Providing an Inventory Feed and Product Data
Providing good product data is a challenge that traditional wholesale suppliers don’t have to face, but it is critical when becoming a dropship supplier. Once you have determined your company has the ability to fulfill dropship orders and chosen your shipment policies, you will now have to decide how you are going to provide an inventory feed and product data to your retailers.
Typically, inventory counts matter in dropship. Unless you manufacture on-demand, you are going to need to provide accurate and up to date inventory quantity numbers to your dealers. The retailer has no way to know if items have been purchased through other online stores until they see an item is sold out when it’s time to place an order for a customer. This is why inventory data feeds are so crucial – it bridges the gap of information among a supplier and their numerous retailers. If a retailer doesn’t have this quantity level information, they can end up selling out-of-stock products to their customers. And, if costs are not kept up-to-date in their feed, retailers can find themselves losing money. Both of these issues in turn will cause them to drop you as a supplier.
Quantity levels mean nothing if you are not able to provide your product feed in a file format that is easily accessible by your retailers and their software. A data feed can come in a wide variety of formats, which you may be familiar with. The most common and easy-to-access formats include a simple CSV file or an XML document accessible via an HTTP link. For the more technologically advanced suppliers, you may consider providing the feed through an API or FTP where retailers can connect directly and pull the data. Another method, though old-school but still common, is through an EDI.
One of the most common complaints we hear from retailers when it comes to selling from dropship suppliers is the lack of good product content data. Quality product title descriptions, categories, and images are critical in selling online; and when dropshipping, the retailer often has to rely on suppliers to provide this as they do not physically store or handle the products. A retailer trying to sell products online without good product data is a like a bird trying to fly without wings. In order for customers to be able to search, evaluate and ultimately purchase a product from a website, they need content. The better the content, the more sales they can convert for your products. Consumer website listings aside, you need to be able to pitch your products to your retailers as well. Unlike traditional wholesale, you are not handing them a product or walking them through a catalog at a tradeshow – you have to provide “web ready” content and data for your retailers to evaluate the products you have to offer. They rely on you as a dropship supplier to provide descriptive information that depicts products accurately in order to feel comfortable listing them on their website.