Dropshipping is something that excites mostly the individuals who know a bit about digital marketing or the eCommerce industry.
And also people who are not into digital marketing often hear about drop shipping while exploring various ways to make money online.
It is the beauty of dropshipping that it allows anyone to get into it & explore an eCommerce segment that’s expected to reach USD 557.9 billion by 2025.
To get a chunk of this $$$, you don’t need to be a pro online marketer or tech-savvy person.
If you’re willing to learn internet marketing & eCommerce is something that excites you – just go with the flow – things will begin to happen & you will learn a lot from failures as well as success. (the learning opportunities are tremendous if you get into drop shipping)
Below is a graph on the growing popularity of dropshipping across the world in the past 5 years according to Google Trends:
Now, I assume you are probably here because:
- You want to start your own business
- You want to earn money online
- You want to start an eCommerce business
- You just heard of dropshipping from somewhere & exploring how to get started
- or maybe, you’re just another random person figuring what dropshipping is?
Worry not! This article has got you covered!
I would say it an A-Z guide to dropshipping & probably the most comprehensive article I’ve written on this topic.
No Bluff, only real information that you need as a beginner.
Disclaimer: This article is fully loaded with concise information to aware of things you should know as a drop shipper. If you’ve already done your homework at this part & think you don’t require this information, you can skip & move to the main section – “How to Start Your Dropshipping Store”
Let’s understand firtst what is dropshipping, why you should do dropshiping & what are the types of dropshipping that you need to know before getting started.
What is Dropshipping?
Dropshipping is a retail fulfillment method wherein the seller (dropshipper) doesn’t need to acquire any inventory to sell products – the manufacturer or supplier manages the inventory, packaging plus delivery part.
This means, as a drop shipper, you need to focus on getting sales whilst the supplier takes care of getting the product delivered to consumers.
A typical dropshipping journey goes as :
- Finalizing upon a niche & product(s) to sell
- Finding a supplier for that niche/product to work with
- Setup an online store
- Analyze competition & setup a selling price for your products (supplier base price + your commission)
- Start marketing of your dropshipping business & send traffic to it
- When a sale happens, the order & base product price is forwarded to your supplier who then delivers the product to the consumer while you keep the commission in your pocket as profit.
Interesting, isn’t it?
Before we get deeper into the topic of how to start dropshipping, let’s understand the various types of dropshipping you could think of.
Types of Dropshipping
Dropshipping is an eCommerce business model & there could be many approaches to get into dropshipping.
Below are some popular dropshipping approaches that you should be aware of & their pros & cons to help you choose which type might interest you the most:
1. Print on Demand
Print on demand is selling products with your own custom designs printed on them. POD products can vary from T-Shirts, Mugs, Cushion Cover to any other everyday product that can be sold with a print on it.
How Print-On-Demand works?
You create your own designs & embed them virtually on the products you want to sell (can be done easily with the POD supplier(s) app like Printify, Printful) – to get the product images that you would for marketing.
Then you list the products on your dropshipping store & start sending traffic to it – when an order is placed, the supplier (will be notified) would print the design & ship it to your customers, all done on a pre-order basis.
One good benefit with Print On Demand dropshipping is that you own your original work (copyright) & so you can think of building a brand around it.
Talking about the business branding options, various POD companies like Printful, Printify allows you to add your own custom brand tags on products, examples shown below:
Products you can sell using prints on demand dropshipping:
- Mobile Covers
- Notebooks / Diary
& many more…
Benefits of Print on Demand:
- Quick product creation turnaround time
- Short delivery time – local suppliers available
- You can create exclusive Products (exclusive designs)
- Lot of merchandise options to choose from
- Lower Costs
- Easy to create a brand
- Set margins as per your choice, if your artwork is unique & designs are worth it
- Same-day or next day shipping available
A few cons to consider with POD
- Competition is high & it can be hard to stand out
- Since POD companies handle all the selling part for you, they capture buyers’ information so they can remarket them
- Require somewhat good design skills
Leading Print On Demand Services for Dropshippers
2. General Store Dropshipping
General store dropshipping refers to selling various products around broad categories (multi-niche) in one store.
Such stores are generally non-niche-focused & allows dropshippers to test almost any product in the market – you can choose from multiple industries.
