How to Become a Dropship Supplier

Chapter 2: Providing an Inventory Feed and Product Data

Providing an Inventory Feed and Product Data

Providing good product data is a challenge that traditional wholesale suppliers don’t have to face, but it is critical when becoming a dropship supplier. Once you have determined your company has the ability to fulfill dropship orders and chosen your shipment policies, you will now have to decide how you are going to provide an inventory feed and product data to your retailers.

Quantity Levels

Typically, inventory counts matter in dropship. Unless you manufacture on-demand, you are going to need to provide accurate and up to date inventory quantity numbers to your dealers. The retailer has no way to know if items have been purchased through other online stores until they see an item is sold out when it’s time to place an order for a customer. This is why inventory data feeds are so crucial – it bridges the gap of information among a supplier and their numerous retailers. If a retailer doesn’t have this quantity level information, they can end up selling out-of-stock products to their customers. And, if costs are not kept up-to-date in their feed, retailers can find themselves losing money. Both of these issues in turn will cause them to drop you as a supplier.

File Formats

Quantity levels mean nothing if you are not able to provide your product feed in a file format that is easily accessible by your retailers and their software. A data feed can come in a wide variety of formats, which you may be familiar with. The most common and easy-to-access formats include a simple CSV file or an XML document accessible via an HTTP link. For the more technologically advanced suppliers, you may consider providing the feed through an API or FTP where retailers can connect directly and pull the data. Another method, though old-school but still common, is through an EDI.

Product Data

One of the most common complaints we hear from retailers when it comes to selling from dropship suppliers is the lack of good product content data. Quality product title descriptions, categories, and images are critical in selling online; and when dropshipping, the retailer often has to rely on suppliers to provide this as they do not physically store or handle the products. A retailer trying to sell products online without good product data is a like a bird trying to fly without wings. In order for customers to be able to search, evaluate and ultimately purchase a product from a website, they need content. The better the content, the more sales they can convert for your products. Consumer website listings aside, you need to be able to pitch your products to your retailers as well. Unlike traditional wholesale, you are not handing them a product or walking them through a catalog at a tradeshow – you have to provide “web ready” content and data for your retailers to evaluate the products you have to offer. They rely on you as a dropship supplier to provide descriptive information that depicts products accurately in order to feel comfortable listing them on their website.

CSV file format example.

It is also highly recommended to include images within the product data feed as well. Think about when you are on website wanting to purchase an item – would you buy a product that doesn’t have an image? Chances are, probably not. So, if you don’t provide an image in your data feed, your retailer either will have to find and upload the product pictures, or they won’t include your product in their store.

XML feed example.

Good product data can be an area that sets you apart from other suppliers in the same product niche. A way to do this beyond product titles, descriptions and images is to offer more in depth data such as variations, product categories and other attributes. Consider how the retailer will be setting up your dropship products on their website and the way categories will fall in their navigation.  Without variations, there could be five listings of the same product, just different sizes, which doesn’t make for an easily navigable website – it just appears cluttered. This in turn leads to lower customer conversions and less profit for you. In addition to that, product categories that make sense as well as are tidy and consistent also makes all the difference to retailers. By doing this, your retailers will have a much easier time sorting and organizing their online stores with your dropship products.

As you expand and grow your dropship product sourcing business, a highly requested and often essential strategy is providing tiered inventory feeds with differing products and costs for your best customers and higher-end retailers. This may be difficult to do when you are just getting started with supplying a dropship program, but it is definitely an area that should be explored in the future. By making these tiered products and costs available, you will be able to incentivise large-scale retailers to use your program meaning more sales and profit for your company. It also encourages your other retailers to step up their game and try to drive sales for your products  to be able to obtain lower costs and access to exclusive brands.

You can probably see now, inventory data feeds are an integral part of becoming a dropship supplier and building a reputable dropship program. Additionally, good product data within your feed is absolutely essential in garnering retailers that will actually list your products and drive sales for your business.

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