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The rise of ecommerce has brought new ways for people to have an online business. Some stores make products; others sell wholesale items. Some stockpile inventory; others partner with a third-party logistics company to simplify things.
Beyond these methods, another recent trend has gained popularity amongst those who sell online: dropshipping. This method functions as a simple entry point to the ecommerce industry, but that doesn't mean it comes easily.
We've put together this beginner's guide to dropshipping to help you discover some of the benefits, challenges, and best practices that come with this business model.
Let's get this out of the way quickly: dropshipping is not some sort of magic formula that will lead to abundant success and incredible wealth with little to no effort. Some brands see it as a get-rich-quick-scheme and become disappointed when they realize the reality.
Here's the truth:
Dropshipping is a fulfillment strategy that enables you never to touch a piece of inventory. A customer orders the product from your store, and you pass that sale along to a third-party seller who ships to product to the original customer. The dropshipping store essentially functions as a middle-man between the customer and the product.
You could see why people think of it as a get-rich-quick scheme. You sell someone's products for a higher price and keep the difference. Easy money, right?
Dropshipping still requires you to think strategically about your ecommerce business. You still have to:
Dropshipping will not give you a carefree, easy path to riches. But using the model as part of your larger business strategy can help you build a successful ecommerce store.
Dropshipping ecommerce brought in an estimated $128.6 billion around the world in 2020. By 2026, forecasters predict the industry will grow to $476.1 billion.
Growth like that doesn't just happen. There are good reasons brands have chosen to go in this direction, and we'll outline some of the key benefits below.
A dropshipping store will not accrue the same costs that come with other types of online stores. The method allows you to minimize expenses like:
The freedom from these costs makes it easier to enter the market with less capital. Instead of worrying about these items, you can focus your spending on things that help grow your business, like your marketing strategy or your technology.
Having no inventory to worry about is one of the biggest draws to the dropshipping business model. You have no need to worry about a pile of boxes in the corner of your office or managing a huge warehouse full of products to sell.
Instead, you get to use the inventory of your third-party retailer. You'll pay the shipping costs, but you won't have to handle the product yourself.
Having such minimal startup costs allows you to test the market and the method with very little risk. You can test the ecommerce waters a bit before diving in fully.
Once you find the right dropshipping suppliers, you can sell an array of product options through your online store. You can use this to test new product lines and attract different audiences until you find what really sticks for your brand.
Any effort to build your own ecommerce store will come with some bumps. There is no perfect business model or fulfillment strategy, and dropshipping comes with its fair share of challenges along with benefits.
Being the middleman doesn't pay much in small doses. Mass-producing products run on an economy of scale, meaning you get discounted rates when you order a larger quantity. Ordering each item on its own means you have to pay a higher price per item.
Dropshipping can still bring in profits, however. The reduced costs help offset the item's price, and the opportunity to grow quickly will help you sell more products. Even if they have a smaller margin, you may have an easier time growing your purchase quantity, which can help bolster the returns.
When you operate in an industry bringing in billions of dollars worldwide, you should expect some competition. Other ecommerce stores have recognized the potential advantages as well, and they want the same thing you do. Knowing how you will stand out from the crowd will help you have success even in a crowded market.
Running a dropshipping store does come with some risks. While you don't have to worry as much about the financial risk associated with starting, you will have to think about the suppliers you choose. You end up pretty much at their mercy when it comes to:
This makes it even more important to work with trusted suppliers, so you know your customers will always have positive experiences.
Dropshipping involves a few overlapping brands. Your store functions as the main brand to engage the customer, but you also have to think about your supplier's brand.
The products will have that brand's logo on the box. That's what the customers will see and remember most, and they might forget about the shopping experience you brought them. To counter that, you'll just have to create incredible experiences on your end to find other ways to build loyalty with customers.
Finding success in dropshipping takes dedicated effort. You won't experience instant riches, but you can create a well-operating, money-making business by following a few best practices.
If you want to separate yourself from your competitors, you'll need to know the industry well. Doing market research early on to find the right ecommerce platform, niche, products, customers, suppliers, and other foundational elements will help set your company up for success before you even start selling.
Part of your success will depend on the success of your partnerships. Unreliable suppliers will lead to unhappy customers, so make sure you get the right ones. Some suppliers may charge drop shipping fees, but you may want to pay a little extra if you find the right ones. It could end up saving you a ton of headaches.
Some days won't feel like you run an ecommerce store. You won't have to check product quality or deal with packaging and shipping boxes. You might even feel tempted to let the company run itself.
Doing that, though, would be a wrong move.
You can't have a successful dropshipping store if you don't take the job seriously. The work you put in early on will shape the future of the business. Anyone wanting to build this kind of business should prepare themselves to put the work in, especially at the start.
Running a great digital business requires great digital tools. Dropshipping is no exception. You'll want to automate many of the processes so your store can run smoothly 24/7, especially if you sell products on multiple channels. (Which we highly recommend.)
High-end dropshipping software like StoreAutomator helps you simplify complex processes like:
If you're looking to start dropshipping and want a solid tool that will help you get the ball rolling, feel free to book a demo with our team of experts. Our platform makes it easy to integrate with your suppliers, manage your orders, and please your customers. Doing so will free you up to grow your business and your profits.
Over 15 years of experience in ecommerce in various positions, tackling with various problems of ecommerce retailers everyday, co-founded StoreAutomator as an advanced listing software for brands, retailers and agencies to solve the daily struggles of companies' listing and managing product data in multiple platforms.