Is your organization considering an online store solution? Great! It’s important to know, though, that all stores are not created equally, and not all promotional partners have the infrastructure you will need to keep your store running seamlessly. Below are a few questions you should consider when you evaluate a potential online store solution and partner to run that online store.
- Is the solution built and supported directly by the company offering it? If it is not, then when things break, your provider has no control over addressing the issues and has to rely on the third party to fix. The same goes for upgrades or needed changes. Be careful of franchises that will sign up any warm body to grow their network. They often have companies within their network that are already marginal on simply providing the products and have no knowledge or control in dealing with the online solution provided by the parent franchise organization.
- How customizable is the solution to the specific needs of your organization, and can it be tailored to fit into your business processes? To get the maximum benefit out of any online procurement system, it’s important to find a partner who can get a full understanding of your needs and translate those needs into specific functionality for you. Many third party solutions will either not offer custom functionality or charge your promotional partner (and by extension, you) for that functionality. Even more importantly, if your company uses systems like PunchOut for procurement be sure to understand if your provider can integrate with them to ensure a smooth experience for your team.
- How does your provider handle distribution? When one of your employees wants to order off the store, do they know exactly when that product will ship? Do they have a choice of where the product will ship? If your store solution will involve inventory, where is that inventory being stored, and what controls are in place to ensure the correct product is being shipped out? The ideal store solution provides accurate information on the front end, with established production and back office processes in place to ensure products are decorated correctly, picked correctly, and shipped correctly, saving you time and headaches.
- Is the system mobile-friendly? While most B2B interactions are still done by computer, mobile-friendly systems allow your users to order product on the spot, quickly get answers, or check the status of an order without having to walk back to an office or work space. Systems that are built first with mobile in mind give all users the experience they deserve, no matter what device they use to log in.
- How expandable is the solution? We often find that once we have built a system for the procurement of branded apparel, print, promotional items, and other marketing products; that over time other needs are identified such as streamlining an employee anniversary program, reward program, incentive program, managing events, and more. Template driven, third party systems will not allow for that sort of expandability nor precise needs of an individual organization should the need arise down the road.
The bottom line? Work with an organization has its own product and own programmers in-house for the best, most tailored results. Otherwise, the system you are choosing to make your life easier may just result in more headaches and hurdles.