Many people shy away from starting an online store because of the initial startup costs.
But imagine if someone offered to pay your up-front inventory costs on thousands of items and manage all your shipping and fulfilment operations for you. It’d be much easier to build your online business from anywhere in the world. Sound too good to be true?
Well, it’s not, if you know about dropshipping. In this article, I’m going to explain exactly how dropshipping works, show you how to find dropshippers for your products, and give solutions to some common problems associated with dropshipping. Moreover, if you stick around until the end of this article, you’ll get access to “The Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping” a free bonus guide that shows you exactly how to start a dropshipping business. Alright, let’s dive in.
What is dropshipping?
Well, dropshipping is a retail method in which you don’t keep products in stock. Instead, you partner with a wholesale supplier that stocks its inventory -you transfer customer orders and shipment details to them, and they ship the goods directly to the customer. The most significant benefit of dropshipping is that you don’t have to worry about fulfilment or inventory issues. Also, most customers don’t know you’re dropshipping, since “private label shipping” lets you ship from the wholesaler with a return address and invoice customised to your e-commerce store.
Let’s quickly go over a few other benefits of dropshipping.
- You don’t need buckets of money. Dropshipping makes it amazingly easy to get started selling online. You don’t need to invest heavily in inventory, yet you can still offer thousands of items to your customers.
- Convenience and efficiency. Successfully build and grow an online business takes much work, especially if you have limited resources. Not having to worry about fulfilment is incredibly convenient and frees up your time to concentrate on marketing, customer service, and operations
- Mobility -with all the physical fulfilment issues handled, you’re free to operate your business anywhere you can get an internet connection.
- It’s a trusted model. You might be thinking that this sounds like some sketchy, fly-by-night model –but it’s not. Plenty of online stores and even major retailers use drop shipping to offer a wider selection of products to their customers without having to deal with increased inventory hassles.
How do I find dropshipping wholesalers?
Well, first off, in the United States, most suppliers will ask you for your business EIN number and a copy of your state sales tax and/or resale certificate. So you may want to consider having your legal ducks in a row before contacting suppliers. However, this isn’t always the case, and there’s no reason why you can’t start contacting dropshipping suppliers immediately.
Now, if you already know what products you’d like to dropship, reaching the original manufacturer is the easiest way to find qualified distributors. Not all distributors will be willing to dropship, but it will give you a list to follow up with. Unfortunately, the market is littered with scams and low-quality information. If you do decide to invest in a directory, we recommend the paid directory World Wide Brands as a reputable source of dropshipping wholesalers – but it’s still very important to exercise caution.
Additionally, if you’re using Shopify, you can access a variety of apps in our app store that will connect you directly with reputable dropshippers.
Google can also be an effective tool for finding dropshippers, but you need to keep a few things in mind. Here are some tips you can use to find a wholesaler through Google.
The first thing you’ll want to do is Search Extensively. Wholesalers and dropshippers are notoriously bad at SEO and marketing, and usually, aren’t going to pop up on the first page of Google for a term like “handbag wholesaler.” Instead, you’ll need to dig deep into the search results, often going through 10 or 20 pages of listings. Additionally, it would be best if you used lots of modifiers: As you hunt for suppliers, don’t stop with a search for “wholesale” – make sure to use other terms, including “distributor”, “reseller”, “bulk”, “warehouse” and “supplier.”
It’s also important to note that suppliers also tend to have outdated, late ‘90s-era websites. So don’t be scared away by abysmal design and layout. While a sleek, modern site could signal a great supplier, a low-quality one doesn’t necessarily indicate a bad one.
Now, despite our glowing recommendation, dropshipping isn’t e-commerce nirvana. Like all models, it has its challenges and downsides, which we’ll quickly go over now.
- There will be loads of competition and weaker margins. It’s true. Products that can be dropshipped will spawn a lot of competition. Usually, this will lead to cutthroat pricing and diminishing profit margins, making it hard to build a viable online business. To be successful, you typically can’t compete on price. Instead, you’ll need to offer value in a different way, usually through top-notch product education, service or selection.
- Syncing inventory is difficult and leads to out-of-stock items. The best way to mitigate this problem is to work with multiple suppliers with overlapping product lines. It’s inherently dangerous to rely on a single supplier. Having two suppliers doubles the likelihood that an item will be in stock and available for shipment. Many sophisticated suppliers offer a real-time product feed, and you can use a service like eCommHub to sync your Shopify website with the warehouse easily. Eventually, you’ll sell a customer an out-of-stock item. Instead of cancelling the order, offer the customer an upgraded product or discount. You might not make much – if any – money on the order, but you’ll likely build a loyal brand advocate.
- It’s hard to sell products that you never see. However, in today’s world, it’s possible to become an expert in just about everything through information online. Selling products from manufacturers with detailed websites will allow you to become intimately familiar with a product line without ever having touched a physical item. Moreover, when you do need to answer a specific question about a product, a quick call to your supplier or manufacturer will give you the answer you need. You can also buy your most popular items to get acquainted with them, and then resell them as “used” or “refurbished,” often recouping most of your investment.
- Third party errors. Involving a third party will result in more fulfilment errors, mistakes, and logistical problems. Even the best dropshippers make occasional mistakes, and mediocre ones make a lot of them. Suppliers are fairly good about paying to remedy problems, however, when they’re not, you need to be willing to spend what’s necessary to resolve the issue for your customer. If you try to blame your supplier for a fulfilment problem, you’re going to come off as amateurish and unprofessional. Similarly, if you’re unwilling to ship out a cheap replacement part to a customer because your supplier won’t cover the cost, your reputation is going to suffer.
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Also, you can create your online store with Shopifyfor free today.
If you’re looking to learn more about dropshipping — check out Jeff Walker’s book: “Launch”.
Muammer is a Marketing Analytics Manager at Turkcell. His mission is to empower entrepreneurs and to help them achieve their goals. He also has a passion for illustration.