Choosing a Vendor
Putting a shopping cart online is simple, anyone can do it as long as the operation stays very small. This means there is a very low barrier to entry for vendors who might choose to offer an online company store service to a client. However, scaling a robust e-commerce and order fulfillment operation is much more complicated, and has significant barriers to entry.
Below are a few things to consider and questions to ask to help qualify any potential online company store vendor.
- Can I stock inventory if I choose to?
- If yes, where is this inventory stored? In a closet in the vendors office? In a 4th party fulfillment center. Or does the vendor own their fulfillment and distribution center?
- If the company store vendor does own their fulfillment and distribution center, is it directly integrated with the online store?
- Do orders have to be manually re-keyed at any point after the web order is received?
- Can I view real-time inventory information? Meaning anytime inventory is ordered, received or adjusted, is the inventory information online automatically updated in real-time?
- Are purchase orders received by a receiving manager who has access to open purchase order information to easily verify each receipt?
- Can my store feature both items held in inventory and items that are produced on-demand after the web order is received?
- Does the company store vendor offer access to a real-time suite of reports?
- Does the company store vendor have a web development team?
- If so, what is the cost for any potential required web development now and down the road?
- Does the vendor have an in-house design team?
- If so, can the design of my online company store be customized to match our corporate website?
- In addition to the merchandise, what fees will the company store vendor be charging me?
While there are many other questions to consider, these questions are a good start for qualifying any potential company store vendor before proceeding with further discussions.