Check this store, InspireUplift for example:
These stores aren’t limited & focused on/to selling products from one niche only & specific set of audiences.
When a visitor lands at such stores, chances are they might find something to buy as they browse the store & pools of products available.
Many popular dropshippers recommends this path as beginner friendly, however, you need to be aware of the pros & cons that comes with general store dropshipping:
Pros of general store dropshipping:
- Flexibility to sell any products
- More discoverability & more reach
- Easy to setup
Cons of general store dropshipping:
- It would be a challenge to offer good customer service
- Hard to build brand
- One bad product can hurt overall sales & repeated purchases
3. Niche Store Dropshipping
Unlike general dropshipping stores, which can sell almost any product on their store, niche dropshipping stores are focused on selling products around a specific niche(s) only.
In other terms, these stores have a defined niche & cater to specific set of audience & interests.
Take this store Modern Urban Jungle, for example, it sells various products (decor, homewares, and gifts) that might interest a plant lover.
Pros of niche store dropshipping:
- Less competition
- Easy to get SEO benefits over time
- Buyers are more likely to convert if interested – your niche expertise will help your store stand out
- Many other advantages when it comes to brand & community building
Niche store dropshipping cons:
- Less flexibility over product – you can’t experiment with every other trending product
- Hard to scale
- Solid plans are needed to make your store stand out
4. Single Product Dropshipping
You can also start dropshipping by focusing & selling one product only, instead of multiples; The entire store is dedicated to selling one product only.
Take this store PillowPup for example:
Single product dropshipping pros:
- Time & Cost-effective
- You can channel all your efforts into focusing & selling one product only
- Easy to get a domain name that suits your product
- You will be considered as an authoritative source of that product
- You would build a brand if you can sustain & become profitable enough to scale
- All operations are done effectively – you focus on finding supplier(s) for single product & hence you could find a reliable one, you can do AB testing on ads effectively
- You don’t have to polish too many marketing content, but, whatever you polish, make sure it’s shiny enough to convince a customer to buy
Some cons to consider while dropshipping single product only;
- You’ll have to work hard enough to
- Whatever you do , one error can break consumer trust
- Your entire experiement can shut down & everything ne
- You won’t get returning customer & repeated sales, since more often a customer would need the product only once
5. Branded or White Labelled Dropshipping
Branded dropshipping is when you source a product from a supplier/manufacturer & sell it under your brand name – to appear as if you are the owner of that product.
There are two ways to do branded dropshipping:
- White Labelling – While label dropshipping is when suppliers/manufacturer allow dropshippers to add their dropship brand name to the products, by paying some extra fees
- Private Labelling – Private labelling is when manufacturers create exclusive products for drop shippers only when required. These products are exclusively manufactured for you & so not every other drop shipper can sell the same product under their brand name
Both types of branded dropshipping come with its own setbacks, but surely gives you an competitive edge to make big numbers & sustain for long.
6. High Ticket Dropshipping
Most of the beginners think of dropshipping as a typical dropshipping store selling products ranging from $20 – $100.
But with lower ticket products come lower profit margins, and so many drop shippers try their hands on high-ticket drop shipping – products ranging from $200 & above.
Keep in mind that expensive products are hard to sell & your store must be exclusive & optimized enough to convince customers to buy.
Also, you would need to invest decent amount in advertising to reach the rich.
So conversions can be quite tough as compared to other dropshipping types explained above, but, the profit margins are huge enough to manage all your expenses if you do it right & manage to get some sales in the first week.
Pros of High-Ticket Dropshipping
- High-profit margins
- Few sales a month are enough to cover up marketing expenses
- Good conversion rates if the traffic you send is relevant
- Less competition
- Customers will more likely to leave reviews if your product is good
- You will receive fewer customer complaint tickets as compared to other dropshipping types
Cons of High-Ticket Dropshipping
- Building a brand is a must
- You cannot survive if you offer poor customer services
- Need more than average digital marketing skills
How Do I Start Dropshipping?
Starting a dropshipping store is easy, but doing it right is viable to success. Otherwise, your profits won’t cover up the operation & marketing costs & you won’t sustain.
Since dropshipping is a real eCommerce business & not a get-quick rich scheme, so it’s important to treat this business just like any other successful one.
