Dropshipping can be a very efficient strategy for online retailers, but there are also complications to consider when setting up a dropshipping arrangement for your business. Weigh these pros and cons to decide whether this model is for you.
Escape the burden of inventory
Let’s face it: handling your own inventory is a major hassle. Not only do you need space—and a lot of it, if your business is successful—but you also have to track the inventory and maintain its quality (i.e., if your product is fragile or perishable, you have to have systems in place to protect it). By ridding yourself of these responsibilities, you’ll have more time to dedicate to growing your business.
In addition to being a hassle to manage, inventory can get expensive. Most retailers stock up on inventory in large quantities to get the best price and maximize their profit. These large sums of up-front cash can start to weigh on a business’s bank account. With dropshipping, your company can find more productive ways to use the cash that would have been set aside for expensive stock purchases.
Increased product variety
Without the limitations of space and overhead cost, a retailer is free to offer their customers something everyone loves: more choices. Dropshipping allows retailers to have a vast, ever-changing inventory that makes sales more likely.
When holding on to inventory, there is a lot of pressure for a retailer to move all of it. Unsold products are money lost for the seller. The pressure of this risk can cause delays in changing inventory and updating the online store. With dropshipping, the risk factor is eliminated—you only pay for what you sell. Retailers are free to change their inventory at will and keep their store aligned with customers’ demands.
When you hand over the shipping process to a third party, you have to let go of some control. For some of us, that can be an excellent exercise in character development, but it also comes with a hefty dose of risk. If the dropshipper makes an error and leaves your customer displeased, that reflects on your business. This is why it’s absolutely vital that you work with a safe, verified dropshipper.
Reliance on stock
While one of the benefits of dropshipping is that you are free to react to customer demands, it also means you are subject to sudden stock shortages. If an item becomes popular overnight, you might miss out on selling it because your supplier has no more stock.
Less competitive pricing
Dropshipping means no more bulk inventory—which means no more bulk pricing. You will most likely pay more for each individual item when dropshipping, so that means your prices won’t be as competitive.
How to Start
If, after weighing the pros and cons, you think dropshipping might be a good step for your business, here is how to start.
1) Select a supplier
Your supplier will be a very close and important partner in your business. Finding a dropshipper you trust is of the utmost importance. The time you commit to researching and interviewing different dropshippers now will be time saved later on when you don’t have to worry about lost or late orders.
Local dropshippers can be found in the Yellow Pages. Online directories, like SaleHoo, are also an excellent resource for finding reputable dropshippers. Here are some dropshipping provider features to inquire about and compare:
- Shipment time
- Method of shipment (what shipping company they use)
- How they track packages
- How they manage returns
- Years in business and references
These factors will be different for every dropshipper and some factors might be more important to you than others.
2) Choose Your Products
Now that you’ve selected a supplier, browse their inventory and choose a few products that pique your interest or that seem like they might be profitable. Create a short list.
Crosscheck your list with eBay’s completed listings next. When you examine the completed listings under a keyword associated with your item, you can see how many of those listings have sold successfully and how many haven’t. If your chosen product is unsuccessful more than 40% of the time, you’re probably going to have a hard time selling it.
If you don’t want to do this manually, you can use a service like the SaleHoo Market Research Lab. Not only will the Lab do your market research for you, but you also get extra-useful information such as the average prices for shipping and selling your chosen item.
3) Get a Tax ID
A tax ID is unnecessary for some businesses, but eBay sellers based in the Canada or the US (with some exceptions) will need one if they decide to dropship their products. The process for obtaining this ID is different in each county, so you’ll need to do some research about whether you need an ID and how to get it.
4) Choose a Place to Sell
eBay is one of the most popular platforms for online sellers, but it’s not the only one. As eBay becomes more saturated (meaning there are more people selling than buying on the site), other platforms like Bonanza.com and Amazon have started to get more attention. Some ecommerce platforms are free to use, so you might consider listing your product on more than one.
5) List and Sell
There is an eBay policy that says you must include the location of your supplier when you post a listing. This ensures that your customers know where their item is coming from and can prepare for shipping times accordingly. When a customer orders an item, you collect payment, which you then use to purchase the item from your supplier. Your supplier will ship the item directly to your customer, saving you from any inventory headaches whatsoever.
With each sale you make, you learn more about what products work best and can change your listings accordingly—a major perk of the dropshipping arrangement.