A dropshipping agent can function as an extension of your ecommerce operation in China. Unlike a big-ticket ecommerce fulfillment service, you will be dealing with a real person, who has eyes and ears on your business.
But just like every other service, it’s important to know how to distinguish a mediocre professional from a skilled and experienced one. That’s exactly what I am going to show you in this article.
So, let’s dive in.
What is a Dropshipping Agent
In the simplest of terms, a dropshipping agent means a person or a company that works on your behalf in the country that you are dropshipping from, which in this case, is China.
Think of an agent, as your sole point of contact in China, who will handle your operations end to end, allowing you to focus on the more important part of the business, getting more sales.
Once you get an order, the agent takes over until the product is delivered successfully to the customer.
Understand How Dropshipping Agents Work
Have you ever wondered how a private dropshipping agent or a supplier works on a daily basis?
Let me quickly walk you through the daily workflow step by step and what you should know about your dropshipping fulfilment orders
1. First conversation
You hop on a call or chat with the agent and discuss your requirements, as well as the current challenges that you are facing. This allows the agent to narrow down on the best solution for your situation.
The agent will then send you a custom quote for the product and the shipping cost, which will be quite reasonable, if you are to consider the value that it brings and the difference that it will make to your bottom line. Once you make the first tranche of payment, the agent will begin to work as agreed upon earlier.
3. Integrate your online store
Most dropshipping agents will use a fulfillment app to integrate into your Shopify, Woocommerce or custom dropshipping online store. This ensures that when a product is shipped out from their warehouse the tracking number is uploaded automatically in the store. No more cumbersome manual uploads.
They will navigate through the complex world of Chinese shipping companies and find you a service that’s fast, cheap and reliable.
The agent will select the right packaging material for your product, ensure that it’s accurately packaged and branded and dispatch it to the shipping company.
This is the biggest advantage of working with an dropshipping fuflillment agent. A good agent will be your eye in the sky, monitoring the shipment until it is delivered. In case of delays or errors, they will reach out to the customer and keep them updated. Communication is the key to any successful business.
7. Customer service
A good dropshipping agent brings customer service to a dropshipping business. This is one aspect that was lacking entirely in the way people did dropshipping earlier. It is an invaluable addition to the business. For the first time, you have a dedicated after sales support team to answer any queries or complaints that the customer may have. You don’t have to burn the candle at both ends doing this yourself.
The Advantages of Working with a Dropshipping Agent
A dropship fulfillment agent offers businesses five key advantages over a conventional dropshipping business model.
Let me explain.
1. They can help you source better products
How do you research products? If I am not mistaken, most dropshipping businesses try to find products to sell on Alibaba or Aliexpress, or one of the other commonly available trade directories on the internet. But the dropshipping marketplace is ginormous. Alibaba and Aliexpress are just one part of it. An experienced sourcing agent will have a much larger database of sellers to choose from and can help you find the right supplier.
2. Preferential pricing
A good agent will negotiate with the suppliers to secure better pricing for you. Even a difference of 5-10% in the price can result in a profit of up to thousands of dollars a month, depending on the kind of sales you are generating.
Need a different packing material or custom logo? An agent has you covered. It’s never been easier to build your brand image without spending tens of thousands of dollars.
Shipping is hands down, the backbone of a successful dropshipping business. If you can offer prompt deliveries at more or less the same cost, you have a clear advantage over your competition, that may be relying on slower, unreliable shipping providers. A good fulfillment agent will have a list of the best shipping companies for you, that offers fastest deliveries to the destination country.
We recently did a case study about US domestic fulfillment compared with dropshipping from China. You can read it over here.
The biggest problem with the old dropshipping business model was that there was a lot of guesswork involved. Be it due to communication problems (sellers not being able to communicate effectively in English), there was an over reliance on the seller and supplier being trustworthy. A good dropshipping agent takes the guesswork out of it. Every step of the business is carefully monitored. You know for sure, that the product is quality inspected, repackaged and shipped according to your requirements.
How to Find a Sourcing Agent for Dropshipping?
By now, you’d know the edge that a dropshipping agent can give to your ecommerce business. I am assuming that you are all set looking to take your online store to the next level.
The question is, how do you find a legitimate, reliable agent with the necessary experience and the right skill sets?
It’s quite likely that you might have friends who are also dropshipping, correct?
Colleagues maybe? Someone that you partnered with along the way? Someone who mentored you?
That’s your #1 source to find a reliable dropshipping agent.
People that you know and can trust. Just ask them which agent for dropship from china they are working with.
Plain and simple.
This way, you do not have to do the heavy lifting, like interviewing the person, doing a background check, verifying their credentials and so on.
What if you don’t have any friends who are doing dropshipping business?
