Why did we launch ShowSourcing?

Why did we launch ShowSourcing?

 

A post written by the founders

 

In January, 2015, we were just a bunch of enthusiasts – always excited about the great new products coming out all the time. We were always judging products – not just on what they could do, but on their design, the foresight of the developers, and even those small things you can’t live without but never consider. We followed Apple’s newest releases religiously, scrutinized new fashion trends, devoured industry news… we loved seeing how products could make life more enjoyable for people in ways we hadn’t considered.

 

But we could never understand why some companies seemed to take so much longer than others to release their new products. Didn’t they have a process that helped them keep things moving faster than THIS?

 

And that’s what we were discussing one day when Lionel, CEO of Plastoria and one of our future crew of fearless founders, made a very simple statement. “You know product development is a completely chaotic process, don’t you?”

 

Well that set us off. We spent the next hours, days, weeks, and months getting to the bottom of the real reason that sourcing was such a mess. The real thing it was missing.

 

So we started speaking to everyone we could find. We wanted to know what their biggest issues were. What problems needed fixing, and what inefficiencies were hampering them the most. After hundreds of these interviews we started to crack the door on the problem: Big companies have saddled their employees with rigid processes and overly complicated systems. So, instead of doing what they were born to do – create incredible products – most of the time employees were filling in data sheets.

 

But that was just the smallest epiphany. The real moment of awe came when we got hands on. We went to Canton Fair – the biggest trade fair in the world – just to watch buyers interact.

 

It was a catastrophe.

 

Notebooks, trolleys, piles of catalogues … what a mess.

 

And this is the point that our love for products and our obsession with tech combined into the perfect storm. We walked away from Canton that year completely set on changing this surprisingly archaic industry for the better.

 

ShowSourcing was born out of necessity. People were still going to trade fairs the way they did 20 years ago. And in a world that’s changing rapidly – one that’s trending toward the death of traditional sourcing – this style of work was completely unsustainable.

 

So we dug in deeper.

 

We developed the first ShowSourcing app to help buyers take better and faster notes. Then we started showing it off, and buyers loved it. Every person we showed our app to at the next trade fair had the same moment of epiphany. The same “this is going to change my life” reaction. And the same thing to say – “I wish I thought of that!”

 

So, end of story, right? The hero gets the customer and rides off into the sunset, doesn’t he? Absolutely not. Taking better notes at fairs was just step one. We wanted to do more.

 

So we dug in deeper.

 

We noticed that, even though our customers were already far more efficient at fairs, they still didn’t collaborate the way we thought they should. Many still needed 6 months or a year to develop a new product. But how were companies like Inditex going through this whole development cycle in TWO WEEKS? The answer was easy – simplified processes. And we wanted to make that possible for our customers as well. That was the answer we were looking for.

 

So to improve those processes, we integrated workflows, improved team communication, and simplified task management. That blew the doors open. By simply having a visual overview of their products’ respective statuses, customers instantly reported improved processes.

 

They weren’t just moving faster, they were moving smarter.

 

But, I have to admit, we still weren’t satisfied. Sure, now we have thousands of merchandising teams using ShowSourcing and drastically improving their own processes. But something was still missing.

 

So we dug in deeper.

 

We saw it almost instantly. We needed to include one more vital part of the sourcing process. Possibly the most important person outside a buyer’s organisation: the supplier. We realized that merchandising teams could be buying year round by staying connected with their suppliers. And that’s when we included supplier connect.

 

With supplier connect, our customers have been able to communicate directly with their suppliers, send and review RFQs, and reach agreements, directly through ShowSourcing. No more email blitzes. Just results.

 

And that’s not even the most amazing part of this journey. The best part? Our first launch was in 2017. In less than two years, We’ve improved lead times by 50%, reduced costs, and helped thousands of buyers get products to market faster than they thought possible.

 

So now after all that – after the incredible lead times, and the massive growth, and the smooth, easy to use technology – NOW are we done?

 

No. We’re going to dig in deeper.

 

Antoine, Gauthier, Lionel and Gatien
Working relentlessly to help teams develop great products faster.

ShowSourcing is going beyond trade show sourcing. Here’s why and how.

ShowSourcing is going beyond trade show sourcing. Here’s why and how.

 

Since our launch in January 2017, more than 10.000 buyers have used ShowSourcing to take notes on shows and buy products faster. From small Amazon buyers to Big Retail corporations, it’s clear, now more than ever, that the old ways of taking notes – handwritten in a notebook – have come to an end.

