So you’ve picked a niche for your store… Congratulations! Now you just need dropshipping suppliers.
(If you haven’t decided what product(s) to sell yet, check out our article on niche selection here).
The next step is finding suppliers that are willing to “dropship” the goods for you, meaning that they will warehouse and ship them so that you don’t have to!
On the surface, this is a complicated question that only leads to more questions - Do I need to buy a supplier directory?
How can I make sure the suppliers dropship without contacting them?
How many suppliers do I need to succeed in a niche?
These are among the most common concerns that tend to pop up, and it can be difficult to find a good answer...
Not anymore! Today, I’m going to take the mystery out of sourcing suppliers and reveal to you the simple process that we at Drop Ship Lifestyle use every time we start a store in a new niche.
If you've found yourself reading this post, but you're completely new to this business, we recommend you bookmark this post and then check out our post "What Is Dropshipping?"
How To Find Dropshipping Suppliers - Step-by-Step
1. Competitor Research
The first step to finding suppliers lies in an unlikely place: taking a look at your future competitors’ websites.
We’re going to find the top e-commerce websites that are already selling the products in your chosen niche.
For instance, let’s say you’ve chosen to sell entryway chandeliers. The first step toward finding suppliers is to go to Google and type in your main keyword, “entryway chandelier”.
Then, find as many of the online stores relevant to your niche as you can in the first page or two of google and copy the URLs into a spreadsheet.
Once you’ve got a healthy list of stores, move on to Step #2.
2. Brick & Mortar vs. eCommerce Only
Once you’ve got a list of online stores relevant to your niche, the next step is to go through and weed out all of the stores that have physical locations or showrooms, leaving ONLY the ones that sell exclusively online.
The reason we do this is because some product suppliers only authorize dealers that have physical locations.
Stores with physical locations that also sell online may be approved by some of these “physical-stores-only” suppliers.
We don’t want to get confused about the number of suppliers that may be available to us, so we can simply ignore the e-commerce stores that also have physical locations.
The way we can tell whether or not an e-commerce store also has a physical location is by clicking into their “About Us” page and reading about them. If they say anything along the lines of “visit us”, “come see our showroom”, “schedule an appointment”, etc. then they do not exclusively operate online.
Delete them from your list. Once you have done this with every store on your list, you now know that the ones remaining:
- Sell the products you want to sell
- Are popular (high ranking on Google)
- Do not have retail locations
This means that it is safe to assume that all of the stores remaining work with suppliers that dropship.
Now let's figure out WHO the dropship suppliers are so we can make a list of them, and ultimately contact them and get approved to sell their products online.
3. Supplier Master List
Lets find the suppliers that the remaining e-commerce stores represent.
It’s going to be pretty easy, as many websites make their suppliers clear.
To start, go to the first website on the list and look for a section called “Brands” and/or “Manufacturers”.
You may need to look in the header, footer, sidebar, or even sitemap to find this, but once you do, you’ll be rewarded - many stores will end up listing 10, 20 or even 100 brands!
As you do this for each site, you’re going to start building a “Supplier Master List”, which you will refer to in the future for all possible dropship suppliers in your niche.
Create a “Supplier Name” column in the first column of your spreadsheet, and paste all of the supplier names that you find into this column.
Repeat this for each website, and - in most cases - you will quickly find yourself with more suppliers than you need to make a ton of money dropshipping!
It is important to note that just because you have now found X amount of suppliers does not mean that they will all approve you for accounts on day one.
However, if your supplier list is 20+ brands long, it is safe to say that you will be able to get approved for enough accounts to build a website that will bring in sales (and eventually, as your store shows success, the brands that denied you initially will eventually come around).
You will use this list to get approved by AS MANY SUPPLIERS AS POSSIBLE in your niche.
How do I find dropshipping suppliers?
1. Find competitors that sell the products you want to sell.
2. Cut out the competitors that also have a physical store location.
3. Look for manufacturers/brands on these competitor's website.
Who is the best drop shipping company?
We recommend NOT using any dropshipping company.
It's not difficult to find your own suppliers and you'll have much better results over time. You don't want to use suppliers that everyone else has access to.
The 3 Tiers of Dropshipping Suppliers
Not all dropshipping suppliers are created equal! Depending on a few key factors, they will fall into one of three tiers: bronze, silver, or gold.
When starting out, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to work with gold tier suppliers, but you can still make good money working with silver dropshipping suppliers. As you establish your business and work with more and more suppliers, you’ll gain access to gold suppliers.
To help you determine the tier of a potential dropshipping supplier, I’ve put together a quick breakdown.
Bronze Dropshipping Suppliers
One of the hallmarks of each tier is the level of exclusivity. If a dropshipping supplier allows anyone who fills out a form to sell for them, then they are likely bronze.
