While we thought Covid would be done and over, we are still in a pandemic. As we struggle to get past it, one of the big positives is that people are shopping online more than ever before. Whether you’re running a brick and mortar business, supplementing your household with online income or building the next big e-commerce site, dropshipping is the fastest way to scale a business.
Of course, you could go the alternate route and deal with finding reliable suppliers, inventory management and shipping products on your own, but who wants to do that? We should better spend our time on strategy, sales and marketing to improve our profitability.
Hopefully, that convinces you that dropshipping is the way to go. So, if you are ready to get started, here are the simplified but necessary steps you need to take to become a successful e-commerce entrepreneur.
Pick Your Product Niche
Not everyone can be like Amazon and build the “everything” store. Just because you have access to thousands of dropshipping products doesn’t mean that all of them need to be in your store. Choosing the right product niche is the most important decision for your e-commerce business.
The niche determines your marketing ability, and it determines your profitability. Choosing the wrong product niche can lead to frustration as you spin your wheels and wonder why your numbers remain in the red no matter the effort.
But if you choose the right product niche, you’ll be floating in cash as you laugh at how difficult your life used to be. Ok, maybe our aspirations are less vain than this, but choosing the right niche for your dropshipping business will be less stressful and more profitable. Both sounds like a better lifestyle than the 9-5 job most people hate but keep on doing.
Think about a business idea that you understand as you consider your dropshipping strategy. Interests and hobbies may provide insights into marketing and product packages that those unaware wouldn’t have thought. It may also be easier to write your initial sales copy, because you understand what motivates the purchase.
That makes sense, right? But this familiarity also branches out into other important economies of scale, for instance, blogging and social media. Curating content is easier when you understand the needs of the potential customer.
Wait, before you do that…
Research Your Product Category
Just because you understand an industry doesn’t mean there is a guarantee of profits. Many product categories come with greater ad spend and inventory costs resulting in a lower profit margin, and it can run at a greater shipping cost per pound. These are just a few examples of why you need to research your product category before starting your dropshipping business.
If you are new to entrepreneurship, considering this practice will serve you well. While we shouldn’t suffer paralysis from analysis, doing initial research prevents you from making a long-term mistake that you only figure out years down the road. Yes, the best way to succeed at entrepreneurship is to get started, but when you begin, lead with strategy.
Itching to get started without putting all of your eggs in one basket just yet? Then create several test stores where you walk through the steps in this dropshipping guide – taking notes from the information you gain during the business setup process. Then, choose the dropshipping store with the most potential, and go all-in on that operation.
Develop Your Marketing Strategy
These dropshipping products won’t just sell themselves. You must have a marketing strategy guaranteed to infiltrate the market.
How do you plan to market your business? Is it through social media marketing, content marketing or paid advertising? No marketing strategy will be perfect until you gather data as you move forward with your small business, but there is data you can get right now.
Talk to other dropshipping businesses in non-competitive industries and find out what works for them. Jay Abraham, a master marketer, says that one of the biggest mistakes companies make is following the marketing trends within their own industry. By communicating with other small business owners that dropship products, you can find out the marketing strategies not used in your industry.
Once you have a strategy that you will commit both money and time to, it is time to do the stuff that none of us wants to do.
Set up All Governing Taxes and Licenses
Who enjoys paying their taxes? The process is tedious and painful even when you know you are getting a tax refund. But it’s time to put our professional pants on and do the dirty work that will save us hassle down the road.
Just because you hide in your garage and run an online business doesn’t free you from the legal requirements that a brick and mortar retailer needs to have. Most businesses need a business license with their city, a fictitious business name with their county and a sales tax permit with their state. If you choose to incorporate, you may need to file for additional permits and licenses.
You need this information when building your online store, setting up with dropshipping suppliers, setting up a business bank account and receiving online payments. Get this done now so that you don’t have to go back and take care of what you despise doing once you are ready to launch.
