B2B NewsPet industry newsSupplier vs Vendor: The Key Differences

Supplier vs Vendor: The Key Differences


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In discussions about roles and responsibilities within the supply chain, the terms supplier and vendor are frequently used interchangeably. Although both supply goods and services, they have unique characteristics that set them apart from each other. Understanding these differences is crucial when managing a business. This article will provide a comparison of supplier vs vendor, detailing their respective definitions and operational methods.

Vendor Definition

A vendor is an individual or business entity that sells goods or services to customers, often on a smaller scale and directly to individual consumers. Vendors can operate online or through a physical storefront, and they may offer a broad range of products or specialize in specific categories. Unlike suppliers, who typically sell their products in bulk to other businesses, vendors often sell directly to the end-user, leveraging various marketing channels to reach customers.

Supplier Definition

A supplier is an individual or organization that provides goods or services to another individual or organization. In a business-to-business (B2B) context, a supplier is typically an organization that produces or manufactures goods or materials that are then sold to other businesses for use in their own products or services. In general, a supplier is responsible for providing quality products or services at competitive prices and maintaining a positive working relationship with their customers.

Key Differences Between Suppliers’ vs Vendors

Understanding the roles and differences between suppliers and vendors is crucial for businesses to effectively manage their supply chains and ensure a seamless flow of goods and services from production to consumption.

  • Types of Supplier and Vendor Relationships

One of the most significant contrasts between a supplier and a vendor pertains to their relationships. Suppliers typically establish a B2B connection with their clients, meaning that they engage in business with another organization instead of catering to a multitude of customers. This type of relationship is typical for wholesalers, for instance, who supply their products to a supermarket that then resells them to a diverse consumer base. Auto traders and similar organizations also commonly engage in these B2B relationships.  

In contrast, vendors typically have a B2C business relationship with their clients. This means that they sell their products directly to individual customers without the involvement of intermediaries. Due to the rise in e-commerce, for instance, a clothing retailer may connect with customers online rather than through a physical store on the high street. Such businesses can enhance their profits by incorporating markups on deliveries.

  • Supplier and Vendor Selling Techniques

Another primary distinction between a supplier and a vendor lies in the way they sell their products. Suppliers tend to produce a large quantity of a single item or a range of interconnected products. For example, a smartphone supplier may manufacture different models of smartphones such as basic, mid-range, and high-end devices, but not tablets. They then sell a certain quantity of each model, such as 1,000, to a retailer that subsequently sells them to customers as per the business agreement.

On the other hand, Vendors have a distinctive approach to product creation and sales, often working on a smaller scale and offering a more diverse range of products than suppliers. For instance, they may acquire different types of furniture such as chairs, tables, sofas, and accessories, and directly sell them to individual customers through their showroom. Vendors may also source products from multiple suppliers to cater to specific customer preferences. For example, a furniture vendor may procure a rare type of wood to create custom-made furniture for clients, even if the material acquisition cost is high. Vendors can increase their profits by adding a markup to the cost of goods sold, allowing them to sustain profitability.

  • The End Goals of Suppliers and Vendors

As supplier and vendor organizations have different types of business relationships, they also have different end goals. For example, a vendor aims to sell products directly to individual customers or businesses. A business that specializes in creating custom-made wedding invitations exemplifies this, as they can work with couples to design and produce bespoke invitations that they can then sell directly to those couples, without the need for middlemen or wholesalers.

The aim of a vendor is different to this, as these types of companies aim to sell products directly to individual customers or businesses. For example, a clothing vendor may purchase bulk quantities of t-shirts from a supplier, and then markup the price when selling them directly to customers through their online store. The markup allows the vendor to make a profit, while still offering a convenient shopping experience to the customer who can purchase the t-shirts without the need to visit a physical store.

  • Suppliers and Vendors: Where They Fit Within the Supply Chain

Suppliers are the backbone of the supply chain as they are responsible for producing and providing the raw materials, components, or finished products to other businesses. They are typically involved in the earlier stages of the supply chain and produce goods in large quantities to meet the demands of their clients. These clients could be other businesses, manufacturers, or vendors who require a steady supply of goods to fulfill their own business operations.

In contrast, vendors are typically involved in the later stages of the supply chain, specifically when the products are already manufactured and ready for sale. This is because vendors tend to operate on a smaller scale and may not have the capacity to mass-produce goods like suppliers do. Instead, they often focus on sourcing and procuring products from suppliers or manufacturers that they can then sell to end customers.

Supplier vs. Vendor Quick Comparison

Supplier Vendor
Business model Business-to-business (B2B) Business-to-consumer (B2C)
Customers Other businesses Individual consumers or businesses
Product range Limited, often specializing in one product Broad, offering various products
Product creation Small scale production or sourcing To sell the goods to the final consumer
Sales channel Sales to middlemen or wholesalers Direct sales to end-users
Marketing B2B marketing strategies B2C marketing strategies
Sales volume Large volume sales Small volume sales
Pricing Lower prices due to large volume sales Higher prices due to smaller volume
Profit margin Lower due to competitive pricing Higher due to added markup on sales

It’s worth noting that not all suppliers and vendors will necessarily conform to these exact characteristics, as there can be variations depending on the specific industry and business practices.  

When To Work with Suppliers vs Vendors

Knowing when to work with suppliers versus vendors is essential in supply chain management. Suppliers are typically the best option for businesses that require raw materials in large quantities for production. For instance, let’s say you run a bakery that produces bread, then a supplier would be the ideal source for flour, yeast, and other necessary ingredients.

On the other hand, if you run a coffee shop that serves baked goods and other snacks, you may not require raw materials in bulk. Instead, you would be better off sourcing finished products from vendors. For instance, you could source coffee beans from a supplier, but baked goods like croissants and muffins could be sourced from a vendor who specializes in making these products.

Individual consumers looking for immediate use of finished products also often use vendors. For example, if you need to purchase a gift basket for a friend’s birthday, you could source smaller amounts of various items like chocolates, wine, and candles from a vendor who curates gift baskets.

In summary, whether to work with suppliers or vendors depends on the specific needs of a business, such as production requirements, scale of operation, and consumer demands.  

Rebate Management Software: A Crucial Solution for Vendors and Suppliers

Whether you operate as a supplier, vendor, or both, it is essential to have a user-friendly platform to manage, monitor, and implement rebate agreements while fostering a collaborative partnership.  

By using Enable’s rebate management system, you have access to a centralized rebate hub where you can easily upload and manage all your rebate deals. You no longer need to rely on manual processes or spreadsheets to keep track of your rebates, as the system will keep a record of all your deals in one place.

The system also allows you to negotiate and finalize agreements with your suppliers, ensuring that both parties are clear on the terms and conditions of the deals. This feature helps to minimize misunderstandings and disputes, allowing for smoother and more effective collaboration.

Want to experience the solution? Schedule a demo.

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