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But, for all of its convenience, how does e-commerce deal with concerns such as identity testing and supplier vetting?
Moving into 2015, distributor Green Wave Ingredients (GWI; La Mirada, CA) will unveil a new e-commerce platform to enable customers to purchase raw-material ingredients at any time, in real-time. But, for all of its convenience, how does e-commerce deal with concerns such as identity testing and supplier vetting? We asked the company.
Off the bat, points out Jim Shultz, GWI’s founder and CEO, although the ingredients industry has not yet delved heavily into e-commerce, the convenience e-commerce provides is something the industry can't ignore. GWI’s platform puts into customers’ hands 24-hour, 7-days-a-week ordering, payment, immediate customer support, documentation, freight information, and more. For ease of use, customers also get access to their own personal dashboard, complete with order history and even market-trend information. And there is a mobile component as well.
“Convenience is one of the biggest benefits of buying online. At any time, everything pertaining to an order-inventory, sample, documentation, shipping-will happen in real-time,” says Shultz. “Buyers can browse our full inventory and prices, receiving a discount based on their account. Customers will also see a combination price on orders where they purchase more than one product.” This is also a good opportunity for buyers to discover new ingredients from suppliers, he adds.
Often, however, buyers and suppliers engage in price negotiation during in-person, e-mail, or phone transactions. Suppliers often keep ingredient prices confidential, and that's in part what’s kept e-commerce out of the ingredient-buying picture in the industry until now. But, says Shultz, this price negotiation practice “decreases productivity.” He says, “Our e-commerce platform will eliminate this, creating transparent negotiations, allowing the buyer to review pricing and inventory, download product documentation, and see the freight costs, all in real-time.” And buyers can look for savings in other places, as well. For instance, Shultz says, GWI will discount large or multiple-item orders.
Product quality is also a chief concern. But, Shultz points out, e-commerce will connect customers with GWI’s already-qualified network of suppliers. And, the same type of qualification goes for buyers. Shultz says that new customers will need to go through a validation process so that GWI can verify that their businesses are legitimate. With these safety measures in place, he says, customers should feel very comfortable using the e-commerce format.
“We feel that our existing, large customer base will embrace this new technology, and with our already stringent quality-control checklist, our suppliers are longtime partners who have been through our auditing process,” he says. That process includes factory audits by GWI’s quality-control team in China, in-house testing, pre-shipment inspections in China, and third-party lab testing in the United States.
If customers are still wary of e-commerce, they can always still purchase materials traditionally through sales executives or customer service. “The bottom line,” Shutz says, “is that GWI will deliver consistent quality, online or offline.”
But, he says, don’t overlook the benefits of e-commerce. “This added-value service…will [transform] the way raw ingredients will be bought and sold for the industry,” he predicted via press release.
Nutritional Outlook magazine
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