Right from the beginning of your journey – finding a product or niche, to creating a marketing plan – organic + marketing: you need the right approach to succeed.
Many times, things can get wrong if you’ve not carefully considered the action plan at every step.
To avoid any problems that might cause death to your dropshipping store & dreams, let’s understand a typical step-by-step approach to do dropshipping the right way.
Those reading this article via laptop can follow along with me on step 6 where I’ve showed how to create your dropshippping store with Shopify.
Let’s get started
1. Explore The Market & Tools
Let’s recall the benefits that comes with dropshipping:
- You don’t have to purchase any inventory
- You don’t have to pack the products
- You don’t have to manage to ship, returns.
- You don’t have to manage transportation & other expenses involved with managing & processing inventory
But, on the other hand, dropshipping is just like any other eCommerce business – most of the operations & marketing strategies are the same.
And so, a good dropshipping strategy revolves around:
- Building a brand
- Providing outstanding customer service
- Selling quality products
- Marketing the store & products
- Testing various paid marketing channels to see what works best
- Store Optimization
& many more countless tasks I can list here, that both dropshipping store & typical ecommerce business does.
You see, the work is almost same?
And so it is important to get yourself familiar with some tools that would help you throughout your dropshipping journey.
As a beginner to start with, below are some of the popular tools you must be aware of:
Google Trends is a powerful & free tool by Google that allows users (mostly marketers) to analyze the trend or popularity growth of any keyword (topic, niche, product, or anything)
As a drop shipper, you can use this tool to determine the popularity & demand of product/niche, market potential & many other things.
Many times, there are some products that have good search volume but their trend gets fade over time, by doing a quick search on Google Trend allows you to spot any decline (downward trend) in the interest of people in the product.
Google Free Keywords Planner
Google Keywords Planners is a popular & free keywords research tool, primarily for advertisers to determine search volumes & plan out keywords for their ad campaigns.
Keywords are basically what users type into search engines to find what they are looking for.
This tool comes really handy to discover new keyword ideas & determine search volume of those keywords.
As a dropshipper, you can use Google Keywords Planner to –
- Determine the product(s) or niche potential
- Discover new keyword ideas based on geographical location, language & more
- Figure out what keywords users might use to discover products & store like yours – and distribute them on your store accordingly
- Find primary & secondary keywords that you would use in Product Titles (Name), description, image alt, etc.,
- figure out keywords for your advertisement campaigns
& many more..
To use the free Google Keywords Planner, you need to create an account & add billing details (a valid credit or debit card)
In order to make the most out of Google Keywords Planner, I recommend you reading some more blogs on how to use Keywords Planner, or you may roam around inside the tool to test it out on yourself.
Facebook Ads Library
Facebook Ads Library is a platform where you can search for advertisements across Facebook, Instagram & other facebook products.
As a dropshipper, make it your habit to search & check for competitors’ Facebook page in the Facebook Ad Library. If any ads are running
The best thing I like about this tool is that you can the duration from which the ads are being run,
If certain ads are running from a very long time, it indicates that the product is performing well .
Another great way to explore trending & popular products is by exploring Facebook videos. You can type in product keywords to check if any page is already promoting it.
If you find any video, do analyze the engagement score (how many people are liking or commenting) & read some comments – to see if people are asking for a link to buy the product.
You should also syndicate product videos on Facebook.
Facebook pixel is a piece of code that you embed into your website code. It is basically an event code that triggers & collects data when a user visits your website via Facebook & Instagram (paid or organic sources).
When more & more conversions happen on your store, Facebook pixel analyzes the specific type/set of audience that is converting well – which you can then use to optimize your ads & make data informed decisions/.
AliExpress is one of the most popular eCommerce products sourcing portal used by many dropshippers around the globe.
AliExpress has registered manufacturers from China that are well aware of dropshipping model, and so the suppliers are dropshipping friendly.
It used to be the #1 dropshipping products sourcing platform, but due to cheaper quality products & high shipping times, many dropshippers are switching to alternatives.
I recommend using AliExpress because there are many product ideas you can get from there & also the product information tells us how many times the product has been ordered – this helps you determine the product potential.
