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How to Source Products For Your Online Store

How to Source Products For Your Online Store

One of the reasons I wasn't a student entrepreneur was that I hated the thought of having to source products for a business. It's not enough that I have to deal with being a student; I also need to source quality products, market them and ensure customer delight. It can never be me.

But looking back with the knowledge I have now, I understand that because I didn't know how to source products or where to get the needed information, I saw it was a stressful process that no one should have to go through.

If you're in this same situation, wondering how best to source products for your online store, this article will walk you through what you need to know about identifying your product needs, sourcing for products and shipping them.

What is Product Sourcing?

Product sourcing involves finding the right products for your store, in this scenario, your online store. These products must align with your business goals, target audience and market trends, or else you'll find yourself acquiring products that do not provide any revenue or profit for you. Your product sourcing strategy has to give you a competitive advantage at its core.

Identifying Your Product Needs

To successfully build an online store that will become a rave, you need to identify your product needs. This involves understanding your target audience, their preference, market trends, and what your competitors are selling.

Understanding Your Target Audience and Their Preferences
Who is your online store tailored to? What do they value? What problems do they have? How would they want these problems to be solved? What would they prefer?

These questions help you know who your target audience is and the needs they have. This then guides your product selection as you must source products that can fulfil those needs.

You can start by creating a buyer persona that humanises your target audience. It should include their background & demography, challenges, goals, bio and other information you may think necessary, including where to find them.

Researching Market Trends and Demand
Change is constant, and the market dynamics constantly evolve to suit this change. For someone running an online store, you must always be abreast with the latest trends and patterns as they influence customer demands.

Look for new trends, seasonal products, and ever-green products that are steadily in demand, as they can aid your product sourcing strategy.

For example, if you're in the fashion industry, observing how comfortable clothes are prioritised can guide your sourcing efforts towards stylish and comfortable clothes.

Related: 10 Brands You Will Love More Than ASOS

Analyzing Your Competition
A competitive analysis helps you see the market from your competitors' lens. It gives insights into products that perform well in your niche market and can equally point out the gaps that exist in the market.

As part of your product sourcing strategy, you can study your competitors' product offerings, pricing strategies, customer reviews, and overall brand positioning. This information helps you differentiate your online store by identifying unique product offerings or enhancing existing ones.

Also, your analysis should cut across indirect competitors as they might unveil untapped opportunities for sourcing complementary products.

For instance, if you're in the tech accessories space, studying both established players and innovative startups can reveal emerging technologies and accessory trends.

Finding Suppliers

Now that we've uncovered your product sourcing needs, you need to establish a reliable supplier chain that ensures you meet the demands of your audience. Part of your sourcing strategy could include dropshipping, online marketplaces, direct manufacturer contact, and wholesale purchasing. 

Dropshipping Suppliers
allows you to run an online store without having a warehouse where you'll physically handle inventory. The dropshipping business model involves your customer placing an order and you sending that order to your supplier, who then ships directly to your customer. So, you act as the intermediary between the seller and the buyer. 

Dropshipping eliminates the need for inventory, and it is a cost-effective option if you're operating with limited capital. One of the key benefits of dropshipping is that it allows you to access and sell a wide range of products without needing to have them physically.

The holy grail of dropshipping is having a reliable supplier with a proven track record of delivering quality products so you don't sabotage your business.

Learn more about dropshipping, including the best suppliers, with this resource

Utilizing Online Marketplaces
Online marketplaces like Alibaba, AliExpress, ThomasNet, and eBay are platforms that connect businesses with suppliers from around the world.

These platforms offer a wide range of products, and you'll have a good time choosing products from your online store. Plus, your niche isn't a problem as the wide range of products can cater to whatever niche you are catering to.

They also offer diversity as different suppliers get to use them, which means you can explore different product categories and offerings to get the best deal. And for these marketplaces, most of their suppliers are reputable, and there are open reviews to help you see how they've performed over time.

Far from reviews, it's also important that you communicate with them to set expectations so future issues will not arise.

Contacting Manufacturers Directly
Establishing direct contact with manufacturers opens up possibilities for customization, branding, and potential cost savings. By bypassing distributors and wholesalers, you have the potential to secure better pricing and gain more control over the production process. This approach also fosters the opportunity to build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with manufacturers.

When approaching manufacturers directly, thorough research and due diligence are paramount. It's essential to verify their credentials, assess their track record, and potentially visit their facilities if possible. Clear communication is key, allowing you to convey your specific needs, expectations, and customization requirements. 

Other options you can consider include:

Attending Trade Shows
Attending trade shows is a proactive approach to sourcing products for your online store. This method involves building relationships with key players in your industry and exploring opportunities at events dedicated to showcasing products and innovations.

Attending these events connects you with manufacturers, wholesalers, and other professionals in your niche. They also open you to a wide range of products as manufacturers and wholesalers always bring their A-game to places like this, showcasing their latest offerings and innovations. 

You also get to see these products firsthand, assess their quality and make decisions like whether it will be worth it to keep in contact with such suppliers. You can also get to directly negotiate terms and establish face-to-face connections with suppliers as opposed to virtual connections.

