How to Onboard Vendors to an E-Commerce Site in 6 Steps

Vendors are the backbone of B2B businesses.

And in 2022, vendor management is more serious a process than ever.

Especially on E-commerce apps, there is no error gap for vendor relationships. One mistake can cause you to lose your prospective vendors or harm your business relationships.

And that is only one of the reasons why a well-designed onboarding workflow for vendors is an absolute need for any business in B2B E-commerce.

Internal platforms, user registrations, internal policies, and e-commerce sales are all focal points of vendor onboarding.

But can user onboarding be a part of the vendor onboarding process as well?

Let’s find out as we talk about:

  • What vendor onboarding is,
  • Why you should be properly onboarding your vendors,
  • What vendor onboarding software is,
  • Why you should use a third-party onboarding software for vendor onboarding, and
  • How to create an automated vendor onboarding for e-commerce sites

Let’s put some definition on the term:

What is Vendor onboarding?

Vendor onboarding, often mixed up with vendor management or supplier onboarding, is a process of starting off with a vendor relationship as a company. This process can include check-ups on whether the policy norms and requirements are met, whether business goals can be reached on both sides, and whether the information provided by the vendors is correct and complete, often checked by a verification team. However, vendor onboarding can also mean introducing vendors to a database or platform they will need to use throughout their business relationship with a company.

In this article, we will be talking more about the second type of vendor onboarding in the context of eCommerce platforms and B2B eCommerce businesses.

But first, let’s answer an important question:

Why is onboarding vendors crucial?

In eCommerce and in other spheres of business, there is often a need to maintain relationships with vendors. And if we were to consider the primary definition of vendor onboarding, it is necessary for:

  • Secure business on both ends,
  • Mutual understanding of business processes,
  • Providing a self-service portal for vendors with proper documentation

But if we were to consider that user onboarding is an important part of onboarding vendors as well, since they will need to learn how to use certain systems foreign to them, especially on digital platforms and SaaS, there are other reasons that make vendor onboarding important like:

  • Customer engagement is necessary for vendors as well,
  • A complete walkthrough of systems in use can help ease business processes,
  • Vendor and customer satisfaction and retention for e-commerce become more likely
  • The need for an onboarding team might be decreased, especially if the onboarding can be automated

But how is the automated onboarding of e-commerce vendors possible?

Let’s talk about vendor onboarding software.

What is vendor onboarding software?

Vendor onboarding software, in the context of regular vendor onboarding with documentation check-ups and requirement confirmations, is a tool or a group of tools to perform all tasks regarding onboarding vendors. These software can include e-commerce sales solutions, digital payment processors, identity checkers, online registration tools, security and password authenticators, and user onboarding software.

Each and every one of these software is then used to create a fruitful business relationship between you and your vendors.

But if you ask me, user onboarding software is one of the most important tools you can employ to create a successful eCommerce onboarding process for vendors.

Why?

Here’s why:

Why should you use third-party vendor onboarding software?

Creating the vendor onboarding process in-house is always an option.

Through a long period of conducting user research, creating and optimizing the onboarding process, and maintaining it, you can have a solution that deals with all your onboarding problems.

The question is, however, whether you can afford to spend time and money to create an onboarding flow from scratch alongside many other features a third-party tool offers without the hassle. 

Your answer to this question determines whether you need to outsource your onboarding.

Done in-house, your vendor onboarding can be:

Custom and specifically designed for your special needs,

Unique in a sea of standardized processes,

But you will also have to deal with:

❌ Sparing a developer or a team of developers for the task,

❌ Spending extra time and money,

❌ Doing frequent maintenance, which means regular spending,

Outsourcing tools to check analytics and segmentation

Meanwhile, with a third-party tool, you can:

❌  Standardized vendor onboarding processes,

❌ May not be able to customize as much as you like,

But also:

✅ Create complete walkthroughs and onboarding processes in a matter of minutes,

✅ Give a fixed amount of money and spend a way less time,

✅ Do maintenance easily and without coding,

✅ Be able to check analytics and use other functions via one app 

outsource vendor onboarding

Most of these third-party onboarding tools are also completely code-free.

So you don’t usually need coding experience or any technical background to create and implement product tours.

Still thinking that outsourcing will not be beneficial for your company?This article might change your mind.

What do your potential vendors need?

For many people, digital platforms are complicated and untrusting.

So, your vendors need to know that you are available to help them grow with your support. People are demanding care from the very beginning of their experience with your site.

While establishing an onboarding process for vendors, we recommend you start by asking what challenges them. The first thing to focus on here is to find the pain points of your users that make it hard for them to understand the value of your product.

Your vendor onboarding process should be designed to address the vendors’ needs.