These suppliers aren’t brands that want retailers, they are middlemen who make money off of fees they charge you. A few other features of bronze dropshipping suppliers are:
- They usually don’t support MAP pricing (Minimum Advertised Price). Leaving you unable to compete and actually make a profit.
- They have inconsistent product quality, resulting in higher returns and lower customer satisfaction.
- They have bad customer service.
Avoid this tier at all cost. The easiest way to find these bad suppliers are to Google “niche name + supplier”. AliExpress is a perfect example of a bronze tier dropshipping supplier.
These are the suppliers that you’ll start dropshipping with. They are actual brands looking for retailers to sell their products.
Silver suppliers won’t work with every person that applies. This means there will be some back and forth before you’re approved. But if you follow my scripts and advice in the Drop Ship Blueprint, you won’t have any issues getting approved.
Here are a few other characteristics of silver tier dropshipping suppliers:
- They enforce a MAP policy allowing you to make a decent profit (between 20%-30%).
- Usually, they have good customer service.
- They have quality control on their products resulting in fewer returns and complaints.
- There are thousands out there so you’ll be able to find one.
- Highly competitive, need to optimize your paid traffic for the best results.
Thankfully there are thousands of silver tiered suppliers out there, so you’ll be able to find some to work with.
One thing to note is that you’ll have to optimize your paid traffic to do really well. This could be a learning curve for some people, but that's another thing you'll learn in my Drop Ship Blueprint.
After a few months of using silver dropshipping suppliers, you can start reaching out to some of the top tiered suppliers.
Gold Dropship Suppliers
These are your ideal dropship suppliers that will make you the most money and reduce your returns due to low quality.
One of the things that makes a gold dropshipping supplier "gold" is that they work with very few retailers.
That’s because they are working really hard to create a quality brand and are willing to do a lot more work with their retailers to give the best experience for their customers
With that in mind, they’re very strict with their pricing policies. They will absolutely have MAP pricing and if you break this policy they will stop being your supplier.
Gold tier dropshipping suppliers are also going to be vigilant about the quality of their products. They will be quick to respond, replace, and refund.
Because they have fewer retailers, you’ll have less competition!
The most exciting part of working with a dropshipping supplier in this tier is that they will send you business. Suppliers don't sell to the public, so when someone calls them, wanting to purchase, your supplier will (or could) sent that customer to you!
Here is a recap of what makes a dropshipping supplier gold tiered:
- They enforce MAP policies.
- High-quality product control for fewer returns.
- Less competition due to working with only a handful of retailers.
- Best customer service.
- Will refer business to their retailers (hopefully you).
Dropshipping Suppliers: Myth vs. Fact
Let’s talk about some common beliefs about finding suppliers, and separate fact from fiction.
Belief #1: Supplier directories are the BEST way to get in touch with dropship suppliers.
Myth. Supplier directories are not only totally unnecessary when it comes to finding drop shipping suppliers, but they can also slow you down and cost a lot of money. These lists are riddled with bronze-tier suppliers.
I don’t recommend using them since you can find better suppliers for free (the only cost is time) on your own.
Belief #2: I need a TON of suppliers in order to succeed.
Half-true. This can go either way. I have seen people start stores in niches with very few suppliers and do great. I have also seen the opposite, people starting stores in niches with many suppliers and failing.
Generally speaking, the more suppliers a niche has the more money there is in that niche (although keep in mind that this probably also means the niche is more competitive).
I usually recommend making sure your niche has at least 20 suppliers before you get started in it.
What Good Dropshipping Suppliers Look For:
1. Good Customer Service
Gold and Silver suppliers are looking for retailers that can provide a good buyer experience and exceptional customer service. Since you’re representing their brand, they want you to meet the level of their customer service (or better). This way, there is a consistent, positive, experience with their brand.
When talking to them, you need to be brand focused and present yourself as a professional.
Make sure your responses are friendly and timely, giving them a sample of your customer service through every interaction they have with you.
3. A Website
You have to build a website before you pick up the phone. It doesn’t have to be the best website ever, just professional enough that they can imagine their products being sold there.
It has to line up with their brand. With your website built, you’re already demonstrating your commitment and abilities.
This builds trust and credibility. Your dropshipping suppliers are your partners and they want to work with someone that they can rely on.
- Have a professional email address (I.E. [email protected]) from your web domain when contacting these suppliers.
- Don’t refer to yourself as a dropshipper, but instead an online retailer.
- Think of each dropshipping supplier as a long-term business partner and treat them accordingly.
Once you've reached this part of your journey, you'll need to get approved with your newly found suppliers. This may sound like the most daunting task yet. However, it's much more doable than you might think.
Fortunately, we have a blog post devoted to this: How To Get Approved with Dropship Suppliers.