Protecting Your Confidential Supplier Data
by Colleen Quattlebaum, on June 5, 2018
"We should get together and compare notes on suppliers. I'd love to learn your secret for sourcing profitable items."
As you survey the convention hall, you anxiously search for any means of exiting this conversation. After all, you're not in the business of sharing trade secrets with potential competitors. Thankfully, at that exact moment, an announcement comes across the loud speaker about a free lunch in the event center lobby. To your delight, the seller with whom you're speaking shifts his attention to the free lunch, allowing you to narrowly escape the discussion.
Although you'd never actually "compare supplier notes" with other sellers, relying on antiquated technology and processes could expose your Amazon business to unnecessary risk. Smart sellers continuously look for ways to guard their supplier relationship data.
Let's evaluate the tradeoffs of managing supplier details with spreadsheets, contact management systems or FBA-specific tools.
Let's be honest - spreadsheets are perhaps the most common way FBA sellers track supplier relationships. Why? For starters, spreadsheets are easy to create and require no upfront cost. In addition, people tend to feel comfortable working with spreadsheets, which makes them viable for delegating work to team members.
As flexible as spreadsheets are, using them to maintain confidential information - such as supplier cost data - can be a risky proposition. Here are just a few scenarios where spreadsheets fail:
Employee Turnover: Let's say you maintain all of your supplier contacts in a centralized spreadsheet that's stored on a network drive. As much as you trust your team, it would be naive to assume that everyone is in it for the long haul. In fact, some may have ambitions to start an eCommerce store of their own. When you make your private supplier data available as a shared spreadsheet, you give up control. A dishonest team member could easily download and save the information that you've worked so hard to build - and, sadly, you'd probably never know about it.
Email Oversights: Picture this...you're at a trade show to meet new suppliers. You call your assistant, James, and ask him to pull together some cost data into an email. An hour passes, and you still haven't received anything. After another conversation with James, you discover that he accidentally sent the information to a customer who shares the same first name as you. Emails can't be unsent, so you'll just have to hope that the customer ignores the message.
Data Deletion: What would happen if a folder full of cost data was accidentally deleted? Do you have a backup drive with the latest and greatest version? With so many ASINs in your product catalog, there's a low likelihood that the backup would be entirely accurate (unless you're running real-time backups).
In short, spreadsheets can serve as a starting point for newer sellers. However, for professional sellers like you, they simply pose too great of a risk.
Contact Management Systems
To mitigate risk, some sellers move their supplier data out of spreadsheets and into contact management systems. Contact management systems - particularly those that are cloud-based - can offer added layers of privacy and redundancy.
Unfortunately, most contact management systems fail to offer the necessary level of customization that a competitive FBA seller like you requires. Sure, you'll be able to easily import and manage supplier names, email addresses, phone numbers, mailing addresses and other basic information. But, can a generic contact manager make it easy to analyze costs or make restocking decisions? Can it help you generate purchase orders or track inbound shipments to specific Amazon FBA warehouses?
A third approach utilizes an integrated supplier and inventory system, such as our RestockPro platform. Unlike spreadsheets, RestockPro organizes your supplier data in a secure online portal that's managed by you, the business owner. As employees come and go, you can add and restrict user accounts as you see fit. In addition, you can always rest easy knowing that RestockPro is powered by eComEngine, a leading US-based software company that makes security and privacy its top priority.
And, unlike generic contact management systems, RestockPro was actually built for the specific needs of FBA sellers. Manage unlimited suppliers and track the specifics that relate to each vendor, such as:
- Restocking model (cross-dock, direct ship, local)
- Lead time
- Target quantity on hand
- Case pack rules
- Payment terms
- Default currency
- MAP policy
- Target and free freight order minimums
RestockPro even automates the day-to-day aspects of running your FBA store. Build forecasts, create shipments, print stickers, analyze profits and much more.
Keep Your Supplier Data Confidential
At the end of the day, success as an FBA merchant depends on your ability to establish winning supplier relationships. You've worked too hard to let this information fall into the wrong hands.
Take a few minutes to re-evaluate your supplier data management processes and consider enabling RestockPro.