Dropshipping is a great way to become an online retailer if you don’t have access to a warehouse or your own distribution system. With dropshipping, the supplier sends orders directly to the customer, meaning that you as the retailer don’t have to worry about inventory or fulfilment.
So, what’s the catch? Well, with your suppliers having so much responsibility, it’s absolutely vital that you work with the right ones.
In this guide, you’ll find out how to track down the very best suppliers that can help you get your dropshipping business off the ground.
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Let’s start by talking about the methods you can use – not that they’re all equally effective.
To be honest, you’ve probably already tried this, and been disappointed with the results.
That’s because you’re looking for suppliers or wholesalers – companies that are deliberately not public-facing. These B2B operations generally don’t have marketing expertise, and SEO is low down their list of priorities.
So, if you do want to persevere with Google to find dropshipping suppliers, be prepared to search through multiple pages of results, and do modify your search carefully, using not just the word “dropshipper” or “wholesaler” but as many relevant terms as you can think of.
If you know a specific product that you want to sell, you should be able to work out who actually made it. So, you could ask the manufacturer who their distributors are – and then just give them a call.
This is a great way to identify some of the leading players for particular market niches, but it only works if you know exactly what you want to sell. And of course, you won’t necessarily know what the distributors are actually like to work with, so do exercise caution before jumping in.
Nothing beats that personal touch. If you can get to one, make a trip to a relevant trade show for your market sector, and have an actual, face-to-face conversation with the people you need to talk to.
You’ll hopefully find people there from all stages of the process, including both manufacturers and suppliers. This could be a great way in.
If you’re really struggling to identify a supplier, one possible solution is simply to play the role of a customer. Order a product online from a company you think is dropshipping, and take a close look at the packaging when it arrives. The return address, and maybe even other documents in the delivery, may well give you the information you need to get in touch with the supplier.
This is far from a sure thing, though, and counts among the less bankable methods suggested here.
This is probably the easiest and most comprehensive method, although it’ll likely come at a cost. Plus, it’ll put you in direct competition with many other dropshipping retailers out there who are doing the same thing. But it’s hard to argue with the numbers.
Dropshipping directories do the hard work so you don’t have to – they compile the key suppliers who are willing to work with dropshipping retailers like you.
At their simplest, a directory can just be a big list of contact information – a telephone book, more or less. Or a directory can be a more detailed, curated service.
At the other end of the scale are services like Oberlo and SaleHoo, which are effectively more than directories – they can hook you up directly with the suppliers, and even pull their listings through onto your website. If you’re happy with a slightly more hands-off approach, this could seriously speed things up.
You’ll find out more about some of the leading dropshipping directories below. First, though, a couple of tips.
Whatever method you use, look out for scams. There are companies out there that claim to be wholesalers, but really aren’t.
If they sell directly to the public, they aren’t really a wholesaler. And if they try to charge you a regular fee, they probably aren’t either – normally a wholesaler will do things on an order-by-order basis.
Remember, though: wholesalers aren’t marketers or web gurus, so a shabby-looking website isn’t necessarily an indication that they’re not legit. The best option is to really get to know them before committing to anything. It’s sometimes worth picking up the phone.
Online retail is bigger than just the US. There’s a very good chance that you’ll end up buying from, and/or selling to, other countries. And when you do, it’s vital to get a decent deal on currency exchange.
Simply using local US payment methods often ends up pretty expensive, so you should consider using a specialist. Wise Business is worth a look. It’s free to sign up, there’s no monthly fee, and you can always send money abroad at the real mid-market rate.
Plus, you get local-style bank details in international currencies including euros, British pounds, and Australian and NZ dollars – so you can receive payments in those currencies just like a local would.
While most dropshipping marketplaces will charge either a regular or a one-off fee for use, some give you access to suppliers for free. Here are some of the leaders in this category.
A nice simple option to start with. Wholesale Central is a directory with loads of wholesalers across a range of categories for you to browse. You just have to sign up to get access.¹
This isn’t a fancy, integrated option that’ll do the work for you – if you find a supplier you like the look of, you’ll have to take it from there yourself, make contact, set up a system, and all the rest of it.
The Chinese AliExpress – a sister site to Alibaba – is a huge wholesale directory that often connects you directly with manufacturers. It can be difficult to navigate, and there may be language barriers, but it’s free to use.²
You might find that you need to use AliExpress via a third party like Oberlo, that can integrate their listings directly into your store. So in practice, this might not end up being “free” after all.
Even though these options aren’t free, they could well end up saving you both money and time, by taking some of the hard work out of the equation.
These are just a few of your options, of course. There are absolutely loads out there.
Spocket is a dropshipping directory that can link up directly with your Shopify store. It works with a large range of suppliers, and, if you’re happy with the product range they have available, it’s a very convenient way to set yourself up with wholesalers.
With Spocket or similar services, you’re using an intermediary to connect with the suppliers. That might sound like an extra layer of complexity, but it could well make things far easier, especially if you’re just starting out. You’ll end up with an easier workload when it comes to maintaining your product list.
You can get a 14-day free trial, after which prices range from $19/month to £299/month, or less if you pay annually during the time of writing this article.³
Like Spocket, Oberlo is for Shopify users – in fact, it’s owned by Shopify.⁴ As such, if you have a Shopify store then integration with Oberlo will be super easy.
Oberlo lets you import products from the huge AliExpress marketplace,⁵ which means a very wide selection of suppliers who are used to working with dropshipping retailers. So, for a stress-free dropshipping experience, there’s a lot to be said for using Oberlo.
