New retailers that are just starting off on e-commerce often start with the most 'beginner' suppliers. These suppliers often accept all retailers but provide the worst margins. Once you launch the business the next step is to stair-stepping your suppliers from beginner level, to intermediate, then advanced.
If you are just starting off looking for your first vendor, I would recommend you use the stair-step approach. There’s a very broad range of vendors out there but what you want to look out for are those that are willing to accept brand new retailers with very minimum requirements. Your goal is to get your foot on the door and build a wealth of experience from there. Level 1 vendors typically require less, sometimes not even a website but just a proof that you have an existing business. They have very few hoops you need to jump through and they’re great for starting off. The big league or major vendors, however, will require as much as filling out credit application forms, existing website to prove that you’re in the business for at least X number of years.
Eventually, what you want is to partner with major league vendors because they have products that tend not to be found online as much, just because they don’t let every new retailer in the door. The upside with that is you’re not competing with tons of other sellers but rather with a much smaller subset of retailers. Your goal is to find vendors that are more exclusive as they typically come with better products and better retailer protection system and sometimes offer credit terms.
Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect on Day 1. Get started with small or intro vendors, get your site and products up and running and build your business credibility and acumen from there. When you do, you now at least have some products, you’re actually inside the business arena, you’re going to make some ad words, some traffic on your website, some orders and some interest. There will be a snowball effect especially if you go beyond that and do basic marketing and promotions like building newsletters, getting some Facebook audience, so on and so forth. Once you do that, it will be a lot easier to approach your next-level vendor.
Essentially, what you are aiming for is business integrity before you can go up to the next ladder. With higher-end vendors, some will provide you with an account manager and fill out credit applications and you will need those intro vendors that you have been working with. You are now more confident because you can actually show a track record that makes the next vendor trust you with a credit line.
As a newcomer, you’re probably selling the most basic products and competing with the masses but try to set yourself apart by getting creative in adding a unique value to your product. Stair-stepping to high-level vendors by initially building relationships with small vendors expands your business portfolio and eventually allow you to niche down and start focusing your efforts on offering something that is not offered by every other retailer on the internet.
Final note, remember that parallel to your business growth is having good vendor relationships as they will help you become better not only in meeting your needs but also in creating a sustainable business. They become business partners and it is highly important, even as a new retailer, that your goal is to partner with the best vendors in their own field.