Here at S4RB, we like to shout about supplier engagement every chance we get. We believe that all successful own brand retailers must make collaboration, communication and transparency a priority in their relationship with their suppliers. Our Affinity™ platform joins suppliers and retailers as one team, creating a community to facilitate that collaboration.
Successful collaboration means more than just having a website i.e. just another portal. It means real engagement. With that in mind, what does a great supplier portal look like?
Here are the top seven things I think you should be focusing on, in order to get the most out of your supplier platform.
1. Design is key
This one is a real bug bear for me. If I navigate to a website that’s busy, convoluted and confusing, you can bet that I’m clicking away and searching for a site that doesn’t give me a headache.
If suppliers don’t know how to interact with your portal, you’ve already lost the battle. You want your design to be intuitive, and you can do that by keeping things simple, clear and direct. Design your portal in a way that helps suppliers navigate effortlessly to the information you want them to see.
Put ‘Search’ at the heart of the solution and share as much information as possible. Not just policy and process documents, but the ‘How To’ and FAQ.
If you do this, you deliver an accessible, high-quality user experience. Not only will your suppliers use your portal happily, but they will also adapt quickly to new process and functionality.
2. Be a ‘one truth’ source of information
You’ve nailed your design and user experience, but that’s not job done. Your portal is only as good as its content, and only useful if it has the answers your suppliers need.
Developing a comprehensive knowledge base is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to making your suppliers self-sufficient. Giving your suppliers access to accurate information, on demand, makes the supplier-retailer relationship easier and relieves some of the pressure of dealing with supplier queries.
As with Affinity, allow suppliers to rate answers and their usefulness. You also need to report on and analyse what is being used and read, and where the information gaps are – what are suppliers looking for that they cannot find? Understand this so you can develop and enrich this one truth.
Every question answered by a knowledge base article is one less query directed at you.
3. Consider your wider audience
To help suppliers help themselves, your knowledge base needs to be clear, concise and searchable. Everybody learns a little differently, so a good mix of videos, documents, process flows and text help ensure that your content is reaching the widest audience possible.
Suppliers are not entities, they are people and they have different roles. Consider the audience and ensure information is appropriate to empower them for your brands.
You’re in luck! We’ve blogged in much greater detail about the benefits of supplier self-help and how to optimize your knowledge base. You can read those tips here.
4. Less is more
Don’t over communicate by firing five emails out a day and having essays on each knowledge base article; keep messaging stripped back and relevant. Your suppliers will be more likely to engage with you if you communicate with quality over quantity.
Think about everything your suppliers need to do in a day and contact them considerately, don’t overwhelm users with information.
5. Focus on adoption
Supplier adoption and use of the portal should be paramount. You need your portal to be time-saving, helpful and informative.
Your portal should be part of your suppliers’ daily routine. Aim to eliminate the need to open multiple systems and include all necessary process in one place. You want your suppliers to look forward to opening your portal, not dread it as another checkbox in their busy day.
6.Listen and adapt
Supplier support is going to be the biggest factor in your portal’s success. Ask your suppliers for feedback on the portal and the services you provide. Start conversations and give the opportunity for suppliers to rate your content.
You can do this by embedding feedback links in both your system and email communications and asking for ratings on your knowledge base pages.
It’s important to collect and listen to user feedback, but doubly important to action some of those suggested changes.
7.Always keep evolving
Don’t relax yet! Once your portal is live it needs love and care to keep growing.
Things move quickly and you need to ensure that your portal and its content is relevant and up to date. Make it your aim to continuously improve your offering and motivate your suppliers to deliver the continual innovation and business transformation required to survive in today's retail market.
Further reading: The cost of poor supplier engagement