When you decide to dip a toe into the ecommerce waters, dropshipping is an attractive first-time option. Having suppliers fulfill your orders without needing to store, package, and send out stock can seem like a low-risk, easy approach, and there are many businesses out there thriving with this model.
The difficulties come when you try to make it profitable. A lot of people want to make a business out of dropshipping, and there is often little for them to compete on other than price.
So how do you compete and make decent profits? The key is choosing the best place to source products from. Not all dropshipping suppliers are equal. This is why it’s important to determine your specific needs and go for a supplier that aligns with those. Many are niche-focused or industry-specific, while others will have better delivery options but might be more expensive.
Finding a good dropshipper that delivers on time, has competitive prices, and that you are able to rely on can dramatically affect your chances of success.
Here, I’m going to outline the different ways you can source dropshipping suppliers and I’ll list out some of the best dropshipping directories to help you get started.
- What is dropshipping?
- How to find dropshipping suppliers
- How do dropshipping directory sites work?
- The top dropshipping directory sites
- The top dropshipping directory sites: summary
- Tips for dropshipping success
- Time to get your feet wet!
What is dropshipping?
Before we wade in, let’s have a quick recap on what dropshipping actually is. Essentially, it’s a purchasing and fulfillment method where the online seller doesn’t have to stock, package, or send out their own products. Instead, when a customer makes a purchase, the order is sent to a supplier who ships the goods directly to the customer.
The key thing to note is that, with this method, sellers don’t have to buy stock ahead of time, eliminating the risk of purchasing products that they can’t shift. Rather, they buy the products from suppliers only when a transaction takes place.
How to find dropshipping suppliers
The hardest part is finding a dropshipping supplier that meets your needs.
But how do you get started?
There are actually a number of ways you can source suppliers depending on what it is you want to sell and how you want to sell it.
1. Contact the manufacturer
We’re so used to running our communication through a computer screen that we forget how easy it is to pick up the phone and make a call. Actually speaking to a manufacturer on the phone can help separate legitimate wholesale suppliers from ones that are just in it for a fast buck.
If you already know what products you want to sell, you can reach out directly to the manufacturer and ask for a list of wholesale distributors who you can then contact to find out if they dropship. From there, it’s just a case of setting up an account with your chosen supplier.
The best part about it is that the majority of wholesalers stock and deliver products from a range of different manufacturers that usually fall under the same niche. This means you can quickly source a selection of relevant products in your area and, once you’ve made a few calls, start to identify who the leading wholesalers are in that particular market.
2. Use Google
You can also fire up good old Google and try some specific search queries in your quest to find the best dropship supplier.
In the search bar, you can use words like “resellers”, “bulk”, and “distributor” instead of just “[product] wholesaler” to hone down the results, but it can take some time to wade through all your options.
Wholesalers are notoriously bad at marketing their businesses, which means you might have to dig through a few pages of results to find a specific wholesaler’s website. And, once you get there, you might be surprised to find something that’s stepped straight out of the 90s. Don’t be alarmed – there are many legitimate wholesalers that have poorly designed websites.
3. Go to trade shows
Trade shows are great for actually meeting suppliers in the flesh. These events give you the chance to connect with all major suppliers in a specific market, allowing you to make contacts and carry out your research in one place.
Obviously, this is best suited to sellers who have already settled on a niche or product but, if you have the resources to attend, it can take a lot of hassle out of the research process.
4. Stalk your competition
Chances are you aren’t the only dropshipper in your market. Sure, that means there will be competition, but it also helps you uncover the best suppliers in your industry.
Your rivals are unlikely to just tell you who they use, so you will need to be a little stealthy. Start by finding a competitor who dropships and place a small order with them. When your package arrives, you’ll be able to Google the return address which should reveal the company who actually shipped the product. In most instances, you’ll quickly find a dropshipping supplier that you can contact.
5. Search a directory site
Directory sites are one of the easiest ways to parse through hundreds (or even thousands) of dropship suppliers in one place. They are essentially databases that are organized by market, niche, or product, and usually apply some sort of screening process to make sure that they only list legitimate dropshipping suppliers.
Bear in mind, though, that most directories charge a fee to access the database. While directories may be helpful, they are definitely not necessary for finding a supplier, but they can help you in the early days.
Once you’ve got your business off the ground and are already selling a number of products, you probably won’t need to go back to a directory unless you’re on the hunt for more products or want to switch suppliers.
How do dropshipping directory sites work?
