Did you know that e-commerce is about selling? (shocking I know). However, when it comes to selling, the tricky part is knowing what to sell. Once you’ve decided on what products to sell, you then need to figure out how you will get your hands on those products.
The gates of supply are not opened to everyone and like many things in life, are quite unfair. The bigger you are, the more chance of sourcing a product and getting a cheaper purchase price you have, which not only results in more competitivity but also solidifies your online status.
Finding the right manufacturers are key in sourcing and wholesaling products. The manufacturer’s focus is on the product, and even if the marketability of what they make is still their concern, the distribution is something they’ll either handle by supplying merchants with big purchase power or handover to a distributor directly.
Of course, manufacturers themselves are subject to the realities of their situation. For example, a smaller manufacturer will probably be more open to proportionally small partners. When a manufacturer production volume is small, the small amount you can purchase becomes proportionally adequate. If they get big, they’ll get big with you and this expansion can establish the foundations of a long-lasting relationship.
A lot of merchants do this very well, however, buyers should be aware that the type of products you’ll gain access to will be limited. It’s easy to find a talented stay-at-home mom jewellery maker, but don’t expect your neighbour to hide a smartphone production line in their basement.
As we mentioned before, manufacturers will often hand over their product to distributors. It’s a way to give the task of “selling” to a third party but with a bigger sense of brand ownership. Distributors understand how to advertise a product to the market and will not only sell the product but also transmit the identity of that product and how they expect merchants to sell that product to the end customer.
Some distributors will work with conventional B2C merchants but more often than not they will sell to wholesalers. Once again, it’s all about size, scalability, and efficiency. Why bother with a portfolio of a hundred thousand merchants when you can sell the totality of your supply to 100 big wholesalers and merchants. Following our previous logic, a less-known product and a smaller distributor might grant you easier access to the supply.
If you cannot get your supply from the manufacturer nor the distributor, then you’re reaching the end of the B2C supply chain, the wholesalers. The goal of the wholesaler is to buy in large quantities and sell to professionals in bulk. They usually own a wide range of products and brands which is one of their commercial strength since most merchants don’t have the time to handle communication with many different distributors and manufacturers.
One wholesaler could supply the integrality of your product catalogue and bet on volume over margin. The commission they get per product is smaller than what’s to be expected from your B2C business but what they lose in the margin they gain in convenience and volume. Why worry about selling 1000 pens to 1000 people when you could be selling all those pens to a single merchant?
The minimum order quantity of a wholesaler will vary greatly but there’s a wholesaler for pretty much every business size. One thing remains certain, no matter your supplier, the more you buy, the cheaper your cost per unit. On some occasions, wholesalers will have a dropshipping option. This means that they will hold on to the product until you generate a sale and charge you for the product once it has been sold. This option is fairly new and applies to only a few wholesalers.
Before we get into the subject of how to find your wholesalers, never forget that they expect to sell to businesses, and they will usually make sure of that. The nature of their business puts them under heavy scrutiny from their respective authorities, so make sure to have your company in order before doing anything. Wholesalers don’t expect only big orders, they expect professionalism and experience from their clients. It’s okay for an end-customer to not know what a product is and how it works, they buy for pleasure, wholesalers on the other hand purchase to make money. You should be comfortable with both products and the process of supply acquisition.
As we mentioned previously, there are many different ways to do wholesale. Your local Makro and their cash & carry system will make purchasing supply feel like grocery shopping. Or you could visit the wholesale warehouses at the industrial zone where foreign importers will give you a taste of the far-east a few kilometers away from your home. You could even meet your wholesaler or distributor at a trade show and get a more personal approach to product presentation.
Different ways to do wholesale means, different target groups. For example, the cash & carry model is often more popular with physical retail. Their supply need is usually limited and predictable. A good example of this type of supply need is the mom-and-pop grocery store found on most high streets, which is why their operating model is similar to a regular supermarket and why wholesale businesses tend to emulate the business dynamic of their customer. For e-commerce, which is the subject of our analysis here, selling online usually means getting your supply online. If you sell globally, it is to be expected for you to be supplied globally. It’s all about reciprocity.
Online wholesale is just as varied as the type of online merchants out there. When searching for a wholesaler, you should already have a clear idea of the type of merchant you want to be, the type of products you want to sell, your purchase power and the average quantity you’re willing to purchase as this will save you precious research time. Searching for products is time-consuming enough and spending your afternoon on unsuitable supplier’s search results won’t do you any service. To help you with this task we’ve selected 10 of the best wholesale options online.
DHgate – A Chinese wholesale platform
DHgate.com is the world’s leading online wholesale platform for goods made in China. They are a cross-border business to business marketplace established in 2004. Unlike their main competitor which pretty much surrendered to their 2C identity, DHgate has remained focused on supplying professionals all over the world for more than 17 years. Their many Chinese wholesale sellers offer the same quality products found elsewhere at a fraction of the price. DHgate hosts over 30 million products in a wide range of categories including Apparel & Accessories, Computers & Networking, Consumer Electronics, Toys & Hobbies, Health & Beauty, Bags & Jewelry, Home, Auto, and more.
The best part of Dhgate is that the marketplace provides an impressive buyer protection plan. While other Chinese wholesale platforms might ghost you whenever a problem happens, DHgate is known for its strong customer support and its pro-active attitude when it comes to problem-solving. If you are entitled to a refund, you will be refunded no questions asked! Their secure refund policy, express delivery, and shipment tracking demonstrate the company’s commitment to providing a fast, easy, and safe buying experience to businesses and consumers worldwide. And best of all, the service is completely free!