There’s a free starter level which lets you list up to 500 products. Or you can pay $29.90 or $79.90/month to list a larger range.⁶
Bear in mind that Oberlo isn’t the only site to facilitate dropshipping with AliExpress – browse the Shopify app store to see many more.
New Zealand-based SaleHoo is a directory that’ll cost you $67 for a year or $127 for life at the time of research.⁷
It lists more than 8,000 wholesalers and suppliers, all reviewed by SalesHoo, so you’ll have a great shot at finding the perfect products you want to list.
Plus, SaleHoo offers support around the clock and an online community so that you can pick your peers’ brains about the process, should you want to.⁸
A nice and straightforward option is Worldwide Brands, which has been running since 1999. It’s a simple directory that emphasizes the quality of the suppliers it lists – it vets them all carefully and aims to ensure you don’t get scammed.⁹
The payment is straightforward, too – it’ll cost $299 for lifetime access at the time of research.
Doba is another marketplace: it works with hundreds of suppliers to list a huge total number of products. And it helps you get listings onto your online store as well.¹¹
Pricing ranges from £29/month to $249/month, with discounts if you sign up for a year. There are enterprise options available too for bigger clients. Some features at the higher levels are specifically designed to help with data export to major platforms like Amazon, eBay and Shopify.¹²
There are not only lots of competing dropshippers out there, but also a huge variety of very different sorts of platforms. So how do you choose between them all? Here are some of the things you should bear in mind when trying to choose between the directories and/or suppliers.
- How much integration do you want? If you’re after the smoothest experience, with product listings imported directly to your online store, then one of the Shopify apps like Oberlo or Spocket, or also Doba, might be the best way forward.
- How closely do you want to work with your suppliers? On the other hand, you might well prefer to go through one of the directories like SalesHoo or Worldwide Brands if you want to build up a closer working relationship with a supplier, and potentially create a more bespoke sort of store.
- Can you speak to someone? Whether you’re choosing between directories or trying to get hold of an actual wholesaler, don’t forget to introduce yourself to them properly – these people could shape the whole future of your business. Make sure that you know who you’re dealing with, and they know what they’re talking about. Try and find out if you’ll have a dedicated representative to liaise with.
- Where is stuff shipped from? There’s one big disadvantage with stuff coming over from China, which is that it could take ages to arrive in the US. So do consider the location of your wholesaler. The sweet spot is a central location in the US, so they can efficiently send stuff to either coast.
- What’s their delivery service like? This is really key. Make sure they’ll do a good job of the delivery stage, because you won’t be there to take a look yourself. Definitely get the wholesaler to send you some sample orders – test-drive the process as much as you can.
Setting up a dropshipping business is easier than opening other kinds of online store, but you still shouldn’t rush it. Before you set a deal up, you’ll need to:
- Get your business incorporated. Remember, you’ll be dealing with wholesalers, whose whole business is based on them dealing with professionals rather than the general public. So yes, your business will need to be properly set up, with all the correct paperwork, before you can start doing this.
- Pick up the phone. When dropshipping goes well, you’ll never even have to see most of the products that you sell. But don’t let that trick you into thinking you’re running a virtual business. It’s worth the effort to get to know your suppliers, because they’re such a vital part of your business plan. If you can’t visit them in person, at least give them a call.
- Act like a pro. Before calling your potential new supplier, though, make sure you know what you need to ask them. Even if you’re completely new to online retail, prepare yourself well and think through all the questions you need to ask. Remember that, while this could be a huge deal for you, you’re likely to be a tiny client for the wholesaler, so have an awareness of where you stand.
Here are a few more of the queries you might have about dropshipping suppliers and the whole process.
Of course, each dropshipping supplier may have their own preferred method, but you’re likely to be able to do business by credit card. Great news for your points total.
Alternatively, a “net terms” invoice might be possible. They’ll send you an invoice that gives you a set number of days within which you can send them the money.
You can, but eBay cautions that you, as the retailer, are still responsible for the delivery – even though you won’t be handling the order yourself.¹³ Another reminder of how important it is to trust your supplier.
If you're selling on eBay, work out how much you'll be charged and your profit margin with our eBay fee calculator.
Amazon has stricter rules than eBay for dropshippers. You as the retailer must remain the “seller of record,” and it has to be you, not the supplier, who’s identified on all the packaging.¹⁴
So your supplier will need to know all about this, and get all this right on your behalf.
Etsy is a platform that’s great for handmade and unique products that really stand out. So it isn’t the best platform to use if you’re trying to sell products that have been mass-produced in a factory far away.
On the other hand, collaborating with Etsy sellers, so that their products are listed on your website, might be an interesting option to explore. But do remember that the prices aren’t likely to be as low as you’d get from a wholesaler operating at scale.
Etsy did in fact run Etsy Wholesale for a while, setting its community of designers and makers up with retailers – but it was closed down in 2018.¹⁵
You’re certainly not short of options when it comes to dropshipping suppliers. What path you go down will depend very much on what sort of business you want to be operating.
But whether you go for maximum smoothness of integration within a Shopify store, or build up a close relationship with a select group of suppliers, you must remember that your whole dropshipping business depends on you and your wholesalers working perfectly in sync. It really is worth the time and effort it takes to find your perfect dropshipping match. Good luck!
- Wholesale Central
- Market Data Forecast Dropshipping market size and growth
- Oberlo Aliexpress dropshipping guide
- Oberlo Pricing
- Salehoo About page
- Worldwide Brands About page
- Worldwide Brands Order page
- Doba Pricing
- eBay Drop shipping and product sourcing
- Amazon Seller Central Drop Shipping Policy
- Etsy An Update on Etsy Wholesale
Sources checked on 24 April 2020
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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