How do successful retailers find great dropshipping suppliers?
Building strong relationships with the right suppliers is a key factor in the success of ecommerce businesses that follow a dropshipping strategy. After all, you’re relying on suppliers to do a significant chunk of the work that keeps the wheels turning in your business. Once orders are placed on your website, they’re the ones who will be picking, packing, and shipping them to customers.
Finding suppliers is an early problem you need to solve if you’re going to dropship products. While there are many potential options for suppliers out there, you’ll find that a significant number just aren’t for you.
So, where do you start your search for suppliers? Here are some tips:
We’re working on the assumption here that you already know what sorts of products you’d like to sell. It’s important to figure that out first because it’s an obvious factor in looking for suppliers!
Here are some factors we’d take into account:
What is your vision for your business? What about your core values? Those should definitely play a role in selecting dropshipping suppliers as you’ll want to look for those that have similar values to your own.
This makes sense for your branding and for building strong working relationships. For example, if one of your values is to minimize environmental impact, you’ll want to find suppliers who fit with those values. If you want to sell products that are of the highest possible quality, you’ll want suppliers who value that too.
On some of the dropshipping marketplace sites, there are inexperienced companies that will be there one day, gone the next. From a small business perspective, it’s highly risky to do business with inexperienced companies because they may just shut up shop and leave you without a supplier and with orders left to fill.
Do some research and look for companies that are well-established and will be around for the long-term. If you’re not sure, US company records can tell you, or domain age tools will tell you how long a website has been around.
You can expect to pay pre-order fees in return for suppliers keeping stock, fulfilling, and shipping orders. Those costs should be “reasonable”, meaning that you still get to turn a profit from your efforts.
When you think about profit, consider any costs you’re putting in. You may not be purchasing and warehousing stock, but you’re paying for a website and software to run it, as well as any marketing costs.
While you’re at it, find out how shipping costs will be calculated and passed on. You want to make sure those are fair and transparent for your customers.
How long will the supplier take to fulfill any orders? At a minimum, you’ll need to be able to keep up with the shipping speed of competitors or you may lose sales. Check that the supplier can ship out orders quickly - within 48 hours is preferable.
If you’re not already familiar with the supplier’s brand, you’ll want to see product samples and verify the quality of the products. Product quality will either boost or hinder your brand. You need to verify that the products the supplier produces will meet your expectations, as well as those of your customers.
While your customers will deal directly with you, you’ll be dealing with the supplier. You’ll want them to be responsive and have a well-honed customer support function. You can check this out by sending in any questions that you have and looking at the speed, tone, and quality of the response.
There are almost inevitably returns in the ecommerce business. It’s important to figure out how these will be managed and what, if any, fees will be payable. How will returns work? Will customers send them to you to forward on, or will they send them back to the supplier?
Here are a few ideas for finding suppliers:
If you’re going to look at dropshipping marketplaces or directories, it’s worth being aware of some pros and cons:
Here are a few potential red flags when you’re looking for a supplier:
Before you approach a potential supplier, you’ll want to have information about your business at the ready. Most reputable suppliers will want to check out your suitability to sell their products as much as you want to check out their legitimacy as a supplier. Some basic information they’ll want to know includes:
You should also prepare a list of any questions that you need answered by the supplier. Consider things like products, fees, terms, support, technology, warehouse location, and shipping.
You might try sending a direct message first, either via their website contact form or social media (if they use it). If you get a quick response, that tends to be a good sign they’re active and ready to respond to customers. You might then pick up the phone and give them a call so that you get a feel for their service. They may ask you to send them specific information about your business, so be prepared to do that.
If everything seems to go smoothly at this point and you like the answers they’ve given to your questions, now would be a good time to request testimonials from their current customers.
Finding great dropshipping suppliers is a key part of the equation for running a successful dropshipping ecommerce model. These tips are just to get you started, but we’d put emphasis on doing a lot of homework at this stage. Ideally, you want to find top-quality suppliers who you will develop a good relationship with, so it’s worth taking your time to vet and find the right companies.
Wondering how the technology side of dropshipping will work? Mothership has you covered with the ability to build a custom dropshipping network without needing to hire a developer. Seamlessly send orders to your suppliers, share critical product information and keep those who need to know in the loop. Schedule your free demo of Mothership here.