Another way of looking at the same question is to think about what you want from a supplier; just the goods or services you directly pay for, or their insight and experience?
For 25 years Duo has manufactured polythene packaging, but we’ve recently transformed our business and now offer additional types of packaging which we don’t manufacture, this has taken us from supplier-only to become a supplier and a buyer, causing us to reflect on these issues all the more.
Generally speaking supplier –buyer relationships are either transactional or consultative. Transactional relationships may be seen as more efficient, but I would argue consultative relationships are where the real value lies, both for the supplier and the buyer.
A significant part of our business is supplying postal packaging to major retailers and as a specialist in this market we have a significant amount of expertise and experience we can offer to buyers who perhaps aren’t technical packaging specialists.
This creates longer term partnerships for Duo and creates value for buyers who come to rely on and trust our advice. Recognising the value of this, we naturally looked for a similar approach in our own suppliers when it came to diversifying our business.
As a way of demonstrating this approach, here are a few specific examples which show how we’ve put this into action:
Research we commissioned found that 95 per cent of UK consumers were more likely to buy a product online if they knew they could return it easily. Insight like this, along with practical advice on how to make packaging return friendly and easy to reprocess – for example by sizing bags correctly and making them easily re-sealable – is advice which saves our customers time and money.
Our planning team work closely with customers helping them to monitor stock levels and predict peaks and troughs in demand. This is particularly important around busy times such as Christmas. Too much stock leads to money being tied up in unused product while not enough can result in goods not leaving the warehouse.
Logistics and supply chain management
For smaller brands in particular, managing lead times for products from all over the world can be time consuming and potentially confusing. By becoming a offering clear lead times on our products and proactively flagging deadlines, we’ve been able to efficiently manage this process. Where lead times are too long for a client’s needs, we always try to suggest an alternative product or solution.
Packaging isn’t just about logistics and supply chains, it’s also a marketing opportunity and that’s never truer than with online only brands. By encouraging buyers to tap into their own in-house marketing resource and by using our experience in packaging, we are able to advise customers on everything from bespoke colour matching to selecting an appropriate quality of packaging to themed gift wrapping, all of which can add to their customers’ perceived value for money and improve brand image.
These are all areas of advice that are incredibly popular with customers and they don’t require a large upfront investment from us. Yes it requires time, but that’s time spent with customers which in turn helps builds relationships and pays dividends of its own.
As a supplier it’s the right way do business and as a buyer, we wouldn’t expect anything less from our suppliers.
Dale Brimelow is operations director at Duo UK
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