I have been in the dropshipping industry for years. I know from experience that some suppliers do not care about your business.
To them, a sale is a sale. I learned this the hard way, and I do not want you to go through the same harrowing experience.
In this article, I will help you understand the key components of choosing the right dropshipping supplier. In the end, you should be able to judge them. The ultimate benefits to you are:
- You avoid scams
- You make your customers happy
- You make a profit
Keep on reading until the end, and I will throw in some bonus tips. I will also answer some of the most frequently asked questions about dropshipping.
- Take the time to choose a dropship supplier
- Use tools that make your work easier
- Do not follow trends
- Focus on a niche
Things to Consider When Choosing a Dropshipping Supplier
1. Product Quality
Images look great, but then there is more than meets the eye. Before making a commitment to sell someone else’s items, ensure that the product meets your specifications.
To do this, you must order a sample from the supplier. Dropship suppliers will only send the items for a fee. However, the cost of buying a sample is negligible.
Here are some tips to determine product quality:
- It is as described on the website
- It works for its intended function
- It has no dents, scratches or glaring aesthetic flaws
- It is properly packaged
Once you receive the item, inspect it and decide if it is something your customers would be happy to have. If not, look for another supplier.
2. Shipping Standards
From the order process to the date a customer received the item, the total length of time indicates the dropship supplier’s efficiency.
Here are some things to consider:
- The time it takes from order to packaging
- Cost of shipping
- Speed of shipping from courier partner to destination
As a dropshipper, you compete with big companies like Amazon in the West and Lazada in the East. Amazon, for one, has successfully reduced its average shipping time from 5.92 days to 3.07 days in five years. 
While you cannot compete against them, make sure that you choose a supplier who has a reasonable shipping timeframe and costs.
Some suppliers take three days or more to get the item from the warehouse. After that, they pack the item and take it to their logistics partners. Three days is too long—at the very least, you want a supplier who can fill the order in 24 hours.
3. Warehouse Location
Choose a dropship supplier that has warehouses in your major target countries. For example, it does not make sense to have your products in China, but your target customers are in the United States.
We are not saying this will not work, but you should give your customers a good reason to wait a long time. Generally, products located in the same country as the destination of the order ship faster. However, international shipments can take at least 30 days.
Some international manufacturers have warehouses in the US and other major markets. For example, there is Shein, a clothing company based in Hong Kong. Despite being an Asian supplier, they have warehouses in the US, Europe and even the far east.
Why is this an important factor? If a customer from the US orders from your store, the supplier will tap its resources in the US warehouse. If the customer is from the Philippines, the supplier will get the product from an Asian warehouse and ship it from there.
4. Price Against Competition
With all the white-label and private-label happening today, it is not unusual to find the same products—exactly the same but branded differently. As a dropshipper, you will be competing against these retailers, and a key factor in winning over a customer is price.
Look at the example below; these are the same gloves, most likely from one manufacturer. One seller posted it for $29.99, while you can get it from another supplier for only $20.40.
You must perform an analysis among dropship suppliers for the products you want to sell. The best way to do this is to do a Google Reverse Image search using your product picture. Then, visit the sites that sell the same items and see if you can contact the supplier at the most affordable price.
5. Technology and Efficiency
Technology refers to the apps that you can use to process the order. In our world today, we have access to software programs that eliminate manual work.
It is best to choose a supplier with a software program that has the following:
- Place an order in a single place
- Track the status of the order
- Pay the order through the app
- Communication channel and issue resolution
The beauty of this is that there is only one management tool that you would use. Gone are the emails, phone calls, paper receipts, Excel sheets, invoice attachments, etc.
6. Return Policies
The airline company sent my luggage elsewhere when I flew from the US to Asia. I had to wait 30 days to get it back! The same thing can happen to shipments, plus the supplier can make mistakes.
Here are some situations you need to prepare for:
- Supplier sends the wrong item/broken item
- The item got lost in transit
- The product was sent to the wrong address
In the customer’s eyes, you are liable. Your customer does not know anything about your arrangement with the supplier. As such, you must choose a dropship supplier who has accountability.
This accountability comes in the form of returns and refunds. First, make sure that the supplier has insurance for the items sent or that they will refund you the money 100%, including the shipping costs if they fail to fulfil the shipment.
If you choose a supplier who does not have a reasonable refund or return policy, your customer will demand it. You will take this loss out of your pocket.
Where to Find the Best Dropshipping Suppliers
Now, let us take a look at the places where you can find dropshipping suppliers.
1. e-Commerce Sites
Some manufacturers sell their items on Amazon, AliExpress, and similar e-commerce retail websites. While not every one of them dropships, some do. To find out, one must only look at their product description.
