5 reasons to ditch free vendor portals

by | Aug 14, 2019 | Omnichannel, Suppliers

In life sometimes, you get what you pay for

Supplier portals (or vendor portals) are usually free which is why some vendors use them to get their orders from retailers. However, most vendors will tell you that they aren’t as great as they appear.

The unfortunate truth is that poor and inconsistent user experiences are a consistent struggle with these types of portals. They may make sense when you are working with just one retailer, but as suppliers start to sell through more channels and retailers, watching for orders and downloading them across multiple portals can quickly become a full-time job (or more).

Here are the top five reasons why companies quit their supplier portal(s):

1. A never-ending list of passwords

It’s one more username and password to remember, likely one that you don’t get to create. They are given to vendors by retailers in whatever format they choose and resetting them requires a lot more than clicking “forgot password”.

2. Navigating new systems that aren’t user friendly

Trying to access orders is like trying to get through a maze. Each portal has its own terminology, navigation, and format you have to learn. Downloading orders from one supplier portal may be simple, but the next requires multiple steps and clicks (and where was that button again?). Retailers will also update the portal occasionally requiring users to relearn the system with limited training and support.

3. Printing is a way of the past

Printing isn’t a timesaver. Many suppliers simply print out their orders from vendor portals to enter into their own systems. However, every retailer formats their purchase order differently causing vendors to spend 2-3 times longer on each document as they hunt for the information.

4. Needing 24/7 eyes on your orders

If you’re not paying attention 24/7/365, you’re missing orders. Most retailers won’t notify vendors when a new order hits the portal. It’s up to suppliers to access the site(s) often to find their orders to avoid losing valuable fulfillment time. This can be a dangerous game especially when short delivery timeframes are expected or mandated. Losing hours of order processing because you were in a meeting can mean the difference between compliance and chargebacks.

5. Unavoidable shipping errors

Shipping with errors happens a lot and vendor portals don’t prevent any of them. Vendors need to ship their products using retailer-prescribed formats for barcode labels and branded packing slips. Retailer portals won’t provide these. Portal users are on their own to create these documents error-free and on-time.

The alternative to vendor portals is an EDI portal or platform

This single solution can house orders from all retailers, requiring users to log in and learn just one system. With an EDI portal, all orders, regardless of retailer, appear in the same format so vendors can see which ones are time-sensitive and have a system to monitor, track and alert them of transactions.

It can provide insight about next steps such as creating return documents and produce compliant barcode labels and packing slips with a single click.

EDI portals can even update internal systems with no manual entry required

One of the biggest advantages for businesses is that full-service EDI providers offer customer support 24x7x365 so suppliers can always access in-country, trained professionals to help, even if questions occur outside of a retailer’s hours of operation.

Free EDI doesn’t exist, but when suppliers tally the cost of an employee’s time and the costs of missed or mishandled orders, it’s easy to justify the small investment. Learn more about SPS Commerce Fulfillment EDI, our full-service EDI solution, to see how one portal with visibility to all of your retailers is a better way to grow.

 

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Scott Bolduc

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