After figuring out your niche and designing your Shopify store, you still need to take a lot of steps before your store could go viral.
The most important parts of running a successful Shopify business are finding the right supplier and adding your first products. Don’t undervalue how important it is to choose a good product sourcing app. Also, if your store is already up and running but you want to make more money by adding more products, read the tips below on how to choose the best Shopify app for your store.
First, what does “product sourcing” mean?
Even if you don’t know the term “product sourcing,” it’s already a big part of your e-business or will be soon. It is an important part of your online store that can make or break it. It all depends on how well you know it. Product sourcing is the process of finding items to sell through your own store. It comes in many different forms. For example, you can sell things you made yourself, things you sell in your own store, or the products of a supplier from another country. It depends on what you want to do. Now that international shipping is pretty fast, the whole world is at your feet.
Find a supplier
Where can you find new suppliers you can trust? First, there is the old trick of buying from your competitor. After you get the package, all you have to do to find the supplier is Google the return address. This method is used by a lot of merchants because it doesn’t require a lot of money. Second, you can go to trade shows and exhibitions where the best drop shipping suppliers from all over the world show off what they have to offer. The great thing about this method is that it is easy to scale up. You will get a lot of good leads from which you can carefully choose the right one. Even though you’ll have to pay a fee to get in and pay for gas to get there, it’s worth it. When you talk to someone in person, you build a better foundation for working together in the future. You can also use Google to search for online drop shipping directories. Even though some of these directories charge to access their information, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you need an initial investment to start your business.
How do you choose a supplier? What do you need to think about?
You need to find a stable and reliable supplier with whom you can keep a long-term and friendly relationship. So, reading reviews is always a good way to find out how a company deals with customer problems. When a supplier’s website is clean and easy to use, it shows that they are skilled and efficient. Look for a company that has separate people working on customer service and sales. This way, you can make sure that any problems that come up will be taken care of.
Having a supplier who is in the middle of the country or at least on the same continent as you is helpful. Because of this advantage, shipping will usually take only 3–4 business days. If one of your customers has a problem with the item and wants to use the warranty, the supplier should be able to do what it says in its Terms and Services.
Look for a supplier that lets you send orders as an attachment to an email or has its own system. So, with just a few clicks, you can send or upload your exported order details. If you’re trying to save time by automating product imports, you shouldn’t waste time by placing orders by hand either.
Remember that you don’t have to be their biggest customer to have a good long-term relationship with them. Instead, try to be their best customer.
Check the data feed extension and path
After you’ve found a drop shipping or remote warehouse supplier you want to work with, you need to do a thorough analysis of the data feed file that has the product information you need. Set up how the supplier will give you the data. Check the file extension, such as CSV, JSON, XML, or XLS(X), because you will need to find an application that can handle both of them. Most files come from FTP, URL, Dropbox, Google Drive, File upload, Rest API, or SOAP.
You should also be aware that some applications limit how many suppliers whose products you can manage. If you’re working with a lot of different vendors to get a wide range of products in your store, look around the Shopify App Store. Make sure to find one that doesn’t force you to buy from just one wholesaler.
Why use suppliers instead of marketplaces?
After reading about the first two steps of product sourcing, you might wonder, “Why should I use a drop shipping supplier as my wholesaler when I can import products from AliExpress or Amazon much more easily?” Well, importing your products from marketplaces can have a lot of bad effects that are often not talked about.
The price is one of the most important differences. When you sell someone else’s goods, you are already charging more than the wholesale price. You will also want to add a markup so that you can cover your costs and make money. So, your customers will end up paying 3–4 times or even more than the original price for a product, depending on the markup. Just give it some thought. Why would they buy it from your store when they can get the same thing for less money on these very popular marketplaces?
Also, a lot of Shopify merchants buy products that are popular in their niche from these sites. To make your store stand out, you will have to put a lot of energy and creativity into its branding. Imagine that every Shopify store owner who sells women’s shoes and gets their products from marketplaces imported the most popular items from eBay and Ali Express. They want to catch on to trends as soon as possible. From their point of view, the main idea of importing goods quickly worked. But if they look at what their competitors are doing, they will see that most of them are selling almost the same products. To get out of this awkward situation, you will need to work on your branding and positioning to show the customer why you are a better deal than the others. This whole thing will take you a lot of time and work. Even more money if you need to hire experts to beat the competition. Even though you could use it for marketing or shopping cart abandonment.
Specify your needs
When picking the right Shopify app, a lot depends on what you want to do. It does matter if you want to upload new products, update products you’ve already uploaded, or do both at the same time. There are a lot of apps that are only made to import products, which won’t meet all of your store’s needs. Not to mention that there is a big difference between how an application works with single products and how it works with product variants. If you want to upload new product variants, the application will need to find them first. So, it can keep them from being imported as separate products, which would be a bad idea. This is why it’s important to know what your business goals are before you choose.