Purchase Your Website Assets
Now that you have taken care of the dirty work, let’s get back to the fun stuff. Now that your business expenses have their own accounts, it is time to purchase your business assets. In a dropshipping business, this means your website assets.
Choosing Your Domain Name
If you are like many of us, you already purchased your domain name. However, the research into your niche and the creation of your marketing strategy may have created a need to change your domain name. Either way, choose the right domain name for the product category you plan to enter.
It is important to decide whether you plan to choose a name brand that is personalized, industry-specific or a combination of the two. At Dropified, we took a creative approach to our industry name. We spun the dropshipping name into a more memorable name that speaks to us and what we plan to accomplish with the brand.
One important consideration is how your website looks a year or two from now, when you have built your store into a super-powered profitable business. Do you want someone registering a website with the same name and stealing traffic and potential sales from your site by spoofing your branding? (Trust us, it happens all the time). If you are concerned with this issue, it is worth the small investment to pick up the domain names shoppers will accidentally search.
Ok, we have gotten a little heavy on strategy, so let’s get back to basics here. Purchase the formal domain name from GoDaddy and set it to renew annually. If they offer it, pick up a business email package, so that you can add an info@ email address for your store for customer service queries. Some domain companies offer this free, whereas others charge a minimal amount per year.
Choosing Your Hosting Plan
Unlike choosing a domain name, you can’t just choose any company to make your purchase. Different hosting companies have different product offerings. Even more important is to consider that hosting companies have different reputations for how their services impact website speed, downtime and technical website issues.
What we are saying here is that not all hosting companies are the same, and choosing the wrong one can cost you website traffic, customers and ultimately revenues.
You will not have to worry about this issue if you set up a done-for-you shopping platform. Website-in-a-box platforms, such as Wix, Squarespace or Shopify, offer their own hosting.
After you have decided on your focus niche, choose your domain. We know platforms allow you to select a hosted domain name, but do you need to buy the root domain and own that address too?
Picking the Right E-commerce Platform
Dropified works with Shopify, CommerceHQ and WooCommerce for importing products from AliExpress and other supported sites into the e-commerce store. If you have selected another platform, be aware that you can still use Dropified, but you will need to copy product specifications, descriptions and images manually to your shop.
Unless you are a technical website developer by trade, stick to the automatic integrations so that you can focus on building your business. Let’s look at the ones we mentioned.
Shopify is the biggest name in e-commerce stores, and their sales catapulted the moment brick and mortar businesses realized Covid wasn’t a short-term setback. If you want an easy e-commerce solution, then Shopify is the way to go. But keep in mind that their ease of implementation comes at a financial cost and the cost of limited expansion.
Some might shy away from this emerging e-commerce platform since it has a higher price tag than Shopify, but don’t quit on CommerceHQ just yet. This e-commerce platform may have a higher initial monthly fee, but it comes with many plugins that you will have to pay for with Shopify. Also, CommerceHQ does not charge processing fees, making it a cheaper option in the long run.
WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress that turns a blog into a full e-commerce store. WordPress is no longer a blogging platform and is now preferred by some of the largest enterprise companies. The benefits of WooCommerce are that there are nearly endless opportunities to customize your e-commerce shop.
Your initial WooCommerce store is free, but certain features available through plugin extension come at a one-time or annual cost. While a WooCommerce store is mostly plug-and-play, you are still required to update your plugins. If you don’t, you subject your website to vulnerabilities in the plugins which create serious website issues if not addressed.
Dropified product tools do the heavy lifting for you (saving you time with click-and-add functionality) when choosing a Shopify, CommerceHQ or WooCommerce store.
Design Your Store
Now that you’ve developed your business model, identified your ideal customer and understand how to target that audience, it’s time to work on the foundation of your e-commerce website.
You should think of your website as your product packaging since these dropshipping products do not come with white label customization. So when you build your homepage website and product pages, include uniformed branding. This allows each product to resonate with its message through unique imagery, color schemes and messaging.
