What About Drop Shipping?
If you’re wondering what drop shipping is, I’m not surprised as it’s been kinda fashionable for a while now.
What it is, is middleman supplier economics. You don’t actually produce or stock anything, rather you source it, and then sell it on for a profit.
Sounds good, how do I get started?
Getting started has never been easier since the introduction of Shopify. I don’t know if they started off as intending to ride the drop shipping wave, or they helped create it and then rode it in a marketing double-whamming of soothsayer genius, but whatever, Shopify is the go to place to get yourself a drop shipping store setup and running with as little pain, and in as little time, as possible.
Shopify will take care of getting your payment methods integrated, your site’s web pages, domain name, and anything else you might need. They have a plethora of add-ons you can purchase and there is a lively discussion forum of users on the platform too (and around the Web).
But for that you need to pay. As of time of writing, the basic Shopify plan is $29 a month, with the ‘regular’ plan $79.
I don’t think $29 a month is too evil, but I think $79 is a bit steep. That said though, Shopify’s hosting is reported as being very good i.e. fast, and you have to pay for good hosting.
And you need it, because no potential customer is going to wait around for your page or products to load; they’ll just hit “back” or “close” and move on.
Shopify really is a one-stop starter package and the most popular platform on the market at the moment.
Which is also why so many e-shops all lookalike – because there’s just a handful of free templates for your store, and the others you have to purchase for around $140-$180. Or get a professional Shopify developer to redesign for you in Shopify’s templating language Liquid – which may cost even more.
So most folks plump for the free themes, wherein you can change a few token elements, and thus you can always tell a Shopify site when you walk into one on the Web.
But the layout is just a detail, it’s the structure, and the real marketing of your site is the product range, the prices and special offers, the imagery, the copywriting and so on, and so it’s not such a big deal for a lot of wannabe drop shipping entrepreneurs, and indeed many a stock template shop is doing very well.
If you have a hosting plan for WordPress currently, and you have more than one domain slot available, then you can get yourself a drop shipping store for nothing.
You have the hosting bought, and you don’t need to pay for Woocommerce in its basic form, or a Woocommerce store front theme.
Just create a new WordPress site and load the theme and plugin.
Then start getting to grips with how Woocommerce categorises and lists products. It’s not that intuitive, but with a bit of playing around, watching some free Youtube tutorials, and you should have it.
The pain point is more likely to come when you start attempting to configure your payment system/integration. They’re just plugins you install and the relevant options appear on your Woocommerce payment dashboard, but it can take a bit of fiddling to get it all working correctly, and setting up a PayPal sandbox (test account) I didn’t find ‘that’ simple due to a lack of documentation, and the initial errors I experienced testing Stripe credit card payments frustrating as I couldn’t see any errors being reported – but I found Woocommerce support, and my hosting support, very helpful in getting the problems fixed.
Paypal support took days instead of minutes to respond, and by the time they did (sounding like the police) I had everything fixed.
To put the ‘pain’ in perspective though, we’re only talking a few hours of frustration, and if I hadn’t been so pig headed in trying to figure it for myself, and went straight to support, then I’d have been up and running even faster.
For me, as I already had hosting, it was worth it, and part of the process of getting familiar with Woocommerce and the payment gateways longer term.
I did sign-up for Shopify though, and tried out their two week free offer, and whilst tempted by the ease of implementation, in the end I just thought it a waste of money for me not to make use of my current hosting – and laziness too – if I didn’t get to grips with Woocommerce.
Another element is that I could also easily add additional landing pages to Woocommerce, whereas doing so in Shopify would’ve required a custom developer to do that for me (or learn Liquid). You may not need that though, and is really only required for special offers or product promotion, most the time your product pages are just fine to serve as a landing page.
One other aspect related to that though, is that you’ll have more flexibility in designing your store’s front/home page layout, even with a basic theme, than you will with Shopify.
These are just details though really, and not something to get too hung up on if you just want to use the out-of-the-box implementation of Shopify or Woocommerce – which is fine.
