The Canal Guide to Dropshipping Platforms

September 30, 2022
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trust (verb): to believe that someone is good and honest, or that something is safe and reliable

When it comes to assessing dropshipping platforms, brands are often serenaded with promises about unbridled success for their ecommerce businesses. And what’s often overlooked is what matters most: the trustworthiness of the platforms and the suppliers they’ll be doing business with.

This is a problem, especially when brands entrust these suppliers with dropshipping—an order fulfillment method that enables a brand to sell products without keeping inventory on hand. Although 40% of retailers use dropship fulfillment today, the business model only works if it’s rooted in trust. That’s why the hardest part about dropshipping is finding the right partners. 

Finding a partner that’s in strategic alignment with your own brand carries a lot more value than a "dropshipping partner" that works at arm’s length. Brand partnership platforms are directing this realization with curated networks of trusted suppliers that brands can partner with to sell third-party products with confidence.

What are dropshipping platforms?

Dropshipping platforms are where suppliers market their products for other brands to sell. Because of this, dropshipping platforms are also called dropshipping marketplaces. Integrations with Shopify and other ecommerce management systems are included with many dropshipping marketplaces and platforms to let partners easily share products, inventory, and orders across technology stacks.

Today, there are two types of platforms that facilitate dropshipping.

Traditional dropshipping platforms

The most popular example of a traditional dropshipping ecommerce platform is AliExpress. Known as the go-to destination for small direct-to-consumer businesses and entrepreneurs to sell dropship products online, AliExpress is one of the top dropshipping platforms in terms of selection with more than 100 million products. However, the “any supplier welcome” nature of AliExpress and similar platforms breaks network trust and dissuades suppliers with premium products from joining.

Brand partnership platforms

Unlike traditional dropshipping platforms, a brand partnership platform is built with a highly-curated network of buyers and sellers. This means that the platform is willing to sacrifice a potentially infinite assortment and high transaction volume in exchange for trust, dependability, and higher quality products. 

Instead of being open to anyone, the network maintains a high standard of excellence for brand partners and ensures trusted experiences for retailers and suppliers. Network participants retain complete control because brand partnerships require opt-in from both parties. By removing the risk inherent in traditional platforms, brand partners get to decide which products to sell, who can sell them, and how they appear on storefronts.

How dropshipping platforms work

It’s important to remember that dropshipping is merely a fulfillment method used in an ecommerce partnership. Dropshipping is not an ecommerce strategy and does not point to all the opportunities that can arise between a retailer and supplier. The true benefits of partnerships develop when quality brands with strong values come together to create long-term, sustainable growth.

Traditional dropshipping platforms

The vast majority of traditional dropshipping platforms place the burden on brands and retailers to assess the reputations of the partners they’ll be working with—even though most people are not experts at vetting suppliers, or don’t have the time to. These platforms allow virtually any supplier with a fulfillment capability, inventory feed, and return policy to list products for the consideration of sellers.

Brand partnership platforms

Brand partnership platforms encourage the use of dropshipping as a fulfillment method, not an ecommerce strategy. They are where retailers and suppliers go to connect on a deeper level for ecommerce partnerships. This type of platform helps storefronts go beyond dropshipping to create strong partnerships with suppliers which lead to co-marketing, co-branding, and other growth opportunities. 

Products from value-driven suppliers are curated on the platform and storefronts can send proposals to them that include information about commissions, shipping, and merchandising.

Examples of trusted suppliers include the coffee roasters that partner with the coffee equipment brand Fellow through Canal. On its coffee marketplace and across its site, Fellow sells coffee without holding inventory and the coffee roasters dropship the coffee on Fellow’s behalf. This setup lets Fellow achieve incremental revenue from trusted suppliers without any logistical overhead.

A brand partnership proposal sent by a storefront to a supplier in Canal

Examples of dropshipping platforms

Traditional dropshipping platforms

Today, there is an oversaturation of dropshipping platforms that have followed the Alibaba trend. Worldwide Brands, Doba, Megagoods, Sprocket, Carro, and CROV are a few of the platforms with questionable suppliers that feature an endless list of “me too” products. Platforms that advertise the sheer size of their network instead of network quality are likely not prioritizing trust across their network.

Brand partnership platforms

Canal enables partnerships between suppliers, who make products, and storefronts, who have online stores. It streamlines brand discovery, negotiations, economics, and online selling to facilitate brand-to-brand relationships between like-minded businesses. 

The key differentiator is trust. Chosen one by one by Canal's curation team, suppliers in Canal’s network must meet strict product quality and business value standards, then retain trust from storefronts in the network. With this curated approach, storefronts can easily find new products to sell and dropship them with confidence.

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