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Author Biography:

Catherine McGinnis  is the creative mind behind Soaping101. Catherine earned her MBA, Summa Cum Laude from MSU. With a background in marketing and a keen eye for design, soap making was a perfect fit. She founded newt+fig Soaps which soon gained a faithful following and led to requests for video tutorials. She now helps Soapmakers sharpen their skills through free online classes. www.Soaping101.com

Think Like a Customer
By Catherine McGinnis Tuesday, June 3, 2014
What is it about your favorite cosmetic and soap supply company that keeps you coming back? Is it quality products? Is it friendly and courteous customer service? Is it quick delivery? Is it free shipping? All of the attributes that you appreciate in your go-to supplier should be what you strive to incorporate into your own business.

Quality Products

You only get one chance to make a first impression so make sure it is a good one. Think to yourself: Would I buy this product? If not, you may want to reevaluate.

Create a checklist for shipping. Are all your products properly and neatly labeled? Many consumers have allergies that we are unaware of. Accurate labeling keeps you and your customers safe. Have you included a packing slip? Nearly everyone likes to check their order against an itemized list. A packing slip also serves as a register for you to double-check the order. Have you included free samples? There is nothing more appreciated by the customer than free product. This is also your opportunity to showcase upcoming products. Free samples act as a preview for the customer of what he/she can add to future orders. Lastly, have you included a personal note to the buyer? A short handwritten message to your customer puts the transaction on a personal level. Show your manners and grace with a sincere thank you.

Friendly and Courteous Customer Service

Is the customer really always right? No, but they like to think they are! Why should you be the one to tell them differently? It takes more time and effort to dispute their claim than it does to please the customer. Keep in mind that with so many other retail options available, the customer chose your company. Assure them that they made the right choice by being courteous and friendly.

Not all transactions go smoothly. But if you can find a way to turn a negative into a positive, you have just gained a loyal customer for life. Keep your communications upbeat, enthusiastic and thorough. Your company's reputation is worth more than you realize. As entrepreneur Warren Buffet said “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and  five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.”

Quick Delivery

Once the shipment leaves your business the delivery time may be completely out of your hands. However, the steps leading up to shipping is totally in your,control.

Be sure to only offer products that you immediately have available (custom orders excluded). We live in the age of immediacy. As soon as your customer places an order, they are already anticipating its arrival. Items that are out of stock or on back order dampen the customer's excitement and may reflect poorly on your business.

Organize a shipping schedule and stick to it. Set aside a specific time each week dedicated only to packing and shipping. Quick turnaround time is a critical component in retaining loyal customers. The quicker the shipment leaves your business, the quicker it will get to its final destination; your waiting customer.

Free Shipping

You may think that being a small business you cannot afford to offer free shipping but you can. Online customers are used to free or discounted shipping from leading merchants.

Consumers tend to spend more when free shipping is offered. Whether it is due to a set minimum threshold (free shipping on orders of $50 or more) or the reason being because it is just how the human mind works. When we see the word “free” our mind goes a bit wild. We feel as if we are getting something for nothing and are more likely to shop without inhibitions.

The secret to being able to afford free shipping is actually no secret at all, it is volume sales. The greatest amount of online shoppers will only purchase from merchants that offer free shipping. If you offer it, you can expect to gain new customers. You may fail to see the profits in the shortrun but consider the value of repeat customers.

As consumers we know what we like. As retailers we can cater to the customers' wants and needs. It is not enough just to offer pretty products in pretty packaging. Online customers are accustomed to perks and you need to also be competitive. You cannot completely surrender to customers whims but you can incorporate these attributes that will keep them coming back. When in doubt, think like a customer.

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