As discussed above, there are many thousands of individual dropship suppliers out there, so it’s not practical to cover them all here – that’s the purpose of the directories.
Dropshipping directories are supplier databases, and they differ from each other in a number of ways. For example, some offer monthly research reports, some automatically create listings on marketplaces, and others let you integrate your own suppliers within their system.
The one thing they have in common is that they all allow you to search for suppliers and/or products. Within the directory, you’ll be able to see details about each supplier, sometimes including product images, pricing, and current stock levels. This helps you make comparisons and get a top-level overview.
The top dropshipping directory sites
Doba is one of the biggest dropshipping directories in the world, acting as a middleman between you and suppliers. There are more than two million products listed in the directory which are shipped by around 200 different suppliers, and it integrates with all of the major ecommerce platforms.
You can also access reports to compare supplier costs and shipping processes, which can be exported in CSV or XML. The inventory management system lets you know when a supplier is running low on a specific product or if a product description has changed in any way.
How much does Doba cost?
Doba’s basic plan, providing access to the database and support network, starts at $29 per month.
The more expensive plans provide access to features like Amazon Data Export and batch order uploading, which can be handy for experienced dropshippers looking to refine their processes and save time.
The pros and cons of using Doba
On the plus side, Doba has a database of more than two million products and integrates with all major ecommerce sites, including Amazon, eBay, and Shopify. Their customer support is also a big selling point.
On the flipside, it can be quite costly endeavor for new dropshippers and, despite listing millions of products, actually features fewer suppliers than some of the other directories.
Inventory Source allows dropshippers to browse more than one million products from over 180 suppliers and can be integrated into major ecommerce sites including Shopify and BigCommerce.
The backend features are extensive, with capabilities that let you export product descriptions and images directly to your site or, if you don’t have a site, it can build one for you.
The software is ideal for dropshippers who have multiple suppliers and want to bring them all together into one feed, and the backend is specifically set up to help dropshippers make sales instead of spending precious time managing inventory and updating products.
How much does Inventory Source cost?
You can access the directory for free on the Directory Plan. This lets you view suppliers, preview product feeds, access supplier contact information, and search individual products. If you want full access, you’ll need to subscriber to the Inventory Automation plan at $50 per month or the Full Automation package for $150 per month.
The pros and cons of Inventory Source
Like Doba, Inventory Source makes it simple to integrate products with your store. The fees are based on supplier count rather than products sold, so you don’t have to pay more if you sell more.
On the other hand, the fees are high if you need access to many different suppliers, and it’s not always easy to find the right suppliers for you. The platform can’t combine orders, so you will have to contact suppliers directly to bundle your goods.
SaleHoo presents users with a detailed directory of more than 8,000 companies and over 1.6 million products, all of which are pre-checked for quality.
On top of a searchable database of suppliers that you can quickly compare and contrast, you can also access the platform’s Market Research Labs. This is a product discovery tool that helps determine how well your chosen products will sell on marketplaces like Amazon and eBay using past sales data.
How much does SaleHoo cost?
There is a yearly fee of $67 to access the SaleHoo directory, which makes it one of the cheapest in the market. If you want the SaleHoo team to build an online store for you as well, you pay an additional $27 per month.
The pros and cons of using SaleHoo
The Market Research Lab is a huge selling point for SaleHoo thanks to its ability to quickly point out which products are going to reap higher profits. There’s also great customer support and a thriving community around the blog and forum.
On the cons side, there is no free trial – but they do offer a 60-day money back guarantee. On top of that, the training can be overwhelming for new dropshippers who simply want to find out the basics of the platform.
Wholesale2B provides access to more than one million products from over 100 suppliers, with an integration system that works with most major ecommerce marketplaces. As well as being able to browse a niche-filtered directory, the platform automatically syncs stock information to your store to keep inventory levels and product details up-to-date.
How much does Wholesale2B cost?
Wholesale2B’s pricing plans are a little different to the other directories listed here as they differ depending on the ecommerce platform you’re using. For example, using Wholesale2B with eBay is $24.99 per month, while Amazon is $37.99 per month and Shopify is $29.99 per month.
The pros and cons of using Wholesale2B
The fact that Wholesale2B charges depending on which platform you’re using can save you money, while the real-time data syncing means you’re store never gets out-of-date.
On the flipside, it’s really difficult to contact the platform by phone or email. The only way to report an issue or get customer support is by raising a ticket, which can be a slow and arduous process. Wholesale2B also doesn’t offer particularly advanced performance analytics, which can make it difficult to see which products are performing well and which aren’t.