Your vendor onboarding software will help you solve your vendors’ problems and satisfy them. When you solve their problems, their motivation to stay with you increases along with their efficient effort in this partnership.

Onboard Vendors to an E-Commerce Site in 6 Steps

Whether you are going in-source or out-source for your onboarding needs, what you need to do in order to create the best onboarding flow for your product, stays the same.

We have summarised these into 6 steps which will help you achieve satisfied vendors that are also power users of your platform.

1- Interactive Training

interactive vendor onboarding
Interactive guide created with UserGuiding

First thing first: make sure that your vendors understand the steps they need to take to be a vendor on your site and use it effectively.

Interactive vendor training enables you to explain every single feature you offer to your vendor. With interactive site walkthroughs, you can create guides that show your value proposition step by step.

Boosting engagement among vendors with these interactive product tours helps you create a knowledgeable and loyal vendor base.

Keep in mind that the vendors that reach their “Aha!” moments quickly are more likely to become fans of your brand.

2- Provide elaborate documentation

Here’s some good news:

Using vendor onboarding software, you can create your training documentation easily.

It is handy to provide brief information to show the bigger picture. But your vendors may need elaborate documentation covering the overall process, especially if they are not tech-savvy.

But remember: do not expect them to digest everything on your e-commerce site.

Instead, you can start by helping them complete the registration and open their online shop to lessen the burden on them.

3- Vendor onboarding checklists

Here’s the bad news:

Your potential vendors might quit in the middle of the process if they find it too complicated.

You can create a vendor onboarding checklist to make it simple for them. Let them go step-by-step rather than jumping into the middle of the process.

userguiding vendor onboarding checklist
Vendor Onboarding Checklist, created with UserGuiding

Your vendor onboarding checklist may include registration, creating a profile, entering the prices, product descriptions, payment terms, delivery process, etc.

These steps will organize the vendor onboarding process and show them what to accomplish next.

4- Create a self-service help center

Every vendor’s situation is unique, but there is no doubt that there will be frequently asked questions.

A good step toward a satisfactory self-service experience is to offer an interactive help center to provide self-service support.

This way, vendors can access the information they need (often immediately) without the need to talk to an actual person, and inside the app.

Believe it or not, inadequate but fast support can help keep satisfaction rates high.

vendor onboarding analytics

5- Track their progress to help more

Once you create your guides that will onboard your vendors, you need to track their performance since you can’t improve what you can’t measure.

userguiding analytics dashboard

UserGuiding’s analytics dashboard

Creating an analytics tool if you’re working in-source or picking the third-party tool with integrated analytics will help you see how your creations are doing and what needs improvement.

Once you explore the guides where your vendors are having a hard time and see in which parts your vendors excel, you can get a sense of the most optimal onboarding process for your site and start realizing it.

6- Let them be informed of new features

Let’s say your vendors are now online, and their businesses are running. Now it is time to spend some effort on retention.

As we mentioned before, many other B2C and B2B eCommerce sites are working hard to steal them from you.

What you can do for high retention rates is to keep the connection active all the time. If you launched a new feature, let them know about it; increase your feature adoption!

This way, you will strengthen your bond with your vendors while also getting to flaunt your new features 😎

This way, your vendors will experience a constant sense of being cared for. Never forget that your partnership is supposed to last a lifetime.

To Wrap Up…

Vendor onboarding can change its form completely in different industries and contexts.

For the B2B eCommerce industry, there seems to be a focus on proper user onboarding more than anything.

In-house user onboarding processes to onboard vendors is always an option, but one can argue that third-party software for vendor onboarding is ideal. 

Whatever your approach to vendor onboarding in e-commerce might be, hopefully, this article was helpful.

Best of luck!


Frequently Asked Questions


What is vendor onboarding checklist?

A vendor onboarding checklist is a workflow used to onboard vendors to platforms and business processes. In the context of user onboarding. However, a vendor onboarding checklist might refer to an in-app onboarding checklist used to walk users through an entire user interface and complete certain tasks to train for using specific systems.


What is vendor onboarding process?

A vendor onboarding process can be the compliance and requirements check-up vendors needs to go though to start working with a specific company and a workflow with the information they provide the said company. It can also refer to the in-app user onboarding for vendors especially utilized on e-commerce sites.


Who is responsible for vendor onboarding?

Vendor onboarding can often be undertaken by a procurement manager or a verification team. Still, if it is a user onboarding for vendors we are discussing, a user onboarding process for vendors can be created by anyone if they use a capable third-party tool for onboarding.


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Selman Gokce

Selman Gokce is the Senior Inbound Marketer of UserGuiding. He is highly invested in user onboarding and digital adoption, especially for SaaS, and he writes on these topics for the UserGuiding blog. When he's not writing, you can find him either listening to LOTR soundtracks while cooking or getting angry because he lost in a video game.