Spocket is an alternative to AliExpress & it comes with a premium plan
Unlike AliExpress, which has manufacturers from China, Spocket stands out by onboarding suppliers based in Europe & America.
This makes Spocket maintain the quality of the products on their platform & eliminate the biggest obstacle that comes with AliExpress – longer shipping time.
At Spocket, you can find supplier delivering products in 2-5 days – good for improving conversions.
Thieve & Oberlo
Thieve & Oberlo are basically a place where best selling & trending products from AliExpress are shown.
It makes it easy for drop shippers to keep an eye on trending & popular products, and not wasting time on AliExpress trying to find good products from a huge pool.
2. Choose Your Niche
The first step to building your store is to determine the product/niche idea for your dropshipping plans.
Wondering what can be the best & profitable niche to start with?
Well, there’s not a specific answer to this. One niche that may work for you doesn’t necessarily work for me too.
Also, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind while selecting a niche for your store, like:
- Profitability: Not to mention, this is the basic thing to look at. After you shortlist a product, do some research on the retail pricing at which other drop shippers are selling this product
- Repeated Demands: Products that are disposable are always in need. You can leverage this opportunity to get repeated customers if your product is good & you offer outstanding service.
- Give priority to Products with Minimum Advertised Price: There are some manufacturer(s) that tag their products with a minimum advertised price tag – this is a ceiling amount above which no drop shipper can sell the product. This certainly help drop shippers maintain a profitable price in the market.
- Product Potential: It’s important to know the selling potential of your product.
At first, you can start with exploring various categories & product(s) available in the market – scan the world wide web for product ideas.
Keep on shortlisting products that might interest you & you feel like they are good to start with.
Spend some time exploring AliExpress – It is one of the most popular product sourcing platforms for dropshippers, but, you may find it hard to get a good supplier here; And if you manage to get some – their long shipping time will kick them off from your list.
So it is recommended to find local suppliers in the country itself where you are selling, or if your supplier is based outside the country, consider their shipping time before approving them on your list.
Below are some alternatives to AliExpress for dropshipping:
- Amazon Best Seller
These marketplaces are good for dropshipping beginners to discover various products across multiple niches. Most of the platforms allow you to search & browse for products based on multiple filters like best selling, trending, etc.
Do list all the products (& niches) that you feel good to start with – and then check their market potential based on your own research that should not be limited to only:
- Checking the average number of orders (sales) on that product from the product data available; Number of orders
- Keywords Research: to check the average search volume for any product/niche
- Analyzing the market trends in Google Trends
- Checking customer reviews for that product, if available
- Competitor Spying – Conduct an internet scan to find out some competitors – and then spy on their store & Facebook campaigns (via FB Ads Library as explained above) they are running.
3. Determine & Write Down Your Goals
Unquestionably, goal setting is one of the important skillset you must acquire -be it for your dropshipping store or personal growth.
Talking specifically for Self-funded drop shippers – they are often accountable to themselves only. So is the importance of goal setting so you can reaffirm them & question yourself – like how well you are performing, what are the plans to execute & what shold be completed by end of day, week & month.
Right now, you are wondering how to start a dropshipping store, so your initial goals should look like:
- Setup a draft dropsipping store by end of day, following the tutorial explained below on how to setup your store setup by step
- Shortlist at least top 5 niches according to you & do further research on which one to choose
- Find products & define categories for your store catalogue
- Get the product importing work done
- Product optimization
& countless other tasks like Influencer outreaching, creating content, ad copies………!
Having some defined goals would surely help you execute all your tasks smoothly & in a more effective manner, just like businesses do it – setting goals, creating strategies to meet the goals, creating weekly & monthly plans to execute these strategies & so on!
4. Figure Out Your Budget
Dropshipping is a business model & every business needs some capital to start with & the more, the better.
If you’re hoping to build a 5-6 figure business with $100 in the next three-four months after seeing some dropshipping gurus sharing their success stores, then you might get disappointed over time.
As a beginner, investing at least $500 in your bank account would be the right budget to start your dropshipping journey with.
Why? Below are some situations you can imagine:
- What if one of your Facebook ad copies starts performing well? Would you be able to quickly reinvest the money, hoping to scale in the next coming days, keeping in mind that you can’t touch the ad budget allocated for other marketing channels?
