RFP for a Company Store? Start with an RFI

So, you’re tasked to develop an RFP for your company store? You already know that an RFP is a significant undertaking, it’s laborious but important. It also encompasses a myriad of details, which is why you should consider an RFI as a much easier (and far less complex) starting point.

What’s the difference between an RFI and an RFP? (And more importantly, why does it matter?)

An RFP (as you likely already know) is a request for a proposal; an RFI is a request for information. The reason an RFI should come before an RFP? Many of the vendors whom you might consider sending an RFP to, have no business replying to your RFP because they lack the essential services that you need. Many vendors see revenue first and consider capabilities second. By replying to your request for proposal, they imply they are equipped to service you and are prepared to offer their proposal.

Not so fast.

Through an RFI, what you are trying to match is your need with your vendors capabilities. Think of the RFI as your vendor qualification assessment, it’s the document that tells you whether or not your prospective vendors are even compatible for you and your store. By sending an RFI first, you can dramatically decrease the number of ineligible vendors thereby making the RFP process much more productive.

Following is an example of typical RFI questions for a company store. Use the RFI questions to filter out vendors who cannot comply with your most pressing needs. Once you’ve completed the RFI process, you are then able to take the next step: building the RFP.

Note: the term “customer” refers to the end-buyer on your store (typically, your colleagues who are shopping on the site). “We” refers to you, the customer who is setting up the company store and “you” refers to the vendor.

Online Company Store RFI (Request for Information)

  • Will we be set up on terms?
  • If so, what are your standard terms? (You might also insert your requirements for standard terms).
  • Can you provide inventory services? Is inventory optional? Can you provide both inventory and non-inventory options to our customers?
  • Do you have warehousing?
  • Where are your physical warehouses located?
  • Can store products be drop-shipped directly to the customer?
  • Can the online store be discontinued at any time? What are the terms of your agreement? Is there a contract?
  • Will the store be secure/encrypted?
  • Will the store have sort and search features (price, keyword, brand, lowest-to-highest-price sorting, etc…)?
  • Will the store feature enlarged photos with written descriptions?
  • What purchasing options exist for your store?
  • Can customers check-out with credit card purchasing options?
  • Are there departmental purchase order options? GL Codes? Cost Centers?
  • Are credit card transactions secure?
  • Does your store allow for gift certificates and coupon codes?
  • Will you track and maintain gift certificate balances?
  • Can customers create an account?
  • Will accounts have “remember me” capabilities for quick log-in?
  • Can customers track order status on their account?
  • Will customers be able view their order history?
  • Can customers sign-up to receive newsletters/sales/reminders via e-mail?
  • Will you provide 8-5 CST customer service support to customers?
  • Will you provide a phone number dedicated to the [customer] store?
  • Will you accept orders via phone or fax for timid Internet users?
  • Will you provide a dedicated email address for customer inquiries?
  • What customer service platform do you use to monitor and manage responses?
  • Will you answer questions about returns, exchanges, cancellations, sizes, order status, etc..?
  • Will you notify a customer if there is a backorder and when the stock will be in?
  • Will you provide an FAQ section for customers?
  • Will you handle all returns promptly?
  • Will you receive and process orders in real-time? What is your standard turn-around for stock merchandise?
  • Will you provide an order transaction receipt with line item detail?
  • Will customers have the option of multiple shipping methods?
  • Will customers receive a shipping confirmation by e-mail upon shipping?
  • Will customers have the option to RUSH their order?
  • Will the store and its contents be hosted externally by you?
  • Can you provide comprehensive user reports?
  • Can you provide credit card reconciliation reports?
  • Can you provide monthly, quarterly, and annual sales reports?
  • Can you provide store product statistics?
  • Will the store allow an automated purchase order approval system?
  • Are future capacities for print and variable data processing possible? (For example, variable printing, variable ad development).
  • Will you provide recommendations for products?
  • Will the customer retain the ability to approve/reject any store product?
  • Will you supply seasonal product recommendations?
  • Will you allow for special orders for items not found on the store?
  • Will you provide samples?
  • Will you create and distribute email marketing blasts to help promote the store?
  • Will you provide the [customer] with sample merchandise to display and merchandising support?
  • Will the store support SSO (Single Sign On)?
  • Is the store PCI compliant?
  • Will we have dedicated representatives to help merchandise our company store?
  • Do you have a product merchandise portal or online site for us to merchandise from? (Here’s an example of ours).
  • Will you create and distribute email marketing blasts to help promote the store?
  • Will you provide us with sample merchandise to display and merchandising support?