The partnership you establish with a drop shipper is one of the most important business relationships that you will ever forge. Unlike a normal partnership with a wholesaler or supplier, a drop shipper takes the lead of the entire customer fulfillment process. It is therefore absolutely critical that you make sure the drop shipper is a reputable company and that they’re able to work closely with you to make sure your customers are completely happy.
These are the questions you need to ask before you sign an agreement.
1. Walk me through the order fulfillment process
What you’re looking for: this is an open-ended question, designed to get the company to tell you about the order fulfillment process from their perspective. The key is to look for as much automation as possible: what kind of software do they use, how are items packaged and shipped, is there a lot of room for human error. A great company relies on systems and operations to remove as much error from the equation as possible.
2. How do you handle returns?
What you’re looking for: returns are of course inevitable with any retail store. Not every drop shipper accepts returns; you’re going to have to determine for yourself if it’s worth it to partner with the company if they don’t accept returns. A key distinction to make is the difference between returns for faulty or damaged products vs returns because the customer changed their mind. If the drop shipper won’t accept returns for faulty products, then don’t do business with them.
3. How do you handle customer service questions?
What you’re looking for: expect to take the lead on all customer service questions — you really don’t want to rely on the drop shipper to answer customer questions for you. However, you’re looking for how the company answers this question. An experienced drop shipper understands that they should be removed from the customer service process as they can’t represent your brand. Do ask for FAQ’s or any other information that you can use to answer customer questions.
4. How to do you keep inventory updated with your partners?
What you’re looking for: again, you’re looking for a system built to keep everything organized. Look for answers such as “we send an inventory update every first Monday of the month.” An update once a month may be too few and far between, but it of course depends on your product and industry. Ask what kind of formats they use to send their inventory: excel, .txt, .csv.
5. Tell me about the information you have for each product: images, description, sizing, materials, assembly instructions
What you’re looking for: you need as much information as possible given to you in a simple and organized fashion. Keep in mind that the descriptions they’ll send you will be generic and not very useful; but it’s ok because it’ll be just good enough to launch your store. Once you launch your store, look to hire a writer to create unique, fun, and branded product descriptions which will help with SEO.
6. Can we include our branding materials in the products that you fulfill?
What you’re looking for: not every drop shipper does this, but the best ones do. It’s important for you to get your branding materials into the customer fulfillment process. Remember, if you compete on price, then you will lose. The only way to win is by building a powerful brand that resonates with your target audience. Getting branded materials into the product packaging is a big part of building your brand.
7. How do we handle payments? Can we batch payments at the end of each month or do we have to send payment for each order?
What you’re looking for: it would of course be nice to batch payments at the end of the month, but the majority of drop shippers won’t send a product until they receive payment for it. You just need to be clear on the terms from the very beginning.
Use these questions to determine if the company is a reputable, trustworthy company with experience drop shipping products. Don’t leave anything to chance — make sure to sign an agreement that lays everything out in writing so that there is no confusion once you start doing business.