case of 12 units, whereas a manufacturer's MOQ may be 48, 96, or 144 units.
- Purchase financing:
Because most manufacturers require upfront payment, many e-commerce sellers must rely on credit cards or other inventory financing options to place direct orders.
- International transactions:
Sellers frequently turn to overseas manufacturers in China and India for low-cost direct source products. This is a highly profitable strategy, but it is fraught with difficulties such as international shipping, customs, cultural differences, and the risk of scammers.
There are clearly some disadvantages to purchasing direct source products, but the profit and branding potential far outweigh the risks when done correctly. Now, let's look at how to source products and sell them in your own e-commerce store.
How to Source Products Successfully?
It's not as simple as finding a great product and putting it in your stores to source new products. However, retailers can take steps to make the process go more smoothly.
1. Conduct Research on Your Product
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First and foremost, retailers must comprehend the product. Market research is critical to success; sourcing products without conducting the necessary research is a recipe for disaster. The analysis that retailers require should be comprehensive. This can include things like:
- Save data: What are the numbers from specific stores telling you? Is there sufficient interest to drive sales and growth in your retail stores as a whole? Or would certain products be better suited to specific stores?
- Demand from Consumers: What are your customers requesting? What are they discussing on social media? In surveys, what are their main concerns? What kind of feedback are you receiving through the various channels? What topics pique their interest the most? And, returning to the store data, how does what they say actually compare to what they buy?
- Trends: What are the product category's current trends, and which companies appear to be addressing these trends? Are these trends extending into other categories? Buyers can make more informed decisions when it comes time to contact suppliers armed with this information. The more a buyer understand the product they desire, the better the outcome.
2. Make Contact with any Potential Suppliers
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Before contacting suppliers, determine exactly what you, the buyer, require. As previously stated, conducting research on source products is a part of this. It's also crucial to know what you want to get from this first meeting with the supplier. Do you like to learn something? What about samples? Products in particular? Knowing this and being honest about your requirements will make the process smoother. This is also the stage at which buyers put their trade show contacts to use, reaching out to suppliers they've met or been in contact with. It's also a good time for them to get involved with platforms like RangeMe, which streamlines the process so buyers can research products and easily reach out to suppliers all in one place.
3. Request Samples
Would you test drive a car before purchasing it? As a retail buyer, you're not going to put a product in your store unless you've tried it first. When contacting suppliers, ask for samples so you can get feedback from team members, see the product up close and personal, and see how the supplier handles this first transaction before deciding whether to include it in your product mix. Sample requests are an essential part of your sourcing strategy and an effective way to evaluate product quality.
4. Select a Supplier to Trial-run an Order With
When retail buyers discover a product with potential, they should order a trial run of that product. This could mean that the buyer requests a certain number of units to be trialed across a retail chain, or a product is being tested in only a few stores. Instead of trying the entire supplier's lineup, a buyer may choose to try only a few products from it. Buyers should define the trial's parameters and key performance indicators, such as the length of the trial, sales ratios, and customer feedback.
5. Assess the Supplier
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Whether or not a buyer chooses to proceed with a supplier and form a more long-term relationship is heavily influenced by how the supplier performs during a trial run. When the trial period is over, having the parameters mentioned above will allow retail buyers to better evaluate suppliers. Did the source products meet their objectives? Did it outperform or underperform expectations? How did it fare in the stores?
In addition to these questions, retail buyers should inquire about the supplier's relationship. Were their communications timely and transparent? Did shipments arrive on time and with the correct products and quantities? Were the products in good condition when they arrived at the store? Was the quoted price correct?
These particulars have the potential to make or break a buyer-supplier relationship. If a buyer decides not to pursue a relationship with a supplier, honest, constructive feedback can help understand why the relationship isn't progressing.
6. Maintain Other Supplier Options
Businesses merge or disband completely, supplies can be challenging to obtain, and product quality can suffer. These things are expected from suppliers in the vast world of consumer packaged goods, where trends and products can change as quickly as the wind. And when a consumer wishes to see a product on the shelf all the time and then doesn't, it can be a huge letdown, shaking consumer trust in the retailer. It is therefore critical for retailers to keep their supplier options open. Having multiple suppliers to source products ensures that the retailer and the consumer get what they require.
Create an Online Store with Strikingly
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If you want to save money without sacrificing efficiency and features, a free online store builder like Strikingly might be the way to go. Compared to hiring a skilled web developer to complete the same task, website builders enable users to create a site in minutes and at a much lower cost. Most e-commerce sites include the basic tools required to launch an online store, such as themes, payment gateways, SEO, and inventory management.
Strikingly, not only does it offer a feature-rich online store builder, but it is also updated regularly. We strive to push the limits of what a website builder can be. Strikingly allows you to start creating an online store for free and finish it in minutes. Our services are completely free, with the option of upgrading to premium features to help you and your business stand out.
To source products for CPG retail isn't always a simple process, and even when a retail buyer has found a great supplier and established a strong relationship, the work doesn't stop there. Product sourcing does not end once the product is sourced; it is critical to maintain the product's quality and integrity and strengthen the relationship with the supplier. Buyers should always be on the lookout for new supplier relationships and remember the key steps that will lead them to success.