Dropshipping might have a negative connotation in some spaces, but it’s an effective and legitimate way to grow an eCommerce brand nearly overnight. You might need to get a little creative to do it, but dropshippers can enjoy stable profits and longevity. All you need is the right approach.
Chances are, you have an idea of which products you’d like to sell. For most dropshippers, the major roadblock is selecting a supplier for your chosen products. Suppliers are a critical part of dropshiping because they warehouse and ship products for you. They’re a crucial cog in the dropshipping machine, and without a high-quality supplier, your business will fail.
While you’re free to source suppliers from around the globe, many dropshippers prefer to work with a domestic supplier. Anton Kraly of Dropship Lifestyle (DSL) shares his insights on why you should choose domestic suppliers and 4 steps to find them.
Platforms like AliExpress make it easy to find cheap suppliers overseas. You can sign up, choose a handful of suppliers, and call it a day. Plenty of new dropshippers do this, but it isn’t always the best option. If you’re trying to build a brand with longevity, a domestic dropship supplier is more beneficial to your business.
Overseas suppliers come with time lags, language barriers, and cultural differences. Misunderstandings and delays are par for the course with this option, which can lead to a lot of headaches in your business.
If you choose a domestic supplier, you’re closer to them in terms of time, geography, culture, and language. It’s easier working together when you can understand and trust each other from the start.
Odds are, your shoppers don’t want to wait 3 weeks for a product to come from China. That leads to a bad customer experience, especially in the era of Prime 2-Day shipping. Your shoppers expect quick turnaround times, which means you need to go with a domestic supplier.
Domestic dropship suppliers are geographically closer to you. Even if you’re in Oregon and they’re in Pennsylvania, it’s much faster to ship products to customers from across the country instead of from across the world.
To be fair, there are plenty of high-quality suppliers overseas. The problem is, you can’t be sure of what you’ll get. Poor product quality is common when you turn to overseas suppliers.
Domestic dropship suppliers can certainly have quality issues, too, but it’s easier for you to hold them accountable. You build a relationship with them that helps you work through any quality issues.
Because domestic suppliers tend to source higher-quality goods, you’ll give your customers a better experience and minimize product returns in the process. You can often justify charging higher prices for your products because of the quality, too, which is always a win!
Some dropshippers, like Anton Kraly, prefer to pre-pay for products to rack up credit card reward points. But if you’re just getting started, you probably don’t have the cash to throw around just yet.
International suppliers will typically require upfront payment, which can mess up your cash flow. Domestic dropship suppliers, on the other hand, will often offer credit terms.
If you land a supplier with a good Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) policy, they often give you 30 - 90 days to pay your invoice. That’s a huge boon to your cash flow! It means you can address invoices after you’ve started selling your products, which means you can avoid debt.
You’re free to dropship for the rest of your life if you want. But is that all you want from your growing business?
Kraly recommends dropshipping as an important first stepping-stone for aspiring eCommerce entrepreneurs. If you play your cards right, you can build your dropshipping business into a profitable and sustainable eCommerce store.
Of course, you can’t get to this level with a subpar supplier. It’s important to forge deep bonds with domestic suppliers over time so that, when you’re ready to move beyond dropshipping, you already have relationships in place.
You know you want to work with a domestic supplier, but these people are hard to find! Most of them don’t optimize their website (if they have one) for SEO, so a simple Google search might not yield a ton of results.
The thing is, you want to be approved with as many high-quality suppliers as you possibly can. This helps you negotiate better terms and ensure your products are always in stock.
We don’t have anything against AliExpress, but when it’s time to find domestic suppliers in your own backyard, try these 4 tips to find a match made in dropshipping heaven.
Do you know which products you want to sell? Great! The fastest way to find domestic suppliers for that product is to contact the manufacturer.
Ideally, you want to choose a product with at least 20 suppliers. This will give you the opportunity to find the best suppliers for the job, especially if half of the suppliers reject your applications.
Approach the product manufacturer and ask them for an approved supplier list. Most manufacturers will be more than happy to turn over their list, which can save you a lot of time.
Make sure the manufacturer is on the up and up, though. “Most good manufacturers that you want to partner with should have a MAP enforced,” Kraly adds.
MAP pricing protects both the brand and its retail partners because it doesn’t disrupt the perceived value of the product. Since you want to create a profitable dropshipping operation, make sure you choose a product manufacturer that enforces MAP pricing.
Google searches aren’t always fruitful for finding domestic suppliers, but they certainly can’t hurt. Just search for “niche name + supplier” to see what comes up. For example, if you want to sell sneakers, search for “sneaker supplier” or “sneaker dropship supplier” to see what comes up.
You can eliminate many of these results on location, reputation, and quality, but a quick Google search can give you a few good options to explore as you start your search.
Supplier directories are a step up from Google and offer a good overview of suppliers you can find domestically. A few places to start include:
If you’re too busy to dig through a database, you can also check Spark Shipping’s list of vendor integrations. We work with several domestic dropship suppliers and our shortlist can help you find quality suppliers, fast.
The final place you can source domestic suppliers is through your competitors. Are other dropshippers working with domestic suppliers?
You can often find a competitor’s suppliers by digging through their website, usually in the fine print. If that doesn’t work, place a small test order with your competitor. When the package arrives, it should have the supplier’s information on the shipping label.
While partnering with a domestic dropship supplier is a great way to start your dropshipping journey, it’s not the only way to maximize profit margins. Follow Kraly’s 3 tips to make the most of your relationships with domestic suppliers.
Keep in mind that domestic suppliers come in all shapes and sizes, too. Some are better than others, so it’s important that you understand how to narrow down suppliers to find the best option for you.
Know if a supplier offers a bronze, silver, or gold tier of service to choose the best suppliers for your business:
Evaluate every supplier based on customer service, professionalism, shipping times, and contract terms to find what’s right for you. As long as you aim for Silver- or Gold-tier domestic dropship suppliers, you’ll build a successful business.
Some product niches are more competitive than others. If you’re selling the same products as other dropshippers, Kraly recommends you go with optimized Google Shopping Ads.
This is a high-quality traffic source, but paid ads can quickly drain your budget. When you do PPC (pay-per-click) marketing, nothing guarantees conversions, so use this strategy carefully.
Kraly recommends dropshippers focus on negative keywords and create tiered campaigns. You’ll still spend money on Shopping Ads, but optimizing your campaign for high-quality conversions means you pay less for clicks that don’t convert, preserving your budget.
Picture this: you’ve been dropshipping for a few years and have made a name for yourself by selling other people’s products. Over time, you start ranking in organic search for product-related searches in your niche.
Use what you’ve learned as a dropshipper to create your own eCommerce brand! You’ll have the benefit of better SEO and organic earned traffic from dropshipping, but now with your own product line. This is a genius hack that will help you circumnavigate the traffic from the products you’re selling and take your business to the next level.
The biggest challenge in dropshipping is deciding on a product and sourcing a high-quality supplier.
Many dropshippers assume that you have to source products from cheap suppliers in China. That might be great for your margins, but it’s not always the best business decision in the long-term. When you flood the market with lower-quality products, you’re participating in a race to the bottom that’s terrible for your margins.
Work with domestic dropship suppliers instead. It’s a little more work finding reliable domestic suppliers, but they’ll help you improve shipping times, deliver better customer service, and build your brand into something beyond dropshipping.