With independent retailers using multiple channels to research and purchase products, many wholesalers have become strong advocates of Internet based businesses. It’s a classic mistake, however, for wholesalers utilizing Internet space as a marketplace to create a website that is focused on their products alone, rather than on the needs of their customers. Searching for some expert advice? Some Internet wholesalers, such as Fetpak, have made a lucrative business through their Internet operations, following some general rules in design and presentation to create that customer friendly feel.
Giving Customers What They Want: Products and Customer Friendly Websites
With initial sales placed to CEO, Wayne Fetta, at his house, Fetpak has come a long way from the 1980s, now occupying a 36,000 sq. ft. warehouse with a diversified collection of products. Although 40 percent of Fetpak’s business is based on its jewelry display lines, retailers are not limited in their selection of other packaging, labeling and display merchandise. As Fetta emphasizes, “We like for our customers not to buy one product from us, but a whole cross section. I know it is a hassle for retailers to be cherry picking one item here or there, so we make it easy for them and deliver it fast.” A testament to Fetpak’s fast and easy delivery system begins with the product selection process. With the help of categorized navigation and multiple visuals, visitors are one click away from having all product details at their fingertips.
Fetpak’s website was first launched in 1997. Claiming to be one of the first wholesalers to launch a website, Fetpak was making about 15 percent of its sales by 1998/1999 via the Web. After a decade of customer feedback and website redesign, Fetpak’s website now brings in 80 percent of sales. The Internet wholesaler’s simple yet effective advantage, Fetta reveals, “it’s a huge website, we have thousands of items. To make it as easy as possible is what we try and do.”
What does Fetpak make obvious for their visiting customers? Every item listed has an associated description, color/style drop down menu, and most importantly, quantity breakdown price. All prices and details are upfront, honest, and accessible to anyone visiting the site. Fetpak’s easy to use online catalogue, and tremendous success in closeout offerings, keeps Fetta hopeful of the company’s continued growth. Fetta confirms, “The recession and slow down hasn’t stopped us. We’ve done it for over 20 years and we hope to for many more.”
Easy access and details at your fingertips seems to be 79 South China’s approach to online wholesale as well. Opening business in 1979, 79 South China’s goal has always been to provide what the customer wants, such as value footwear at an affordable price and great quality. As owner, Bobby Cheung, explains, “People are looking for a particular price point. Our footwear ranges from 45 cents to $6 wholesale, and the best retail price point for us is $5 to $10.”
Although actively meeting independent retailers at 20 plus tradeshows a year, such as ASD, WSA and Smoda, 79 South China still relies on its website to make most introductions and uphold its customer friendly mission. According to Cheung, “We keep the site open without a login.” Cheung finds that most retailers have mixed feelings about a login, and wanting to give customers that welcoming feel, exclusivity could hurt that. Therefore, over 200 items are listed publicly, all details included. Whether looking to purchase flip-flops, aqua shoes, or men’s, ladies’ and children’s footwear, 79 South China’s website breaks down all possible choices by color, size and pricing. These details are then transferred during purchase and brought to store shelves, case by case. From online to in-store, 79 South China runs a smooth process with constant accessibility, as it has expanded from the New York area to small boutiques, discount stores, and Walgreens throughout the U.S., Caribbean islands and a few international countries.
While Internet wholesalers do well with full disclosure, others also look to appeal through organization. What good is a website if no one can navigate through it? Bryan Eisenberg, co-author of, “Call To Action,” a how to book on creating customer friendly websites, explains, it’s about, “making sure that everyone can get in quickly, buy quickly, then get out again quickly.” Retailers won’t be buying anything if they can’t find it, select it and checkout.
Working to supply the thousands of everyday necessities such as health and beauty, cleaning products, laundry detergents, paper products, general merchandise, and cosmetics, Discount Wholesalers, Inc., utilizes its online space to efficiently and effectively showcase every item. As Executive Sales Manager, Saja Stark, details, “We try to keep everything in the appropriate category for easy identification.” With an accessible navigation bar at the top and left of Discount Wholesalers’ website, retailers have access to all general merchandise, health and beauty products (HBA), cosmetics, and household items.
Customers are then presented with product visuals, promising what you see is what you get, with Discount Wholesalers’ quality original case or shelf pulled items. Stark confirms that sometimes, “We post manifest listings when we have them. Some pallets come in with a complete excel file with all the UPC codes, wholesale values and piece counts, and we’ll post these as well.” Stark believes that keeping all this information together in an organized manner for visitors to access, allows for smoother operations when searching for a product, placing an order, and prepping to ship by the pallet or the truckload. Like Fetpak, Discount Wholesalers is looking to meet multiple product needs, and organization is key when fulfilling mixed pallet orders. For example, Stark details, “A typical mixed pallet of health and beauty aids could include shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and other subcategories within the overall HBA category.” With organization online and in warehouse, Discount Wholesalers is able to supply mixed pallets to enable a purchase that fills a lot of shelves in a lot of different aisles with a single order.
Shannon Miller, office manager for Y Weng Trading, highlights the organized layout of Y Weng Trading’s website as well, commenting, “It is very user friendly, sponsored through WholesaleCentral.com. All the items are listed in a category. We receive great feedback on our website.” This type of feedback is what every Internet wholesaler is looking for on their website, especially when carrying 25 different product lines with over 2,000 individual products.