Here is an example:
This product is sold in AliExpress on retail. As the product title says, the company also dropships. To find out more, you must contact the seller about retail price, wholesale price, shipping, etc.
2. Supplier Directories
There are directories for manufacturers, suppliers, and dropshippers. Below are some examples:
Then there are directories like Dropship.IO. Dropship.IO is a dropshipping supplier directory that goes beyond providing you with a list of dropshippers. This tool allows you to discover products, track sales, research your competitors, and so much more.
3. On-Demand Providers
Finally, there are on-demand providers like Printify and Printful. These are mostly print-on-demand businesses (POD) that only print/manufacture a product once an order is made.
The way it works is you pick from their array of products like mugs, shirts, jackets, umbrellas, etc. Then, you apply your design to these products on an app. After making a mock-up, you launch these mock-ups on your dropshipping website. Once a customer orders, the POD will print and ship it to the customer.
Pros and Cons of Different Types of Suppliers
Before you choose a dropshipping supplier, it is wise to take a look at the pros and cons of each.
- Lots of manufacturers to choose from
- Has buyer protection vouched for by the e-Commerce site
- You will compete with other dropshippers who sell the same things
- Prices are retail; little room for profit
- Your customer can access these sites themselves
- The companies go through a vetting process for legitimacy
- Analytics, marketing, and sales support
- Technologically advanced
- It can cost money through membership
- Many blank products to choose from
- No hassle in manufacturing and shipment
- Multiple warehouses
- You are limited to selling printable materials
- Quality is not consistent
- You must design your products
As you can see, there is no perfect system. However, your best bet is a dropship directory like Dropship.IO. It has all the things you need to find dropshipping suppliers that you can trust. Dropship.IO also provides you with the tools necessary to analyze the market performance of the products you are looking to sell.
How to Work with a Dropshipping Supplier Partner
So, you saw a list of the best dropshipping products. Will you sell them right away? No, you must do something first.
Keep in mind that you do not keep inventory. In addition, you also do not control the shipping process. Below are some essential tips to consider when choosing a drop shipper partner.
1. Contact the Supplier
You must call, chat, or email the supplier. This is the first thing you need to do to establish a relationship, especially if you find a supplier on sites like Ali Express.
Find out if the supplier supports a dropshipping store like yours, and ensure you understand each other. If the supplier does not know what dropshipping is, you can explain it or walk away.
Now, some supplier directories do not allow you to contact the supplier. They built a process where you can only order through their supply chain, like Oberlo in Shopify.
This process is fine because the AliExpress dropshipping business partners went through a vetting process. In addition, some dropship directories cover you for mishandled shipments and refunds, provided that you comply with the rules.
2. Ask for a Sample or Buy One
The next step is to buy a sample from the supplier. If they offer something for free, which I doubt, take it. You need a sample to see the quality of the product.
Why do you need this? It would help if you did this because pictures are deceitful. When manufacturers take pictures of their products, like clothing, they use proper lighting. In addition, they use models.
Of course, the clothing fits the model perfectly. In addition, the entire marketing material looks good online. But then, once you receive the item, you will realize it is not the same as the image.
The worst thing that can happen is for you to sell it to your consumers, not knowing how bad the product is. Instead, get the product, see it, feel it, and decide if a customer will be happy.
3. Discuss Your Business Needs
If you are happy with the product, contact the supplier again, and then move on to discuss your business needs. What are these needs?
These needs include:
- Shipping on time
- Choice of courier or logistics company
Ask the eCommerce supplier what they can do for you. For example, if you want to label the products under your name, discuss the cost of the label or sticker.
On some occasions, you can send the supplier your sticker. For example, if you place an order, they will put that sticker on the item they ship to your customer.
4. Verify the Business Standards
When you start dropshipping, verify with the supplier the business standards. Sometimes, you can make amends or demands, but suppliers can fail.
If they do, you must at least know these potential failure points to act on them. Below are some examples:
- What does the shipping cost?
- Is the shipment insured?
- What will they use as a courier?
- Do they issue refunds?
- What is the return and refund process?
- Who pays for the shipment of the return?
- Who pays for the original cost of shipping when the customer asks for a refund?
- What happens if there is a price change, and you do not know?
As you can see, it is easy to build a dropshipping website, but maintaining it is a full-time job. Therefore, you need to focus on the business. However, the best thing we can do as dropshippers is to plan the business appropriately.
How To Research Great Dropshipping Products
Time and time again, I see people who fell into a trap—the trap of trend. They jumped on the bandwagon to sell these items just because they saw a list of best-selling products.
