Are you thinking about starting your own dropshipping business?
Well, finding the right supplier is one of the most important factors in your business. If you don’t get it right here, things can go very wrong very quickly.
Picking the right supplier is just as important as picking the right product and this can only be done by asking the right questions.
Where to find dropshipping suppliers for your store?
You can use just about any platform for dropshipping; it just so happens that we will use AliExpress in this scenario as it is one that most are familiar with and probably the most optimal platform for dropshipping currently.
However, if you don’t want to use AliExpress, then check out these 15 AliExpress alternatives. That article will surely give you some inspiration if you’re wondering right now where to find dropshipping suppliers.
On AliExpress, you will find that for just about every product, there are hundreds of suppliers, and you being the buyer, have to sift through them to find not the best fit for you.
The good news is that as there are so many suppliers, they are ultra-competitive with one another. Also, should you have a problem with a supplier further down the road, finding a replacement for them shouldn’t be so hard.
To find a good supplier, sort by orders and look at who has the most positive reviews. Look for tell-tale signs in the reviews such as ‘long delivery times’ or ‘never received product/refund’.
Once you have found about five suppliers, you are to contact them all before you add their products to your store. We will go over what kind of questions to ask further in this article, but this part is very important and you will soon learn why.
Before you get started
With AliExpress specifically, you likely already know that a huge majority of the suppliers are located in the far east.
One of the huge drawbacks, in this case, is the language barrier. Another noteworthy problem is they are also on opposite timezones to EU & US timezones.
In both situations, it can be frustrating, so patience and clarity are key to getting your questions and your point across.
Delivery times to your target countries is important and having this conversation over delivery times and best method of transit is just good practice before listing a product in your store.
Conversations on shipping times are a great chance to gauge not just response times but the quality of their responses.
In this above case, the supplier not only responded in less than 40 minutes, but their answer was concise. Sometimes, suppliers will also recommend a particular shipping method to your target countries.
If a supplier responds with muddy answers, seek clarification. Should you still be unsure of the answer after a second response, then it is probably best to give them a hard pass.
One final thing to be aware of is suppliers outright lying about delivery times just to get the sales in. A good way to confirm this is to ask them for tracking numbers for prior sales to your target countries. This a reasonable request, so don’t be shy to ask this.
What kind of questions should you ask dropshipping suppliers?
Once you have introduced yourself as a dropshipper, it’s important to be clear to your potential suppliers what it is you actually expect from them.
As mentioned before, expect to deal with the occasional language barrier and if you don’t understand the answer, just rephrase it and try again.
1. What are the average delivery times for your target countries?
This should always be asked, they could advertise between 20 and 40 days, but this is normally unrealistically high just to manage your expectations.
Also, ask to see recent tracking numbers or recent deliveries.
If you’re not sure yet which countries you’re going to target, don’t forget to look at this article. That article also covers a few countries that are better to be avoided.
2. What is the average processing time once you have ordered?
This is the time between ordering and the order actually being shipped. Normally your order will get shipped the following day, but in some cases, it could take up to 3 days and even longer during holiday seasons.
Ask this question now so that you can manage your customer’s expectations early on.
3. Is the supplier also the manufacturer of the product?
It is common for your product to pass through several traders before they reach your potential supplier, more so on AliExpress. In this case, you need to know first if they are the manufacturers of the product or a trader for a few reasons.
Are you getting the best possible price with several traders in between you and the manufacturer?
Also, how much stock does the supplier have on hand should your product sell very well. More specifically, can they keep up with your demand?
4. What kind of packaging is used?
More important, if you are going down an eco-friendly route, you don’t want plastic packaging as it will contradict your business image.
Also important if you don’t want their logo plastered all over the packaging.
5. Do they facilitate dropshipping?
This is actually quite an important question to ask; not all suppliers accept dropshipping.
The last thing you want is for your customer to get your supplier’s invoice for half the price they paid, along with promotional flyers attached.
If they agree to facilitate this, make sure a similar note to below gets attached to all of your orders:
I’m dropshipping. Please DO NOT put any invoices, QR codes, promotions, or your brand name logo in the shipments. Please ship as soon as possible for repeat business. Thank you!
