One of the more difficult aspects of drop shipping is maintaining synchronized product details and prices with your suppliers over time. While the initial upload of products into your shopping cart software from a spreadsheet is very straightforward, keeping product info up to date is a challenge – the more suppliers you have, the bigger the challenge. As the years go by, suppliers add new products, discontinue old ones, change color/size options and change prices. Problems can easily arise when your website sends a purchase order to a supplier for an item that no longer has the right price. If the price has gone up a lot, you either lose the sale or lose your profit on the sale. If the item is discontinued, you will either lose the sale or lose the profit from the sale in the time it takes to locate another supplier of the same or similar item. Maintaining updated product information and current prices over a period of years is a critical issue. It can also be very time consuming.
Many manufacturers send out a new product/price catalog at the start of each new year. Other manufacturers change prices more frequently. For example, the price of steel can fluctuate wildly. Manufacturers of heavy steel items may adjust prices more than once a year if the price of steel goes up or down dramatically. The price of gasoline also can affect product prices – particularly if your marketing strategy is to offer free shipping.
There are really only two options for handling these updates. Go through every product manually, compare your products to the new catalog and update manually or have a plan using software for batch updates.
Here are the strategies we have used in the past to handle product updates manually.
1. Encourage your suppliers to send a catalog or spreadsheet where new product additions are highlighted. If the prices have not changed, this strategy will save you a mountain of time in comparing your website to the new catalog.
2. Ask the supplier some other pertinent questions.
- Have all prices changed or only a few? If the supplier has only changed a few prices and they can identify those items, your job is easier.
- Do they have a product/price list in Excel? Or a database file like Access? Or a .csv file download from their own website? Unbelievable as it sounds, many suppliers still send out only a printed color catalog and a separate printed dealer price sheet.
- Ask for a list of discontinued items. If the supplier has discontinued many items and is offering clearance prices, you may also want an inventory feed so you know when to take them down. Take them down early! – it saves a lot of hassle and customer dissatisfaction compared with customers ordering items you can no longer get.
Here are the strategies employed by OrderStorm using our WordPress e-Commerce software for batch updates.
1. Ask if prices have gone up uniformly. OrderStorm WordPress eCommerce allows you to change prices by percentage across the board. For example, you can easily raise all prices by 10%.
2. Use the OrderStorm e-Commerce batch update screens. You can batch update either by category or by supplier. Updating by category is much easier if the supplier has thousands of items in their catalog. Enter the new prices in the appropriate cell on the page – when you click off the cell, your changes are automatically saved. Here is a screenshot of a batch update page.
3. Database update as a service. OrderStorm offers database updates as a service to our customers. We can update your prices from a spreadsheet directly in the database by comparing the item numbers in the database with the new catalog spreadsheet and updating the database to match. This allows for batch updating of the retail price (MSRP), your dealer cost, the price you will charge your customer, and the shipping price if you are using flat rate shipping. Comparing item numbers will also generate a list of discontinued items that can be turned off plus new items that can either be added using the ‘upload from a spreadsheet feature’ in the OrderStorm WordPress e-Commerce software or added directly by our support staff at the same time as we run price updates. Or you can add the new items manually.
A final cautionary note: Watch for part number changes! Manufacturers should never, ever change an item number. But they do. Sometime they re-number all items or a big subset. This is a disaster for database updates. Be sure to ask the manufacturer if they have changed any part numbers/item numbers/SKUs. Depending on what they did, we may be able to match the product name up to the new catalog and do a database update on the new part numbers. Otherwise, you will be doing this manually – a huge time suck.
E-commerce and drop shipping can be complex. Please call if you would like to talk about drop shipping, database updates, batch updates or have any other e-commerce questions. OrderStorm is happy to be your e-commerce expert.