Dropshipping is the online retail wave of the future. No matter what kind of product you’d like to sell, a dropshipping format gives you the ability to set up your online store without having to worry about concerns regarding physical storage or shipping of the product. How is this possible?
With dropshipping, you work with wholesale suppliers who handle all of that for you. Your customers place the order with you, it’s transferred to the wholesaler and they handle the rest.
Your job in this transaction, however, is to put your best face forward when it comes to customer interaction. This means having an amazing website that will make your store stand out from all the competitors and attract customers to purchase from you. It means having detailed and accurate descriptions for each item so that customer don’t go wandering off to other sites to find out more. And most of all, it means working with reputable, experienced suppliers who will fulfill your customers’ orders in a timely manner. If products arrive damaged, late or not at all, it reflects badly on your company’s reputation.
How do you go about picking good suppliers? With so many out there, this can prove to be a difficult task. Here’s a handy checklist of things to consider as you begin your search for products and companies to supply them.
1) Homework Will Be Necessary
Finding the best suppliers won’t be as easy as simply Googling “good supplier for high-quality handbags.” Some of the best suppliers aren’t particularly concerned with showing up first in Google search results or building out snazzy websites. They’re too busy fulfilling orders. Take time to really do your research. When doing a web search, try different word combinations to find the information you’re looking for. (For example, instead of just “supplier,” search for “reseller” or “distributor.”) Look for online drop shipping forums to talk to other customers and see what their experiences have been. Online ratings of various suppliers will be an incredibly helpful tool in weeding out the bad from the good.
2) Shipping, Shipping—Who’s Got the Best Shipping?
As part of your research, check into a supplier’s shipping options. Do they have multiple warehouses in different locations—or even different countries? This can make it faster and easier to fulfill orders for your customers. Particularly with international orders, a multi-country warehouse presence is a huge plus for time and tariff purposes.
3) Good Communication is a Must
When you’re working in the triangle of online store, customer and supplier, quick and effective communication is important. If there’s a problem with an order and you have a question for the supplier, it’s important that they’re available and willing to answer your questions, as well as provide you with any additional information you need. A supplier that doesn’t respond to e-mails or voice messages in a timely manner is a red flag. It’s more than a minor inconvenience; it could negatively impact your reputation with your customers. A supplier should want your business just as much as you want your customers’ business and they should be willing to work to earn it. Good communication is a huge part of that.
4) Find Multiple Suppliers
That’s right—for the same product. When your customer is shopping online for something, it’s because they want that product right now. If you can’t fulfill it, they’ll find a retailer who can. The best way to make sure that you can promise immediate processing and shipping of an item is to have multiple suppliers so that one of them will have it in stock. Sometimes very popular products will get backordered and there’s nothing you can do, but having a variety of suppliers will cut down on the chances of this happening.
5) Returns Are Inevitable
No matter how great your products are, you’ll always have customers who need to return items. It’s up to you to be knowledgeable about your supplier’s return policies. A supplier with a nonexistent return policy will either leave you footing the bill for a damaged or unwanted products or it will create very displeased customers. Making sure that it won’t be a hassle to return or exchange an item is an important step in keeping your customers happy and coming back for more.
6) Know Your Industry; Know Your Products
The options for starting a dropshipping company are endless, but it’s important to already know or to educate yourself about the industry you choose. This will affect your ability to market your items and answer customers’ questions about them. It will also help you choose the very best merchandise for your store. It can be tough to sell items that you’ve only seen online. If you’re unsure about an item, purchase one so that you can put your hands on it in real life and learn more about it. You can always resell it at a discount as a refurbished item. Even if you lose money on that one item, what you will gain in knowledge will help your store become a trusted source in your field.
7) It’s Not Their Reputation, It’s Yours
Unfortunately, experience will be the greatest teacher. If a supplier proves to be unreliable, drop them and move on. If orders are arriving on your customer’s doorsteps late or not at all, telling them that it’s the supplier’s fault is not acceptable. It will make you look unprofessional and is a sure way to lose business. Instead, lose that supplier and keep working to find a better one. At the end of the day, you’re not working to build and defend your suppliers’ reputations; you’re working to build your own brand and customer following.
As with building any business, success in the dropshipping world doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, diligence, and patience. Following the tips on this checklist will give you a jumpstart, though, and working with an experienced company that can help you build your website and get things up and running will put your business on the road to success.