Dropshipping is a common business model used by ecommerce brands, where manufacturing, inventory, and shipping responsibilities are handled by a third-party supplier. Since orders are fulfilled by a third-party, it’s important to find a supplier you can trust.
In this article, we’ll cover what to look for when choosing dropshipping suppliers. We’ll also give you tips on avoiding dropshipping scams and using dropshipper directories to your benefit.
What to look for when choosing a dropshipping supplier
Putting your operations in someone else’s hands requires great trust. Your business’ reputation depends on your product arriving quickly, reliably, and in good shape. Check a supplier's experience, shipping times, product quality, and customer service before signing up.
Sometimes, being new to something is an advantage. This isn’t the case with dropshipping suppliers—especially if your ecommerce operation is also new.
Using dropshipper directories is one way to find reputable providers. Make sure your dropshipping supplier has been operating for at least one calendar year, which is enough time to have experienced and found solutions for seasonal flows.
On the other hand, a new supplier might be cheaper to partner with. If you sell a product that you’re comfortable working with a less experienced provider for—perhaps disposable, lightweight items like cardboard cat scratching pads—you might be able to earn some money before you’re ready to transition to a more experienced provider. But this is still a risky move.
Depending on your product, you may want specific expertise as well. Let’s say you sell glass products, in which case you will need a supplier with experience handling fragile items and their unique packaging needs. Another example is selling large or heavy goods, which also have unique packaging and shipping needs. A reliable supplier will understand your needs and meet them effectively, whatever they are.
The speed at which your customers will get their products can make or break a great customer experience. Frustrated customers may even request a refund for an order which doesn’t ship fast enough or even leave a negative review.
Make sure you know how long each product takes to ship, including processing times. That way, you can effectively manage customer expectations and let customers know if something is taking longer than it should.
Additionally, check where your supplier has warehouses. If your customer is in France, shipping will be much faster if there is a warehouse located within the European Union rather than only in Asia or North America. Supplier directories may have this info or you may need to ask the supplier directly.
High-quality products can help you keep customers and get great customer reviews. Determine a product’s quality by checking supplier reviews, ordering samples, and contacting the manufacturer directly to enquire about materials, manufacturing processes, and original packaging.
Great customer service
You can find out how your supplier interacts with its existing customers through reviews. Read reviews on Google, industry forums, and review websites like TrustPilot, or even ask around among your ecommerce contacts.
Another way to check the quality of customer service is to get a direct experience yourself. Try reaching out to the supplier and vet their responses in terms of speed, clarity of response, and tone. When you get good service, so do your customers.
Great service also comes in the form of knowledgeable staff. If you have questions for your supplier, make sure they have people who are friendly and able to help. Try calling, emailing, and texting to check that staff is reachable through multiple channels.
Suitable return policy
Refunds are common. Setting up with a supplier who can handle returns quickly and efficiently will be useful for your business. After all, nobody wants an angry Google review in all-caps.
Make sure the supplier has clear instructions for you to provide your customers in case of returns.
How to avoid dropshipping scams
Given that the product is never in the business owner’s hands, dropshipping is rife with scams. We’ve listed a few common red flags.
They charge ongoing fees
A dropshipper should charge you for the product you buy from them and—sometimes—an order fee to compensate for the processing. Ongoing fees are rarely a standard cost for most reputable suppliers. If a supplier requires a membership fee, ask why: if it sounds like a bogus reason, it probably is.
They sell to anyone
A supplier that claims to sell at wholesale prices without requiring proof of your status as a business is a red flag. A reputable supplier will care about working with reputable customers and will ask for proof of your business status, including your EIN.
They don’t display an address
A dropshipping supplier’s entire function is to be the physical operator of your online ecommerce business. If they don’t have an address, they also probably don’t have the products they're claiming they’ll supply you with.
Additionally, it’s best practice to test out all of a dropshipper’s communications channels to verify them, including phone numbers, emails, live chats, or social messages.
Best dropshipping directories
There are several dropshipping supplier directories available online.
Alibaba is one of the world’s largest free B2B dropshipping and wholesale supplier directories. Its parent company is Alibaba Group. Shipments generally come from China.
AliExpress is a free B2C dropshipping and wholesale supplier directory, parent company Alibaba Group and sister company Alibaba. Shipments generally come from China.
CJ Dropshipping is a free dropshipping supplier and fulfillment service with fast shipping. Shipments generally come from China.
Doba is a paid dropshipping and wholesale directory, supplier, and fulfillment service. Shipments come from various locations, including the U.S..
Modalyst is a dropshipping supplier directory focused on designer brands, eco-friendly suppliers, private label manufacturers, and AliExpress sellers. It has free and paid options. Shipments come from around the world as well as AliExpress, which generally ships from China.
Oberlo is a free supplier directory service owned by Shopify. Shipments come from around the world as well as AliExpress, which ships from China.
Spocket’s dropshipping supplier directory favors U.S. and EU-based suppliers, with 80% of their suppliers based in these regions. They have both free and paid options.
Dropshipping can be a profitable direction for your ecommerce business, as long as you know what you’re looking for, stay on top of trends and industry insights, and keep safe against scammers.