However, re my decision to go with Woocommerce, bear in mind that I’m no stranger to Web design and HTML and CSS, so a WordPress & Woocommerce solution made more sense for me. If I hadn’t possessed that skill set, or wasn’t already paying a hosting plan, then Shopify would be what I’d have chosen without doubt.
If you’re not comfortable-to-expert with WordPress, then I’d strongly recommend you choose Shopify.
Okay, I got a shop, where do I get products to sell?
The most popular product supplier for drop shippers is Aliexpress.
This is a China located supplier selling wholesale prices piecemeal i.e. single units, rather than bulk. For bulk, you go to the big sister site of Aliexpress which is Alibaba.
Starting off though, despite what you may hear in many a Youtube drop shipping tutorial, you don’t need to worry about bulk – not unless you get very, very lucky (like lottery winner lucky) – and hit on a runaway product right out the gate.
Aliexpress contains hundreds of thousands of products, a lot of them exactly the same, but from varying suppliers at varying prices.
The price differences can be minimal or they can be significant, it usually depends on shipping costs and how they’re incorporated into price.
Speaking of shipping, all your products are being sent direct from China. Some suppliers will have options to send from nearer to home i.e. within Europe or the US, and such orders should arrive quicker, but for the most part your products will be coming from China, and that entails a longer delivery time than most of us are used to in the age of Amazon next day deliveries.
You’re not going to manage a next day delivery until you start keeping stock, but don’t even think about that starting off or worry about the delivery time too much.
Your delivery method will usually be Alixepress’s own service, China Post or ePacket. There’s little difference between the first two which are usually free, and may or may not come with a tracking option. ePacket is preferrable as it usually entails faster delivery, but isn’t suitable for all items. Sometimes there are delivery charges listed – but there always are, it’s just hidden in the cost if you don’t see it on the delivery method- so figure that into your final choice of supplier as well.
I read and watched all the advice too of people saying it’s not that big a deal – the delivery time – and fretted over it too, but really it isn’t that much of an issue.
Provided you don’t try to deceive your customers.
So, if delivery times are 10-30 days, then be upfront about that on your product and/or shipping info pages. That way you’re covered, and also make reference to accepting your shipping times in your terms & conditions page.
That said, don’t be ridiculous and allow yourself a 100 day shipping day, stick with the shipping times stated by your supplier. Thus far, I’ve had everything delivered to Europe within 10 days, and the US within 21.
Okay, as I said, that’s not Amazon delivery times, but it’s well within the conditions of my shipping promise.
Something else to consider that I had pointed out to me, is most info products advertised on TV, even to this day, still have a 21 day delivery time stipulated. So Amazon aside, it’s not unusual, or unreasonable, to offer longer delivery times.
Using Aliexpress, just be careful to check out the seller’s rating, length of time on the site, and feedback before purchasing from them. It’s worth paying a dollar or two more for something from a seller you have confidence will actually ship the product, than try and give yourself a dollar fifty or two bucks more profit (when you’re making twenty plus).
When ordering you pay upfront and then give the supplier your customer’s name and address, and in the “note” section inform them that you’re drop shipping so no invoices or promotion leaflets.
Then job done.
When you’re informed that the product has shipped, inform your customer and forward the tracking details. Don’t just forward the mail though, put a little effort in via copy&paste so it looks professional.
A final word on pricing: don’t just whack the price up whatever you feel, have a look at other sites and Amazon and eBay to see what the product, or similar products, are going for.
Again, don’t fret too much if you find your product well in attendance elsewhere. You’ll be going for the impulse purchase, and a lot of folks won’t spend a great deal of time trying to get the product elsewhere for slightly cheaper.
Unless your prices are ridiculous. So give yourself a good margin, but within the average of everywhere else.
For that reason low price items aren’t good to sell. You don’t get much of a markup and it isn’t worth the Facebook advertising costs.
Jewellery is good. You’re dealing in perceived value, and you can give yourself a greater profit.
This is a whole other subject though, suffice to say, don’t go price yourself out of a sale.