Here are some of the other methods that you can use.
Please remember that each method has its own share of advantages and disadvantages, which I have also mentioned along with it.
Good old Google search is one of the easiest ways to find a Chinese dropshipping agent. Just search for dropshipping agent, or best dropshipping agent, or best sourcing agent, and hit search. You will get hundreds of thousands of results for each one of these terms. If I were you, I’d stick to the first three-five search results pages. That’s about 50 websites to screen and closely scrutinize. Narrow down on a list of say 5-10 agents from that and start interviewing each one to find a person that you can work with.
- Advantages of using Google search: It’s convenient. You can do it anytime and anywhere. If a dropshipping fulfillment agent has a good quality website with high quality content (very important because communication skills are as important as the other skills), chances are high that they have the experience and the skill set that you are looking for.
- Disadvantages of using Google: It’s a lot of work. It’s not like every person that you find will be a good fit for your business. You will have to screen, verify the information and speak to each person to know about their experience and their way of working.
YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and if you are not looking up on YouTube, then you may be missing out on some legit leads. That said, not every reputed dropshipping agent has a YouTube Channel. But it’s a reasonably good source to check out.
- Advantages of using YouTube: There’s one distinct advantage of using YouTube, that you do not get with Google. Chances are that you might be able to see the dropshipping agent speak in one of the videos. This should give you a fair idea of what to expect when you communicate with them.
- Disadvantage of using YouTube: There’s a lot more junk to filter through on YouTube. It’s not as easy to find a good agent over here as a lot of the videos that you will find will just be rehashed stuff. In a nutshell, it’s more work.
3. Facebook Groups
Facebook can be a treasure trove of information and leads, if you are able to navigate through tons of spam that is. Groups in particular, can be teeming with fellow dropshippers who can provide references, as well as experienced dropshipping agents, who are looking to partner with stable businesses.
- Advantages of using Facebook groups: You might find more leads on Facebook groups than you can on Google and YouTube combined together. That’s because not every agent might have an independent website (the best ones usually do). But almost everybody will definitely have a social media profile. Also, there’s no dearth of dropshipping-related groups on Facebook. Right from small groups with a few thousand members to massive groups with hundreds of thousands of members, you can post your requirement on as many as you want.
- Disadvantages of using Facebook: You are likely to be inundated with messaging requests after you post on Facebook groups. But a lot of them will be spammers looking to fob you off. References can be fake or compensated as well. So you’ve got to be extremely careful about who you interact with on social media. Also, a lot of these Facebook groups can inflate their member counts with bots, and ask you for some sort of membership fee to post on them. Do not fall for it. There’s enough quality, free groups on Facebook where you can post your requests.
Fiverr is a very underrated marketplace for dropshipping businesses. You may not find a lot of leads maybe. But there are some experienced dropshipping agent Fiverr who can provide you with basic services like product research and supplier analysis. But I personally wouldn’t vouch for Fiverr as a place where you can find an agent that you can partner with permanently. I will share my reasons for the apprehension as well.
- Advantages of using Fiverr: You can narrow down on agents based on reviews, skill sets, location, cost, response time and a lot of other parameters that allow you to filter the results. A lot of agents who are new to the Fiverr platform will be offering low cost services initially, until they can build some credibility. I personally do not recommend penny pinching while trying to find a business partner, unless you are a rank beginner with a shoestring budget. But if you are bootstrapping, this is a great way to get started.
- Disadvantages of using Fiverr: There’s almost no way in which you can really know whether the person is a legit dropshipping agent or, just a middle man who’s negotiating between two people, that is you and the actual dropshipping agent. Oh yes, a lot of people make a living doing that on Fiverr. What it does is add a layer of communication between you and the actual dropshipping agent, which translates into delayed TAT, increased cost and scope for miscommunication.
Reddit is also a good place to find private agents. Just like a Facebook group, you will find a few subreddits that are related to dropshipping, such as:
You can browse the community to find a dropshipping agent or supplier who is proactively commenting in the group. Alternatively, you can make a post to ask for recommendations.
The responses might be slower as compared to a Facebook group though.
Upwork is one of the best places to look for a private dropshipping agent from China. Just like Fiverr, you can narrow down on a dropshipping agent upwork based on their location, their cost and their average pricing. But, the stand out feature for me, is the parameter called ‘Job Success Rate’ and ‘Total Income earned’. These two are the best ways to filter results. If a dropshipping agent has earned $100k for example, but has a poor job success rate, then you are better off looking for someone else who might have a better job success rate.
- Advantages of Upwork: Lot of verified agents from China to choose from. Because it’s a very competitive business market, you are likely to get better pricing on Upwork. Also, it’s an escrow supported service with a great customer support team. If things go south, there’s always help at hand. You can also choose from sellers who charge an hourly rate or who charge upfront, depending on the scale of the task.
