Dropshipping is perhaps one of the hottest terms in the younger entrepreneurial generation today. While the basic definition of dropshipping is likely understood, the landscape is not. This guide aims to shed light on this often misrepresented topic. Upon finishing this guide, you should be able to know enough about dropshipping and what it might take to succeed with this method in 2024 and beyond.
Dropshipping Explained 🛍️
Simply put, dropshipping is a fulfillment method that allows you to sell an existing product without having to ship it yourself. This is done by selling another company’s product, which likely already has a good concept and market demand. Because you aren’t shipping the product, you also don’t have to worry about logistics and inventory management.
Dropshipping can be a great way to get started with making money in ecommerce because of these previously mentioned perks, however, making money should not be your only goal.
The ideal dropshipping goal
Once you start to make money, you should move on to the real goal of dropshipping, which is to eventually create and own your very own product and store. Having your own store will allow you to establish a brand outside of the competitive landscape of other dropshippers selling the exact same product. This gives you the longevity and the potential to make a lasting brand.
In fact, many companies that end up becoming large multinational brands start out with dropshipping. They began this way in order to prove the product/market fit and to exercise their marketing skills. Gymshark for example, which is now a billion-dollar company, started out as a dropshipping store and evolved to make its own products from there.
To summarize, dropshipping really should be used as a stepping stone to discover a winning product. Once you have found that product, use the revenue to fund the development of a unique product with your own branding that you can sell and scale.
Pros and Cons of Dropshipping 📋
Before we dive in with some basic tips on how to find your first dropshipping product and create your very own store, it is good to be aware of both the pros and cons of dropshipping, which are as follows:
- No need for product development, which can be costly in both time and money
- Can be quite easy to find and sell a winning product if you are among the first to reach the right audience
- Many supplementary tools, platforms, and communities exist that can aid in your success
- With enough organic reach on platforms such as TikTok, you can sell your product with little to no ad spend.
- Winning products tend to be saturated, so competition is incredibly fierce
- No control over the shipping time, which might be long, can lead to returns and customer dissatisfaction
- Some products that are trending may no longer be in vogue sooner than expected
- Heavy reliance on volatile distribution channels (ads, organic reach)
- The business model may instill an unhealthy habit of never-ending trend chasing
Where to Find Your First Dropshipping Product 💻
Now that you have been made aware of the pros and cons of taking on the business of dropshipping, you will need to take the first step of finding your first dropshipping product.
While some people try to populate a store with several products hoping that one will bite (or even worse, test multiple products in different niches simultaneously), you should really only pick one product to focus all of your efforts on.
Choosing just one product will allow you to get an understanding of what a targeted audience might look like, how to capture attention and effectively market, and how to frame a product attractively so that it converts.
To get you started, here are some tips on how to find your first product and its supplier.
Product discovery tips:
Look at the ads being served to you
Several dropshipping stores are successful to the point of having large ad budgets, so if you spend enough time on social media, you will eventually be shown an ad that is selling a product fulfilled through dropshipping. Many times it isn’t apparent that the product is being dropshipped because it looks like a clever invention, but more often than not, it’s another company’s previously made product being marketed to you by a dropshipper.
One of the biggest marketing funnels for dropshipping today is TikTok. Consumer behavior is shifting and favoring user-generated content, mostly on TikTok and Instagram, so much so that Amazon has launched a product discovery page that is similar to any other endless scroll-style video feed that you are used to on the other platforms.
Normally, if you scroll long enough, you’ll come across a dropshipping product. A tip to find a product quickly without the doomscrolling is to search the hashtag #tiktokmademebuyit.
Take a look at the comments to see if people say they “need it” or have bought it–this sentiment shows the demand.
Consider themes and seasonality
Selling a product to an audience that is already primed to like it is the easiest game to play in business. This is why sports and other franchise-level merchandise are such ridiculously profitable business models, and also why there are heavy-handed laws against infringing on this territory because it would be too easy to sell something to this crowd.
Rather than worry about infringing on a name brand or franchise with a cult following, you can sell a product that is within a certain theme or season. For example, you could focus on Valentine’s Day products or summer essentials. While these sales cycles may be short-lived, they can make for an excellent way to make money fairly quickly and incentivize you to continue in your ecommerce journey in different areas.
Dropship merchandise if you have an existing audience
If you already have an existing audience and decent reach, you can take advantage of the simple logistics and fulfillment of dropshipping without needing to go through a product hunt by selling merchandise. Instead of printing and fulfilling your own merch, you can actually dropship things like T-shirts, stickers, and mugs using a print-on-demand supplier like Printful or Custom Ink. Amazon has its own Merch by Amazon program which serves the same function.
Finding your supplier
Some people overcomplicate this step but it’s actually incredibly simple. Simply go on Aliexpress or Alibaba and search a description of a product that you have seen, and the product will probably show up. Examples of search terms that will yield a dropshipping product include “Mini projector”, “Crystal Water bottle”, “Dragon lighter”– just type what you have seen, and the search engines, perhaps to your surprise, will show you the exact same product at 50% of the price or less.
Pro tip 💡 : Pay attention to the estimated shipping times. Two to three weeks may be standard for these products, but this timeframe might cause too much customer dissatisfaction, so look for suppliers with a 7-10 day shipping timeframe if possible, or consider searching for domestic suppliers by Googling your product + domestic supplier.
Creating Your First Dropshipping Store 🛒
Once you’ve settled on a winning product, you will need to create your store. Due to website builders and other pre-made solutions, this step is more simple today than ever.
One of the most popular solutions is Shopify. Not only do they have a slick and easy-to-use interface for both shop owners and customers, there are dedicated plugins such as DSers that help with the listing and fulfillment of your dropshipping products.
Tip 💡 : Selling a digital product is an excellent alternative to dropshipping. Whop makes it simple and easy to do so–make sure to sign up here if you have a product to sell!
Marketing Your Product 📢
Now that you have your winning product and a store, it’s time to start spreading the word about it to the masses.
You should keep your marketing simple, and while it’s good to test things out, don’t go too crazy spending money on ads or sponsorships without first trying to reach an audience organically.
Learning to gain an audience on social media platforms is one of the most valuable entrepreneurial skills that you can have today. So, consistently posting videos that highlight your dropshipping product will help you hone this skill and get paid as you get better.
To summarize, here are the general categories for marketing your dropshipping product:
Different dropshipping marketing methods
- Organic reach on social media platforms- best done with consistent posting of a variety of attention-sustaining videos with a great hook
- Paid ads- it is recommended to only start dropping money on ads once your product is already selling, so your intent here should be to test and scale
- UGC and Sponsorships- While user-generated content, or UGC, can be highly effective, it’s hard to predict the reach, even for large creators. This is why you should be the number one producer of user-generated content for your own store and product.
Is Dropshipping Worth It?
While it is certainly within the realm of possibility to earn a living dropshipping, expect to deal with the elements of luck, competition, frustration, and fleeting trends that are all inherent to this realm of ecommerce. As with any business, once you have sufficient knowledge of the landscape and your skills, it is really up to you to make the final call.
Whop has several communities where you can learn about dropshipping from the experts. Join one of these pro groups for your highest chance of success, and as always, best of luck in your entrepreneurial endeavors.
If digital products are more your thing, check out our guide to creating and selling digital products with Whop!