Where do I get my drop shipping customers from?
Mostly Facebook, not SEO or Google Adwords or Bing Ads.
You’ll be hitting up Facebook Ads for this so you’ll need to create a Facebook business page for your store, and then from that you can create an ad account.
This is where the fun really starts.
Getting a sale is a combination of factors. You need a product people are likely to buy, priced at a point people are likely to buy at, using an ad targeted at those people, that said people will find engaging enough to click. And then once on your product page will find your additional product pictures and copywriting sufficiently appealing to invoke them to get out their credit card and proceed with a purchase.
As you can see there’s a lot of elements to that, and a lot of places where it can fall down. There’s reams of information on each piece of that puzzle available, and while it’s good to get further reading, the only real way to learn is just to dive in and do it.
Each and everyone of those elements is worthy of a dedicated article itself so I won’t go into that detail here, which is just concerned with getting a store up and running.
Do I need to register my business?
Eventually, yes. If you make any significant money from it.
If you’re just getting setup, dabbling, seeing how all this goes, then I wouldn’t bother or worry.
I say that because you’re more likely to lose money at first.
Yup. You will lose more re your setup costs and hosting and running Facebook ads than you’ll make initially. It won’t be a lot in any one round of the game, but it will add up over the months. It can’t be helped. You’re unlikely to open a store and immediately start turning a profit right away, regardless of what those folks selling drop shipping courses will tell you.
And what they’ll tell is to test, test and test again. To run product after product on Facebook ads, for $15-$20 (or £) max and drop and move on if it doesn’t sell. Scale if it does.
You can help yourself identify what’s more likely to sell by looking up Amazon Bestsellers, doing research through Sumo Me, paying attention to the Facebook ads in your own news feed and searching for others, but ultimately you’re rolling dice at the casino.
Even if you identify a hot product, you need to get your target audience correctly defined in Facebook, your ad created, your price point right, and your product page appealing.
None of that requires you be an expert in marketing, copywriting or graphic design, but it does require experience and doing it, and getting a feel for it.
Unfortunately, it’s pay for play, so where drop shipping will cost you is not so much in the setup, but the ad costs. Some of the more honest drop shipping ‘gurus’ will be upfront and tell you’ll need to spend at least several hundred dollars/pounds before you’ll see any return.
And even then you may not.
You’re looking for a product that ‘hits.’ That takes off. A lot of e-stores make their money from a handful of best sellers, like 95% of it from two or three items, the rest are just essentially filler. You’re searching to find your two or three items.
It’s a process of testing, and learning, and refining, and investing.
Thus most drop out when they haven’t become millionaires within three months.
You have to be realistic. You can’t lift the big weights in the gym without lifting the little ones first. It’s the same with this. You might have to test a hundred products, or maybe you’ll get lucky and find a runaway seller in less than five. You just have to keep plugging away at it and refining all the elements of the process.
And be patient.
There’s way more to drop shipping, that’s just the broad brushstrokes. I could write several more articles on the individual pieces that go into the process, and will in later posts.
Patience is also a pre-requisite for affiliate marketing, which doesn’t incur the same costs re Facebook advertising that drop shipping, and involves a similar strategy of testing in many ways. For instance, 95% of this blog’s traffic derives from just a handful of articles too. You write a review or article, publish it, and see if the market (the Web) likes it.
Except you don’t pay anyone, you just leave it in the hands of SEO and your content.
Affiliate marketing can be every bit as profitable as drop shipping as well.
I’m a cynic but I joined up as it offers a free one week full membership, no credit card required for “administration” nonsense, and after the week was up you reverted to basic membership level. A week is more than enough to get the lay of the land, see if it’s for you.
As I say, I’m hard to please and I stuck round and became a full member.
Don’t take my word (or anyone’s for that matter), check out Wealthy Affiliate for yourself, see what you think.
Recommended further reading:
What You Need and Where to Get it. Dropshipping Suppliers and Products, eCommerce Payment Processing, eCommerce Software and Set up an Online Store All Covered.
by Christine Clayfield.