Dropshipping has become quite the buzzword over recent years, and for good reason. It’s estimated that around 23% of all online sales are fulfilled through the dropshipping business model. An even higher percentage of Amazon sales are from Dropshipping, with approximately 34% of sales coming from people following the dropship model.
Suffice it to say, Dropshipping is certainly still viable, even though there has been some doom and gloom about the process which is explained a little later. So, to know how to start dropshipping it’s important to know what Dropshipping actually is as a business model, and as a vehicle with which you can either make money online, or turn it into your full time income.
What Is Dropshipping?
Dropshipping is quite simply the art of selling a product that you never see or store. In most traditional ecommerce stores, you would purchase or manufacture the product and then sell it. In dropshipping, you’re selling someone which gets sent straight from the warehouse to the end user. The profit comes between the difference of the warehouse purchase price, and the sale price in the online store.
Nobody knows where the term originated but it’s thought to have appeared in around 2007 when aliexpress became more mainstream and started doing business in America.
You can dropship numerous types of products, however they all tend to be non-perishable items such as clothing, homeware goods, accessories, jewelry, etc. It makes shipping far easier.
Is Dropshipping Still Worthwhile
In a word, yes. It is. Many people still make an incredibly decent income from dropshipping. From a few hundred a month as extra income, right up to those who make 10k a day.
The problem with dropshipping is that older tactics are being found out. Customers are learning to recognise dropshipping stores, which might lead them straight to the supplier so they can purchase the product at a lower rate.
Dropshipping is, unfortunately, often marketed as a get rich scheme. There are many facts and figures thrown around which sometimes seem to market it as a golden ticket. In reality, like any other business, you need to work hard, do your research and sometimes have luck on your side. It all seems so simple. Little overheads, small start up cost, and no need to house inventory. Just like the infographic above, the web is full of simplistic dropshipping advice.
The reality is that dropshipping has always been worthwhile, but that it is in no way, shape or form a way to get rich quick. Not unless you put in the work and research to get it right.
Things change. What used to be the clear cut method no longer works. The issue is that the advice still being given out en masse is the same advice from ten years ago. A quick google search or browse of YouTube videos will bring up hundreds of thousands of results, with people giving the same advice which usually consists of:
- find out which products are trending by checking out Google Trends, Amazon and eBay
- dive down into your niche
- source a cheap Chinese supplier on AliBaba or Aliexpress
- build a basic e-commerce site using Woocommerce or Shopify, or dropship your products using Ebay or Amazon
- use Facebook to advertise your product to the target audience in conjunction with Google ads.
- Price the product accordingly, by marking it up to ensure your costs are covered, and profit made.
Follow those simplistic points at your peril. If you’re going to start dropshipping, make sure you know about the process and don’t follow advice which was useful ten years ago. With that said, these up to date tips can help you get a head start.
Double Down On Product Research
It’s always been important to find the right product. Yet, before it was pretty easy. There were so many to choose from. This time, you’ll find that every product you choose already has a dropshipper aggressively marketing them in some way, shape or form. And that’s if you even look. A lot of people will pick a product and just run with it without even checking if someone else is selling it.
So, how can you find a winning product? You get ahead of the game. Find a product which you think will work, and make sure it’s something that is aged, something that’s been around for a few years. Then, you email the supplier. Ask them if they’ve got something better in the pipeline. Chances are, they have. New technology is being developed all of the time. The trick is to get to products before they’re listed on Aliexpress or one of the other supplier platforms. If you do this right, you’ll end up with a unique product. Sure, they’ll eventually list it, but you’ll have a head start others can only dream of. Be savvy, and be polite.
Check Out Other Chinese Suppliers
It doesn’t always have to be Alibaba or Aliexpress. There are alternatives. It depends on the product type that you want to source, but you can check out these for a different perspective:
- DH Gate
- Worldwide Brands
Again, it depends what you want. Always be sure to check up on customer service, delivery time scales and product quality. A test order is always recommended.
Consider Suppliers Outside Of China
People don’t like waiting an age for their product to arrive. If you’re dropshipping into the western world, odds are that the product will take around ten days to arrive. People are spoiled by Amazon. They want their products fast, so make sure that you consider other suppliers closer to home…especially in your own country. Sure, they might cost a little more, but you’ll gain so much more in terms of buyer confidence when they see that the shipping time is something a lot less. It also means you can advertise the product as being made in your own country (Made in the USA, for example). People seem to love that in this day and age.
It might not tie up well with your budget, and the lure of Aliexpress and Alibaba can sometimes be too much to ignore…they’re just so cheap. However, if you manage to scale up the quantity, you can get some brilliant bulk deals locally which can instantly eliminate long shipping woes which often come by using Chinese suppliers. At the same time, you can look to different countries to source from. Again, it will cost more if you’re doing business in Japan, but it can be worth it if you find the right quality or opportunity.