- If you get a product that has good selling potential, you’ll always remain unaware of this winning product if you have less budget to test it out on different audience types.
- Last but not the least, would you reinvest ever again in dropshipping when you get discouraged just because you didn’t do it right? Many young entrepreneurs think dropshipping is dead just because they are not willing to learn & treat dropshipping as a serious business.
It is possible to start with $100 & become profitable, but quite unrealistic & require pretty good expertise in almost everything – from optimizing the store to scaling the ads.
5. Setup Your Online Store With Shopify
Now that you’ve seen some steps to executing your dropshipping plans, It’s time to setup your online draft store with dummy content, so that you can have a look & feel of your very first eCommerce store.
If you follow me through this article & setup a dummy store, you can quickly jump to further tasks like importing products & optimizing them.
When it comes to building eCommerce stores, Shopify is a great eCommerce platform to rely upon – especially if you are just starting out.
Shopify comes with an easy to use interface to help you build a professionals, beautiful & feature packed ecommerce store.
There’s much more you can do with Shopify like orders & inventory management, traffic analysis, invoice generation, etc.
Below are some steps you can follow along with me to get familiar with some important Shopify settings & set up an intitial version of your dropshipping store by end of this day.
Step 1: Register Your Account With Shopify
Head over to Shopify & create your account.
Keep the store name dummy when asked for – we can change this later. (You will have better ideas for your store after you finalize the products & niche)
For instance, I am keeping my dummy store name to “Com Appetite“;
Follow along with me!
Step 2: Tweaking The Default Shopify Configuration & Set Up Basics
In this step, we will tweak some default Shopify settings & set up some basic things like collections, pages etc.
Set Up Collections
Collections in Shopify are groups or categories of your products. Customers can browse products based on the groups or collections you’re created in your store.
You would also use these collections as featured categories on the homepage.
Some example collection types you can create:
- On Sale
- Best Under $100
- Clothing for Men, Women & Kids
- Our Best Seller
& anything that might suit your store.
To create collections in Shopify, click on Products->Collections from the left navigation menu inside of Shopify dashboard. You will find an option to create collection at this screen.
Set Up Basic Pages
The next thing we can do is to set up some basic pages for our Store.
As for now, you can create a contact us page that would have a form allowing users to submit their message & contact you.
To add a new page to your Shopify store, go to “Online Store -> Pages” from the left navigation menu & click on “Add new“
Setting Up Important Pages
There are a few important legal pages that you would need to create for your dropshipping store.
Head over to settings from the left navigation bar & go to Legal & see the steps shown in below images
Set Up Preferences
If you go to Online Store->Preferences from the left navigation menu, you will see a lot of important but basic settings for your dropshipping store.
There are some things you can do right away like installing Google Analytics & Facebook pixels code if you have accounts registered.
Set Up Payments
It’s easy to setup payments with Shopify if you have merchant bank accounts (like PayPal & Stripe) ready. You can also integrate Shopify’s own payment gateway but it is limited to certain countries only.
TO setup payments, go to Setting in the left navigation & click on “Payments“. Next screens will take you further to setting you the payment gateway so that you can start accepting payments.
Step 3: Add Some Apps To Your New Dropshipping Store
Install Product Sourcing App (Your Dropshipping Suplier)
To seamlessly import products & sync order details with your supplier, you would need to install a product sourcing app (to import products to your store & sync order details with the supplier) depending on your supplier.
Since most of us will be either using AliExpress, Spocket, or Oberlo (Oberlo also has products from AliExperss, but it comes with additional features) – because these are dropshipping beginners friendly.
To get familiar with the process & add some dummy products to design your store, you can start with installing Oberlo.
Once you would install Oberlo, you can browse their marketplace & one click import products from there.
To start with, add three to four dummy products. These dummy products would help you test the look & feel of your store.
Step 4: Design Your Store
With Shopify free themes, you can get professional designs for your store.
Currently there are 9 free templates on Shopify & many paid themes if you wish to explore them too.
TO add a theme to your store, go to online store -> themes from the left navigation. Once you activate a theme, click on customize and it will take you to the theme editor dashboard from where you can easily edit the homepage elements & other aspects of your website design.
