The success of your dropshipping business depends on the efficiency of your suppliers. You can find many suppliers in the marketplace that claim to offer top-notch service and high-quality products. However, identifying a reliable dropshipping supplier can be tricky.
Choosing the wrong supplier can be a waste of your time, result in an increase in customer complaints and return requests, and ultimately ruin your brand image. You need to find a reliable dropshipping supplier. Here is a step-by-step guide you can follow to find a supplier that won’t let you and your customers down.
1. Know where to find the best dropshipping suppliers for your business
The characteristics of a good drop shipping supplier will depend on your expectations and those of your customers. For example, you might serve one geographic location.
A centrally located wholesaler can potentially deliver packages throughout your region within 24 or 48 hours. That might be more important for your business operations than a cheaper unit price. On the other hand, you might want to look into partnering with a supplier with multiple distribution nodes.
Rather logically, it’s a good idea to list what you’re looking for from a dropshipping supplier before you start your search. Once you’ve defined your needs, you can start your search for a reliable partner.
2. Do your research on dropshipping marketplaces
Finding a reliable dropshipping supplier starts with research. The first thing you need to do is define where you want to source your product. You will find dropshipping suppliers in many regions of the world. Where you source your supplies will ultimately be determined by the type of products you are selling.
The most common place to source manufactured products is China. Alibaba is the most well-known and easiest dropshipping marketplace to navigate.
The UI for Alibaba is similar to Amazon. Enter the type of product you are looking for in the search bar and hit return. I’ll use routers for this example.
From the main search results page, you can search for the product you want to resell. It’s a pretty intuitive process. Under the product’s image on offer, you will see the unit price and some information about the supplier.
You can click on a product to find more information about the product and the supplier.
Assuming that you’re going to use Alibaba, focus on verified suppliers. It’s also a good idea to target companies selling through the platform for several years. After all, if they have been on the platform for a long time and have a good reputation, they are probably a reliable dropshipping supplier.
At the bottom of the page, you’ll find some additional information about the supplier.
Review the information about the supplier and the product price. Also, check their main markets. You want to work with a dropshipping supplier that sends goods to the market you are serving.
We recommend spending time creating a shortlist of suppliers. You can note down the information about the companies you find and their product offerings in a Google Sheet or an excel sheet.
While Alibaba is one of the most well-known sites to find dropshipping suppliers, it’s not the only one. Other useful places to find dropshipping suppliers include AliExpress, and Worldwide Brands. You can click on this link for an extensive list of sites where you can find dropshipping suppliers.
3. Reach out to dropshipping suppliers
Creating a list of potential dropshipping suppliers is the starting point for your research. Once you’ve made a list of prospective suppliers, contact each of the companies on your list.
The goal of your initial outreach is twofold:
- Get additional information about the products on offer, the unit price, and other information you might need.
- Check the responsiveness of the company. Also, if you’re ordering from a dropshipping supplier based in another country, you need to know if there will be any communication issues.
We recommend you try to contact the company through various channels. For example, you can send them an email and see how responsive they are. Then, you could try and phone the company headquarters, to check if you can contact the customer support staff.
When you talk to potential suppliers, avoid using buzzwords. Be direct. Explain your needs and expectations from a dropshipping supplier.
You’ll probably find that you’ll remove quite a few potential partners from your list because of your outreach.
At the end of your outreach, you will have a shorter list of potential dropship suppliers.
4. Dropshipping suppliers: order & review product samples
You should now have a list of 3-5 potential dropshipping suppliers that you think are suitable. The next stage is to test their service. You need to determine if they deliver on their promise.
Ordering samples will help you assess their products, packaging, and support. Testing a potential drop shipping supplier is a chance to put yourself in the shoes of your customer and ask, “would I be happy with the product that I paid for?”
Carefully compare the samples from each of your potential candidates.
The two most important factors are the delivery time and the quality of the product. You should also consider things like the packaging and if the supplier provides tracking information.
When you have the samples in your hand, you should be in a position to choose your preferred dropshipping supplier. You can now compare the price of the products against the delivery times, the quality of the product, and the packaging quality.
5. Attend industry trade shows
We’ve decided to discuss online marketplaces first because they are the easiest place to find reliable dropshipping suppliers. Of course, they are not the only option.
