Drop Shipping 101: How to Identify Drop Ship Suppliers and Source Products

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Do you need to identify drop ship suppliers for your growing eCommerce business? Are you in a place where you want to source more products through drop ship suppliers, but don’t know the ins and outs of the best research methods?

You’ve come to the right place and I’m excited to share my 7+ years of knowledge on finding suppliers that are able to support the drop ship business model. While there are hundreds of websites that will sell you a database of drop ship suppliers and give you “access” to their products, that is not the route that you want to go if you’re looking to build a long term and profitable eCommerce business.

At the core of identifying drop ship suppliers is understanding their business operations and who they are already working with so that you can understand if they will be a fit to work with your company as well.

In this article, I will dive into the steps that you can take to identify drop ship suppliers and start to confidently source products that will work with your eCommerce business. I’ll provide insights from my 7+ years in the eCommerce and drop ship world while giving you access to my research secrets that has allowed me to form drop ship relationships with over 1,000 suppliers within the United States and Canada.

How to Identify Drop Ship Suppliers

At some point within your eCommerce journey, you are going to run into the need to add new products to your inventory. Whether it be through white labeling your own products or attempting to sell a supplier’s already branded products, you will need to create your own methods for finding the best suppliers to work with that are compatible with your business model. For the sake of this article, I will be talking about the drop ship business model.

Quickly, How Not to Identify Drop Ship Suppliers

When I first started in eCommerce in 2009, my business partners and I did not know a whole lot about drop shipping and so we learned a lot through running into the many scams out there on the Internet. We dropped search terms into Google like “drop ship suppliers” or “drop ship baby products,” and we opened all of the links to the sites that offer you the ability to gain access to hundreds of products through a one-time fee or a monthly fee.

The sites claim that you can gain access to hundreds of products for this simple price and then can take those products and list them on your store. As you receive sales, you send the information to them and they ship it out to the customer. All sounds great when you’re reading their simple sales page, but if you get into the process of working with them, you quickly realize that it’s not it’s all hyped up to be.

Because of sites like this, drop shipping has gained a poor reputation to a lot of companies and individuals within eCommerce. To set the story straight, the reason why these companies don’t work out is because their communication with the suppliers is very poor hence providing you with out of date stock updates leading to you selling products not in stock, the pricing they offer is very poor providing you with very slim margins, and the user interface makes it extremely difficult to get all of the product data that you need to actually list the products on your store.

Needless to say, avoid these sites like the plague. Invest the right time and effort into the three research methods that I will outline below and you will see drastically different results. Instead of being trapped into a monthly fee with a company that cares nothing about you, you’ll set your eCommerce business up for success with long term supplier relationships where you are completely on the same page with the people making the product.

Method #1: Find competition that drop ships

If you are in the business of selling branded products through your online store or marketplace, researching your competition and finding companies that are working through drop ship relationships is one of the absolute best ways to find new supplier leads.

How do you do that? Let’s say that you are selling home goods on your online store within a very specific niche of the entire home goods market. Maybe you are offering a bohemian collection of home goods that is hitting a specific niche of customers who really enjoy the store that you’ve created. You are operating your business with the drop ship business model and you’ve hit a wall of finding new suppliers that will drop ship for you.

In order to identify drop ship suppliers within your niche for the products that you want to sell, search those products on Amazon or on Google and get a list of the online retailers that are selling them as well. Search each online retailer in Google and add the word “drop ship” next to the company name. Sift through the first 2 pages of Google results and open articles where the word drop ship appears. Read into the article to learn more about how drop shipping applies to that company.

If the articles start to tell you that the company drop ships a lot of their products, this is a great sign. When you find out that a particular online retailer or seller is drop shipping, they become a sourcing lead for you that you can consistently tap into.

Let me explain. Since you now know that a particular online retailer is working with drop ship suppliers within your given niche, you can make a conclusion that products on their site and suppliers on their site have the ability to work with other eCommerce companies that are drop shipping. You can then go to that retailer’s website, search the products that you are interested in selling, and get a huge list of products. Once you have that list of products, you can look at each one, see the name of the manufacturer or supplier that the online retailer/seller has assigned to the listing, and you can research that supplier on Google.

Once you find the supplier’s website, you can reach out to them to set up a drop ship supplier relationship knowing that this is a model that they can work with and are currently working with. Repeat that process across different products and different retailers and you can quickly build up a database of suppliers that you can consistently reach out to until you receive an answer.