Define update frequency
The most important thing to look for in an inventory management app is how often it can be updated. Some apps’ pricing limits the number of updates you can make every day, which can hurt your monthly budget. Not to mention the unfortunate situation where your supplier updates the source file more often than you update your store. This can also cause customers to buy items that are no longer available. So, it makes customers less loyal and makes them less happy. To avoid this, you should always ask your provider how often their files are updated before buying an app or setting the number of daily updates. On the other hand, if you don’t do this step and set more updates than you need to, you just waste money that you could use to keep and get customers.
Check the content of the source file
It’s a good idea to check the source file carefully for product fields that could affect your choice. These are the fields:
- price + currency
- compare at price
Many suppliers only put the name of the image, like image001, in the source file. All Shopify apps use Shopify’s API to talk to each other. It only works with images that are stored in their own CDM system as URLs or base64 code. So, technically speaking, a field value like “image001” won’t be valid data, and the request will be dropped.
If this kind of value is in your data feed file, you need to look for an app that can change it. Adding a prefix (https://www.yoursupplier.com/datafeed/) and a suffix (.jpg) to the name of the image creates a full URL and solves the problem.
A lot of Shopify apps aren’t made to be updated or uploaded with variants. Most of the time, they upload the products as separate items. But in reality, it’s the same thing, just in a different size, color, or made of a different material.
It is best to look for Size/Color/Material or any other Option value and variant SKU in the data feed file. This shows that you are dealing with product variants.
Why Price and Currency?
As an e-commerce business owner, you want to make as much money as you can. You can do this if you have a large customer base, a lot of traffic, and a lot of sales. Adding a markup to the wholesale price is the best way, and probably the only way, to make more money. Your application should meet your needs by making a tiered pricing model and adding a price margin, which could be a fixed amount or a percentage of the price.
Not to mention that many suppliers use their own country’s currency. For example, if you are from the United States and do drop shipping from a Chinese wholesaler, you might need to convert CNY to USD. If you find yourself in this situation and don’t want to do the math or change the price of the item by hand, look for an app that can convert currencies. Or an app that can do simple calculations like multiplying or dividing prices. Keep in mind that the Price field in Shopify’s API can only be filled with numbers. If, for example, your source file has $200 or 200 USD, an application will remove the text or symbol and only send Shopify the numbers.
Why Compare at Price?
Putting a discount on certain products is a great way to bring more people into your store and make more sales. To do that, you’ll need a Shopify product sourcing app that can handle more kinds of prices. For example, the Wholesaler price plus the extra markup and the Compare at price. This tip might seem like it should be obvious, but when you are looking at a lot of different apps, it’s easy to miss the little things.
Compare pricing models
After figuring out what you need and narrowing down your choices to a few options, you’ve reached the last step of the process. You can’t just look at the plans on the app’s website to compare pricing models. It needs a broad look at it. The price of some apps is based on the variant SKU, while the price of others is based on the product number. Why does this matter?
The average data feed file for clothes has three or four product variations for each item. If you have a source file with 1000 products with this variant number, your monthly costs can easily go up if you choose an application that charges you by variant SKU instead of by product amount. Whether you pay $29 or $99 for the same data feed file does make a difference.
Last but not least, make sure you know how long the trial period is. Also, how many products you can add or change without having to pay. Before deciding on one tool, you should try it out and make sure you’ve picked the best Shopify app for your online store. So, it will be able to meet your business needs in the long run.
Why does it worth using a product sourcing tool rather than Shopify’s bulk import?
The tool for importing products into Shopify only works with CSV files. If you don’t have a CSV data feed file, you can’t use their solution. File upload is the only way to add your source file. That is, you won’t be able to make the process run automatically. Every time you want to update or upload the inventory, you have to add the new file by hand. This is a big difference because most applications can handle the whole process on their own. Also, it can’t change the value of one currency into another or add a price margin to your products. This is something you will have to do by hand in your admin after the upload is done. Also, Shopify’s built-in import feature only works if the headers in the CSV file have the same names as the product fields in the store. Not to mention that files with tens of thousands of products are hard for the solution to process. It moves slowly and sometimes stops.
Even if the task seems hard at first, don’t worry about it. By following this simple rule, you can find the best application for you. After you choose your product sourcing tool, there are many more things you need to think about. Such as how quickly support responds or how easy it is to use, but you have already done the hardest things to make your online business grow. As your store grows and your business goals change, you may need to do the process again. We all know that practice makes perfect, even though it will get easier over time. It may seem hard and time-consuming to find the best solution for your store. But don’t forget that the time you put into finding the right app will come back to you in the form of happy customers and more sales. A lot faster than you might think.