Ecommerce is booming. Lots of offline businesses are migrating online. The global pandemic is urging all of us to consider new ways to make money and stay afloat. You need to adapt in order to survive. Life is life. We both know this.
I am a strong proponent of baby steps. Thus, in my article on launching your Amazon journey I suggest that you should actually create some products of your own. And then you should try and find some buyers outside of the platform. In this way, you’ll be able to learn the whole thing of sourcing, delivering, marketing, selling and after-sales support.
Instead of rushing into the dropshipping business first, start with a custom-made product. But after you’ve learned the lessons there, it makes perfect sense to outsource production and shipping.
And this is what dropshipping is all about. You focus on marketing. While the suppliers take care of production, storage, shipping.
This makes it possible to launch your own online store in days. Of course, you can easily “in-source” some specific stages of the product life cycle in the future. You can start manufacturing the products on your own. Or maybe you’ll be purchasing spare parts and assembling the final goods at your own site. Or you can get single products from the supplier, mix them together, repackage and sell as combo sets.
But the “pure” dropshipping is the perfect next step after you’ve learned the lessons by selling something done with your own hands.
Let’s look into the steps folks take with their dropshipping businesses.
Step #1. Pick the products line
Usually, you read people telling you that you either need to pick a specific product or the whole niche where to work in. Both of these options aren’t that good.
If you pick a specific product, then your store will have only one product which isn’t cool at all. And if you pick the niche, then you won’t know what products to order from the suppliers. Your store will be a mini-Amazon with a wide range of completely disconnected products.
It makes much more sense to pick a product line with a niche. For instance, let’s look into the eyelash extensions. You can roll out a product line with eyelashes of specific characteristics and lengths. After you’ve done that, you’ll be able to start doing marketing and advertising – the things we talk in-depth below.
Do you need to have a passion for the product line at your dropshipping business?
There’s also a lot of talk about the passion as the mandatory ingredient of success. I guess that it’s too much to ask in this case. It’s more about “not feeling hatred, boredom” toward a niche. If you don’t hate eyelashes, go for it. If you love them and it’s your passion, go for them too.
Will you be able to sell various other products in your dropshipping business in the future?
Yes, that’s why you shouldn’t limit your brand identity with the first product line you are selling. Don’t use the eyelashes as part of the brand logo, and don’t call yourself as “LurveLashes”. Instead, do the naming as “LurveBeautee”. And the logo should be about the beauty overall too.
In this way, you’ll leave the door open for extending your brand to other product lines within the beauty niche. At the same time, you are sending the signal that you are a beauty brand. And not an umbrella brand and Johnson & Johnson.
Step #2. Research competition to your dropshipping business
Now you need to go around and look at other businesses that are doing honest work of dropshipping and ecommercing online.
Should I pick a niche with high competition or low?
That’s a very good question. And it’s just off point.
Because, for your first venture in dropshipping, you shouldn’t pick the niche, but the product line.
Now, it’s going to be super-difficult to measure competition with regard to a specific product line. It’s neither bad nor good. It’s what it is.
What you need to do is to walk around Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and figure out how folks are marketing the same products.
The more commotion and activity you are seeing, the better.
Wait? Doesn’t it mean that it’s too competitive?
It does mean that. But competition is good, it’s not bad. It’s just a sign that the niche is vibrant, and that there is a lot of demand for this specific product line.
A completely boring – and inactive – niche would be super difficult to make money in. Because all the existing demand here will be eaten by big brands.
But, if the eyelashes are super-big, and lots of influencers are talking about them, this is a very good opening for you!
Step #3. Pick a supplier
If you go via the standard ecommerce route, you are expected to order products from China or another location so that you can resell them in the US. It’s another strategy.
With dropshipping, your life is made easier. You don’t have to source anything.
All you need to do is find a good supplier for the product line you want to sell, create the store and start generating orders. The supplier is completely in charge of delivering the products to the warehouse, maintaining the sufficient inventory, packaging and shipping.
If this is your first venture in dropshipping, it makes sense to stick with big dropshipping platforms where you have thousands of proven suppliers with good product matrixes. They won’t cheat or scam you. Which might easily happen if you try doing business with unknown suppliers across the seas.
Consider going Oberlo with your first store
Oberlo is one of the big dropshipping platforms. You can start out there with the $0 monthly subscription. Thus, there’s nothing preventing you from testing them out. Go test them out now!
Learn all you need to know in their detailed guide on everything Oberlo.
The great thing about Oberlo is that the system brings together out the trusted suppliers with a big track record. Of course, you can easily source products from Aliexpress or Alibaba and try managing the inventory on your own, but you might find out the products are much lower quality as compared to what you’ve been promised. In the worst-case scenario, the items might be defective.
Thus, if you are just starting out in your dropshipping journey, it makes sense to focus on what matters most – learning how to market products (read about that below). And it’s completely OK to delegate the sourcing, shipping and vetting to Oberlo.
Down the road, you can also venture into branded dropshipping and search for suppliers on your own.
Step #4. Build the store
Oberlo only works with Shopify. And it’s not a fluke. Shopify is probably the best choice for a brand new dropshipper since it takes out a lot of hassle out of your journey. Here’s a great video on the basics of dropshipping on Shopify.
You’ll be able to set up the store within a couple of days. The ecosystem has a lot of great themes for you to use, both free and paid.
There are apps for anything and everything that you might need. Email marketing, notifications, discounts, product sourcing, automation. I’ll bet you won’t be able to find a use case in dropshipping and ecommerce that hasn’t been covered.
The price is $30 per month. It’s much less than what you’d have to pay if you decide to develop your own store from scratch. And you’ll inevitably arrive at something like Shopify anyway.