Many wholesalers and manufacturers appear in trade shows where they show off their latest products. A trade show is a great place to find different suppliers operating in your sector.
If you’re just starting a dropshipping store, and you’re dealing with a low volume of goods, I recommend you focus on trade shows in your country. It should be straightforward finding relevant trade shows close to where you live.
A quick Google of “industry + trade show + country + year” will provide you with a list of opportunities. The screenshot below nicely illustrates our point.
Trade shows are a lot less popular since Covid-19 came along. Many suppliers have shifted over to online events. You can use the same approach I outlined above to find online trade shows in your niche.
6. Dropshipping suppliers: check the directories
Another source of dropshipping suppliers you should consider is online industry directories.
An industry directory is a database of suppliers that are organized according to their market, product range, or niche. Many directories implement some kind of screening process to ensure that their members are legitimate, which means you have a narrowed-down list of potential suppliers.
While it usually costs a certain amount to join a membership directory, using it will help you save time and money. You can find a supplier that operates in your niche, with warehousing in the areas where you operate.
While many dropshipping directories include mostly manufacturers from outside the US, directories like Spocket put the spotlight on high-quality suppliers from the US and the EU. Many directories, such as SaleHoo, allow you to predict how well a specific product will perform in the market. Others have integrations with ecommerce platforms, such as Shopify, which helps automate the order process.
7. Find your dropshipping supplier: order from the competition
There’s nothing unusual about ordering from your competitor. After all, as a business owner, it’s your job to know what the competition is doing, particularly if they also work with dropshipping.
Ordering from your competitors is a good way to benchmark your service against a competitor. You can experience their shipping policies, see how they package their products, their quality, and even customer support.
Another benefit of ordering from your competitors is that you might be able to identify their supplier. For example, you might find that the packaging is the same as one of the dropshipping suppliers you identified.
Competitor analysis is a good way to discover how your service compares to other companies operating in your marketplace. Even if you’re not looking for a new dropshipping supplier, it’s good to monitor what other companies in your industry are doing.
8. Dropshipping alternatives: explore options outside regular dropshipping
Dropshipping is often seen as the easiest way to get into online business. However, you might find that the usual dropshipping methods don’t exactly work for you, especially if your customers aren’t too happy with the quality of your products. Here are some alternatives to dropshipping that you might want to consider:
- Print on demand: This refers to a business model where you find a supplier that can white-label their products under your brand. Whenever the supplier receives an order from you, they print your label and attach it to the item. They also take care of the shipping and handling. All you have to do is send them your product designs.
- Consignment: When your business operates on a consignment basis, you are still in charge of selling products for other businesses. However, your business is in charge of storage and shipping the products to customers. This gives you more control over the quality of the items you sell. In return, you get a cut of the revenue.
- Drop servicing: While the term “drop servicing” is relatively new, this is actually a very old and dependable business model also known as “subcontracting”. Instead of selling services on behalf of others, you connect customers with suppliers. For instance, you can charge a client $500 for a logo design, then hire a freelancer to do it for $300 and keep the rest.
Keeping your options open is the best way to find suppliers for your business. It also gives you a revenue stream that’s separate from dropshipping.
9. Dropshipping: continually monitor service quality
Hopefully, by following the steps outlined in this article, you’ll be able to find a reliable dropshipping supplier for your ecommerce business. Once you’ve found your partner, remember to monitor their service delivery.
A great dropshipping partner might start by providing a great service. Over time, for whatever reason, the quality of that service might decrease. Keep tabs on how they’re performing by monitoring relevant data points—for example, your rate of returns. You can also periodically send goods to friends and family to ensure that the packaging quality is consistent, etc.
So that’s how you find your dropshipping supplier!
With a proficient and reliable supplier by your side, the whole process of dropshipping gets faster and easier. It’s not that hard to find a supplier that will deliver high-quality products. Using a variety of techniques, including competitor research and trade events, you’ll soon partner with a reliable supplier that will help make your dropshipping business successful.
About the author
David Pagotto is the Founder and Managing Director of SIXGUN, a digital marketing agency based in Melbourne. He has been involved in digital marketing for over ten years, helping organisations get more customers, more reach, and more impact.