To make the most of a trade show, it's important to plan. 

  • Research exhibitors beforehand to identify those most relevant to your business. 
  • Prepare a list of questions and criteria for evaluating products and suppliers. 
  • Engage in meaningful conversations with exhibitors, and don't hesitate to ask for samples or additional information. 
  • Take notes and collect contact information for follow-up after the event.

Make Your Products Yourself
Creating your products can be a powerful strategy for your online store, especially if your business model calls for you to showcase your unique skill set, e.g.crochet wears. This approach offers full creative control, customization options, and the opportunity to develop a distinctive brand identity.

You have complete control over design, quality, and production processes when you make your products. This allows you to create truly unique and customized offerings that set your online store apart from competitors.  

Evaluating Suppliers

When it comes to sourcing products for your online store, a thorough evaluation of potential suppliers is important. This process involves several critical steps to ensure you partner with reliable and trustworthy entities.

Verifying Supplier Credentials and Reputation
Before committing to a supplier, it's crucial to conduct due diligence. Check for business licenses, certifications, and any affiliations with industry associations. Additionally, check their track record by seeking out reviews and testimonials from previous clients. This information offers valuable insights into their reliability and reputation in the industry.

Requesting Product Samples
Requesting samples is essential to assess the quality of the products you'll be offering in your online store. This hands-on examination allows you to inspect the materials, craftsmanship, and overall quality. It's also an opportunity to gauge whether the products meet your specific standards and align with your brand's image.

Negotiating Pricing and Terms
Negotiation is a critical aspect of establishing a mutually beneficial partnership. Discuss pricing, minimum order quantities (MOQs), payment terms, and lead times. Be clear about your expectations and requirements. This negotiation process sets the foundation for a transparent and productive working relationship.

Ensuring Compliance and Quality Assurance

Once you've identified a potential supplier, you must ensure that their operations align with industry standards, as overlooking this might be costly in the future.

Regulatory Requirements and Standards
Verify that the supplier complies with all relevant regulations and standards for the industry. This may include product safety certifications, environmental regulations, and other legal requirements. Ensuring compliance protects your business from potential liabilities.

Quality Control Checks and Inspections
Implementing a good quality control process helps you guarantee that the products meet your customers' expectations. This can involve regular inspections, product testing, and adherence to specific quality standards. For this quality to be met, consistent communication of expectations is needed.

Handling Returns and Defective Products
Return policy is an important aspect of gaining new and repeat customers. You must establish clear protocols for handling returns and addressing any defective products. This includes defining acceptable return reasons, timelines for returns, and how refunds or replacements will be processed. A well-defined returns policy ensures customer satisfaction is maintained, even in the event of unforeseen issues.

Finalizing the Deal

With a trusted supplier selected and quality assured, it's time to formalize the partnership and set the stage for a successful collaboration.

Establishing a Contract and Payment Terms
A formal contract is necessary for outlining the terms of your partnership. It should include pricing, MOQs, delivery schedules, quality standards, and any special requirements. Clearly defining payment terms, including deposit amounts and methods, ensures a transparent and professional working relationship.

Confirming Shipping and Delivery Details
Clarify logistics and shipping arrangements. Determine shipping times, methods, freight, customs, and duties responsibilities. This clarity ensures that products reach your online store promptly and minimizes potential disruptions to your supply chain.

Requesting Product Customization or Private Labeling
If you plan to offer customized products or private labelling, communicate your specifications clearly with the supplier. This may include design elements, packaging requirements, or specific branding guidelines. Establishing these details upfront sets the stage for producing products that align seamlessly with your brand's identity.

Affordable International Shipping

After finalising the deal, what next? Shipping! Sometimes, your suppliers may not have readily available shipping options, which is where Heroshe comes in.

Heroshe provides a cost-effective shipping solution for shipping products from the USA to Nigeria and Ghana.

Why Heroshe Stands Out

Heroshe offers competitive shipping at incredibly low rates, starting at just $8 per pound. So you can shop from your suppliers and ship your goods to Nigeria/ Ghana without breaking the bank on shipping fees.

Heroshe understands how reliable and timely deliveries affect your business model. We have a track record of delivering on time (7-10  working days) and in perfect conditions.

A flyer with a dispatch bike and the caption benefits of using Heroshe

Hassle-free shipping
The profound thing about shipping with Heroshe is the relaxation that comes with it. We take care of the entire shipping process, and you only have to show up to pick up your goods or have them delivered to your doorstep (for an extra fee).

Excellent Customer Service
With Heroshe, you never get to walk alone, as our customer delight team is always available to answer your questions, enquiries and queries.  

Ready to experience hassle-free, budget-friendly shipping?  Sign up on Heroshe today and experience love and swift delivery like never before.

Ilaya Teejay

Ilaya Teejay

Ilaya Teejay is the Content Marketing Associate at Heroshe. She believes words can shape user experiences, and she's turning this belief into a career that helps people and businesses succeed.