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Don’t want to pay the extra fees for the convenience of Oberlo or AliBaba dropshipping services? Here is a host of strategies for finding dropshippers on your own, plus some tips to up your drop shipping game in general.
Finding Good Dropshippers: Caveat Emptor
Do an internet search for “dropshipper” or “”dropshipping” and your results page will probably fill with the names of scammers and middlemen masquerading as wholesalers. At the same time, it can be difficult to find certified dropshipping companies since few of them do any active marketing. (Unlike the scammers.)
Dropshipping can be confusing, especially when trying to avoid scammers, so here are some tips to help you navigate the process like a seasoned pro.
1. Understand your industry’s distribution channels.
Every industry has its own distribution channels, and the supply chain can differ depending on the types of products you sell. Some examples include:
- Manufacturer: For some “boutique” types of products, you can buy directly from the manufacturer, which might be a home-based industry or a small shop in an industrial park, as opposed to a massive factory.
- Importer/Exclusive Distributor: In some industries, a company might have the sole national rights to import and distribute a product. Some may sell directly to retailers, but more often, they are set up to sell to smaller local wholesalers.
- Wholesaler/Regional Distributor: Certain regional drop shipping wholesalers will take delivery of boxcar-sized lots, then break them down into smaller lots for sale to local wholesalers.
At the start, you’ll be buying your smaller initial orders from the smaller wholesalers at higher prices. With increasing volumes, they will start giving you better prices and you can move up through their ranks.
2. Try the manufacturer first.
Starting at the source never hurts. When you are selling branded items, go directly to the manufacturer of the product. Depending on their minimum order requirements, they might sell directly to you.
If they tell you they only sell through established distribution channels because your business is too small, ask them for a list of authorized distributors. With this strategy, you win either way: you get the lowest prices, or if not you’ll at least get a list of the most reputable distributors to start with.
3. Try a Google search for dropshipping wholesalers.
Tip: If you don’t want those aggressive scammers to bother you later through ad retargeting, try searching with DuckDuckGo, which doesn’t sell your browsing history to advertisers.
Try searches using the words “wholesale” or “distributor,” plus some keywords describing your products or niche. Also try with product names, model numbers and brand names. Go through each result and look for the “wholesale account” link, an email address, or a phone number.
4. Go deeper when finding dropshipping suppliers.
One of the most powerful, yet often overlooked ways to build a drop shipping business is through trade shows. Attending in person is great if you can do it, because you can talk face-to-face with manufacturers and wholesale distributors. Find a directory of trade shows at tsnn.com. There you can search for a trade show by industry, date, city, state or country, or by the name of the event.
Another pro tip: you don’t actually have to attend! Once you’ve found the shows that fit your niche, you’ll find that most of them helpfully put everything you need to know before the next show on their websites, such as directories and exhibitor lists with contact information. Then develop your own lists from theirs.
5. How to spot fake dropshipping wholesalers
Most of the results you’ll find from an internet search are companies claiming to be dropshippers but they are nowhere near the quality and pricing you get from working with genuine dropshippers.
There are no setup monthly fees when you’re dealing with a reputable dropshipper. If you identify a company claiming to be a “dropshipper” or having drop-ship websites and they ask for a setup fee, monthly fee, or annual fee, that’s a red flag.
Strategies to Up Your Dropshipping Game
Especially if you’re using paid traffic, a conversion rate of 1.5% or less is a sign that you need to up your game if you’re to make any real profits from your dropshipping business.
1. Provide more payment options.
You should be providing the widest possible range of payment options for your customers.
- Shopify Payments (U.S. Based)
- Stripe Atlas (Outside of U.S.)
- Amazon Payments
- Apple Pay
2. Add a phone number to your store.
Add a phone number everywhere it makes sense: on your header, your footer, on an About page, as well as on your Contact page.
A lot of businesses just starting out have fear around talking to suppliers and customers. But you shouldn’t be scared… these people calling are trying to give you money! When they do call, it’s usually to place an order. Often, people will call to say “I just wanted to make sure you were legit before I ordered.”
3. Return every call.
You’re human; you probably won’t be available during all your listed business hours. You can still make it sound like a larger business by returning every missed call and voicemail ASAP.
An unreturned call often means that the buyer will go elsewhere.
Having the Grasshopper app on your phone helps you manage this in a professional way. You get an 800 number so you don’t have to use your personal phone number.
4. Use Tidio Live Chat.
Tidio is a free live chat app in the Shopify App store. As with Grasshopper, it’s an app for your phone. When someone live chats your store with a question, it’ll push to your phone, letting you respond wherever you are.
5. Offer a free bonus gift with big ticket sales.
If you sell high ticket products, one way to increase conversions is by offering bonus gifts with each product.
When you’re going high ticket with the best suppliers, you’ll usually run into pricing policies that set a Minimum Advertised Price. Though this means you can’t discount below that price, it doesn’t mean you still can’t offer more than your competitors.
Ask yourself what your customer wants or needs in the way of smaller accessories related to the big ticket item, like a phone case when you get a new phone. This little piece of persuasion will usually win you the sale when they’re comparison shopping for identically priced items.
6. Ask suppliers for their product reviews.
Testimonials and product reviews make a big impact on shoppers. Many retailers rely on this kind of social proof to maximize their conversions. When you’re new to selling and don’t have any, there is a way to solve this.
Though it can take a while to collect reviews on your business itself, you can still get product reviews– just ask your suppliers for them. Your suppliers should already have a database of these on their website or in their dealer portal, and can send you a link to their file.
7. Get some unique product photos for your store
While you’re talking with your suppliers, you can also ask them for unique product photos.
Most of the time when you set up an account, they will give you the same photos that your competitors get, resulting in every product page looking identical.
Online shoppers want to see as many photos as possible, especially with high ticket items. They want zoomable, high-resolution pictures, with multiple angles. Ask for any photos not included in new dealer product package, like from trade shows or customer reviews.
8. Make sure photos are uniformly sized.
If you have thousands of products with photos in different sizes, it can give your store a poor appearance. There is a Shopify app that will make all your product photos look uniform, automatically: Photo Resize. This ensures a clean look to help build customer trust.
9. Use the messaging strategies of Urgency and Scarcity.
One great way to drive more sales is to feature expiring offers and show the inventory count. Countdown timers are user-based, automatically adjusting for each unique visitor. They acreate both urgency and scarcity, and will help you get that conversion.
Be honest, though: make sure you actually expire the offer or you’ll lose credibility, which will hurt your business.
Final Pro Tip: You should also include an estimated arrival time.
10. Add a page for FAQ’s.
You’ll learn over time what are the most common questions customers ask.
When you see several questions about similar topics, assume there are a lot more people who didn’t ask that same question and just left instead. They may be too lazy or hurried to call, so give them an easy way to get their answer with an FAQ page.
As you master all of these techniques, you should see both your conversion rates and profit margins rise. And if you’re not already using Shoppingfeed, that’s one of the most powerful ways you can up your game.
My mission at Shoppingfeed is explaining how to leverage e-commerce platforms and SaaS technology to e-merchants who just want to run their business and make more money.
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