Beginning in August of 2007, Y Weng Trading has become the wholesale home for houseware items, tools, kitchenware, toys, gifts, hats, pet supplies, jewelry, and more. Likewise, WholesaleCentral.com has become the home for Y Weng Trading’s website, and as customers enter the store, they are first presented with contact information, a company profile, terms, payment options, minimum order size, shipping methods and return policy. This type of organization answers all the questions most shoppers leave for last, so they can enter the store and focus on the real goal to buy products to stock their shelves. In the shopping cart is where you’ll find the category, item number with picture and description, as well as price and unit size. Wholesale buyers are also presented with frequent closeouts, sales, and quantity discounts, as 90 percent of the products presented have such an option. Of Miller’s favorite feature, she says, “Items can be seen as out of stock, reducing confusion and inquiries about these items.” Simply, the organization of the website helps with office organization, as customers call with less questions that require chaotic searches for products in stock.
Website details and disorganization play a role in customer satisfaction, and through trial and error many Internet wholesalers are learning the tricks of the trade. However, other online necessities, such as providing a place to chat and interact with your visitors, has caused many Internet wholesalers to redesign. As reported in Independent Retailer’s May 2011 issue, “One of the big shifts in shopping last year was the emergence of social ecommerce, as brands and retailers found that social networks aren’t just a means to extend their visibility, but also a way to pull in more revenue.” Therefore, consumers are noticing more Facebook, Twitter and other social media widgets in the design of both retailers’ and wholesalers’ online stores.
Your first hope in starting out an online business is that you will drive many users to your site. Your second hope is that these users will become repeat customers. Today, you are not only looking for repeat loyal customers, but fans. Specialty Store Services, founded in 1986 as a four page flyer targeted to video stores, now offers, but isn’t limited to, a wide selection of store fixtures, store showcases, and slatwall panels. Over the years, Specialty Store Services has truly become a one-stop shop for independent retailers, including clothing, grocery and pet stores, offering plastic and paper bags, cash registers, security products, scratch-off games and much more. Specialty Store Services’ success, however, isn’t solely measured in its expansive product offerings, but also its utilization of online space to target fans among its customers.
Initiating its Web presence in 1998, Specialty Store Services’ website is in its third generation and shortly will be launching a fourth generation design. Along with a detailed and organized presentation, with hard to miss Deals, Sales and Blowouts pages, it also highlights its heavy involvement in social media. Below all listed items, visitors to the site can select to follow Specialty Store Services via Facebook, Twitter or Blogger. It couldn’t hurt to become a fan or follower, as each promotional widget provides access to news about special deals, new products, products usage and more. Today’s social world indicates that consumers want to interact with Specialty Store Services and its products in a way that makes them comfortable, and therefore, Eric Weinstein, owner, continues to promote social media forums such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogger.
Yet, to allow even greater interaction between retailer and wholesaler, and to let visitors to the site and purchasers of the products really be heard, Weinstein has also implemented an online review forum. Weinstein says, “People can learn a lot from reviews. After implementing the review program, we now have a couple thousand reviews on products.” As Specialty Store Services prepares to launch its new website redesign, Weinstein admits that social media and reviews will still remain a fundamental part of its presentation.
Global Imports, selling different merchandise than Specialty Store Services, admits that whether you are selling displays and cash registers or ladies intimate wear and fashion jewelry, the social media frenzy is an effective means for any Internet wholesaler to interact with customers. Global imports has seen great success in selling its popular women’s intimate wear and gemstone fashion jewelry. According to Lillian Mo, VP of marketing, Global imports sells over 400,000 pairs of women’s underwear each year, even with a minimum order of $100. Yet, Global Imports is hoping to drive more visitors to its site and products via its social media involvement.
Use of a widget on the website’s homepage reminds visitors of Global Imports’ social networking involvement, enticing customers to “Like” and become fans. Fans reap rewards, as many times a special deal will be issued via the social site. For example, Mo confirms, “Sometimes we’ll issue a promo code for 10 percent off orders over $500, or free shipping on orders.” Although Global Imports successfully uses Facebook as an alternative form of customer interaction, a more direct line of communication can be accessed via its new Live Chat feature. Easily accessed at the top of Global Imports’ homepage, all product details can be inquired from a live agent ready to help when needed.
According to Retail Systems Research, “Consumers showed conclusively that they weren’t going to sit passively and let retailers push products at them. Consumers have taken control of the dialogue, and they insist on being (digitally) heard.” Internet Wholesalers such as Fetpak, 79 South China, Discount Wholesalers, and Y Weng Trading have effectively mastered the customer friendly design for those detail oriented and organized customers. For the new age customer, demanding to be digitally heard, Specialty Store Services and Global Imports are on the right path. The best advice, as agreed upon by these featured Internet wholesalers and Eisenberg, “Ask your customers exactly what they want, and keep on asking. Because once you think you know what they want, they change their minds.”
For More Information:
Wayne Fetta, CEO
70 Austin Blvd.
Commack, NY 11725
Toll Free: 800-883-3872
79 South China
Bobby Cheung, Owner
148 Green Street
Brooklyn, NY 11222
Toll Free: 800-235-0020
Discount Wholesalers Inc.
Saja Stark, Executive Sales Manager
1985 Toconderoga Blvd Ste 27
Chester Springs, PA 19425
Y Weng Trading
Shannon Miller, Office Manager
4770 Navarre Rd SW Unit B
Canton, OH 44706
Specialty Store Services
Eric Weinstein, Owner
454 Jarvis Ave
Des Plaines, IL 60018
Toll Free: 877-600-6967
Global Imports Inc.
Lillian Mo, VP of Marketing
1313 John Reed Ct
City of Industry, CA 91745
Toll Free: 888-882-0005