Stuck On China? Ship Locally
If you can’t find a supplier outside of China, you can still get ahead of the delivery timescale which all too often gives away a store as one that dropships. Instead, buy in bulk, store the products in your home or a warehouse and then post them locally. It means the delivery time scale will come down from two weeks to around three days depending how much you want to spend on postage.
It does throw up the hassle of storage, but if you’re only just starting to get into dropshipping, you won’t be doing huge sales. It takes a few weeks and even months to really build up. Shipping locally is the new way to dropship so make sure you implement it as best you can and as soon as you can.
You do need to make sure that when it comes to ramping up the advertising budget, you have enough stock on hand. You should always overestimate because if it suddenly kicks up a gear you need to have the items ready to ship otherwise your business will end up suffering from reputational damage due to its inability to fulfil shipping time scales.
How To Properly Advertise A Dropshipping Store
Ads are what make dropshipping so potent. You can go from nothing to making decent money extremely fast due to paid ads. It’s pretty much the only way to make money dropshipping in the short term. With that said, there are new dropshipping strategies when it comes to advertisements.
For so long, Facebook ads were the place to be. It still is extremely potent, but recent algorithm changes and price increases have made it less tenable. It’s easy to see from some of the more influential dropshipping case studies that Facebook Ads could be used exclusively, while it still might work for some, it doesn’t for every store in the main due to the IOS 14 operating software.
Now, Facebook should form part of your advertising strategy, but it shouldn’t be the whole of your ad strategy.
What else can you do? Well, it depends on your demographic. That’s the key. Don’t go for a blanket approach and hope to snag a few sales, because a few sales is all you’ll get. Think about it. Are you targeting younger millennials and generation Z? Focus on TikTok. Want to go for those slightly older? Pinterest is a good place to start.
At the same time, you need to make sure you use influencers of the right sort. Pick influencers with high followers, who are of a similar age or in the same niche as your demographic. You need to do a lot of research to get this element of dropship advertising correct.
Remember, while this is happening, you can run Google ads, as well as instagram ads and direct advertising. Don’t pump all of your dropshipping advertising into one stream…even if you think you need it to get that test out of the way. Don’t copy the reams of dropshipping advice out there which focuses overly on Facebook without taking into consideration the other streams out there.
Advertising is the most important element of dropshipping because if you get it wrong, you won’t make any money.
Design The Perfect Dropshipping Website
Your website has to be pretty great. Don’t just expect people to buy on the strength of the product. If your website doesn’t look professional, or if it looks like one of the million dropshipping stores out there people won’t go any further.
So, how do you make it stick out? For a start, don’t use one of the basic themes you’d find on the first tier in Shopify, WordPress, Woocommerce etc. Instead, take your time, and either purchase an exclusive theme, get someone to design one for you, or design one for yourself. Spend time on your website and make it utterly unique. The design, the logo, the page element placements. Try to ensure that it looks like a dynamic and unique website, one which a professional business would be proud of instead of a pet project of a high schoolers homework. You’ll reap the rewards.
Organic Traffic To A Dropshipping Website Is Golden
Just because it takes a while to achieve, it doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. In fact, imagine owning a dropshipping store where you don’t need to pay for ads for it to be a success. It’s certainly possible. People will come to your website because it’s naturally ranked in Google and other search engines. So, how can you get to this point off an ecommerce store specialising in dropshipping?
You create a niche specific blog. The blog will be full of useful articles pertaining to your product. For example, say you sold fitness products, your articles would be about how to use the fitness product, which workouts are best to incorporate it, how to recover from fitness injuries…you can write so much. But…you need to practice good SEO, and ensure that the articles are of a top quality. Not only from a grammar point of view, but from a searchable one. Do keyword research and target those pertaining to your product which will help your dropshipping store.
The content has to be full of interesting pictures, infographics and tables. Make sure you get this right as it makes a difference. If you’re not sure about writing it might be an idea to hire someone to help you. Be disciplined and get a couple of articles a week up. Get this right and your traffic will be organic.
Patience in Dropshipping: A Most Important Skill
Don’t throw it all away just because you haven’t had sales in the first couple of weeks. Patience is a test. Those who succeed always have patience. If you haven’t got it, try to do some research at the outset regarding how long it takes to actually build up a store and make a profit. Certain things won’t work, no matter how much you’ve researched them. A lot of people get swept up in the get rich quick element to dropshipping and expect to make it overnight. While this does happen, in actuality, it probably won’t and you need to have patience.
Get Dropshipping Right
At the end of it, each person will approach dropshipping in a differing way. Following advice blindly is never a good idea. Don’t jump into anything feet first without thinking things through and doing extensive research, even if you think you’ve found an opportunity which you want to exploit right away. Spend time researching, and don’t get sucked into the hype. Treat it as a business and you’ll go far…get it wrong and expect it to pay up quickly and you’ll be disappointed.
Most importantly, don’t follow the step by step advice you see pretty much everywhere. Do your own thing in the right way. Dropshipping is still worth it, as long as you get it right.