7. Optimise Your Store & Set Up A Marketing Plan
Now that you’ve seen how to create a dropshipping store with Shopify in less than 1 hour, it’s time to go through some marketing strategies that you must be aware of.
Creating an effective marketing strategy relies on both organic & paid methods – the more you devote efforts to marketing, the better you understand your audience – eventually, more profitability.
But, to make the most out of your marketing efforts, your store should be optimized for the best user experience & you should put every necessary efforts to improve your store.
Below are some things to keep in mind before you go ahead:
- Your product must be of good quality
- Fast & free shipping can improve your conversions
- Customer support is important, make sure you understand your product & provide good customer service
- Your store should be optimized for the best user experience – good website speed, designs, navigation, content, product appearance
- Encourage product reviews & testimonials that you could further use in advertising
- Incorporate brand storytelling
There are many more areas you should look at when you are dropshipping, you can also give this article a read – https://sureshbhatt.net/drop-shipping-tips/
Optimize Your Store for Search Engines
It’s always best to prepare yourself for some organic growth. Below are some basic SEO things you have to keep in mind:
- Make keyword research your habit & list out primary & secondary keywords for your products & other pages/content
- Optimize your store for speed
- choose a light theme
- Compress images
- Avoid using large images
- limit the number of apps you use
- Alt tag your images: The alt tag is an alternative text added to images, to help search engines understand what the image is – and is used as an accessibility feature to convert image content in speech form to serve people with disabilities.
- Optimize your website navigation for search engines
- Every page should be reachable in 3-4 clicks: include links in the footer, header navigation, widgets, etc on every page.
- Categories & subcategories should be in proper order – following a hierarchy
- Use clear, short & readable URLs
- Optimize product pages (explained below)
- Increase the number of backlinks & social shares
There can be many optmizations tips you can follow.
Optimize Your Product Pages
A product page is the main landing page, carrying a lot of potential to trigger buying decisions in visitors mind, so it is important to invest some time in optimizing the product pages.
Below are some product optimization tips you can takeaway:
- Add one primary keyword in the title (or a maximum of 2 if looks relevant & good to the user)
- Optimize description
- Products’ media quality must be high (don’t forget to compress & reduce size)
- Add some positive product reviews to products
- Clearly indicate the cost breakdown (if additional charges such as shipping, packing applicable)
- Add some trust factors like customer testimonial screenshots, safe & secure checkout (or other secure banking tags)
Organic Marketing Channels
There can be many organic marketing channels you can leverage, below are some common platforms that have worked well for drop-shippers in the past
- Social Media – the basics: Facebook Page, Instagram Business Account, Twitter etc
- Video Marketing (like product explanation videos)
- Facebook Videos – Facebook videos are a great way to promote your product as well as to discover new & trending product ideas
- Tik Tok Videos – Tik Tik is another platform with huge reach potential
- Instagram Reels / IGTV
- Content Marketing
- Blog Publishing
- Forums Answering
- Contests & Giveaways
- Pinterest Marketing – Pinterest can work really really well for some niches, like home decor, artwork etc.
- Email Marketing
Paid Marketing Plan
Below are some paid marketing channles you should definitely give a try to test your new dropshipping store & products:
- Facebook Ads – It gives you ultimate opportunities to target relevant audiences. Facebook ads are love to almost every drop shipper out there
- Instagram Ads – Being a product of Facebook, Instagram ads works really well for eCommerce
- Influencer Marketing – This could be one of the most effective marketing channels driving lots of sales if you choose the right influencer. Remember that not all influencers rush after money, some would be willing to collaborate with you at fairly cheaper prices.
- Google Shopping Ads
- Google Adwords – Pay Per Click advertising
Final Words – Take actions & adopt a test & growth mindset
Learning something new takes time & it’s common for beginners to get overwhelmed with a lot of information out there about dropshipping.
While there can be no pre-defined strategy to get you success, what’s important is taking action.
If you’ve followed along with me through this article, you should have a draft dropshipping store up on Shopify & you are equipped with basic information & fundamentals to help you move further with your dropshipping plans.
In majority of the cases, a dropshipping venture becomes profitable after experiencing failuers with multiple products – so it’s important to test even after your first product or first set of products go fail.
Did I miss anything to add that you might be lookin for? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best!