5 Ways to Build and Maintain Strong Retailer Relationships


To be a successful vendor, strong, collaborative relationships with retailers are crucial. While in theory, creating and maintaining these working relationships appears straightforward, in practice they can be a bit more challenging and sophisticated.


If you’re looking to start new retailer relationships on the right foot, enhance your existing relationships, or simply learn what you can do to ensure that you are your retailer’s favourite vendor, keep reading.  



 Why are Retailer-Vendor Relationships Important?

Before we dive in, let’s start with the basics: why should you care about forging and maintaining quality retailer relationships in the first place?
If we can speak candidly for a second: you have a favourite retailer and your retailers each have a favourite vendor. When you are your retailer’s favourite vendor, you receive a lot of perks that other vendors cannot access. For instance, special promotions and main-page product placement.
Importantly, your retailers represent your brand and are a key piece in the customer experience. At the end of the day, you and your retailers are serving a mutual end customer. In order to provide the best customer experience possible, you both need to collaborate and share relevant goals and values.
What can you do as a Vendor to Help Strengthen Relationships with your Retailers?
1) Foster Collaboration 
From the beginning, it is crucial to hold a mindset that considers your relationship with your retailer as a collaborative partnership with the end goal of “wow-ing” your mutual end customer.
As your build the relationship, this mindset will expand to tasks like coordinating marketing promotions and campaigns. For example, you could offer to co-sponsor ads that feature both you and the retailer’s brands.
Instead of treating the vendor-retailer relationship as adversarial, figure one another as an extension of your own company.
2) Set Clear Expectations
 Immediately setting clear expectations of one another makes a reliable and successful vendor-retailer partnership. This way, nothing falls through the cracks and neither party encounters any unwanted surprises along the way.
To lay out your expectations, we suggest creating a contract that clearly details service levels, turnaround times, payment terms, shipping fees, dropship fees, inventory sync frequencies, and return policies. Additionally, your contract should include termination policies and legalities. If you are interested in checking out our free-to-download vendor agreement, click here.
In addition to a contract, assigning a designated point of contact simplifies communication and expectations. For instance, having a specific person responsible for major functions like merchandising, shipping and fulfillment, and customer service.
how to build and maintain retailer relationships

3) Establish Effective Communication

While setting clear expectations should be thought out at the beginning of the partnership, effective communication is a skill that needs to be continuously employed over the course of your working relationship.  


On a daily basis, you and your retailers should be able to effectively and concisely communicate changes in inventory, pricing, new products, shipment tracking, and receipt confirmation, among other variables.


Overall, this helps to avoid any mistakes and disruptions. Namely selling out-of-stock items or incorrectly priced items.


4) Provide Something “Extra” for your Retailers 

In order to become your retailer’s favourite vendor, you have to step outside of the box. This can work as an incentive for them to prioritize your products, run collaborative promotions for your products, or simply present your products in a particularly attractive way that stands out from the rest.


In order to avoid being viewed as just another commodity, here are some ways that you can impress your retailers.


a) Offer promotions

b) Provide hassle-free return policies

c) Give them early access to new products

d) Supply striking product photography

e) Send them samples or test products  


5) Invest in the Right Technology and Networking Tools 

All successful business owners can agree that you cannot do everything on your own. Manual processes are not saleable and some things are only possible with the right team of people and the right technology in your corner.  


We suggest finding an inventory management software that creates feeds. For instance, Duoplane is a dropship automation software that allows you and your retailers to seamlessly communicate and serve your mutual customer in the best way. With a sophisticated system like Duoplane, you can automate your inventory feeds, catalog updates, purchase orders, invoice payments, and many other parts of your backend processes.


Additionally, if you are having trouble managing your warehousing and shipping on your own, it may worthwhile to outsource to a 3PL (third-party logistics). You can learn more about a 3PL strategy here.


Ideally, vendors and retailers work together to identify the systems and technologies that best serve their mutual end customer. Should these technologies be accessible and mutually beneficial, we highly suggest keeping a vendor and retailer portal in the same system. 



Overall, it is critical to keep an open, honest, and clear relationship with your retailers to ensure success. Be true to your business, but also trust your retailers as a resource for new insights, growth strategies, and marketing assistance. The extent to which retailers and vendors can forge and maintain highly effective will determine the experience they provide to their mutual end customer and their ability to thrive in today’s e-commerce world.

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