 

Companies across the globe have experienced incredible results from their first day working with ShowSourcing.  Our clients talk about how they have become more effective, how they interact better with their sourcing teams, and even how they reduced their lead times by 50%.

 

But, while we were getting all of this incredible feedback, we began to learn something truly important. We learned just how quickly the industry was changing – faster than we could have imagined – and it left buyers feeling frustrated. Why? Because all the changes in the industry lead to one simple conclusion – that product sourcing as we all know it is dying (you can read more about that [here] companies are investing more and more resources in product development to make sure that their products are unique, and therefore easier to sell in an increasingly crowded marketplace. But developing unique products and sourcing them at trade shows are two entirely different games.

 

Buyers told us their frustrations mostly came from the need to juggle these two aspects of the business – finding ways to stand out in the market versus selling directly sourced products.  And because these two sides are so different, using already complex tools (like PLMs) became more frustrating. And to top it off – they were limited by what they could do with ShowSourcing.  

 

Well, that got our attention.

 

We understood we could do so much more. So, we started asking our clients what will sourcing look like in 10 years? By asking that central question to some of our clients, we developed a new vision and, along with it,  a new tool to turn product development into an efficient, collaborative and, most importantly, engaging process.

 

We understood we had to provide a tool that would allow category managers to submit ideas on products, that would have every stakeholder in the supply chain process be notified automatically when he had to do something, and that would  allow suppliers to enter the game early on in the development of a new product.

 

We are extremely proud to announce the brand new ShowSourcing.

 

With collaboration, workflows, and sourcing processes built in, ShowSourcing is the only thing  you need to take your sourcing activities to the next level, and get your products to market faster. So to get you started, here are some of the most requested changes, and what we’ve done to improve on them:

 

User friendliness. Ease of use is key. Our new Apps have been thoughtfully re-designed and tested to offer an incredible ease of use.

 

Trade Show Database.   Shows are massive. And it’s impossible to hit every booth.  But you know exactly what products your business needs, and you don’t have time to waste.  That’s why we’ve pre-loaded thousands of exhibitor details into the app, so you can quickly save suppliers of interest and get on your way fast

 

Inspirations (coming soon). Whether it’s snapping a picture to preserve an idea,  to point out a design you like, or even to capture the type of fabric you want, everybody in your team, from sales and marketing to the sourcing team can foster ideas and share them easily with the product/project owner.

 

Team Communication. Need to know what your team thinks about your products or inspirations on the fly? You can communicate in real time across the trade floor or across the world.  Vote, start conversations, and make decisions instantly so you can avoid the tedious hours off the floor shuffling through paperwork or frantically trying to associate pictures you took with notes you rushed to scribble.

 

WorkFlows. We’ve taken ShowSourcing even further with our new workflow tools.  Now, after you find that perfect source, you can put it straight into production, and follow the process until it goes to market.  And by assigning tasks to people in your organisation, everybody can be up to date on everything that needs to be done for every product at all times.  

 

Customisation. Need a specific field in your product sheet? Or maybe you want to customise your workflow? With ShowSourcing, you will be able to personalise your environment so that it truly reflects your needs.

 

Sample Management. You will now be able to manage your samples directly from ShowSourcing.

 

Connectivity. Working with ERP’s/PLMs? ShowSourcing’s standardised API will make sure you don’t have to type data in manually anymore.

 

Supplier Collaboration (coming soon). In the coming months our team will work hard to release one of the most demanded features You will be able to request quotations and product updates from the App directly. find new suppliers on the fly and connect with them without ever leaving the app!  While we were at it, we even made it possible for you to send out RFQs in-app. This way, you can have every single communication with your suppliers in one place at all times. You’ll never have to juggle communications between platforms again.

 

All these new functionalities will allow your team to transition from product sourcing to product development and enhance your team collaboration in new ways.

 

New users can get set up with our free version today in less time than it took you to read this article. And for more detailed information, jump over to our onboarding video [here] to find out exactly how to use the newest features.  Get started now!

 

Oh, and one last thing: We wanted to make ShowSourcing more affordable, so check our new pricing page here and enjoy 30% off any Pro plans purchased before end of February (30% off valid for the first year).

You Have To Get This Right To Sell On Amazon

 

You Have To Get This Right To Sell On Amazon

 

5′ read time

 

This is part four in our four part series on sourcing in modern times.  To read the other parts in the series, go here.

