Private label products are goods made by a manufacturer but sold under a retailer’s brand. The private label process isn’t that different from buying products for resale. You still have to source products and suppliers, build a collection, and market them. However, these products carry your brand, not the manufacturer’s.
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Now let’s see how to start building your own brand using private label products.
Step 1: Research Products to Sell
All sorts products are available from private label suppliers: kitchen goods, electronics, specialty foods, cosmetics and skin care, tools, apparel, and fashion accessories, to name just a few. The real challenge isn’t finding a product that you can private label, it’s finding one that can make you money. Consumer demand, competition, and cost all play a role in a profitable private label program. So careful research is your first step, and here’s how to get started.
Research Popular Products on Amazon
Even if you don’t plan to sell on Amazon, it’s a great place to research hot-selling products and get ideas for items to sell under your private label. As the world’s largest retailer, Amazon covers every product category imaginable. Better yet, they provide loads of trending sales data that you can use to research top sellers in any niche you want to pursue.
What you’ll use for this are Amazon’s Best Sellers pages, where you can drill down and find top sellers in any category or sub-category. Best Sellers pages also give you great insight into customer demand for all sorts of products, plus a good picture of the competition. You can learn all about using Amazon to research potential products in our article on what to sell on Amazon.
Research Popular Products Using Google AdWords
Google has a secret weapon that lets you see how many people are searching for a specific term online. It’s the Keyword Finder Tool in Google AdWords. This is a great way to gauge buyer demand for products, even if you don’t plan to advertise on Google. Using search terms, you can see how many people search for a specific type of product each month. If no one is searching for it, you’ll likely have a hard time selling it. But if people are searching for it, it might be worth pursuing.
For example, the Keyword Finder shows us that about 9,900 people search for plastic wine glasses each month in the US:
This search data shows impressive demand, but let’s see what else AdWords can tell us in our quest to see if plastic wine glasses are worth selling on a private label.
Under the Competition column above, AdWords gives an idea of the competition you’ll face if you decide to sell this item. Here, they rate search terms as High, Medium or Low competition based on how many AdWords advertisers pay to run ads for that particular term. In this case, quite a lot of them target plastic wine glasses since it lists High competition.
When starting out in private label sales, products with good search traffic, of say 2000+ searches per month, and Medium or Low competition usually are a better bet. They’ll also be cheaper to advertise on AdWords if that’s part of your marketing plan.
Before we move on, the AdWords Keyword Tool gives you more than just search numbers. For example, the graph above shows which devices people use when searching (mobile, desktop, etc.). This data is helpful when planning your website later in Step 7. You can even filter for geographic search data, daily trends, and much more. Learn how to use these features here.
Even if you don’t plan to advertise on Google AdWords, this keyword research combined with product research on Amazon can help you pinpoint in-demand products to sell under your private label. Now let’s see how to find private label suppliers for these products.
Step 2: Find Private Label Suppliers
There are many ways to find manufacturers that cater to private label resellers. Where you start your search depends largely on what type of products you want to sell under your private label. Here’s a look at some top places to start your search and we’ll explore each in more detail below.
|Source||Best For||Why this Works|
|Alibaba, IndiaMart, Global Sources||All types of household, apparel, sport, tool, accessory products and more||The leading import marketplaces lists millions of products that you can import for less than most US-made goods|
|General search and finding US manufacturers specifically||You can find US manufacturers for food, cosmetics, vitamins, and other items that must meet health or safety regulations|
|Wholesale Buyers Markets||Meeting manufacturers and distributors in person||Buyer’s markets exist for every imaginable product category and are a great place to find potential private label products|
|Malls & Stores||Getting ideas, seeing products in person & finding manufacturer names||Product labels are a goldmine of manufacturing information, plus you can check the quality of items personally|
Alibaba, IndiaMart, Global Sources & Other Import Marketplaces
These are among the top names in global product sourcing. Of the three, Alibaba is the one most new sellers turn to. Alibaba lists millions of products from manufacturers worldwide, the majority being in China. The site makes it easy to search for any product imaginable. Plus you can sort the results many ways including price, material, minimum order, and even the ranking of the supplier:
Since you have to pay for goods upfront, usually via wire transfer, it can be nerve-wracking to consider ordering through Alibaba and similar sites. But there are safeguards in place, including Alibaba’s Gold Supplier seller rating. If you stick with reputable marketplaces and use their high-ranked sellers, you should be safe from scammers.
