STEP 07: Finding reliable long-term suppliers
As a dropshipper (especially one that uses AliExpress to find products), you will deal with suppliers and not manufacturers to ship your products.
Manufacturers usually require minimum order quantities and want to ship their products in bulk. They refuse to ship single items to customers.
Suppliers, however, allows you to place single orders and will ship single orders directly to the customer.
This is why finding a reliable supplier is so important in the dropshipping business model.
Remember how the traditional dropshipping cycle works:
Finding the right suppliers or wholesalers is thus a critical component to your dropshipping success.
How do you find dropshipping suppliers?
Luckily there are several places you can find suppliers for your dropshipping business. The problem is how to find the best possible supplier in terms of reliability and quality of product.
Here's a list of where you can find dropshipping suppliers:
- Shopify apps/tools such as Oberlo and Dropify. I will focus on Oberlo.
- Supplier Directories.
After I explained each of these sources of suppliers, I will offer you additional tips on how to identify a good supplier.
The obvious place for most dropshippers to look for suppliers, is on AliExpress.
This is because AliExpress is free, easy to navigate and use. They offer millions of products and thousands of suppliers to choose from. Being a dropshipper, you can use the product images/photos and product descriptions on your site.
Here are some tips on finding the best dropshipping suppliers on AliExpress (December 2019):
Step 1: Find your products first.
1.1. In the search bar, type in your sub-niche.
1.2. Tick the Rating box so you only get products that have a rating of 4 stars and up.
1.3. Sort the Search by Orders. The more orders, the more popular the product and the more trustworthy the supplier. A supplier that has fulfilled 10 000 orders will be more experienced in handling large volumes and shipping, than someone who just started out and has 100 orders.
Step 2: Narrow down your search
2.1. After finding a product that appeals to you, narrow your search by typing in the name of that product in the search bar.
2.2. Once again, tick the Ratings box.
2.3. Sort by Orders.
2.4. Open each of the suppliers and compare them.
Step 3: What supplier info to look for
3.1. When comparing the different potential suppliers, hover over each of the Supplier / Store names and more info will appear.
3.2. With our best-selling supplier that sold 10,348 of our Fish Toy, we can see that it has an incredible 99.0% Positive Feedback rating. The Detailed Seller Ratings are all above average, which is another good sign.
BUT: the store has only been open a few months. That they have shipped over 10,000 units of a single product
3.3. Keep on searching and find at least 5 or 6 suppliers of the same or a very similar product. Compare all their ratings, and how long they've been in business. Here's another example:
3.4. TOP TIP: Don't choose the first five suppliers that come up in a search. You might miss out on a gem of a supplier.
3.5. When looking for the supplier info, don't click on the Product image or the Product Description, and then on the Supplier Info. Rather click on the Supplier Name underneath the Star Rating. This will take you directly to the Supplier's Home Store.
3.6. Here's a prime example of why you need to compare as many Suppliers as possible. The following Supplier was number 7 in the search and sold only a 116 units of the Toy Fish for Cats. BUT, check the Supplier Details on their Home Page (this info was not on the Product Page's Supplier Info).
What makes this example a great supplier?
1. They've been in business for over 3 years.
2. Their Positive Feedback is above 97%. Above 97% is good.
3. They have over 77k followers. Anything above 10k is good.
4. They offer bulk dropshipping (the reference to CSV/Excel)
And then the coup de grâce:
5. They have overseas warehouses in the US, Australia, France and Spain.
Overseas warehouses decreases your shipping time, from three to four weeks, to only ten days. There are few suppliers like this, so build a good relationship with them.
Bulk dropshipping refers to being able to send your total orders for the day in one CSV or Excel file, instead of submitting them one at a time. You can also pay your supplier the total amount instead of paying for each order separately. This saves you a lot of time and effort.
Bulk dropshipping is therefore a must, especially when you get very busy and get a lot of orders each day.
Imagine having to submit each order separately and then paying each of these orders separately.
Processing orders manually one-by-one, wastes many valuable hours of your day.
If you use the Oberlo app on your Shopify store, then Oberlo also offers you their suggested suppliers and products.
The Basic Oberlo Plan costs $29.90 for online stores with less than 500 orders per month.
It's perfect to start with and saves a lot of time importing products directly onto your store with only a few clicks.
The added advantage is that their preferred supplier list has already been vetted and can be trusted.
3. Supplier Directories
Even though these directories say that all their suppliers have
Free Supplier Directories:
- Wholesale Central
- Doba - Free 30 day trial. Thereafter $29 per month.
Dropshipper.com - No free trial. $29.99 per month
- InventorySource - Have a Free Directory Account where you can browse products and suppliers. You even have access to supplier info, so you can contact them. To use, it starts at $50 per month.
- MegaGoods - 30-day free trial, thereafter $14.99 per month
- National Dropshippers - Free 7 day trial, then $19.99 per month or $89.88 per year
- Salehoo - $67 per year, no free trial.
- Sunrise Wholesale - Free 7 day trial, then $99 per year.
- Wholesale2B - Free to sign-up and browse. $24.99 per month for Shopify integration.
- WorldwideBrands - One of the longest running Dropship Directories in the world. Offers a free preview. Cost: $249 (One-Time Fee)
Dropshipping Supplier Tips
1. Might look good on paper, but...
Not all suppliers are honest about their products, which is why it's important to look at suppliers who have been in business a long time, have good Feedback, and can handle large volumes of orders.
It's also a good idea to read some customer reviews, especially regarding Returns. You want a supplier that deals with returns and refunds in a professional and speedy manner.
It's important to start a relationship with your supplier and then build and maintain this relationship. The most important step is communication.
Contact prospective suppliers and ask them questions. Communicating with suppliers allows you to ask questions about the service that they provide.
3. Must offer ePacket
ePacket is the most trustworthy and fastest way to get your parcels from China to your customer's front door.
Do NOT choose a supplier if they don't offer ePacket. This is non-negotiable.
4. Quality Control
Before you advertise and sell a supplier's products, you need to order a product first.
This will help you judge the shipping times and quality of the product.
Many suppliers supply incorrect descriptions (sometimes even photos) on their product pages and this is the only way to check the product.
5. Avoid paying fees
If a supplier charges you any fee over and above what you pay for the product and shipping, try to avoid them.
For example, there should be no monthly fees and no transaction fees.
Some suppliers ask a pre-order fee which seems to increase in popularity among suppliers. Avoid it by choosing a supplier with a similar product who doesn't charge pre-order fees.
6. Must accept Bulk Orders
Make sure your supplier will accept a Bulk CSV or Excel file, and a single payment for your total daily orders.
If they're not willing to do this, then I suggest you move on. It will save you a lot of time and trouble.
Downloadable FREE Resource
I compiled a Supplier Checklist guide, which includes:
- A summary of this page with handy tips.
- Hints on how to contact AliExpress suppliers.
- A Supplier Contact Script Template. This is a complete letter that you can edit and use as a correspondence template when emailing prospective suppliers.
- A Supplier checklist that you can print. Narrow your top 5 suppliers of a specific product down to your winning supplier.
Here's an illustrated version of the Supplier Checklist.
You can also download the PDF document by clicking on the image above.
Remember that the PDF contains more than this supplier checklist.
It also contains a very handy Supplier Contact Script Template, which you can edit and
Follow all these tips to minimize your chances of choosing a bad supplier.
Remember to order each product to ensure product quality and to test your prospective supplier.