Dropshipping is a quick, low-cost way to launch an online business, even if you already have a full-time job. Sound too good to be true? That’s understandable, since most small business owners start at home, and many start-ups fail because it can take 2-3 years to earn enough sales to cover the up-front investments in inventory, equipment, shipping, staffing, and space. But in a dropshipping business your dropshipping partner covers these initial costs, giving you the freedom to focus on your growing business. You only pay for the inventory that you sell, which makes it easy for you to get your idea off the ground.
How to Start a Dropshipping Business
Figure out what you want to sell.
Have a Plan.
Grow Your Business.
Customer Service is top priority.
1. Figure out what you want to sell.
Dropshipping is great because it is open to everyone, but it is challenging because an open playing field means a lot of competition. Think about how you plan to stand out, and about what you are selling that people can’t find anywhere else.
Do you already have an idea about what you want to sell? No? Sometimes deciding what you don’t want to sell is the easiest place to start. Don’t want to worry about expiration dates? Cross food off your list. What about sizing and return issues? Selling clothing online may not be for you. Another important consideration is the price of your products. You will put the same amount of work into dropshipping a $5 product as you will a $1000 product, and your income will be a percentage of each sale. You can make more by selling more expensive products, but you may sell fewer items, and it may take more effort to sell each product.
2. Have a Plan.
Dropshipping is a streamlined way to create your own business, and to succeed you need to think like an entrepreneur. Start with a strong business plan. An initial business plan will help you simplify your big idea into processes where you can do a little bit every day as you learn how to start a dropshipping business. Time is your most important resource and planning ahead lets you make every minute count. Write out a rough 5-year plan to think about what you want to accomplish. Think about questions like:
- Do you want to make $500 in the first two months, or $5000?
- What is your budget?
- What resources do you already have on hand?
- Is there a demand for the product you want to sell?
- How will you keep track of inventory?
- What skills do you bring to the table, and what do you need to work on?
Before you get going you should also know how realistic your expectations are. Dropshipping makes it easy to start a business, but the trade-off is lower initial profit margins. Think about what you need to do to meet your financial and professional goals and create a plan. Set goals that are high, but still within reach. As you build your plan, make sure that your goals are specific and measurable, and give yourself deadlines to accomplish each goal. Getting any business off the ground is a time-consuming process. You want to give yourself enough time to get the job done right, but not so much time that you lose focus or momentum. Learning how to start a dropshipping business takes time, effort, and some trial-and-error.
Once you are bringing in more serious revenue you can bring in other elements of your 5-year plan. That might include setting up a sole proprietorship for your business, opening a business bank or PayPal account, or hiring someone to help.
3. Build Relationships.
Building relationships and strong communication with your vendors, your customers, and your competitors is your best strategy for future success. Connect to new and experienced online shoppers and use their impressions to build a better experience and explore new opportunities. Ask thoughtful questions as you learn about your dropshipping partners.
- How do they communicate?
- What products do they usually sell?
- How are these products similar or different from what you plan to sell?
- Do they offer insurance for orders?
- What about fraud protection?
- Will they be a good partner for your business?
4. Grow Your Business.
Dropshipping is a service, and players include companies as big as Amazon, or as small as your friend next door. Your website should offer expert knowledge and advice in a buying experience that sets you apart from your competitors. To grow, you will need to develop a niche, and a message to share why your product is special. Create a brand and tell a story about your products and why you sell them. Build a strong website that creates a great experience for your customers. Your website will be the primary way that your customers develop knowledge and trust in you and your business.
Create a marketing strategy that can develop over time. Try sending emails to people who are already interested in your products. Use social media to develop your audience and tell the story of your brand. Experiment with promotions on sites that already have a strong following for your products. Identify influencers that your customers trust to promote your products. Listen to peers in online communities to learn best practices for sales in your niche market.
- What are the bestselling sites for your products?
- How will you do things differently?
- What good ideas do you want to borrow?
5. Customer Service is top priority.
Your customers’ happiness is the most important part of any transaction. As you get started, learn all the ins and outs of your customer experience. Buy your own products online and have them shipped to yourself. Look at every detail of the shipping process.
- Do they use their logo or yours on the packaging?
- What was the email notification process like?
- Did the shipping time and process meet the clear and realistic expectations that you set on your site?
As you are exploring the ins-and-outs of how to start a dropshipping business, you’ll find that many of the primary concerns of your customer will be out of your hands. Damaged or late shipments, incorrect orders, and refunds will be your responsibility, but they will also be something that you can’t usually control.
- How do you plan to anticipate and meet the needs of your customers?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses in customer service?
- How do you build relationships at work or with your family?
- How will you use those skills to create a great experience for your buyers?
Every interaction with your customer is important. Be sure to answer email quickly and read your responses aloud to yourself before you send them to ensure that the tone is kind, understanding, and engaged.
6. Take Risks.
The relative simplicity of dropshipping gives you a chance to be adventurous and creative. Take risks and experiment with your business. Test out products, play with automation tools, and stay open to new marketing and shipping ideas.
You will be successful in your new venture if you work hard, take your time, and respect the process of running a business. You will be wildly successful if you use the convenience of dropshipping to make it interesting and fun! Learn more about how to start a dropshipping business with AliExpress here.