Then, they found out that they are late for the party. Some say it does not matter since no one buys inventory as stocks in dropshipping anyway.
I say it does matter—you paid someone to upload the images, sync the products to your Shopify store, etc. The time you pay is money that you spend. You waste money if you do not make a sale from following a trend.
Instead of following a crazy and short-lived trend, there are some tips I want to share with you on how to choose a product for dropshipping.
1. Focus on a Niche
A niche is an industry or a market. So do not try to be the next Amazon. I am not trying to burst your bubbles here. But then, many people do not understand that Amazon took 14 years to be profitable.
What I am saying is that you should not sell everything. Instead, find a specific market you can sell to and focus on that.
If you could, I do recommend that you find a deep niche. For example, if the niche you chose is baby clothing, pick a deeper niche: costume clothing.
If you do this, you are making it easier to market your goods to a specific group of people. In addition, you are making yourself “the gold standard” in baby costume clothing.
Finally, you will not waste time looking for products that do not belong to this niche. Instead, you will focus on looking for the best baby costumes.
2. Use a Business Analytics Tool
Information is at your fingertips, so it is wise to use tools that give you information. Today, analyzing a product’s viability couldn’t be simpler.
How? Well, there are tools like Salehoo, Spocket, Oberlo, and Dropship.IO where you can find products and see how they perform in the market.
Since I am using Dropship.IO, a dropship supplier database, I will show you several analytical features of the tool.
As you can see in this screenshot, the Drophip.IO analytics tool tells us the following:
- P/C ratio
- POT Profit
From here, we can easily decide if the product is worth selling or not.
3. Study Your Competitors
Spying on your competitor is no longer a difficult thing to do. You do not even have to pay someone to go and visit the competitor. All you need is a tool.
In Dropship.IO, there is a report I can check to find out what my competitors are doing. The screenshot below shows it.
As you can see, you can scroll down and find out where the competitors sell the same product. You can also see how much.
In addition, you can click the link to the product. If you do, you will find yourself on the competitor’s website. From here, you can assess the competition’s strengths and weaknesses.
4. Know Your Profit Margins
Do not sell a product with a profit of $1. Many dropshippers think that if they only sell a thousand pieces, then they make $1,000.
Nothing is worse than that mindset because it is difficult to sell in high volume. In most industries, the average ideal profit margin is 20%. If the product’s cost is $100, you should be able to sell it for $120.
Tools like Dropship.IO will help you see that number. Keep in mind that your gross profit is where you take money for:
- Software payments
You must do the math when you do business. Thankfully, the tool I chose, Dropshi.IO, already has several calculators that will do the math for me.
Dropshipping Principles You Must Know
Once you know how to find private suppliers for dropshipping, the next step is to understand what makes dropshipping businesses successful.
There are no secrets to success. We know these things already, but then we just need reminders from time to time. Below are some principles you must abide by to improve your success rate in dropshipping.
1. Do not be emotional
Dropshipping is a business. It is not your baby, and you should never treat it like one. It is your project, but you must never put emotions over objectivity.
Every decision you make must have a reasonable justification. You cannot make business decisions on a whim.
For example, let us say that you saw a product that you like but does not belong to your niche. Emotionally, you want to add that product because it speaks to you—you like it.
Objectively, it is a wrong decision—you are confusing your customers about what you represent as a store. Think of it this way: a shoe store is a shoe store, so do not sell hamburgers.
In addition, you must think of your expenses. Do not make impulsive app purchases just because the demonstrator said he made many sales when using the app.
In business, you want to reduce costs and make a profit, not spend money because it feels good. As such, always assess the value of the purchase before going through it.
2. Marketing is the key
If a tree falls in the forest, who will know if nobody tells? If you have a dropshipping store, who will know if you do not toot your horn?
You must make noise. And you can only do this with marketing. In addition, you must do your marketing correctly.
Here are some places where you can market your products:
- Google Ads
Why is marketing important? Marketing is necessary to let people know that your store exists. As a dropshipper, you are not the only person selling that product. As shown in the competition analysis earlier, there are several of you fighting for a customer’s purchase.
3. Trends will die
While trends allow you to make sales, it only works if you are the first. I am not saying that you should not follow trends; I am saying that you should be careful.
The good thing about dropshipping is that you are not buying inventory. It is the manufacturer who has to take that burden. However, you will spend time and effort uploading products that may not sell.
Trends will eventually fade, so focus on what people always buy. The only trend you should pay attention to is the one that will eventually become a standard.
For example, it is not appropriate to sell fidget spinners because it is cool now. It is merely a fad; you should not build your entire dropshipping store around it.