Alibaba – The B2B Aliexpress
Is there anything left to say about Alibaba? The B2B platform of Aligroup is a marketplace mostly made out of Chinese suppliers that sell all over the world. With 40 categories to choose from, you’ll find the wholesale version of it on Alibaba. The platform is free to use and is quite accessible for a wholesale platform.
Its biggest issue is market saturation. It’s been recommended and used by so many players in the industry it’s hard to find differentiated products from their listing. Thankfully their recent efforts to integrate more foreign suppliers are bringing more variety to their listing. Another issue is that their B2C platform Aliexpress seems to be the main focus of the group, so much so that many professionals end up buying their supplies from Aliexpress instead of Alibaba because of the greater optimization and convenience.
SaleHoo – Good for beginners
If you don’t have experience in purchasing wholesale, this New Zealand company can be an interesting option. Their proactive approach to training and knowledge building will help you navigate their 1.6 million listed products. Their community of more than 8000 verified wholesalers and suppliers is spread out across the world so you can find a wholesale option near you.
SaleHoo’s search tool is quite complete with many features that will help you identify trending products, compare market prices and expected profitability. Of course, all those features have a price. You can either go for the 67 dollars annual subscription or the lifetime subscription of 127 dollars.
WorldwideBrands – For the more experienced
WorldwideBrands is one of the oldest online wholesalers having started its operations in 1999. In this sense, they hold a more traditional approach to the business and their web design is old fashion, to say the least. Their suppliers are under tight scrutiny since they dedicate a lot of efforts to quality control. This type of compliance and effort required from the suppliers usually means that they expect a big sales volume.
WorldwideBrands have new wholesalers every week and you can expect a wide range of products categories. Recently they’ve been also catering to dropshippers but their main focus and vantage point is still on bulk purchase.
If you want to access Worldwidebrands you’ll have to subscribe to their lifetime access for 299 dollars. Keep up to date via their website since they often offer discount codes for new subscriptions.
WholesaleCentral – Directory for pros
WholesaleCentral is another pro-option for merchants and wholesale suppliers. It’s one of the oldest options out there and it’s based on the principle of community. A place for merchants and suppliers to meet, the website lists a wide selection of trusted suppliers in many different categories. These suppliers pay for their visibility which means that you won’t have to worry about paying for a subscription.
The downside is that you are expected to see the supplier’s product and then handle communication on your own which can be intimidating for newbies. Also, the expected order quantity is quite high. In this sense, the platform is a good alternative to Worldwidebrands if you prefer fewer features but more communication.
TopTenWholesale – US wholesale community
TopTenWholesale follows the community principle of WholeSaleCentral but in a way that might feel more approachable to beginners. Their directory includes wholesalers, importers, distributors, and dropshippers and access to the platform is free. The platform is very popular in the United States.
Big buy – European Wholesale modernized
This Spanish company leaves no stones unturned. Their supply chain includes mostly local warehouse products that they fulfil themselves for extra security. The interesting aspect of Bigbuy is their constant willingness to provide extra features. Apart from the new dropshipping options, they include many technical tools that will facilitate integration with your web store. There are 3 packages to choose from that differ in price depending on the number of months you pay upfront. The cheapest option is a single registration fee of 45 euros while the most expensive one is a monthly subscription of 99 euros per month. If you want a modern platform for the European market Bigbuy is something you should check out.
Zentrada – European traditional wholesale
Zentrada has been around for a while and it shows. This German platform has a certain “old-school” feel to it as you browse its clunky interface. Zentrada owns the biggest listing in Europe across many product categories, with a strong emphasis on overstocking products which is something a lot of merchants look for when scouting for bargains.
Platform registration is free and their monetization is mostly focused on the wholesaler end. Zentrada’s plan includes both a free and paid premium plan, with the free option giving you a very good idea of what to expect. If you feel comfortable with the outdated interface then Zentrada is essential for any European merchant.
Faire – Wholesale done differently
This fairly recent company approaches the wholesale business from a local scale. Their goal is to provide supplies made locally with a more natural feel and high-end esthetic. Their wholesale merchants are now by the thousands and all of them approach their products with an artisanal mindset. The website is sleek and modern and with a strong B2C feel. It’s free to use and their monetization is commission based.
Amazon Business – Bulk pricing supreme
Amazon Business is the B2B version of what’s arguably the world’s most famous marketplace. Contrary to popular belief, Amazon Business is not only for the purchase of “office” related items, but bulk purchase is also available and has been gaining more and more popularity. Sure, a lot of their listing is related to the “office” mindset but their competitive local supply and optimization to facilitate local compliance can be a safe and more streamlined approach to wholesale purchase.
Amazon’s pricing goes between 69 USD for individual accounts to 109.99 per year for big companies. Depending on the size of the team the pricing will vary greatly.
That concludes our essential guide to sourcing wholesale products in 2021. We hope our suggestions will prove to be helpful in kick-starting your online business.
As you can see from the listed platforms, dropshipping options are gaining popularity even within the wholesale ecosystem. While many suppliers still prefer to sell in bulk, the popularity and accessibility of the dropshipping model have conquered many suppliers. The dropshipping models allow you to start your business without a big investment in stock while letting you focus your budget on the marketing, you’ll need to be successful.
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