Starting a dropshipping business can be fun and exciting but there are many roadblocks you can run into. Today we look into suppliers. Where do you find one for the products you’re looking to sell?
What is dropshipping?
If you’re starting an online store that sells physical products, you need a wholesaler or manufacturer who can provide you these products at wholesale prices. But holding inventory may not be the most practical way to run your new ecommerce business.
Wholesalers often require a high initial purchase and you could easily end up paying $1000 or more, just to get the inventory. If you don’t want to invest this kind of money or just don’t like the idea of investing money in an unknown business (your own), dropshipping might be a better alternative.
Dropshipping simply means that the supplier takes care of shipping, and sends the package directly to your customer. A good supplier will remove their own labels and replace them with your store’s, so the customer has no idea that they received the package from the supplier and not from you.
This model works extremely well and is widely used by ecommerce businesses. If you’re just starting your first ecommerce business, I recommend you go with dropshipping. Since you’re not obligated to do anything, you can always combine dropshipping with your own inventory later.
Step 1: Choose a product
What would you like to sell? This sounds simple, but you must know EXACTLY what you want to sell.
For example, you shouldn’t say: “fashion”, but niche is down to something a lot more specific. How about “fashion for plus sized women”? That’s better, but still pretty broad and highly competitive. Can you niche it down even more? How about “RETRO fashion for plus sized women”? Now we got a pretty good niche.
Why so specific? We want to eventually have an audience of followers and influencers who love our brand. This is very difficult in a broad niche like “fashion”. The exception is when you’re starting a general store. But still in that case, you want to know exactly which categories and products you need.
Once you know what kind of products you want to sell, you need to find them. Unless you’re designing your own unique product, other stores will already sell items in the same style you’re looking to offer.
Find these stores.
You want to know exactly what type of products you’re looking for, otherwise how are you going to find a supplier for them?
Tip: while you’re looking at your competitor’s websites, note the URLs. Later you might want to use similar colors, designs, content and marketing strategies as them. After all, in business, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
Step 2: Finding a supplier
Now that you’ve found other merchants selling products you’re interested in selling, you should (sorta) know what to look for. Finding a supplier can be a time-consuming task but it ain’t so difficult when you know the tricks.
Method #1: AliExpress
This is one of the easiest and most obvious ways to find a supplier. AliExpress is home to millions of products that can be shipped directly to the customer’s home, anywhere in the world.
Simply go to AliExpress.com and type in the products you’re after. You will see products that match your search.
What’s crazy about AliExpress is that you can start selling these items right away if you want to, just put them on your site (or Craigslist for all I care) and buy directly off Ali when somebody buys your product.
But it’s best to first contact the supplier and ask about shipping, labels (they mustn’t put their own labels on it) and possible customization options. If the supplier is terrible at communicating with you, it’s probably better to find someone else.
Method #2: Reverse Google Image Search
Sounds pretty fancy, ey? What it means is this: browse through your competitor’s website and right click on their product images using Google Chrome, then click “Search Google for image”
Scroll down a little and you’ll find pages that use this image. If you see AliExpress, Alibaba.com or any other website that indicates it’s a supplier: bingo! You’ve found a supplier that sells this very product.
Obviously this only works if the merchant used the original supplier’s images and hasn’t replaced them with their own professional photos. But you’d be surprised how many good products I’ve found using this simple little Google hack.
Of course, this doesn’t work for large, professional e-commerce websites but it’s a wonderful way to find nice products that other starting Shopify stores have found.
How to find small Shopify stores? Go to Google.com and type in:
“your keyword” inurl:myshopify.com
For example: fashion inurl:myshopify.com
This shows you all Shopify stores with that keyword that Google has indexed. You can make it as specific as you like.
Method #3: Google
Yep, the old-school method. Finding a supplier through Google can take some time, but finding a reliable dropshipping supplier you can work with long-term is worth the wait.
A huge advantage here is that you’ll find plenty of U.S. and Europe based suppliers, unlike on AliExpress where they’re all based in China. This has great advantages, like Shipping times, communication and general trust and liability in doing business.
Now if you think you’ll find what you’re looking for on the first page like normally, think again! Wholesaler and manufacturers often don’t rank high in Google, don’t offer a user-friendly website and some don’t have any website at all!
It may take a couple of days or weeks and a combination of 100 different keywords before you find what you’re looking for. Remember that these manufacturers and wholesalers aren’t there waiting for starting e-commerce entrepreneurs to approach them. They usually sell products in bulk with thin margins and you’ll have to ask if they would consider dropshipping.
You can also use search shortcuts in Google, that’ll help you refine your search.
Method #4: Directories
Let’s take a look at some free directories that list profiles of manufacturers, wholesalers and suppliers.
Online Domestic Directories
Online Overseas Directories
Method #5: Just ask the internet
The internet knows, at least that’s what we hope. There’s many great places you can ask about suppliers, from forums to Facebook groups. Some interesting places are:
After you’ve found some suppliers you might want to work with, it’s time to contact them. Send them an email and inquire about dropshipping. Suppliers get bombarded with shady dropshipping requests so you want to sound professional and to-the-point.
21Brands.com is a platform that helps starting entrepreneurs launch and grow their own e-commerce business. We provide tons of free information, but also offer 1-on-1 coaching so you get the personal support and guidance you need. Questions? Leave a comment below. Make sure to follow us on Twitter @brands_21