 

Selling products on Amazon today is incredibly difficult.  The influx of sellers and the explosion of products for sale on Amazon has made getting into the game harder than ever.  Running an e-commerce business has always been a challenge, but that challenge is ever more difficult to surmount, and you have to learn the game quick.  If you can’t adapt to changing conditions on the fly, your Amazon-built business will surely wither and die in the ambivalence of the Amazon swamp – also known as search results page 2. To keep on top of your game, you need to understand how to balance costs, manage your product and sourcing knowledge, and figure out what works best to get in front of your customers. All three of these considerations can be time consuming, but they’re also worth the time to understand and to get right.

 

Getting The Numbers Right

 

If your prices aren’t calculated correctly, one of two things will happen: either you lose money on every sale because you priced too low, or you don’t get any sales because you priced too high.  Do the math. If you’re not a math person, find a friend who is. But understand that Amazon changes 2.5 million product prices a day. Which means that you have to be on top of the price you’re offering versus what Amazon does to avoid losing money.  That can be very stressful. Luckily, Amazon has a direct solution for you. You can use their profitability calculator [here](https://sellercentral.amazon.com/fba/profitabilitycalculator/index?lang=en_US). It will always be up to date with the current pricing and rule changes at Amazon.  And as long as you know the basics of your account (fulfillment costs, product cost to you, etc.) you can enter sales and shipping prices with impunity until you find the right balance for you.

 

Becoming Customer Facing

 

If your customers can’t find you, you aren’t selling.  And there are hundreds of ways to get in front of customers on Amazon – some more effective than others.  A few examples:

 

Have exactly what the customer wants.  This doesn’t mean another USB keyring.  Everybody has that for sale. This means building products, as we have mentioned several times in this series. If your customers can only come to you for what they want, then you have a corner in the market.

 

Paid ads.  Yup, you can pay to bump your products up the list. It comes complete with keywords, ad budgeting, and analytics. So you can perfect your ads and get yourself in front of people faster.

 

Customer reviews. On Amazon, customer reviews are everything.  If you aren’t showing positive reviews, no one will buy from you.  More than that, no one will even see your product, because you’ll be ranked under another seller with a better reputation.

 

Bundle products. To become a unique seller on Amazon can be as simple as taking several everyday items – pens, paperclips, and rubberbands, for example – and offering them together in one purchase.  When customers can find everything they need in a single click you’ve accomplished two goals: you made their life easier by keeping their purchase simple, and you’ve made yourself a resource for that kind of purchase.  They will come back.

 

Walk the $20-30 line. A product priced between $20 and 30 is easy to buy.  It’s a price that is just high enough to seem high quality, and just low enough to make purchasing easy. More sales, more visibility.

 

These are just some sample solutions to getting yourself in front of customers.  They’re diverse options, and by no means exhaustive. They can also be pretty basic.  In the fast changing world of Amazon FBA, you can’t settle for the basic solutions. You have to learn what worked and what didn’t from people who have already been in your shoes. What’s important and what’s not.  To stay up to date, then, you need collaboration. And the best, simplest, most modern way of collaborating is through social media. There are thousands of Facebook groups dedicated to teaching you the best methods for getting your Amazon business off the ground, and their different perspectives will all help formulate your plan.  Some of our favorites are: JungleScout, Project Life Mastery, Amazing.com, and Advanced Fulfillment By Amazon

 

Knowledge Management

 

Finally, and possibly most important of all, you need a way to manage product knowledge.  How do you find products to sell? Once you have, how do you manage the information about them, where they came from, who the supplier was, what your process was, and so on? As with all things, there’s more than one answer. You could spend hundreds of hours digging through suppliers you find online, hoping that a few have the answers (and products) you need.  You could also spend hundreds more hours entering all that information into a spreadsheet, hoping that the data is actually readable at the end. Then you might be able to use that list to find a suitable product or two.

 

But let’s be realistic.  In 2018, you need a tool that can take care of these problems for you. ShowSourcing is that tool.  It allows you to build your products database, keep records of everything that has happened with each one, communicate with suppliers, or even find new ones, all in the same environment.  Then you can take that data you just built and put it into a workflow, so you can make decisions on products far faster. This is easily the best tool to keep your life on Amazon organized. There is nothing like it.

 

Success on Amazon requires patience, discipline, experimentation, and organization.  You will be successful if you focus on these core aspects of making your business great.  Do the math (or get Amazon to do it for you), collaborate with other Amazon sellers, and keep organized, and you will be in a much stronger position to make money on Amazon.

Sourcing Offices Will Remain Key.  Here’s Why.

