There is no doubt that e-commerce is what it’s all about today. Especially since smartphones have become widespread, more and more people are taking advantage of the convenience of shopping with just a few taps and having the goods delivered to their doorstep. From food to apparel and home goods, nowadays, everything can be bought online. Needless to say, there has not been a better time to start an online store than this moment.
Starting an online store might seem like a simple process. With platforms such as Shopify and Etsy, you can have your page up in no time. However, there is a lot more work involved in getting things in motion. Unless you plan to sell handmade goods, one of the crucial steps you will need to give special attention to is getting your inventory. There is certainly some trial and error involved in this if you are a beginner. To help you go through this process smoothly, here are a few tips that will help you find the best wholesale suppliers and open your online store as soon as possible.
Decide on your fulfillment strategy.
Before you even start looking around, it is a good idea to determine your store’s fulfillment strategy. This essentially means that you determine who is going to fulfill the orders your store gets. Not all suppliers offer all fulfillment options, so that you can narrow down your search immediately with this step. For small and new businesses who aren’t expecting a lot of traffic right away, dropshipping is an option that can cut down on the workload. In this case, it is the supplier who takes care of order fulfillment completely. The second option would be going for self-fulfillment. This option means that you are doing all the hard lifting and keeping a steady inventory. However, it allows you better control. Finally, you can also turn to third-party fulfillment companies.
Determine your capacities
Another important step before picking a wholesaler is evaluating your capacities and drawing realistic conclusions regarding what is available for you. For instance, you might still be testing the waters, and you don’t want to overstock on a certain product. If this is the case, you need to find a wholesaler that offers smaller minimum orders. The price is a relevant thing to factor in as well. No matter how tempting their products are, going for wholesalers whose prices are too high for your budget will diminish your profit margin. Once again, determining your capacities will narrow down your search and save you a lot of time.
Nowadays, one of the most popular methods of finding suppliers is through the internet. However, the internet is vast, and you might not know how to start your search. A Google search may not yield you an immediate result. A general piece of advice is thus specific instead of just searching for “wholesale suppliers.” If you know exactly what you want, type in the product names. You can also go straight to online supplier directories and B2B marketplaces. For instance, some of the most frequently mentioned examples are Alibaba and Aliexpress. However, if you want your store to sell something truly unique, don’t limit yourself to these websites but dig deeper. For instance, if you are opening a fashion retail store, you can get wholesale knit dresses from sites specializing in wholesale clothes, and so on.
Visit trade shows
Before the internet, trade shows were the name of the game. However, this option is still alive today, and some people prefer it to online searches. Trade shows are created to connect businesses and build valuable business relationships. Attending one is a great way to talk directly to suppliers, cutting down on the often lengthy process of inquiring online–not to mention how easy it is for miscommunication to happen when only written exchanges are made. This method also allows you to see samples in person, which, once again, is incomparable to see them in pictures merely. While trade shows might not be available to you at the moment, it’s a good idea to keep this option open for the future.
No business can be done without at least some networking, and the same is true for e-commerce. As we just mentioned, trade shows give you the perfect opportunity to do this, but they might not be an option at the moment. Thankfully, there are other ways to connect with wholesalers and people in the industry to seek advice or recommendations and perhaps even find just the right option for you. Since your competitors will probably not want to share their secret recipe to success right away, building relationships with them and gaining their trust is paramount. Sign up for forums, join industry-related forums and networks, subscribe to trade publications, and stay in the loop.
Be purposeful when contacting a supplier.
Suppliers are busy people, so you need to be purposeful in your efforts if you want some of their time. Create a list of questions you need an answer to before the first contact to make sure you get all the information you need. Be it a phone call or an email, make sure you ask about their prices, minimum order requirements, how much stock they usually have of said products, their delivery options, and terms, how long delivery would take, and whether they have a return policy. Making sure you ask all the important questions the first time you speak to them will save you an immense amount of time and compare suppliers effectively.
Be careful of fraud
Unfortunately, sourcing your inventory online is not without risk. A lot of things can go wrong, especially when you’re doing business with overseas suppliers. Make sure you do a lot of research on suppliers you have your eyes on to avoid the uncomfortable situation of getting scammed. Some people want to take advantage of inexperienced online shop owners by selling them products at a much higher price or not sending them the products. Cybersecurity should be a major concern for all businesses in the digital era.
Test before committing
Finally, another essential way to protect yourself is testing a product before committing to selling it. While this does not sound like rocket science, the fact of the matter is that not all suppliers offer the option of sending a sample and jumping into an agreement without having seen and touched a product is a risky endeavor. If you chose the option of dropshipping, you would have no way of determining your product’s quality since you will not handle it at any point. But even if you are the one who will handle the product, finding yourself with a full inventory of a product that is different than you expected or lacks in quality will put you in a difficult situation. Therefore, make sure the supplier that you pick offers the option of a sample.
Operating an online store is much harder than most people think. Setting up your site, getting inventory, and driving traffic to your store are only the initial challenges on a list of many more to come. Finding the right supplier is rarely a quick and easy process. You need to take a lot of things into account, and even then, mistakes are bound to happen at some point. However, don’t be too harsh on yourself. Even if your first wholesale supplier does not work out for you in the long term, you will gain a lot of experience to navigate this world better.