To start, let your creativity loose! Design an e-commerce store that stands out from your competitors but stays within what the customer desires. How do you do that? Start by searching other shops that sell similar products and find out what elements and messaging they are missing. Then add your personal touch and branding to your website for a custom feel and experience that the potential customer will love.
Navigating Your Website
Page structure and navigation are a crucial part of your website that few small businesses pay attention to. Every page on your website needs to be built with intention. If you will not give a page your full effort, then in this world of responsive websites, you are better off not having that page at all. Instead, put the information on an existing URL where it can comfortably fit.
Here is a shortlist of what you may need:
- Product pages
- Contact us form (for customer service and questions)
- Terms and Conditions page (required by search engines). This page should also outline your return and refund policy.
- Testimonial page. Collect customer feedback on your company. Your product testimonials should live on your product pages for social proof and increased SEO keywords.
- Sale or discount product page (for bundles and special promotional offers)
- Mailing address. If you do not want to use your home address, consider a street address through UPS or iPostal1 that functions like a PO box. This will allow you to register a Google My Business account (which does not allow PO box addresses).
- Customer service telephone number. Don’t use your personal cell number. Check out service providers like Grasshopper.
Don’t forget to add PERSONALITY to your shop! Show your passion for the product niche and make the user experience interesting to convert site visits to purchases.
Make Your Website Secure
In this age where data breaches seem to happen daily and countries now use cyber warfare, your website must be secure. It is shocking how many existing websites have that warning page show up that says the website may not be secure. Setting up an SSL is a good business practice, but it is also a marketing strategy. Trust leads to increased conversions, so don’t just have an SSL. Show off your SSL!
Here is a bit more technical information about what an SSL is.
SSL certificate is a cryptographic key that identifies your business as a trustworthy one for financial transactions, secure browsing and data transfer. This is an essential step to show the reliability and legitimacy of your retail shop with search engines like Bing and Google. They are available through Shopify, CommerceHQ and WooCommerce platforms. After setting up the SSL for your store, visit a free testing site like Qualys to test your settings.
Get Your Free Trial of Dropified (Add the Browser Extension)
As a part of this complete guide to dropshipping, we are going to provide you with a quick tutorial on how to set up your Dropified account. The entire process is simple, and we have tutorials that explain each step. If needed, our friendly support team will be glad to help you with the hurdles you come across.
To start, visit our pricing page to sign up for your free trial to test drive the SaaS tools you can start using right away with Dropified.
Create Your AliExpress Account
This only takes a few minutes. Visit AliExpress to create your account.
Create Your eBay Store
Connect your Dropified account to the eBay store you want to sell on. Here is a complete guide to setting up your eBay dropshipping store.
Connect Your Shop(s) to Dropified
We’ve made it quick and easy with a video tutorial for connecting WooCommerce, Shopify, BigCommerce and CommerceHQ shops to Dropified. Just visit our video tutorial page for step-by-step instructions and screen sharing. It will only take about 4 minutes to connect your store to Dropified.
Organize Your Product Boards
Can we give you a pro tip that will save you time? Before you start your product research and discovery and saving products from AliExpress to Dropified, organize your product boards first. Think about how you will want to keep these products sorted by category, then add your products. From your product boards, you can connect those products to your shop(s) using Dropified.
Watch the video training tutorial for creating and organizing product boards.
Using Dropified Filters for Product Research and Discovery
It’s a bit of work but a lot of fun. After you have completed the setup of your first store, you’ll want to start ‘shopping’ for trending products you can sell from AliExpress. But you want to be strategic about the products you choose to pick products that:
- have high sales volume (think of this as an indicator of consumer demand).
- come from reliable and highly rated vendors.
- have the shortest possible delivery times
- have variants that are popular sellers (don’t waste time adding custom product descriptions for variants that have a low sales volume). If they aren’t selling, they are probably not worth the effort to add that variant to your shop.
Use your gut instincts to choose trending items that everyone wants to buy and keep your product focus as narrow as possible to your specific niche. Specialty stores get more traffic and have refined branding that appeals to a specific target market and consumer.