If you decide to go this route to source private label products, first search for products you wish to sell. You can include the term private label in your search, but don’t limit yourself on these sites. Once you have a few candidates, contact each supplier to see if they offer private label packaging. Many do even if they don’t mention it in their listing. Also, don’t be afraid to negotiate a lower order minimum or price, many expect this and are willing to negotiate.
Google & Other Search Engines
Google search is useful for finding manufacturers worldwide or specifically in the US. This is a good way to find US-based private label suppliers for products that must meet health or safety requirements like specialty foods, seasonings, supplements, vitamins and so on. Simply search for whatever you’d like to sell using this detailed search format:
- product name private label supplier
For example, let’s say we want to sell gourmet baking mixes and prefer to find a US supplier. We’ll use Google to search for:
- baking mixes private label supplier us
This gives us a full list of US-based private label suppliers to review and contact:
Wholesale Buyers Markets
Wholesale buyers markets are one-stop shops for access to manufacturers in every industry, from home decor, to fashion accessories, to specialty foods. These markets hold private label opportunities since all sorts of manufacturers attend and many accommodate private label needs.
Here again, Google can help you find buyers markets for products by searching:
- your product or category wholesale buyers markets
Many popular buyers markets combine home fashions and accessories, kitchenwares, gift, specialty apparel baby, and fashion accessories categories, like the wholesale markets at the Dallas Market Center:
Here are other major buyers markets across the country:
- Americas Mart — Atlanta
- NY NOW Wholesaler Gift & Home
- Windy City Gift & Home — Chicago
- Los Angeles Gift & Home
- LasVegas Market
Malls & Stores
Your favorite stores can be a goldmine of manufacturer names for products that you want to sell under your private label. Most product labels feature manufacturer names and location, some even include manufacturer websites. Even those sold under the store’s own private label sometimes carry the manufacturing city and state. You can use this information in a Google search like this:
- Product name private label city state
Armed with a cell phone camera, you can gather loads of manufacturer contact information during visits to the mall, specialty boutiques, and big box stores.
Step 3: Request Quotes & Sample Products
After choosing the products you want to sell and confirming the suppliers will private label for you, it’s time to request quotes and samples. Quotes should include these 4 things:
- Product prices for the quantity ordered
- Any private labeling or packaging fees
- Shipping fees to your fulfillment location
- Any import requirements and duties that you’ll need to meet or pay
Some suppliers send free samples if you’re an established company with a website to show them. But others charge for samples requests from new buyers. If so, it’s usually money well-spent.
Product samples give you a chance to fully review your product to make sure it’s what you want to represent your brand. Remember it’s your brand, not the manufacturer’s name, that your customer sees. It must be worthy of your name because you are the one who has to stand behind it. Physical samples also are helpful when designing your product packaging.
Step 4: Design Your Brand, Logo & Packaging
This step is key to the success of your private label brand. From the look of your logo to package styling, this is where your creativity can help deliver an image to buyers and drive sales.
Need a little inspiration? Look no further than Pinterest for a treasure trove of private label packaging ideas:
If you don’t have the design skills to craft a logo, labels, or packaging, don’t worry. There are plenty of budget-friendly freelance artists ready to help on Fiverr. Share your brand ideas or samples of a brand look-and-feel that you hope to emulate, and they will craft whatever you need.
In particular, your private label brand will need artwork for:
1. Your Brand Logo
This includes logo artwork files for various print needs and for website use.
2. Your Branded Product Packaging
Private label packaging can range from simple labels to paper sleeves, hang cards, or boxes; whatever applies to your product. How it’s handled depends on your supplier’s capabilities and what you want for your brand. Since this is a key element in the private label process, it should be part of your initial conversation with potential suppliers.
Most often, your supplier provides artwork specifications for your custom packaging. Give these specs to your designer and they will create the necessary files to send to your supplier. Using these, the supplier prints packaging and assembles the finished products for you.
In some cases, private label suppliers take care of designing your labels or other packaging for you. You just need to forward them your logo. There might even be a reason to print your own specialty packaging and assemble products yourself once they arrive. It really depends on your operation and branding goals.