In case you have any questions or want to implement big changes at the coding level, it’s always easy to find proficient Shopify developers on Upwork who’ll charge you $20-$40/hour and get the job done fast. I mean, you don’t have to learn coding to roll out a dropshipping store in 2021.
Step #5. Get your marketing on
This is the most important step. It’s not just that marketing is important for your business, but it’s more than your business = marketing. If you are dropshipping, then it’s all about finding the customers for your products.
Nobody will be looking for you otherwise. Compare this with a manufacturer. The Chinese plant might just post a list of products and wait for buyers to get in touch with them on their own.
These two business models are the opposites. Nobody will come if you build it! The only way to get sales is to draw traffic to your store.
And marketing might seem as a weebly-wobbly construct ready to fail on you, right? I mean you must be thinking to yourself right now “ok, so I’ll start dropshipping and I’ll need to invest money into marketing. But marketing is so unpredictable. What if I lose my money? I don’t want to lose my money. Maybe I should stick to my main job and leave marketing to professional marketers.”
The truth is that it’s very hard to get it right from the first try. So, it’s quite possible that your first store might not rock the world, but what you’ll be left with is the skills that you can use for your second store.
Since, dropshipping = marketing, your skills will be in marketing. Thus, you’ll learn how to market things. Don’t think that if you invest a certain amount of money per month and fail financially, this will be a bad thing. Yeap, I just said that. You can learn so much in dropshipping and still fail big time.
The key thing is to control the bigness of your budgets. And this is connected with the wibbly-wobbly thing.
How much money do you need to invest into marketing?
Taking into account the unpredictable nature of marketing, folks tend to write it off. In our 9-to-5’s, it’s clear – you come to work and do this and that, and this is how much you’ll get.
But, even if you invest $100 per month, you’ll be able to start the ball rolling. And it’s a great idea to take the first steps in a safe manner, without investing a ton of money at once.
The point here is not about going big, but it’s much more about finding the keys to your customer’s hearts. In order to do that, you need to find the place where they hang out and interact with them in a transparent and engaging manner.
How can I market my dropshipping business?
Here are some of the opportunities that we love.
A. Facebook ads
These are easy to set up. But the secret to mastering Facebook ads is focusing on some specific interests and gathering valuable data on what people like clicking on.
Again, you don’t need to invest a lot of money. You can just port $20 and try getting some leads for your store. And this will change your life because instead of waiting for the instructions from a boss, you are generating the ideas on your own and executing on them. This is how rich people get rich.
B. Instagram influencers
You might hang out on Instagram from time to time, you might understand the basics of influencer-ing. But, believe me, you don’t have any idea how big influencers are turning to be in 2021.
They are huge. In terms of, they can help you make tens of thousands within a short period of time. If you compare all this dropshipping business with… owning Tesla, then, yeah, it’s peanuts. But we shouldn’t be doing that. You should compare dropshipping with your current job that pays around $3-$5K/mo, right?
So, if you start talking with Instagram influencers, they might empower your dropshipping store bringing in the valuable traffic and slowly pushing up your conversion rate.
And you should try and find micro and super-micro influencers.
The micros are those with 1-2K subscribers. These are rising stars on Instagram. They don’t have a ton of businesses chasing them, and they would be very happy to place some ads on their feeds and talk about your product. Just like you, they are doing their first baby steps.
With micros, you can easily ask them to do some promotion in exchange for the free product. Of course, you’ll lose money on this. But, in return, you’ll get some exposure to people who care about your niche.
And always – always – try to get in touch with micro influencers who are passionate about your niche and the wider industry. Don’t try to pitch a laser removal device to somebody who is into cars.
The super-micros are folks with even smaller audiences. They may have 100-200 subscribers. But all of those subscribers can be much “fresher” as opposed to the bigger influencers. What I mean is that lots of dropshipping businesses might be trying to place some ads with all kinds of influences, even the micro ones. But these super-micro guys, they don’t get much attention.
But they do exist, and the subscribers are super-engaged since they wouldn’t be hanging out here otherwise. Thus, if you start talking with 10-20 such super-micros, you might get lots of traffic to your store. And you’ll learn how to communicate with Instagram influencers and pitch your products.
Importantly, the next time you ask a micro to place an ad or talk about your product, you’ll be able to show them that your page has some following, and that you’ve been featured by other – much smaller- guys, and that people don’t say bad things about you.
And this is very important since influencers are always trying to avoid scammers and shoddy products because this would surely reflect on them negatively.
Good video on influencing.
Pinterest can be huge. There’s a lot of female traffic hanging out there and learning new things everyday.
You can be their advisor, friend and consultant. Thus, instead of pitching your product, research the blog posts, videos and pins about your niche.
Go to Quora and Reddit, write down the questions that folks have. Then, create useful pins that explain some specific things. Don’t try to cover the whole niche, but dig deep and bring value to the real folks out there.
Tie in your product inside the narrative and gently push viewers down the sales funnel. People who decide to investigate on your dropshipping store might convert real nice.
There are all kinds of strategies for ecommerce and dropshipping. If you are just getting into the game, it makes perfect sense to try and cut and delegate the tasks related to anything out of marketing. Then focus on marketing and learn how to draw traffic to your store. Even if you invest only $100/month, you’ll start seeing sales. Keep on digging deeper and deeper, identifying the drivers that push people toward sales. And then keep on building on top of those drivers. There’s a great path to selling anything to anybody in 2021 – get in front of the people who care about your product and turn into a mentor/helper for them. If you do that, you’ll prosper.
We are a team of ecommerce consultants. Ping us on FB with any queries you have on your mind. We’ll either channel you to a relevant article or help you figure out the best course of action in your case. We’ll also be happy to offer paid consultations and services for deeper engagements.