Setting up a new marketplace can present a chicken-or-egg scenario. You need customers to buy what’s on offer, but you also need items from vendors to offer for sale.
The truth of the matter is that a lack of customers can be solved through strategic marketing. And with marketing, you need something to… market. This all points to the importance of selecting trustworthy vendors for your marketplace.
If you’re new to dropshipping, online marketplaces or operating an ecommerce business in general, or are perhaps looking to enter an unfamiliar market or territory, there are steps you can take to pick the right partnerships and suppliers for your business and customers.
Never forget: if your aim is to provide quality goods and service to your customers, that starts with your choice of suppliers.
Do Your Due Diligence
As with any business relationship, before you put pen to paper on a contract, you should invest the time to carry out thorough due diligence on your suppliers.
If a prospective wholesale partner seems to offer a bit of everything, ask yourself why that might be? Just as a successful marketplace will focus on a specific category of products, so too should any decent supplier. A focused niche points to market knowledge and expertise, whereas a broad and unconnected list of products indicates that a vendor is willing to sell anything they can get enough of. With that in mind, it may also be wise to request products samples before committing to do business. If a supplier is confident with the quality of the goods they’re offering, this shouldn’t be too much of an ask.
Of course, once you’re satisfied that a supplier’s products can meet your high standards, you need to be confident they’ll be able to deliver on that promise. When customers decide on a product, they want to know what they see on the page is available to order. The worst possible outcome for them — and your marketplace’s reputation — would be an out-of-stock notification. Not only will you lose that sale, you could lose the customer for good to a rival marketplace. Any vendor you approach should be able to provide up-to-date figures regarding current stock levels and projected availability. Suppliers want to do business just as much as you do.
Every decision you make at this point should be centred around ultimately providing excellent customer satisfaction. You’ve probably placed one or two online orders in the past. And if you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to experience shipping issues, you’ll know just how frustrating and anxious the period between placing an order and receiving it can be. As you’ll be relying on your suppliers to fulfil customer purchases, you need to be able to trust this stage of a purchase runs smoothly. Ask your vendors about their shipping partners and any relevant recent customer feedback they have to share. You might even want to take this a step further and place a test order to get first-hand experience of buying from your marketplace, from product selection to delivery.
You don’t need us to tell you why profit margins are important. So as you’re narrowing down your choice of vendors, make sure to ask each and every one for a complete product pricing list. There can be significant differences between one supplier to the next. The most important thing to have in mind whenever you’re going over these figures is the price you’ll be charging customers.
What’s the gap between that price and the one your suppliers are demanding? If it’s too high, ask the vendor whether a longer contract could persuade them to reduce their asking price. If they don’t move, and you’re in a position to take on a defined quantity of stock, it might be worth enquiring about bulk-purchase pricing. Of course, this is unusual if you’re embarking on a dropshipping enterprise, but it is a potential avenue.
A sign you’re dealing with a legitimate outfit could come in the form of a dedicated account manager. However, the lack of one should by no means rule a supplier out of the running. Depending on the size and scope of the vendor, they may be in the position to offer this service. By having a go-to contact at the end of an email, or better yet a phone, you should be able to tackle any issues as and when they arise.
Once you’re completely satisfied with the quality, availability and price of products, alongside the shipping and communication arrangements, you should be in a position to draw up a contract and begin adding your chosen vendors to your marketplace.
By choosing Marketcube to take care of your onboarding, we’ll make sure running your marketplace is as simple and enjoyable as possible from here on out. From vendor and product management to orders and fulfilment — even accounts and supplier payment — Marketcube is the safe pair of hands behind more than 1500 marketplaces worldwide.