Supplier Representatives Can Help Online Retailers Grow

It’s a significant landmark for online retailers when they graduate from purchasing solely and often with wholesale catalogs or on B2B sites to working with a skilled supplier representative with the product knowledge and connections to assist the retailer grow.

Many, even most, new ecommerce retailers order the goods that they sell online from manufacturers or vendors. Perhaps they’ve printed wholesale catalogs and price sheets or perhaps they log into a merchant portal site and place orders online.

These catalogs or websites may offer excellent product descriptions, earnings, or sell-through averages — or perhaps suggest first purchases. The materials can be helpful. However, when an retail ecommerce company begins to sell a relatively substantial amount of a vendor’s products that merchant will have access to a provider (supplier or manufacturer) representative who will offer additional product insights, access to cooperative advertising or advertising, help with content promotion, or even assist with handling returns or accepting faulty products.

The ecommerce retailers using a provider representative will still have catalogs to examine and wholesale sites to purchase from, but they will have a lot more also.

… when an retail ecommerce company begins to sell a relatively substantial amount of a vendor’s products that merchant will have access to a provider (supplier or manufacturer) representative…

Assist With Product Selection

“Dennis is a fantastic rep. Among the finest in the company,” said a tall, 60-ish buying manager to his companions as they walked from the Denver Mart building on 58th Avenue in Denver, Colorado. This purchasing director, with a flourishing radio announcer’s voice, and the buyers and entrepreneurs walking were leaving the venue following the first day of the Western and English Sales Association’s (WESA’s) January 2016 show.

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The show is a place for retail buyers to meet with dozens of producers to preview new lines and speak business for the upcoming year or season.

“Dennis doesn’t only come in and show you what’s new,” the purchasing director clarified. “He has it all lined out to the purchaser. Here are the products you currently purchase. Here are the goods he believes you ought to add. Here are the goods he believes you ought to drop. And here are the ten reasons why he left all his recommendations.”

A provider agent’s recommendations can make a substantial impact on business. Dennis, the representative explained above, sells boots, belts, and clothing accessories, as do lots of the agents at the WESA show.

However, an example from another business might make this point.

A merchant buyer at the northwestern United States recently met with a representative for a power-tool maker. The merchant was considering bringing in a lineup of corded tools which the representative’s company was making and selling for a couple of years. Everything about the tools seemed like they would sell well. If the retailer was a smaller firm, the purchaser could have placed and order and place the tools available.

However, the producer’s representative suggested that the merchant wait. In just a month or two, the manufacturer was going to replace the battery system it used for these tools. The present models would become closeout items, not a long-term merchandise to carry. With no representative relationship this retail could have made a bad purchase.

Marketing and Promotional Support

Supplier representatives are the gateway to cooperative advertising dollars, promotional calendars, promotional calendars, and special buying opportunities.


Once an ecommerce merchant moves to a relationship with a provider representative, there ought to be new access to promotional and advertising support. This service generally takes three forms.

  • Access to combined (co-op) money. Producers will often reimburse retailers for some of the money spent on advertising the producer’s products. This can included being paid to feature a manufacturer’s products in email advertising or through pay-per-click advertising.
  • Previews of national advertising campaigns. Supplier representatives will often share info about once the maker will run national or regional advertising campaigns, allowing retailers to piggyback, if you will, on those advertisements and promotions.
  • Special buy opportunities. Supplier agents can often help retailers”buy into” a national effort, meaning they’ll offer product discounts for retailers to stock up on select items before the manufacturer advertises those items nationally.

Access to the information and special buying opportunities can be a substantial aid for merchant, and taking advantage of them should lead to expansion.

Help With Content Marketing

Supplier representatives are a superb source for content marketers. During a meeting with a silver-jewelry manufacturer in the aforementioned WESA series, the conversation turned to how one explains the difference between a $20 set of rings and a $300 pair of earrings. Why is one so much more precious?

Lamenting that it was, indeed a challenge, particularly online, the provider representative said they used to get a”university program” for brick-and-mortar sellers. This program was a collection of published modules which explained the history of silversmithing, described manufacturing procedures, and went into detail about the differences in jewellery.

The materials were a goldmine for articles advertising.

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Using the information as a foundation, the provider representative consented to appear in a couple of videos with the merchant, possibly making for some compelling content which the merchant can use on its site and distribute via YouTube or Facebook.

The materials were a goldmine for articles advertising.

Assist With Returns, Defective Merchandise

If all the advantages of working with a provider representative aren’t sufficient, these vendor partners should also be a merchant’s urge for returning goods, dealing with faulty product, or even buying back products which sold poorly.