Sourcing Offices Will Remain Key.  Here’s Why.

 

5′ read time

 

This is part three in our four part series on sourcing in modern times.  To read the other parts in the series, go here.

 

In March, at the Made In Asia conference – the largest sourcing symposium in Hong Kong – the attendees listened to a plethora of different keynotes from many different business leaders.  But one speech has resonated long after the end of the event. You may have heard the phrase before, now repeated often in sourcing offices and the industry at large: “Sourcing Is Dead.” This phrase, echoed over and over during the speech, was not the crux of the argument, it was the antithesis.  The point being made was the same one we have made so far in this blog series: Sourcing isn’t dying, it’s changing drastically and fast. Which means that sourcing offices won’t die either. That is, unless they fail to adapt to the changing environment. The future of the modern sourcing office lies in its ability to change and adapt.

 

We have covered in some of our previous posts exactly why sourcing is changing – the instant gratification of end consumers and the rise of the Amazon seller have made the traditional methods of finding completed products effectively obsolete (for more information on this, see the first blog post in this series here). These changes are providing new, sink-or-swim style challenges for sourcing offices as well.  Edwin Keh, CEO of the Hong Kong Research Institute for Textile and Apparel, summarized this problem best:

 

“In the past the role of many sourcing offices was simply to buy goods and make sure these goods were actually shipped. Today, its role is much more complex, since buying offices find themselves dealing with quality standards, ensuring design and manufacturing specifications are accurate, as well as compliance, legal and tax issues.”

 

That complexity is further compounded by geo-political changes. Sourcing offices have traditionally benefited from China’s low labor costs and relatively lax regulatory environment, but even those benefits seem to be changing, forcing the most globally elastic sourcing offices to shift toward the developing world – places like Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The ones who have already moved away from China have clearly seen the future, and will find themselves at an advantage as China starts to tighten its laws and increase worker value.

 

But how can your sourcing office best adapt to this new world order?

 

The first and most vital change that needs to be made is a change of mindset.  Where a sourcing officer’s role was once a largely administrative function, it must, out of necessity, become more integrated with the business.  Sourcing officers will need to change their focus from one of procedure, to one of quality control, supply chain management, product fit, and unique design.  The sourcing office must be “another department” no longer, and shape itself as a core element of business functionality.

 

Second, rather than looking at relationships with suppliers as a simple exchange of goods for money, with no trust, or interest in establishing real connections, the sourcing office must look toward securing long term partnerships with its suppliers.  The central role of a sourcing office is, by the very nature of the shifting environment, moving toward one of true innovation. This means strong understanding of customers, and a proactive approach in understanding exactly what is needed in your products to make your customers lifelong ambassadors.

 

Finally, it is absolutely vital for sourcing offices to find ways to speed up the purchasing process while at the same time improving the value to the end user.  The most obvious first step to achieving these goals is complete process digitalization. By continuing to source products manually, you add far more steps than are needed into the process, guarantee redundancy, and increase costs.  There may be a “Tsunami of data coming at us” as Mr. Keh has mentioned, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You just need the right systems to do the heavy lifting for you. And make no mistake, you are the one that has to make this change.  Manufacturers, especially Chinese manufacturers, have no interest in improving processes on their end. They do well enough the way things are now that they see no reason to adjust. This digitalization trend may move its way down the pipeline and force those manufacturers to change eventually, but you don’t have the convenience of time.  It has to be now, or you won’t be able to keep up with the revolution.

 

The revolution we keep mentioning is happening now. Sourcing offices have to jump in the mix and change the way they operate. Whether it’s been brought into the fold of the business yet or it’s still just some small administrative branch, the sourcing office, and the people that work there, can bury you if these changes aren’t made. Transform the way your buyers think, transform the way they operate, digitize your processes, and keep yourself successful.

Why Your Sourcing Team Is Bigger Than You Think

Why Your Sourcing Team Is Bigger Than You Think

 

6 minute read time

 

This is part two in our four part series on sourcing in modern times.  To read the other parts in the series, go here.

 

The rise of Amazon has left the Sourcing industry in a panic. Cries are heard from every direction of “sourcing is dying!” and “retail is a thing of the past!” These bombastic statements conjure images of the trampling hordes from Genghis Khan’s army, or a proverbial hurricane, just off the coast, about to make landfall. But sourcing itself isn’t dying, it’s undergoing a massive and rapid change.  And with it, the way you source must change as well. Your process has to become less about finding products, and more about finding the resources you need to create unique products. You already have a bigger product team than you think you do, you just need to figure out how to best restructure your process to include internal and external players. This leaves us with two distinct, and equally difficult, questions to answer:

 

  1. How big is my product team really, and how can I leverage them to get the most out of their individual expertise?
  2. If I include everybody, as you say, how can I make sure that I’ll actually be productive? This could turn into a disorganized mess!