6. Do they offer branding?
Some suppliers may be able to put your logo on both the product and the packaging, but of course, for a charge. If you want to go down the fully branded route, then this is certainly one question to ask.
For more information about branding, check out this great article here.
7. Are their prices fixed?
With the listed price, there is always wiggle room, so ask away.
But don’t go to the supplier empty-handed; show them the prices of their competitors, and they will normally come back to you with a more preferable price.
You can also do this later on when you’re ordering a ton of products from the same supplier. You can then try and get a discount. (More information about that here)
8. Is there a minimum order requirement?
This is not ever a problem on sales platforms such as AliExpress however some suppliers may have a minimum order requirement (MOQ) in place, so it is important to ask this kind of question first-hand.
If they do have a MOQ, then this too can be bartered down in some cases.
You may also wonder how a company can require a MOQ for dropshipping, the answer is simple, in this case, you will be expected to put down a deposit on the items and they will dropship from this balance.
Make sure this arrangement goes through the sales platform initially until you build that rapport with them.
For more information about MOQ, check out our other article here.
9. What happens with returns or refunds?
If your customer is not happy with the product, then you have to know how your supplier handles this problem.
In most cases, they will simply ask for a photo of the product defect; however, make sure this is the case with your dropshipping supplier as well.
If the order is taking too long to get to your customer, how will your supplier handle this? You will find most suppliers will prefer open dialogue on this matter as disputes harm their standing with the sales platform.
This is one conversation you will need to have at some point and no better time than before you start making sales. Some suppliers may have shady return policies; it may also be worth looking for clues of this kind of thing in the reviews section. (If there is one)
If you’re interested in learning more about how to deal with returns when dropshipping, then check out this complete guide here.
10. Can they provide high-quality photos?
Suppliers can normally provide some very good quality pictures of the product for you to showcase in your dropshipping store. If they don’t have them at hand, it is normal for them to get back to you later on with some. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
It can be an easy mistake to use pictures that the supplier doesn’t actually own, landing you in hot water. This is actually a problem with suppliers on AliExpress due to lax copyright laws in China.
Should they provide you with pictures to use on your store, make sure that you won’t run into any copyright issues in doing so.
You can check out this article here to learn more about getting great product images for your dropshipping store.
11. Who pays customs fees?
You will encounter this problem at some point or another; your customer will get in touch, saying they have had to pay a release for the customs fee. Normally your customer would be on the hook for this; however, it could upset a few of them.
Some suppliers will handle this incredibly well and refund the customs fees to you should you have this arrangement in place prior however many will (and rightly so) tell you that this is the responsibility of the person receiving the product.
12. What happens if the order doesn’t arrive?
This will happen from time to time, don’t allow your supplier to kick the can down the road and keep asking you to wait another week.
Have this discussion first hand and find out after how many days before they would offer a reshipment/refund.
13. What if I sell out your inventory?
This is another great question that you can ask your dropshipping supplier if you’re expecting to sell a lot of their products.
But even if you don’t think you will be selling a lot initially, it’s still wise to ask this question.
So what you can do is ask them what happens if they are out of stock of the product that you’re dropshipping; how fast will they be able to produce new stock?
If you know this answer, then you can judge if you should find a backup supplier for this product or not.
14. Ask about the product specifics
Be it the product’s ingredients, specifications, or variations; you must know your product very well should any customers ask you a question about them.
It is always advised to actually buy the product yourself before you dropship it, but even before you do this, make sure to ask any questions which you may have about the product specification.
Judging their answers
An important thing to consider is how detailed the answers are. If your potential supplier is vague in any way, press them a little further with more specific questions. If they continue to be vague, it is best to give them a hard pass and move onto the next one.
Above, we have a great example of what to avoid. We were discussing a beauty product that the supplier claims to be 100% organic yet had no ingredients on the product description.
Dropshipping Supplier Questions: An Overview
Before we go to the concussion, below you will find a great overview of all the questions that I covered above.
This way, you can easily copy it; so you can send it to your dropshipping suppliers.