Stay ahead of the game by organizing your product ‘wish list’ using Dropified. That way, you can organize seasonal products and special offers for products you’ll want to add later. Visit our blog for some tips.
Add Products to Your Store
Once you have organized your boards with exciting products, the next step is to connect them to your store or make them ‘live’ for purchase on your website. Visit our video training portal for a tutorial, and learn how to connect your products, change product descriptions and select variant images (or edit them) using Dropified.
Learn How to Fulfill Orders (Or Set Up Auto-Fulfillment)
There are two ways that business owners can fulfill customer orders as the sales roll in. The first option is manual order fulfillment, and that’s where many beginners start so that they can be more hands-on to evaluate purchases and track customer service issues.
Visit our video training portal for a guide on fulfilling orders manually or to create the settings that will automatically allow Dropified to fulfill orders.
Tip: Remember to notate each vendor order by requesting they remove the shipping waybill or invoice in the customer’s package. This way, your customer does not see wholesale cost information when they receive their order.
Set Up Social Media Promotion
After completing your strategy and opening your shop for business, it is time to go get those customers! Here are the social media channels that e-commerce power sellers rely on for sales and promotion.
Depending on your product and target market, you may sell to businesses who may use your products. If this is the case, you want to set up a LinkedIn Company Page. Use this page to post products, blogs and special offers on the world’s largest B2B networking site.
Aim to post content at least 5 days a week. To make your life easier, investigate social scheduling software like Hootsuite or Sprout Social. These tools allow you to pre-write posts and automate your social sharing.
Tip: Remember to include quality images, share your blog posts and draw traffic to your dropshipping store.
Set up Your Email Marketing Account
Email marketing is still an expensive way to communicate with both leads and existing customers. You can think of email marketing as the midpoint between your social media posts and long-form articles. While open rates are not what they used to be, the cost of email marketing is cheaper than ever.
If you’ve taken our advice and committed to posting 5 days a week on social media, then you have the raw materials for email marketing. Connect the dots on your social media posts to create a thoughtful, value-adding email.
Tip: Have a lead capture form on your homepage or wherever it is most effective at capturing emails. This simple strategy makes it easy to communicate with prospective customers who may have jumped ship before making a purchase.
Add Content to Your Blog
How do your products fulfill a lifestyle need or want for your customers? Blogging allows e-commerce business owners to share valuable tips and advice that consumers appreciate. Through interesting blog content, you can create a community of repeat visits.
Aim to blog in the beginning, at least 10 times per month, and keep your articles at least 350 words long. Long format blog posts (1,000 words or more) are valuable in terms of SEO. Your long-form content helps appease search engines like Google and Bing and encourages them to refer more traffic to your site.
Keyword research is an important part of e-commerce success. Neil Patel shares a great article with a list of free keyword research tools you can get started with.
Tip: Since most households are using virtual assistants like Alexa or Google Home to find products, remember to include voice search key strings. These are specific phrases (conversational search terms) that your customers would use to find your products. Make those keywords and strings part of your product descriptions, social media hashtags and blog content.
Add a Reputation Management Tool
Social proof is one of the best and least expensive ways to increase conversion rates. Let customers who love your products tell the world about their experience. One of the major benefits of having your own e-commerce store (compared to being an amazon seller) is having full control of your reputation. This doesn’t mean deleting critical reviews, as that is not good business. It means directing these reviews where they can best help your company grow.
Reviews help people further understand how to use your products and they provide keyword-rich content for your product page. Managing your reviews is a great way to understand what missing information needs to be discussed in your product page, FAQ page and blog articles.
Upgrade the Dropified Plan Membership
We hope you enjoyed this complete guide on dropshipping. After your free trial of Dropified is over, and you’ve learned from our e-commerce success email series, we invite you to remain part of our thriving community. Subscribe to one of our monthly/yearly plans, and experience the full power of Dropified.Remember, the support team at Dropified is always ready to pitch in and answer your questions about our software or general questions about e-commerce business strategies.