 

Your Giant Sourcing Team

 

You may have several people in your organization that refer to themselves as merchandisers, or whose job specifically includes visiting trade fairs and making purchasing decisions, but just because they are on the front lines does not mean they make the decisions alone. Nor does it mean that a transition to creating products is a burden only they bear.  Marketing has to ensure product-market fit, sales is on the front lines of user feedback, and even finance can advise whether the budget is on target or not. The fact that all these different groups are involved so heavily in every purchase should already help you see that the merchandising department isn’t a lone wolf.

 

Sourcing in the new world is a strategic function, more than ever.  There is a real competitive element to proper sourcing, and your business can float or fall depending on how well you do it.  This means that, much like marketing, sales, and finance, it needs to be seen as an integral part of the strategy of your business, and synergies need to exist between the merchandising department and every other vital area of the business. And lucky for you, there is an easy solution: Acceptance is the first step toward healing.

 

Once you have accepted the state of things and elevated the importance of sourcing in your industry, the next step is to bring every other department into the sourcing process.  Each different voice will provide a different perspective for how to improve your products, and by extension, your business. Use your marketing department to understand the latest trends, and to predict where your industry is going in the future.  Use sales to tell you what clients have said in the past about your products, and use that as inspiration for your newest creations. Use IT to talk about the technical feats that might be necessary to accomplish your goals, and the feasibility of them.  

 

While you consolidate internally, consider also strengthening your supplier network.  Moving toward creating your own products does not mean eliminating your suppliers. To the contrary, it means strengthening your relationships with a core group of them.  Your supply needs will certainly change, and it is going to be important to have a great relationship with the suppliers you really need, rather than intermittent purchasing from hundreds of different groups.

 

These two elements taken together, greater involvement in the sourcing process by your entire team, and stronger supplier networks, become the single most important way to ensure that any product you create is the best it can be, so that it hits the market in the best possible shape.  Which leads us to our next question: How in the world does this not become a “too many cooks in the kitchen” style problem?

 

Keeping Yourself Organized

 

The first thing you can do to quickly adjust to this new management style is a simple exercise in slashing fat.  Draw out your sourcing process on a sheet of paper. Make sure to include every detail of the way that a potential product moves through your company.  Then look for redundancies. Do you need two separate teams to review the product at two separate times, or can that be done together? Can you combine any sessions? Any testing that takes too long?  Make your sourcing process as lean as possible, and you can have as much feedback as possible with the least time needed to get your product to market.

 

Ok, so now that you know your strengths and weaknesses, how do you keep everything organized? There are hundreds of PLMs out there, but they all cost a fortune, take far too long to implement, and have a lot of bells and whistles you will never use. If you’re approaching this problem holistically, you know that slapping some expensive service on the top of your current process will only make things worse.  Lucky for you, you’re educated enough at this point to know how to assess any tool presented to you. So let’s talk about the strengths and weaknesses of some of the industry’s top performers

 

Slack. No denying this is a communications giant for the business world.  But at the end of the day, that’s all it is. Slack is great for keeping up to date with your colleagues, exchanging information, and staying on top of your work.  But there’s no way to streamline any processes, or even build out tasks through the service.

 

Trello. Trello is a kanban in its purest form.  You build to do items, assign team members, and move your items between columns.  But Trello, while overall a great tool, can sometime become a jumbled mess – difficult to keep track of information.  And with so much information in the sourcing world, you just can’t afford the time it would take to search.

 

ShowSourcing. This solution resolves every sourcing problem you commonly have. Products that you can easily find, update, and enter information about seamlessly? Got it. A way to easily collaborate with your entire workforce about the status of products in the pipeline, get feedback and vote? Got it. A robust supplier network, so you can get quotes and build out your sourcing processes? Got it!  ShowSourcing really checks all the boxes.

 

You can leverage the knowledge and skills of your entire company, but you have to do so intentionally with a plan to simplify and the right tools to help guide your way.  This sourcing revolution means big changes for the industry, but it certainly does not mean sourcing offices are going the way of the dinosaur. They are still going strong.  And we will tell you in the next article why things are going to stay that way.