Landing products on retail shelves or in a big-box store can be one of the most rewarding achievements for a business or entrepreneur. However, managing to keep your retail buyer satisfied can turn out to become one of the most challenging aspects of the retail relationship.

As a result of more retail companies enforcing stricter delivery guidelines, including Must Arrive By Dates (MABD) and Delivery Windows, the area of retail transportation requirements tends to be easily misunderstood. Unfortunately, misunderstanding and inexperience are not limited to only the businesses that supply products to the retailers. In many cases, it's the carriers that have not figured out how to properly handle retail shipments, which can leave you having to pay late fees and other delivery chargebacks that could easily be avoided.

In this three-part series, we will discuss different steps that you can take to reduce your chance of being hit by chargebacks from retail buyers. Not only will avoiding transportation penalties protect your bottom line, it will also strengthen your retailer buyers trust in you as a dependable seller.

Determine What Support (If Any) There Is

Retail stores and chains come in all sorts of sizes. What role your retail buyer will play within the order and delivery process will also vary. Since retail buyers often deal with numerous shippers, their ability to provide support may be very limited. 

For example, if you're having problems navigating the retailer's website, the retail buyer may provide assistance. Then, again, they may not. 

Part of understanding your retail buyer is knowing what type of a relationship will exist. Always ask questions upfront and determine what type of support they will provide your company. 

  • Will they address your technical/web concerns?
  • What methods of communication will exist?
  • Will they provide clarifications on Purchase Orders (PO)?
  • Will they help you challenge chargebacks?
  • Will they maintain copies of important documents that could help fend off wrongful chargebacks?

Due to the competitive nature of getting into larger retail chains, such as Walmart or Target, sellers are often expected to be able to handle their transportation and Purchase Order concerns on their own. When this is the case, there are two questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Can we handle all of the fine details alone in order to avoid chargebacks? 
  2. If we can't, can our carrier?

Identify Requirements For Your Orders

The next step in understanding your retail buyer and having a successful, long-term relationship is being able to identify the different requirements your orders must meet.

  • Product purchased: Ensure that each shipment matches the information documented in the purchase order. If the freight is supposed to be delivered in saran wrap on a pallet, make sure that it is delivered in saran wrap on a pallet. Deliveries can easily be rejected because of simple mistakes. 
  • Date needed or required for delivery (single date or window): This often leads to chargebacks and penalties for sellers. MABDs and delivery windows may not sound complex at first, but if your carrier is not experienced with meeting retail requirements and deadlines, the financial penalties can quickly add up.
  • Purchase Order or other numbers that are needed when received: Identify all of the numbers that the driver will need in order for the distribution center or retail store to accept your shipment. 
  • Which party will pay for the transportation or shipping: Some retailers will pay for the transportation costs. In this case, identify their system for scheduling pickups. If you are responsible for the shipping costs, your carrier selection will be critical.

Next: Learn how coordination of orders with warehousing and production can affect your retail MABD timeline