How to navigate an online procurement process

Digital360 on 26 September 2017

B2B online marketplaces are becoming common across the SME sector, creating communities of industry specific suppliers, wholesalers, distributors and buyers. On the one hand, online procurement has never been so easy. However, sourcing reliable and reputable suppliers online beings new challenges for SMEs.

But it's worth doing the research. A new or better supplier may have better service at lower cost. Plus, they may offer digital services that can help you manage your supply chain. To help you navigate the world of online suppliers, follow these quick tips.

Getting started

Most suppliers will have a customer relations officer or sales representative responsible for maintaining client relationships. These are the people you want to build a rapport with. Use their website to learn more about the team, then search specific names and profiles on professional services such as LinkedIn.

It is vital that you create positive and trusting relationships at all stages of the supply chain, even in the early stages. Businesses are most often interdependent, so one company cannot succeed without the other. Digital tools and software are simply just a new way of doing business – so use them to your advantage.

How to start researching suppliers online

Of course, one avenue to finding an online supplier, is to search through trade magazines and newspapers, both online and in print. But these days, you're not limited to just these sites for research. It's simple to check social media, various websites and comparison services for a range of potential suppliers.

You can narrow down your search by homing in on other keywords like ‘manufacturer’, ‘wholesaler’ and ‘supplier’. Google’s local search platform, Google My Business, is another great way to find a supplier in your vicinity by typing in your town or suburb and checking reviews and ratings of previous customers.

You can also try subscribing to online forums for your industry. These forums, such as FlyingSolo for small businesses or Whirlpool for IT, are full of advice and support from a community of like-minded business owners, managers and specialists in the field.

Posing a question to these communities could trigger a fruitful discussion and point you in the right direction for a new supplier.

What to look for in an online supplier

As you can see, there are many ways to source a supplier online. But, how do you know they’re any good, and can you trust them?

Here are some tips to spotting a good supplier:

  • Be aware of advertisers that rely on easy slogans like better, faster, and cheaper. While these attributes are desirable in a supplier, you don’t want to be hoodwinked by a dishonest business.
  • Larger suppliers can be more reliable, as they are more likely to have the resources to handle customer services and order management.
  • Check to see how long the company has been operating. If a business has years of experience, they are more likely to offer your stability and expertise.
  • See a list of current clients or check for industry case studies and testimonials. This will act as proof that your online supplier can serve your needs and has real expertise in your industry.

Quick tips to shortlisting companies

Now that you know a little more about online procurement, it’s time to start shortlisting potential suppliers.

To start off with, detail what parts of your business you can manage in-house, and what aspects of your business you will need to outsource. In your outsourcing column, detail what these different aspects are, and establish how many suppliers you need to source.

Once you’re at this stage, you can start searching for suppliers in their segmented groups. But before you get carried away, remember that you don’t need to shortlist every company that looks appealing. Instead, choose three with a cascading price-point so that you can compare quality and price.

Discovering digital services

When it comes to looking for suppliers online, it's important to do your research. If you are an SME in need of advice about digital strategy and services, many digital agencies in Melbourne can help. Once again, it's about finding a supplier that matches your needs and fits the requirements of your business.

If you'd like to find out more digital services, contact one of our digital specialists in Melbourne.