Top 10 Things Buyers Look At When Sourcing Products Online
The past 12 months have dramatically changed the face of business as we once knew it, and the resulting shifts across all industries are going to continue to occur over the coming years as we come to grips with long lasting effects of the ‘once-in-a-century’ pandemic that is Covid-19.
One of the biggest shifts, which was already occurring but is now rapidly growing, is consumers making their purchases online instead of visiting brick-and-mortar locations. This trend of online purchasing is also flowing on to global trade where many products are now being sourced, manufactured, custom ordered, and imported/exported via online B2B marketplaces.
For suppliers who are currently (or preparing to) promote and sell their products via B2B marketplaces this means there has never been a better opportunity to acquire new customers, increase sales and dramatically grow their business, again due to the fast growing trend of online trade and sourcing.
But to access and capture these opportunities all suppliers must ensure they meet the expectations of buyers, and this is where it can get complex. So to help suppliers we have summarised the top 15 most important things that buyers look at when sourcing a product or looking for in a new supply partner online.
1. What is the minimum order quantity?
This is a very important piece of information that a buyer looks at when reviewing a product that they are looking to source. In many cases a buyer purchasing from a supplier is not in a financial position to order large quantities of a product, so they need to know what the minimum order requirements are because they do not want to waste time initiating discussions to find out that the quantity they want to purchase does not meet the supplier requirements. This means when listing your product via online B2B marketplaces, you must provide information about your product minimum order requirements and if they are negotiable.
An important side note regarding minimum order quantities. Suppliers would be wise to keep in mind that if their minimum order quantity is too high the majority of buyers will in most cases source products from another supplier of the same product who can work with smaller order requests. You could miss a very large amount of opportunities simply because your MOQ is too high.
2. Is this supplier a legitimate business?
Global trade has its fair share of fraudulent products and skilled scammers. So buyers are looking at every single aspect of your online presence from the moment they find you and your products to legitimise who you are and if you are someone they can trust to at minimum begin discussions with. They look at things like your branding (logo, name, etc), official website, social media accounts and sometimes even background check management profiles on platforms such as LinkedIn. So this means that presenting your business and products in the most professional way possible online is very important. Another thing a buyer looks for when trying to legitimise your business is how fast you reply to their enquiries and communication, slow responses can signal that you are not professional or simply not interested and this can quickly persuade a buyer to look for another supplier.
3. How much information is provided about this product?
Providing detailed breakdowns about your products, especially when listing on a B2B marketplace, is something that is going to help a buyer figure out if what you are supplying is what they are looking for. This does not mean that you have to present every single piece of information about a specific product because this can quickly overwhelm a buyer, but ensuring that you present an adequate amount of data about your product to help a buyer understand what they are looking at can really go a long way. It also means when a buyer introduces themselves to you and they are showing interest in your product, they will require much less information about working with you and purchasing your products.
4. Can I purchase samples of this product?
It is very rare that a buyer is going to make an order with you for one or more of your products without first receiving and reviewing a sample of the product. So placing information about your product samples and if they are free or paid is a wise choice because at some point a buyer is going to ask about this. Of course some products cannot be provided as a sample such as machinery, for this we suggest you display if you offer a factory or business visit so you can show the buyer the product in real life.
Side note, do not send samples of an individual product that you cannot replicate when doing a manufacturing run. In fashion for example, quite often samples are sent to buyers from suppliers that are very high quality with regards to stitching and weight of fabric. Then the commercial quantity of the same product is delivered to the buyer and the quality is not close to what they received in sample, this only creates problems for you and leaves the buyer extremely upset. Ensure what you send as a sample is what the buyer will get if they make an order.
5. What is the lead time on this product?
Buyers only need a few minutes browsing through a specific product category on a B2B marketplace to figure out what the average lead time for a product they are looking to source will be. So as a supplier it is in your best interest to have the smallest lead time possible while ensuring that product quality and standards are met. Once again we strongly suggest you do not over-emphasise this piece of information because if you promise a buyer 10 days for lead time and it turns out to be 25 days you will more than likely receive a lot of upset correspondance from the buyer and have a high chance of losing them as a customer and losing any chance of repeat orders.