So you’re almost ready to place your private label order. But before you jump in, let’s look at ways to run your operation.
Step 5: Decide How to Fulfill Orders
Before placing your product order, you need to decide how you’ll store products and get them into your customer’s hands. You need to know this upfront so you can give your supplier the correct delivery address when you place your order.
If you plan to sell your private label products in your retail store, this is an easy step. But if you plan to sell online and ship products to buyers, you need to decide how you’ll fulfill orders, meaning how you’ll store products and pack and ship orders.
You have three primary choices for order fulfillment, including:
- In-house fulfillment using your own warehouse, home, or office
- Outsourced fulfillment using a fulfillment center
- Drop-ship fulfillment if your private label supplier offers that service (some do)
To learn more about each option, check out our full guide to in-house vs. outsourced order fulfillment. And if you already plan to outsource fulfillment for your private label products, start your search for the perfect fulfillment partner with this free service:
Once this step is decided, it’s time to order your private label products.
Step 6: Order Your Private Label Products
You’re ready to place your order once you complete these four steps:
- Selected your products and supplier
- Tested products to ensure they meet your standards
- Designed your logo or packaging artwork
- Decided on the location from which you’ll sell or ship products
As a new buyer, you likely will have to prepay your order, including shipping. At this point, be sure to fully review your quote or purchase agreement, and double check the following for accuracy:
- Product pricing and shipping charges match your quote
- Delivery date, or date range if importing, is clearly stated
- Import requirements or duties are included, if applicable
- No surprise add-on fees appear that weren’t on your original quote
Once you’re happy with the purchase agreement, you can place your order and pay. Wire transfer, credit card, and even PayPal are common payments that suppliers accept.
While you wait for your order to arrive, the next step is getting your website and other selling platforms like Amazon up and running. Let’s explore your options.
Step 7: Build a Website & Sell Your Products
There are several ways you can market your brand and sell private label products. Some sellers stick to their own platform and social channels for all of their sales. Others focus solely on Amazon or sell through both their own website and Amazon.
To build a brand you really need to have your own website, even if you plan to sell on Amazon. These big marketplaces bring in the sales, but it’s hard to create a unique identity if that’s your only platform. Plus, if you sell only on Amazon or eBay, you’re at the mercy of their whims. Any day can bring a change to seller fees, requirements that you have to meet, and so on.
So here’s a look at several ways you can set up a website and/or sell online through marketplaces. There’s far too much information to cover in detail here, but we have plenty of articles to help you set up the website or selling platform that’s right for you.
Here’s a look at the different types of ecommerce platforms you can use to sell online, and links to guides that will get you started:
|Platform:||Best For:||Get Started Here:|
|Square Free Online Store||Online sellers and retail stores needing a fast, free all-in-one website that includes payment processing and in-store point-of-sale features||See how to launch your Square online store.|
|WordPress Online Store||Sellers who want to sell private label products online plus build a modern blog-style website to market their brand and engage their community||See how to sell products using WordPress |
See how to launch an Ecwid Store on WordPress
|Ecommerce Platforms like Shopify & BigCommerce||Sellers who are primarily focused on product sales and who want to build a volume online selling business with top order and inventory management tools||See our comparisons of top-rated dedicated ecommerce platforms.|
|Spreesy Social Media Selling||Sellers who want to focus their sales and marketing efforts on social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram all from one central platform||Learn more about Spreesy’s social media selling platform|
|Amazon||Sellers who want to sell private label products on Amazon||Learn more about selling on Amazon , and learn about Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)|
The Bottom Line
Private label products let you build a brand around a collection of products that you don’t need to manufacture yourself. Many stores large and small do this with great success, but it takes work to find the right products and manage one or more suppliers. Some sellers find an in-demand item on Amazon and launch their own private label version to sell just on Amazon. Others build a brand around an entire collection of private label products and market them on engaging branded websites.
However you plan to sell private label products, the process is the same. From developing a brand idea, to finding the perfect products, to crafting a brand that’s your own, it all takes time and careful planning. But it can pay off big if you’re willing to put in the work. Remember that BigCommerce has everything you need to start and manage an online store, plus it can integrate with some of the largest eCommerce partners in the business.
Do you sell private label products under your own brand? We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.