Choosing dropshipping is like creating your own job. It’s a luxury few people get to experience.
You get to take advantage of the flexibility of running the storefront of your shop, while someone else—your supplier—takes care of the logistics and the behind-the-scenes.
The truth is that this operational side of the business only flows if you’re working with suppliers you can trust. This requires them to be:
Finding dependable suppliers can turn into a huge time suck and even detract from staying on this eCommerce path you originally decided to take. It can literally outweigh all the advantages like flexibility and location independence.
We’ve built this guide for that very reason. To help you find trustworthy suppliers while making sure you’re not wasting your precious time and money on scams and schemes. As you’ll soon learn, you can always choose to work with suppliers directly or use supplier directories.
Sound good? Let’s dive in.
When you’re hunting for suppliers, there are generally two different types of resources you’ll come across:
The key differentiator you need to be aware of here is that the supplier company will never charge you recurring fees, whereas the directory might do so—and this is completely legitimate and okay. We’ll get into this and other steps to ensure you can trust your suppliers, but first, here is the list of best suppliers and directories for you to get started.
AliExpress. AliExpress is a dropshipping platform and wholesale platform that links dropshippers with suppliers and products.
On AliExpress, you can choose from millions of products across more than 20 categories and hundreds of subcategories.
These include almost any category you can think of, and the best feature of all is that it’s completely free to get started with AliExpress as a dropshipper. You can essentially get started right away by testing out products without any financial risk.
Dropship Direct. Dropship Direct is a dropshipping supplier that provides access to over 100,000 products and serves more than 50,000 retailers. All products are shipped from their own warehouse.
They provide their customers with inventory insights, pack-and-ship services, and more, and their service doesn’t involve any signup or monthly fees.
Wholesale Central. Wholesale Central is a B2B directory of wholesale suppliers and products. They offer sourcing tools to help dropshippers find thousands of wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers.
The great thing about Wholesale Central is that it categorizes the list of suppliers, where you can then look for those that interest you and suit you geographically and contact them directly, meaning there is no middle man you need to work with.
The Wholesaler UK. This is another supplier directory. These guys live by the promise of only listing suppliers that they’ve verified and that have sufficient inventory.
As with other directories, you can search by categories, some of which have subcategories.
Another great thing here is that they list additional details for each supplier, such as their target market, delivery specific, trading methods, and more.
SaleHoo. SaleHoo is a wholesale supplier directory that links dropshippers and suppliers. It’s made for eCommerce, eBay, and Amazon sellers, as well as traditional retailers. It now serves members in over 160 countries.
SaleHoo costs $67 per year, and in case it doesn’t live up to your expectations, you can get a refund within the first 60 days.
Doba. Doba is a platform that connects entrepreneurs with products they can sell. They provide a selection of over two million products across many categories. They also feature products from known brands and allows you to easily export any product inventory.
Their basic plan starts at $29 a month, and there is a 14-day free trial available.
Wholesale2B. Wholesale2B is a supplier integration system that offers over 1.5 million products in categories such as apparel, entertainment, electronics, health, home and sporting goods from hundreds of suppliers.
Their plans offer dropshipping on eBay, Amazon, and more, and the plan for dropshipping through your own website starts at $39.99 per month.
With the dropshipping market exploding over the recent years, the number of suppliers and directories has grown significantly over the years. As you might expect, some of these don’t have the best intentions and are taking advantage of aspiring entrepreneurs who are ready to explore their options.
For this reason, before you decide to go with any supplier, make sure you are following these best practices to ensure your work with them will be painless—and that it will pay off.
Good dropshipping suppliers invest in their product descriptions. Because you’re not physically reviewing the product each time someone buys from you, it’s crucial to make sure that you know what it is you’re selling.
The best way to verify this is by making sure you only sell products that have comprehensive descriptions and multiple high-quality images. This will not only give you a piece of mind in the long run, but also enable you to build a trustworthy-looking online store.
Go for products and suppliers that have extremely positive reviews and ratings. You can’t risk selling a product simply because you might make more money off it if its reviews are atrocious. While this might bring you short-term benefits like high sales and profits, you might have to deal with a lot of returns and complaints if the product is straight up horrible. High ratings from numerous reviews are a good rule of thumb.
Make sure the supplier is responsive and easy to deal with. This might seem like a minor thing but you’ll want to make sure you can easily do things like order products without having to hop on the phone every time and get a response to questions and issues promptly.
If you have to jump through hoops every time you have to deal with them, you’ll give yourself many otherwise avoidable headaches.
The flipside of this scenario are suppliers who can quite literally make you want to tear your hair out… And that’s only after you’ve discovered they have been tricking you into expenses while you’ve lost customers over an overall bad customer experience.
Let’s go over the key things to keep in mind to ensure you’re dealing with a genuine supplier.
A real, legitimate wholesaler or manufacturer will never charge an ongoing fee. As we touched upon earlier, there is a chance you’ll have to pay for access to a supplier directory, a platform-style service where you get to choose from many suppliers. This is acceptable and it makes sense.
However, if you are directly dealing with a supplier—meaning it’s a wholesaler or a manufacturer—you shouldn’t be paying a monthly/yearly fee just for being able to order from them. If they do ask for it, there’s a high chance they aren’t legitimate.
Some charges are still okay. While suppliers you work with directly shouldn’t ask you for a recurring fee, there are still some legitimate fees they might ask for. These typically include a minimum order amount and/or a per-order fee.
Never go for a supplier that asks for a bulk order in advance. When you think about that scenario in detail, it becomes obvious it’s not really dropshipping anymore.
If you’re required to order in bulk, it means that the supplier isn’t quite willing to fulfill your orders as they come in, which is the essence of dropshipping. Instead, it looks more like a logistical nightmare—so if you come across this with a supplier, stay away.
The last step when selecting your supplier should be making sure that their service and product quality match what they’ve promised.
Ultimately, the quality of your suppliers matters because you want your customer to be excited, delighted, and satisfied with the products they receive, as well as the process to receiving it.
To ensure this will flow just the way you want it to, place a few test orders within categories you’ve chosen to see how it looks and feels to be on the receiving end of that shipment. Here are some things you’ll want to document.
The immediate correspondence from the supplier. What kind of order confirmation did you receive? How fast did you receive it? Was everything up to your expectations?
The time it took to ship the order. Pretty self-explanatory.
The time it took you to receive an invoice and tracking information. Did you have to wait for a few days or a few weeks? Was the tracking information accurate?
The process of getting your questions answered. If you have any concerns about the order, how long does it take them to get back to you?
And most importantly: the quality of the product(s). Does each product match the images and the description? What is its quality? Does it match the reviews you’ve seen for the product? Was it packaged and protected in the shipment appropriately?
Only once you’re happy with the answers to all these questions—multiple times—you can be sure you will match the expectations of your customers while enjoying a great working relationship with your supplier.