- Disadvantage of Upwork: Communications are usually limited by Upwork to their platform only. If you were to find an agent that you want to work permanently with, you might have to figure out a way to communicate with them outside of Upwork.
6. Aliexpress & Alibaba Supplier
Last but not the least, you have the option to look for private agents on Aliexpress or Alibaba, the old fashioned way. If you already have done product research, look for sellers who offer your product, and then analyze the seller rating based on their feedback, average response time, pricing and shipping methods that they offer.
How to Select a Dropshipping Agent
So, you have done the hard work and spent days narrowing down on dropshipping sourcing agents on Google or YouTube or Facebook or Upwork.
Good job. That’s half the battle won already.
Finally, you have a list of, say, five agents who you feel, are a good fit for your business.
What now? How do you decide which agent for dropship from china?
Well, here’s a brief guide on the basic criteria to consider before you select an agent from China.
Where is the Agent located?
Dropshipping agents can be located all over China. It’s a huge country.
But what you’ve got to look for, is anything that gives you an advantage in the business, correct?
So, look for agents who are located in one of these two provinces, because they provide some distinct advantages that you do not get with agents located in other parts of the country.
The Zhejiang province is home to most of the factories that manufacture hot selling dropshipping items. Apart from a few high end electronic products, you are likely to find just about anything you need in Zhejiang. So hiring an agent located here makes stocking a cakewalk. Most dropshipping agents will be located at an hour’s drive at best from the factory, and wouldn’t mind driving down themselves to source and stock your product at their warehouses. The caveat is that most of the express shipping services are based out of Hongkong. So, you get better stocking in Zhejiang, but are limited by shipping options.
The Guangdong province is another hub for dropshipping businesses and houses thousands of factories manufacturing some of the big ticket products. Unlike Zhejiang, there are ample express shipping providers in Guangdong. Since most agents prefer to use Special Line for quicker deliveries these days, there are advantages that are distinct to Guangdong.
If the product has a battery, then it can only be shipped out of Hong Kong. So, let’s say you have selected a product with a battery that is stocked in Zhejiang. It will first be delivered to Guangdong, after which the shipping company will process it and send it to Hong Kong. If your agent is based in Guangdong already, this will save you two or three days in the shipping process. If the product does not have a battery, it can be shipped from anywhere in mainland China though. That’s an advantage that you get with dropshipping agents based in Guangdong.
The Basic Parameters to Base Your Selection on
Whenever you are looking to hire a dropshipping agent from China, you need to realize that you are looking to hire a business partner, as opposed to someone who can get you better pricing.
The price is a very important aspect of the business; I don’t deny it.
But it’s not the be-all, end-all.
Do not base your decision solely on the basis of a better priced quote, else you’ll end up crossing over dollars to pick up dimes.
Instead, here are a few basic parameters to base your selection on.
- They should have direct relationships with factories. The very fact that you are reaching out to a dropshipping agent means that your business has now progressed to a level where Aliexpress suppliers may not be able to handle the volume. You need agents who have direct contacts with factories, as opposed to agents who source products from Aliexpress themselves. Oh yes, there are many who do that. So ask about their connections.
- Good communication skills: Look for agents who can converse fluently in English. What’s more important is that the agent should have a good set of ears. They should be great listeners who can understand what your current requirements are, and then propose ways to improve that situation. Transparency, an understanding of the current logistics situations, an understanding of production, these are key skills to watch out for.
- After sales support: Customers today demand quality after sales support. No amount of savings in cost can make up for lack of support. So it’s critical that the dropshipping agent that you work with has a blueprint in place for dealing with the common issues that arise after sales. The product gets lost in transit, or there are unforeseen shipping delays, or the wrong product was shipped. These issues are a part of the business and partly, unavoidable. What’s more important is that the agent should be equipped to handle it and resolve any queries promptly.
- Fulfillment Process: Do they offer the right fulfillment process that works for your business? There are two primary ones used by dropshippers who are not working with Aliexpress agents. There’s the CSV fulfillment, where you (the business) has to manually send out a CSV sheet at the end of the day with the day’s order details. The agent then fulfills the orders and sends you back the tracking numbers. Very simple, but not very efficient. I personally integrate a fulfillment app into the client’s online store, which automates the entire process. Whenever an order is placed, the tracking number is automatically updated on Shopify. This is a very efficient and fast method that works flawlessly for businesses of all sizes.