Also, don’t forget that you don’t need to send every question to every supplier. Only send questions that are applicable to your situation:
|What are the average delivery times for [TARGET COUNTRY/COUNTRIES]?|
|What is the average processing time once I placed an order?|
|Are you the manufacturer of [PRODUCT NAME]?|
|What kind of packaging are you using?|
|Do you facilitate dropshipping?|
|Do you offer branding?|
|Ask about their pricing [More information about this question above]|
|Is there a minimum order requirement?|
|What happens with returns or refunds?|
|Can you provide high-quality photos of [PRODUCT NAME]?|
|Do you pay the customs fee?|
|What happens if an order doesn’t arrive?|
|What if I sell out your inventory? How fast will you be able to produce new stock?|
|Ask about the product specifics [More information about this question above]|
Don’t forget that I explained each question in detail above; this is just an easy overview for you!
What we can take away from this article is there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking multiple questions before doing business with a supplier.
If anything, having these conversations helps build that rapport with suppliers and also shows that you are on the ball; it also sets some ground rules for both parties.
The answers you are given unfortunately will not always be true, so be prepared to ask further questions and don’t be shy to ask for proof of any such as delivery times or product specifications.
Most importantly, you must remember that suppliers all want your business and will normally be more than happy to answer any questions. So go ahead and ask away!
I’d like to leave you with an incredibly motivational and apt quote for this article:
Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.Tony Robbins
Getting Started with Dropshipping in 2023
So, are you ready to get started with dropshipping? Or maybe you have already started, but you’re looking to get some inspiration?
If so, then I suggest reading this complete Shopify dropshipping guide.
It’s a huge article, but it contains everything that you need to know to create your own Shopify dropshipping store in 2023. It’s like a dropshipping course, but then for free!
Reading this article will surely help you to get started and to stay motivated while beginning and continuing your dropshipping journey.
Just don’t forget that success takes time. Keep improving each and every day!
Shopify Dropshipping Complete Guide 2023: Create Your Store!
And here are the articles I suggest you read next:
- 13 Facebook Ad Beginner Mistakes & How To Avoid Them
- The 25 Best Dropshipping Niche Ideas for Your Store in 2023
- Dropshipping Startup Checklist: 10 Things to Do Before Starting
- How to Find Winning Dropshipping Products? (Product Research Methods)
And also, if you didn’t create a Shopify account yet (to get your dropshipping store online), then you can click here to get a free 3-day trial + pay $1/month for the first 3 months!
Awesome article! as usual.
There’s a question I’ve been thinking about, and kind of hesitated to ask the supplier or if it’s even necessary to ask in my first store and product. And that’s “Do you offer custom packaging /private labeling/ Branding”. Is there a difference between these three? And do I need to ask those kind of questions at first? Now I’m sure either one (or maybe all three) has to do with putting my logo and stuff, and while this is super handy, I’m wondering if a lot of suppliers would accept that right away. Also I heard that there’s an extra fee for that, personally I don’t have any issue investing in my business and enhance it as much as I can, but I’m just starting out (been studying dropshipping for months though) and I don’t want to mess up my calculations (profit margins, shipping fees & expenses, etc).
Thanks in advance!
Thank you for your comment! Great question, I think this article here about private label suppliers and this one about MOQ for dropshipping will give you the answer that you’re looking for 😊
But do let me know if that leaves you with any questions!
Fantastic information. This will definitely help me with my first message to the supplier.
Regarding the “custom fees” point, I actually researched it a bit, and pretty much every website I stumbled upon, they say it’s the buyer’s responsibility. And it makes sense to be completely honest.
I’m.. really confused. I don’t know if this part is necessary to discuss (or if it’ll bother suppliers when they know they’ll have to pay every additional fee) and waste many opportunities.
Thank you for another great comment! Good point; it’s part of the business that you’re going to run, so yes, these suppliers (if they are legit) are most likely used to these kinds of questions.
However, for custom fees and taxes and all these legal things, I do suggest you contact someone first in your country (like an accountant) to guide you through it (just to be sure that you’re doing it right from the start) – you can also take a look at this beginner’s guide to dropshipping taxes.
Let me know if you have any more questions, and good luck with everything!
Thank you so much for such a great information. I have read many articles of you. There are very useful and super great. Thanks once again for your afford and sharing.
Thank you for your amazing comment 😊 That’s great to hear!
Good luck with everything that you’re going to do!