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7 Product Sourcing Tips for E-merchants

Aug 17, 2007
For ecommerce start-ups the realities of product sourcing often come as a shock to the system. With so many online "wholesalers" to choose from these days, it's common to assume that the process will be easy. If your store is to be profitable, however, your sourcing methods will require just a little more effort and creativity than you think.

1.Search clever.

Avoid using general terms when sourcing products online. Googling "wholesale widgets" may bring up a huge number of results, but you're unlikely to find a worthwhile supplier among them. Most will be non specialist companies that act as middlemen between you and the real wholesalers. This means profit margins on their goods will be virtually non-existent.

Instead, try qualifying your searches with terms such as "distributor", "manufacturer", "designer" or "trade" and rather than searching for generic terms such as "widgets," try taking a more specific approach. Use individual product names and model type wherever possible.

Image searches will also give you more focused results. Many products are sold online using stock photos created by the original manufacturer and this can an excellent way of tracking them down.

These tactics will improve your chances of success but don't despair if you don't find what you're looking for. Google is a great research tool but it's only one of many in your arsenal. Resist the temptation to spend hours and hours surfing the net looking for "secret" deals and sources that do not exist. Traditional retailers have never relied the internet to find suppliers and neither should you.

2.Consult traditional business directories.

It's amazing how often resources such as the white/yellow pages are overlooked these days. It must be because we automatically assume the internet to be a superior source of information. Well this isn't always the case. There are a lot of wholesalers out there that don't have an online presence but that doesn't mean they don't have telephone numbers.

3.Subscribe to trade publications

Trade magazines related to your niche will be packed with ads from relevant manufacturers and distributors. It's how offline businesses have done things for years and you should too.

4.Trade fairs.

Attending trade fairs takes more effort than surfing in your pyjamas but the pay-off can be enormous. They provide unparalleled scope for sourcing and networking. Plus, establishing personal contact with suppliers makes it a lot easier to negotiate prices further down the line.

5.Ask an expert

Find someone who already stocks what you want to sell and ask them where they got it. This isn't as absurd as it may sound! Obviously emailing a rival online store is never going to work because nobody wants to knowingly help out their competition.But more personal approach conducted in the offline world can yield excellent results. Find a "widget" store and get talking to the owner, preferably once you have made a purchase. People love talking about their businesses and if you are suitably charming they will often recommend a supplier or trade magazine.

You'll be surprised at how helpful people can be when you don't represent a threat. This tactic has worked well for me in the past - the worst thing that can happen is they refuse.

6.Contact the manufacturer.

If you can't find a supplier but you know which company makes the product, give them a call and ask who their distributors are. Again, there is a tendency for new e-merchants to see this kind of information as somehow privileged or secret and they often approach such conversations with trepidation. Remember that these companies want your business, just because you don't have a traditional bricks and mortar establishment it doesn't mean your money is no good.

7.Check product packaging

This is a fool proof method. If you don't know the manufacturer of a particular product and all else fails, buy it yourself. All goods, virtually without exception, will include some reference to the manufacturer on the packaging. In some cases the name of a supplier will be there as well.

Once you know the manufacturer, the information you require is just a phonecall away!
About the Author
Matt Davies runs an online gift store
selling Regalos originales
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