Method #2: Research the supplier’s website

A second method that you can take to find drop ship suppliers is to research the supplier website looking for key words and phrases that will indicate whether they drop ship or not. When I first started performing this type of research, I had no idea what to look for when sifting through supplier sites, but after looking at over 1,000 sites, I started to find patterns for indicators that showed they could work with drop shipping.

This particular method is most useful if you have a specific brand or product that you are interested in carrying in your online store. You are easily able to find the supplier’s website, but you don’t know where to go from there to ask if they will work with you through a drop ship relationship.

As an example, let’s use http://www.benzara.com/ as an example. This is a home goods online retailer and wholesaler that I have experience working with in the past. If you navigate to their site, there are specific keywords and areas of the site that you always want to look for and at when trying to determine if they are a drop ship supplier.

First, scan everything above the fold. Is there anything that indicates the ability to sign up as a retailer or seller or to join their wholesale program or that clearly states the word “drop ship”?

In this particular case, I see three of the keywords/phrases that I mentioned. They are screaming at you. I see Wholesale Dealer, Dropship Info, and Become a Dealer. Click on any of those three and you’ll be brought to a page with more information about becoming a drop shipper.

Second, head down to the footer. If there wasn’t anything above the fold, head down to the footer and look through the links that the site has provided.

Again, I see a keyword that catches my eye: Vendor/Supplier, with an email right below it.

Now if there aren’t any keywords above the fold or in the footer, you want to dive into the About Us, Contact Us, or FAQ pages of the website. In these pages, look for the same keywords to see if you can find at least an email for the wholesale department of the supplier. If you can find an email to the wholesale department, you are one step closer to finding out if they are a drop ship supplier.

I use Benzara as an example because they clearly have the ability to drop ship from the design and content on their site. For most suppliers, this will not be as clear, but this example gives you a good idea of where you can look and how some suppliers display their ability to drop ship to the public. For the vast majority of the suppliers that you’ll be researching, you will need to go further than the front page into the About Us or Contact Us to find the keywords I am talking about.

Hack: If you don’t trust your eyes to find the keywords, use control find on each page to search for the keywords. You never know where they may be hidden!

Method #3: When all else fails, get on the phone or send an email to the wholesale department

The third method and sometimes the most efficient is to get on the phone or send an email directly to the wholesale department asking if they support drop ship relationships. If your goal is to learn if they work through drop shipping, don’t beat around the bush trying to introduce your company and why they should work with you. If they can’t drop ship, it doesn’t matter how amazing you are.

In order to do this, follow the steps from method #2 and focus on the Contact page to find a direct phone number or email address to the wholesale department of the supplier that you are looking to get in touch with.

If deciding to call the company, politely ask to speak with the wholesale department once someone answers and state that you are interested in purchasing their products to sell online. This should get you through to the next best person to speak with. At this point, you should ask if they have the ability to drop ship with their online retailers.

If deciding to email the company, keep your email short and to the point.

Hey, my name is Connor Gillivan and I am the CEO of Portlight. My company is interested in purchasing and selling your products through our online store, (provide link to store). Please call me at (insert phone number).

By stating that you are interested in purchasing their products, it will immediately interest them to give you a call. Wholesale departments and representatives exist to sell products of the supplier. When they hear that someone wants to do that, it is a great opportunity for them. Once you have them on the phone, ask them about the ability to drop ship. It is on that phone call that you’ll get a definite answer so you can move on with selling their products or finding another supplier to work with.

Finding Drop Ship Suppliers Takes Time and Effort

As with anything in entrepreneurship, finding the best drop ship supplier for your company to work with is going to take time, practice, and effort. However, if you follow these methods and consistently reach out to suppliers, you have a much higher chance of landing a set of suppliers that fit the product niche you are looking for and that will be able to work with you through a drop ship relationship.

If you have questions about researching drop ship suppliers or have other methods that you’ve created on your own, leave them in the comments so we all can continue to learn from each other.

You may also be interested in: 

Drop Shipping 101: What is Drop Shipping?

Supplier Relationships – How Do They Impact Retail?

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About Connor Gillivan

In the past 10 years, I’ve started 7 businesses & built two to $10M+ in annual revenue, teams of 30+ & an exit in 2019. Today, I run SEO & growth for my 4 B2B companies while teaching millions how to make SEO simple.

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