You Know Your Client Can Find a Better Deal Online
….here’s how you can help them understand that’s not a good idea 10/18/2021 | Jeff Jacobs, The Brand Protector
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We have all had the experience of answering a question from a client because they found a better price online. For those of us supporting the idea that responsible sourcing is a good thing for the client, their customers, and the world, the conversation may be solely about price. And in some cases, that might perhaps not be because the client has compared apples to apples, but maybe using this opportunity to discuss price as nothing more than a bargaining chip.

Your client may be interested in a lower price because their primary role in the organization is procurement, and leveraging vendors comes as naturally as breathing. You’ve experienced the client who is looking for a win, which is defined basically as getting the same product at a lower price. Tighter margins for you are likely not what you consider a win. Your client is familiar with searching and responding to online ads on Facebook or Instagram, or parsing products from Amazon or Walmart by Googling and selecting the ‘compare’ option. You know from your own experience that they are encountering a mix of brands they’ve heard of, but likely just as many they haven’t. Between reputable products and the dicey ones is a world full of mysterious companies selling goods of unknown origin and quality. Getting that point across is step one in your conversation, and it may take you sharing a real-world example.

Like everybody else, your client has been shopping more for themselves online during the pandemic, so it’s natural to compare prices from you the same way. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2020 online sales were nearly $800 billion in 2020 and that number is expected to pass $1 trillion in 2022. Online shopping has become a habit with your client, and that’s not likely going to change. The challenge here is that you’ll need to deal creatively with it.

You need to remind your clients that what makes buying online so appealing is also making it increasingly difficult to tell good products from bad. Instead of a clear apples-to-apples feature comparison, search engines serve up a glut of unknown, often inferior, and sometimes potentially dangerous products. This is where your greatest value to your customers actually comes in — this is your area of expertise. But don’t expect your customers to always remember that in their online shopping frenzies. It’s incumbent upon you to educate them, and make sure they know it’s your job to not only steer them (and their customers) away from counterfeits and dodgy factories that have not met your strict specifications, it’s your job to protect them and their end users. Cue the safe and responsibly sourced products are just worth it discussion right about here.

Next, it would be a great idea to remind your self-shopping client that the industry is comprised of multiple layers of tech companies and services, search engines, ad brokers, social media companies and e-commerce platforms — all of whom are in it to make a profit. Here’s a couple of links you might like to share with your clients as you have these conversations about DIY sourcing and pricing. There are massive amounts of counterfeit, stolen and unsafe consumer products on online marketplaces and when you position you and your organization as keeping the safety of your customers and their end users as a top priority, they’ll likely find it difficult to argue that price matters more than safety. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative documents that the “rapid growth of e-commerce platforms has helped fuel the growth of counterfeit and pirated goods into a half trillion dollar industry.” This article from the Department of Homeland Security states trafficked goods “threaten public health and safety, as well as national security.”

Finally, as I have mentioned here before, many online sellers talk a great game of being a watchdog for counterfeits and unsafe products, but the reality is likely quite a bit different. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission had to go so far as to file a complaint to force Amazon to stop selling hazardous products to customers. Products listed in the complaint included carbon monoxide detectors that failed to sound the alarm, kids’ pajamas that could catch fire, and hair dryers capable of electrocuting users if dropped in water.

Online comparison shopping has made your value-add proposition admittedly a little more difficult to defend. Still, that’s just as much of the job as consistently sourcing responsibly, while delivering a safe product for your clients’ customers. The battle is worth it because it’s you that’s the real differentiator between your client and the wild west of internet purchasing. Without the benefit of your unique knowledge of how industry sourcing really works — your client risks losing the balance between responsibility for a product and just getting it somewhere unknown for a few pennies less.

Jeff Jacobs has been an expert in building brands and brand stewardship for 40 years, working in commercial television, Hollywood film and home video, publishing, and promotional brand merchandise. He’s a staunch advocate of consumer product safety and has a deep passion and belief regarding the issues surrounding compliance and corporate social responsibility. He retired as executive director of Quality Certification Alliance, the only non-profit dedicated to helping suppliers provide safe and compliant promotional products. Before that, he was director of brand merchandise for Michelin. Connect with Jeff on TwitterLinkedInInstagram, or read his latest musings on food, travel and social media on his personal blog jeffreypjacobs.com. Email jacobs.jeffreyp@gmail.com.
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