5 Problems Western brands make with Vietnamese Distributors

In the context of ever-growing globalization, the expansion of businesses and cross-border collaborations have opened up new opportunities for foreign enterprises. Vietnam, with its remarkable economic growth rate and attractive market potential, has garnered significant attention from international companies. However, on the journey to find distribution partners in this country, foreign businesses often encounter immensely intricate challenges. The difficulties related to business culture, language, remote management, and legal inconsistencies can create formidable barriers, making the process of seeking and maintaining relationships with distributors a task demanding acute sensitivity and respect for the local business environment.

In this article, GMA will delve into exploring these challenges and how foreign enterprises can overcome them to succeed in finding distributors in Vietnam.

I. Why Is Finding Distributors in Vietnam Important?

1) Substantial Market Potential

With a population of around 100 million and a large proportion of young people, the Vietnamese market holds great potential for the consumption of goods and services. Young consumers often exhibit innovation in taste preferences and are willing to consume new products and brands.

Vietnamese consumers are transitioning from focusing on essential goods to seeking diversity and quality in products. This shift opens opportunities for foreign businesses to offer unique and premium products and brands.

2) Enhanced Brand Presence

Collaborating with local distributors helps foreign businesses enhance their brand recognition in the Vietnamese market. Distribution partners can contribute to boosting advertising and effectively reaching target customers.

3) Local Market Insights

Local distributors possess deep insights into the market and local customer preferences. This enables foreign businesses to optimize their market access strategy and better cater to customer needs.

II. Many Common Challenges Western Brands Have to Face When Working With Vietnamese Distributors

Problem #1: Sending Materials In A Language Other Than Vietnamese

In the realm of international business, effective communication serves as the foundation for fruitful collaborations and successful partnerships. However, a significant error emerges when foreign distributors overlook the importance of conveying information in the local language, particularly when dealing with Vietnamese distributors.

Vietnamese, as the official language of Vietnam, serves as the primary mode of communication within the country’s business ecosystem. While some Vietnamese distributors might possess a basic understanding of English, assuming widespread fluency would be a miscalculation. The language barrier poses a substantial challenge for foreign distributors who neglect the need to present information in their native language.

When materials are disseminated in a foreign language, it leads to confusion and miscommunication. This, in turn, can result in severe setbacks in negotiation processes, contract discussions, and the overall functioning of business operations.

Sharing materials in a foreign language exposes distributors to misunderstandings concerning product specifications, pricing intricacies, contractual obligations, and other essential elements. These misunderstandings can escalate into costly errors, impacting the financial bottom line while also straining relationships with Vietnamese distributors.

Problem #2: Responding Slowly To Inquiries & Communication

In the interconnected world of global business, prompt and efficient communication plays a pivotal role in establishing successful partnerships and collaborations. However, a significant error arises when foreign distributors underestimate the importance of timely responses, particularly when dealing with Vietnamese distributors.

Vietnamese distributors are known for their proactive approach to business interactions. They prioritize quick decision-making and anticipate rapid responses from their partners. In this context, a delayed response from foreign distributors can convey a lack of enthusiasm toward the Vietnamese market or a lack of seriousness about the partnership. This misinterpretation can result in Vietnamese distributors considering alternative brands or partners who demonstrate greater responsiveness.

When inquiries or requests, such as product information, meeting scheduling, or clarifications, receive delayed responses, it hampers the flow of information and decision-making.

Problem #3: Failing To Set Aside Funds For Marketing Support

Vietnam’s business environment is characterized by its vibrant consumer base and rapidly evolving trends. To effectively penetrate this market and capture consumer attention, foreign distributors must not only offer quality products but also devise effective marketing strategies. Allocating a dedicated marketing budget underscores a commitment to building brand awareness, fostering customer loyalty, and cultivating a solid market presence.

The absence of a dedicated marketing budget can lead to several unfavorable outcomes. First and foremost, the lack of strategic marketing initiatives can result in foreign distributors struggling to differentiate their products in a highly competitive market. Distributors are more than just middlemen; they are essential partners in the process of introducing foreign products to the Vietnamese market. Neglecting to allocate marketing resources can strain these relationships. Distributors might feel unsupported and burdened with the responsibility of promoting a brand without the necessary tools. This lack of support can lead to dissatisfaction and, in some cases, distributors opting for brands that offer more robust marketing backing.

Moreover, without substantial brand awareness, establishing trust and credibility among Vietnamese consumers becomes an uphill battle, hampering potential sales growth and market expansion.

Problem #4: A Lack Of Flexibility Regarding Wholesale Pricing & Minimum Order Quantities.

Vietnam’s business environment is multifaceted, influenced by fluctuating consumer behaviors, economic conditions, and market trends. Offering flexibility in wholesale pricing and minimum order quantities is imperative for foreign distributors to cater to these dynamic factors. It demonstrates a commitment to meeting the specific needs of the Vietnamese market and forging partnerships based on mutual growth and cooperation.

When foreign businesses adhere rigidly to predetermined wholesale prices and minimum order quantities, it restricts distributors’ ability to respond effectively to market shifts. This can lead to dissatisfaction among Vietnamese distributors who may perceive the lack of flexibility as an obstacle to their business operations.

Furthermore, rigid pricing and order terms might encourage distributors to seek alternatives that better accommodate their needs, resulting in the loss of potential business opportunities.

While flexibility is crucial, international brands must also strike a balance between accommodating local market needs and maintaining their own profitability. Flexibility shouldn’t jeopardize business sustainability. Instead, it should be approached strategically, accounting for both short-term adaptability and long-term business viability.

Problem #5 – Requesting Payment For Samples

In Vietnamese business culture, offering samples free of charge is considered an essential practice. It reflects a sense of generosity, goodwill, and a willingness to invest in the potential partnership. Charging for samples can be misunderstood as a disregard for these cultural norms, potentially leading to strained relationships and misinterpretations of the foreign distributor’s intentions.

Vietnamese distributors view samples as a means to evaluate product quality and suitability for the local market. Charging for samples introduces a financial barrier to this evaluation process. Distributors may be hesitant to invest in samples without guaranteed returns, leading them to consider brands that offer free samples as a more attractive option. This can result in missed opportunities for foreign companies.

Moreover, samples serve as a way to introduce products to Vietnamese distributors and, consequently, to the broader market. Charging for samples limits the reach of the brand, as distributors may be less inclined to take on the financial risk of trying out a new product. Free samples, on the other hand, allow distributors in Vietnam to freely explore the potential of a product, leading to better brand exposure and increased sales opportunities.


In conclusion, collaborating with Vietnamese distributors presents both challenges and opportunities. By dedicating efforts to comprehending the local market, fostering robust distributor relationships, ensuring clear communication, and offering comprehensive support, global enterprises can forge prosperous alliances with Vietnamese distributors and access the burgeoning Vietnamese market.

Read more:

Searching for professional local distributors to navigate better in Vietnam’s market? Contact us!


Leave the first comment