You can only justify selling trendy items if it is your niche. If your target people want to be trendy, you can pursue trends as much as you want. But then you must also know that you will double your efforts to keep up with the changing times.
4. Quality is better than quantity
It is better to sell one product with the highest quality than 100 that perform poorly. Quality will always top quantity.
One common pitfall of dropshippers is that they want to fill their online stores with goods. They think that more options make them more credible.
There is a truth to that, but only if you apply the principle correctly. So, again, we will go back to choosing a deep niche. If you want to sell handbags, focus on selling handbags for women or men only. Then, you must only sell a specific type of handbag.
From here, it should be easy to find products for that particular type of handbag. And since you are not wasting time looking at various types of bags, it is also easier and cheaper to determine quality—you can order each item and decide.
5. Embrace your enemy
You must not be afraid to study your competitors. It is the key to getting ahead of them. But, unfortunately, even the biggest companies have spies that work for the competition, which is what you call corporate espionage (which is illegal, by the way).
No, you will not go to jail for spying on your competitors in dropshipping. Why? Because all of the things you study are publicly available. It’s just that there is an automated way of doing it like I have shown earlier with Dropship.IO.
5 Dropshipping Tips for New Entrepreneurs
Once you have a dropshipping store, the next step is to maintain and scale it. Below are some of my tips on how to succeed.
1. Use multiple suppliers
There are many suppliers for any product you want to sell unless you want to sell branded goods. Then, unsurprisingly, in many cases, the products come from a few manufacturers, and the wholesale suppliers merely brand them as their own.
Use different suppliers, so you have a backup plan if one fails. The last thing you want is to tell the customer it is unavailable. With several suppliers, you also have a choice of where to order the product concerning the customer’s shipping location.
2. Provide excellent customer service
Do not let more than 24 hours pass without a response. If you can, make it a point to respond in 12 hours. It is why you need to speak to your supplier—you must know their response time to bake it into your customer service process.
When you wake up, check your mail. Every hour, check your mail. Before you sleep, check your mail. If you have no answer, you must at least acknowledge the customer’s inquiry and commit to working on it.
Many customers are forgiving, and not everyone has a misguided sense of self-entitlement. Likewise, not all customers are difficult, but they will be if you ignore them.
3. Set clear consumer expectations
Your product pages must say it all. Design your dropshipping store so the customer can see everything he has to know.
Do not send a customer to a refund page, shipping page, etc. Instead, put it on the product page. Indeed, you want separate pages for the long-form policies.
However, you must at least use bullet points about these policies. In addition, the customer must not navigate through several pages.
Why? Because you want the customer to have an effortless experience. If you are using Shopify, browse the Shopify App Store for product page management apps.
4. Use the right tools
Technology makes it possible to do many things in a short time. However, do not do things manually, or you will bun hours in hard labor. While it is true that hard work is important, you must couple it with smart work
When I started my first dropshipping store, I was unaware of tools like Spocket or Dropship.IO. Also, I did not realize that you can directly upload a product by clicking a link.
What I did was print-screen each image and copy-pasted the product descriptions one by one! As you can see, this was a lot of hard work. Do not make this mistake—pay for tools that reduce your labor cost!
Frequently Asked Questions
What product category is best for dropshipping?
None. There is no best product category in the dropshipping business. There is always a buyer for something. And while this may sound counter-intuitive, there are some occasions where it is easier to dominate the market if it is a deep niche.
What factors do you take into account when considering a product for dropshipping?
The factors you consider are quality, price, demand, supply, and the supplier. All these things work together like gears or cogs in a machine. A breakdown in one of them can cause your business to fail.
How do you know if a product is good for dropshipping?
You will know if it is good enough from the sales. If people are buying the product, then there is a demand. Just make sure that this demand is not an abnormal trend. Another factor you must consider is how it fits in your niche. If the product is something that your target customers need, you have a market for it.
What is the most important thing in dropshipping?
Quality of service is the most important thing. In the business sector, quality of service is what people call QoS. It may sound too simple, but it is more complex than that. QoS includes everything a customer experiences, like shopping experience, customer service, product quality, etc. A high degree of QoS means your customers will love you, and you will have repeat business.
Dropshipping is one of those businesses that can earn you a lot of money if done right. You do not need huge capital, yet the returns are financially substantial. If you pick the right products, you do not even have to sell thousands to make a lot of profit
However, there is also a catch. The supplier you choose can make or break your business. From the quality of the product to the timeliness of shipment, it all depends on the supplier.
We advise you to take your time to study the supplier’s merits. This supplier is your partner, so it is better to get to know the company and its performance before committing to it.