- Shipping options: Dropshipping agents should have a clear understanding of the advantages and the limitations of using a certain shipping provider. For example, when to use a shipping provider that bills by dimensional weight, as opposed to another one that bills by volume weight. What shipping providers offer the fastest shipping to specific countries, like the United States or UK, for example. When to use an epacket and when to use Special Line and so on.
Important Questions to Ask a Potential Dropshipping Agent
Each dropshipping business will have a set of unique requirements from a dropshipping agent. That’s what makes it so important to find an agent who’s the exact match for your business.
There’s no one size fits all.
That said, there are a few important questions that I feel should be asked to every potential dropshipping agent that a business reaches out to.
Not all of these questions might be relevant for your scenario. But it’s a great list to jot down before you start to reach out to agents.
- Where are you based in China? Where are your warehouses located?
- Can you provide white labelling or branding as part of your services?
- Do you have a policy in place for damaged goods?
- Do you have a custom app that you integrate with our dropshipping store? If not, then what app do you use?
- How many orders in a day can you support? Can you scale with our business?
- What are your charges for product plus shipping? What are your payment methods?
- What are the shipping options that you provide?
- What about order fulfillment during holidays?
- Can you provide me with a batch of 50-100 tracking numbers that were delivered successfully to your country, in the recent past? It’s even better if the tracking numbers are all from the same day or two.
Like I said, this may not be an exhaustive list of questions to ask. But it’s a good starting point of reference.
Ask these questions and analyze the responses on a scale of 1 to 10. By the end of the list, you should have a ballpark score for each person, and with it, a pretty good idea of whom you should hire.
How to Spot the Scam Artists on Social Media and Websites?
I can write an entire separate article on this topic.
But it’s been a long read and I’ll try and limit this to a few simple tips.
Watch out for one or more of the following red flags while speaking to potential dropshipping agents on social media.
- Random posts offering their services: Huge red flag. I mean, there could possibly be some legit guys trying to break into the business. But, no offense. You are trying to hire the best, most experienced person. Not an inexperienced, newbie, are you? If you are seeing a random post on dropshipping Facebook groups offering the best rates for a particular product; avoid those like the plague.
- Rates that are too good to be true: If the rates are too good to be true, they probably are fake.
- Zero references: An experienced dropshipping agent who’s worked with multiple dropshippers will have at least a few references or recommendations to show for it. Ask for those. Even if someone has the fanciest website with no recommendations, I’d personally avoid those.
All in all, follow some basic common sense rules while speaking to potential dropshipping agents.
I won’t say that you need to hire the biggest, known brands. There are many individuals with great work ethics and the experience to boot.
But ensure that you double check all the information before you hire anybody.
Things that You Need to Consider while Working with Dropshipping Agents
All said and done, working with an agent may or may not be feasible for all dropshippers. Besides, you need to consider which agent for dropship from china.
Most agents have a few minimum requirements before they agree to work with you.
The cost of hiring an agent: Usually, an agent will charge a percentage based on the product + shipping cost. This price can vary from person to person, or one company to another. Some agents may only charge shipping cost + handling fees.
MOQ: Any experienced agent will work only with dropshippers that are already generating a minimum amount of orders, or a preset number in sales each day or month. Once again, this can vary from person to person. For example, I only work with businesses that are generating at least 10 orders a day.
Good communication skills: You need to be diligent about hiring an agent who has excellent communication skills in English. Think of them as your backend operation team who will bridge the gap between you and the supplier. You need a strong bridge, don’t you?
Experience: Has the agent worked with other dropshippers before? Do they have case studies or proof or records that show the difference that they were able to help a dropshipping business succeed in the past? There’s nothing more advantageous than a person who knows right where to start and how. No shopping pig in the poke.
I hope that this blog post helps you understand the value that hiring a dropshipping sourcing agent brings to your business.
It’s the easiest way to go from being just another dropshipper, to a successful, trusted e-commerce brand.
To sum things up, a dropshipping fulfillment agent will be the right choice for you if:
- You are already generating sales and are looking to scale your business
- You are looking to diversify and need better products with a pricing advantage
- Logistics is proving to be the Achilles’ heel of your business.
- You need faster deliveries at the same cost
- You need better quality control
Dropshipping agents have become a necessity for dropshipping businesses to survive in today’s extremely competitive environment.
As a result, there are a lot of people (agents) who have jumped head over heels into the business without having the faintest idea or expertise needed for it.
I highly recommend that you partner with an agent who has the reputation, the expertise and the skills needed to help you scale your business and turn it into a successful e-commerce brand.
By the way, I am available to answer any and all queries that you may have about hiring a dropshipping agent in China. I am based in the Guangdong Province and have few years of experience working with dropshippers. If you are looking for a highly skilled, transparent, proactive partner for your business, I am all ears.
Click here now to reach out to me for the initial consultation. ☺