6. Can this product be customised?
With the boom of industries like drop-shipping the need for suppliers to be able to offer products that can be customised is of great importance. In many cases buyers will only want to add their logo or make minor product design changes, but being able to display that you offer these services can set you apart from other suppliers. And bonus points if you can offer design support so that a buyer who may not be an expert in graphic or product design can get the product they are looking for with minimal stress and costs. We do advise that if you are dealing with a buyer who wants extensive changes and customisations to a product you supply and is going far outside the box of what you already have on hand, it is best you are up front with them and explain that it may be best to manufacture a brand new product.
7. Can the advertised price be negotiated?
Buyers are always going to look for the best deal possible with regards to price, and as a supplier we know you want to maximise the revenue per unit for the products you sell. So if you can display your willingness or non-willingness to negotiate price on your individual product information page or be ready to provide a pricing schedule upon buyer sending enquiry it is a very good way to minimise the back and forth negotiations that may occur. This is another way of showing a buyer that you are a professional and that they can trust you as a prepared and knowledgable supplier due to how you manage pricing and any subsequent pricing negotiations.
8. What is the quality of product pictures?
Far too often suppliers will upload products to a B2B marketplace or their own website and use poor quality images, this is not a good idea. As they say, pictures paint a thousand words so it is strongly suggested to have the highest quality pictures possible when promoting your products online. This does not mean you need to have a professional photographer perform an expensive photo shoot for you, you can take pictures of your products yourself with your smartphone. But you must keep in mind almost all buyers will judge your product on the quality of the image you present, so make sure it is a good one!
9. Am I speaking to a middle-man or the source of this product?
Many B2B sellers present themselves as manufacturers or suppliers, when in fact they are traders, wholesalers, resellers, and drop shippers. Of course all of these roles within global trade are very important and the industry could not survive without each of these professionals in each sector of the supply chain, but many buyers only want to source products directly from manufacturers or suppliers because this is where they will get things such as the best price, ability to customise and smallest lead time. So be honest with buyers when presenting your products about who you are and what role you play in the end-to-end supply chain of a product.
10. What is the shipping methods and terms offered?
For many suppliers this is the most complex part of supplying products, especially on an international level. So buyers are going to be looking for suppliers who can offer a wide variety of options in both shipping methods and terms. Experienced buyers usually opt for sea freight with free on board terms, but new buyers may want to keep it as simple as possible by using air freight through a well known logistics company like DHL. So ensuring that you are ready to provide the information to buyers about what you offer in regards to shipping and logistics is something a buyer will be looking at closely as they review you and your products. Keep in mind all of the shipping information does not need to be displayed on your individual product information page on your website or B2B marketplace, but you must keep it on hand ready to be provided in a fast manner.
11. What is the payment methods and terms? [Bonus Point]
Buyers more than ever want to use trusted payment systems and are very cautious to send money to a supplier for even a sample through a channel or system that they have not previously used. For example in the western world the trusted source for cross border payments is PayPal and buyers in locations such as United States are extremely comfortable with this payment platform. So ensuring that you allow for payment to be sent to you as a supplier through channels that the buyer is comfortable with is very important. With regards to payment terms many supplier request for 100% payment or close to this figure when first dealing with a new buyer as many suppliers have felt the burden of preparing an order to find that the buyer disappears, and this is totally understandable. But if you can provide fair payment terms to a buyer this can alone increase their trust for you as a supplier and encourage the start of a long term relationship. This is very similar to point 12 in the fact that you do need to display every single piece of information about your payment methods and terms on your individual product information page, but having an easy to understand document or template you can send to an buyer upon them sending you an enquiry is a great idea.
12. Do this supplier have more products in their catalogue? [Super Bonus Point]
Most buyers have big ambitions and goals about selling the products they source from you to their own customers. And a very important aspect of sourcing a product for a buyer is knowing if the supplier has the ability to provide many other products that may be of interest to their customers. So if you have a large catalogue and are listing your products on a B2B marketplace or your website, dont just upload one or two, upload everything. Buyers want to see the depth of what you offer and when they can find a supplier with a lot to offer they may even decide to source a product that is completely different to what they were originally looking for.