In the world of dropshipping, the original supplier of your goods is an extremely vital component of your fulfillment process. You could even argue that suppliers are the backbone of having a successful dropshipping brand. This is why it's absolutely critical to ensure that you make the right choice when selecting your dropshipping supplier right from the start of your business.

Your choice of supplier will make or break your dropshipping brand

Choosing a supplier for your dropshipping business is one of the key decisions you have to make in your ecommerce venture because you will have to own up for whatever errors they make with your customer.

Some suppliers have proficient employees and robust systems that barely ever make any fulfillment mistake while others have inept staff and weak systems that drop the ball at least once every five orders.

The first will help your dropshipping business flourish while the second will simply doom it before it even starts. b.

What qualities to look for in a dropshipping supplier

You can find dropshipping suppliers using either directories such as Inventory Source, Wholesale Central, Salehoo, and Worldwide Brands or apps like Oberlo, Dropified, Spocket, and Printful.

When it comes to evaluating dropshipping suppliers, here are five  factors you need to consider:

1. Product quality and authenticity

This is a very obvious (and possibly the most important) factor to take into consideration, although it’s quite easy to overlook during the excitement of getting your dropshipping business off the ground.

Selling a high-quality, authentic product leads to higher customer satisfaction, fewer product returns, better reviews for your product (and ecommerce store as a whole), and more word-of-mouth referrals.

Shoppers will see through low-quality or in-authentic products

You should make sure to verify product authenticity especially if you’re dealing in fashion, jewelry, and electronics, as counterfeit companies tend to target these niches due to how lucrative they are.

AliExpress is one of the most popular dropshipping hubs but it’s still plagued by fake products. This is why you should always sort products by seller rating and make sure you only do business with suppliers who have a Feedback Score of at least 2,000 and a Positive Feed rate of at least 95%. You can find all kinds of dropshipping suppliers in this marketplace, both manufacturers and resellers, for just about any kind of product you are looking to sell on your Shopify store.

2. Knowledgeable support staff

Great dropshipping suppliers make sure to hire knowledgeable sales representatives who understand their product lines inside out and always have a finger on the pulse of the industry they operate in.

You should be able to call a dedicated representative and get all your questions answered thoroughly, especially if you're entering an ecommerce niche that you're not yet particularly well versed with.

And even if they can’t answer some of your questions immediately, that’s fine as long as they are willing to do the necessary research, find the answers and get back to you within a reasonable period of time.

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3. Leveraging technology

Great dropshipping suppliers invest in technology. A supplier who understands the benefits of tech and is willing to spend to reap them makes the dropshipping business much easier and more enjoyable for you.

Some basic technology features to look out for in a dropshipping supplier include:

·         an up-to-date website with a great layout and full product descriptions

·         a real-time inventory data feed for automatically updated product listings

·         online order placement/canceling via their website and/or email

Being able to take orders via email is a particularly important factor to consider in choosing a supplier because when your business grows to a point where you need to automate it, email orders can be a lifesaver.

4. Reasonable per-order fees

Most dropshipping suppliers charge some kind of “per-order” fee for the time and effort needed to package and ship your order for you. This fee ranges anywhere from $2 to $10 depending on the complexity of the order but unfortunately, some dropshipping suppliers charge ridiculous amounts fees.

Great dropping suppliers do not charge huge, outrageous “per-order” fees. You should seriously walk away from communication with any supplier who asks you to pay fees like $50 and above per month, just so you can do business with them.

5. Consistently fast shipping

Dropshipping is an extremely competitive industry – there’s no room whatsoever for shipping that takes forever. Your customers move quickly. Your supplier shouldn’t take more than 48 hours to ship an item, and ideally, this should even be only  24 hours. The faster your supplier can ship, the better for you.

Shipping that takes too long or is inconsistent can push customers to shop elsewhere

This is why if you're in a geographically large country like the United States, it's important to secure a dropshipping supplier located in the center so that packages can be delivered to most of the country within 48 - 72 hours. It can sometimes take more than a week for a supplier located on one of the coasts to ship across the country.

What to ask a prospective dropshipping supplier

Once you zero in on a shortlist of potential dropshipping suppliers for your ecommerce venture, the next step is to reach out to them via email to find out who is the best fit for business needs and goals.

Here are six driving questions to ask in order to get the information you need to make a decision:

1. What is your price? Is it negotiable?

You can often get a better deal than the price listed on their website but you have to ask to get it.

2. What other fees do you charge on top of this price?

You need to know any extra fees the supplier charges especially on returns and imported goods.

3. Do you offer direct-to-consumer sales on top of your dropshipping services?

You should know whether or not you’re going to be competing directly with your supplier for customers.

4. What is your return policy?

Returns are a normal part of dropshipping, you should know exactly how your supplier will handle them.

5. What kind of warranty/guarantee do you offer on this product?

This information is what helps you offer your customers a great return policy for faulty products.

6. What gross profit margin should I expect to make?

Your supplier should be able to tell you what others selling the item make on average, after its cost.

Dropshipping TL;DR

The important thing to keep in mind when reaching out to dropshipping suppliers is to not come across as a newbie because they will either overcharge you or simply ignore you. Like so many areas in business, it pays off to sound as professional as possible in your email, do your homework thoroughly, and ask the right questions.

Placing a few small test orders can also give you a solid idea of how efficient a dropshipping supplier is in terms of order handling, shipping speed, and quality of packaging when the item finally arrives.

This is a guest post by Raphael Bergeron from Debutify. Raphael is the CEO & Founder of Debutify, helping people to build a high converting Shopify store in minutes, without any technical knowledge at all. He is passionate about creating pixel-perfect web interfaces for e-commerce.

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