Worldwide Brands was founded in 1999, making it the oldest supplier directory here. It features more than 8,000 suppliers, all of which are vetted before being added to the site. The vetting process is quite interesting; staff meet the suppliers face-to-face at trade shows and visit their factories to find out whether they are legitimate.
As well as being the oldest, Worldwide Brands might also be the priciest. Although it only charges a one-off lifetime membership, the $299 price might be too costly for new dropshippers despite the total cost over time potentially being lower than directories charging a monthly fee.
When you use the search function, you get served detailed supplier information, like the website, full address, phone number, payment information, and ordering details.
How much does Worldwide Brands costs?
Users pay a one-off upfront membership fee of $299.
The pros and cons of using Worldwide Brands
There are more than 1.8 million goods listed on Worldwide Brands in all sorts of different niches, and it’s really simple interface makes it easy to get detailed supplier information and start making orders right away.
On the other hand, the large upfront cost almost makes it inaccessible for new dropshippers. On top of that, some listed suppliers have high minimum orders which can really cut into profits if you’re not buying a lot of products at once.
AliExpress isn’t actually a dropshipping directory, but it is often used by dropshippers to browse and buy products. It is, first and foremost, a marketplace with a massive range of products at competitive prices, thanks to the sellers mainly being based in China.
As a marketplace accessible to the general public, using AliExpress for dropshipping is more of an online arbitrage approach than true dropshipping. AliExpress listings usually include high-quality product photos as well as regularly updated product descriptions.
When a customer orders a product from you, you simply order the product on AliExpress and put the customer’s address in the delivery details. The supplier doesn’t necessarily know they are being used as a dropshipper, but dropshipping is so popular on AliExpress that most sellers there will be aware of it.
The pros and cons of using AliExpress
Although AliExpress isn’t a dropshipping directory, it makes the process easy for new dropshippers who have tight budgets and want to test out the waters. Pricing is competitive and there are barely any starting costs.
However, because items are often shipped from overseas, the shipping times can be much longer than other dropshipping sources.
The top dropshipping directory sites: summary
|Name||# of suppliers||Cost||Key features|
|Doba||200||$29+ per month||Integration with major ecommerce platforms
Inventory management system
|Inventory Source||180||Limited free plan or $50-$150 per month||Integration with major ecommerce platforms
Export product descriptions and images
|SaleHoo||8,000||$67 per year||Market Research Labs
Easy searchable database
|Wholesale2B||100||Depends on ecommerce platform||Integration with major ecommerce platforms
Filter searches by niche
Automatic stock syncing
|Worldwide Brands||8,000||$299 one-off||Thoroughly vetted list of suppliers
Detailed supplier information
|AliExpress||N/A||N/A||Marketplace with huge range of products
Test products for free
High-quality product photos and descriptions
Tips for dropshipping success
The dropshipping world can be intimidating if you’re just starting out. It takes a while to get used to the model and find suppliers and products that are a good fit for your store and your customers.
Here are some tips to get you started in the right way.
- Know your niche – operating in one or two niches that you understand well, means you can hone in on high-selling, high-profit items and dominate certain markets.
- Test your product – from the buyer’s side, the product is everything. If it’s not good enough, customers won’t come back, which means it’s important to make sure your product is high-quality and exactly as you describe it in your store.
- Don’t limit your suppliers – different dropship suppliers offer different perks. When you’re starting out, it’s worth testing a few options to see which ones fit best into your business model.
- Add value – if you’re selling goods that a lot of others are selling, you need to make your store stand out with branding, writing your own product descriptions, and presenting it in a way that’s different to the other stores.
- Automate the process – when you start getting in a good amount of orders, it can be an arduous task manually ordering from your suppliers. To make it easier, automate the process so that orders are automatically placed as soon as the customer checks out.
Time to get your feet wet!
Dropshipping provides ecommerce sellers with the flexibility they need to build a business from the ground up. You don’t need to stock products, buy packaging, or even ship products out. It can be the perfect way to dip a toe into the ecommerce world.
There are plenty of ways businesses are succeeding with this model, but the thing they all have in common is choosing the right suppliers. You can research potential dropship suppliers via Google, at trade shows, and by stalking your competition.
For beginners, dropshipping directories are a good place to start. Not only do they let you compare different suppliers, they also provide you with all the product information you need to start selling straight away.
Oberlo was included in this article when first published on April 26th, but removed as they have now ended their supplier directory.