I was asked by one of the readers of this blog to write in detail about our dropshipping business. This is the first part of the three-part series of posts that I plan to write on dropshipping. Since this isn’t a how-to blog, I can’t get into too many specifics or step by step guides which there are many on the internet. A simple Google search will lead you to many tutorials. However, I’ll try my best to give you the birds-eye view of what dropshipping is, it’s several advantages, and the top strategies we use to scale this business.
Dropshipping is only a fulfillment method but has many advantages over standard fulfillment. In short, it’s a retail business where you keep no inventory. Instead, when you receive an order, you have your wholesaler or manufacturer ship directly to your customers. Today, over 20% of all e-commerce fulfillment happens via dropshipping making it a $700 billion industry. Below I’ll elaborate the several advantages of running an e-commerce business with dropshipping fulfillment.
Since a 3rd-party ships orders on your behalf, you never have to maintain inventory. This saves warehouse costs, dead-inventory risks, and you only buy what you’ve already sold.
No Stock Investment
This is a very obvious advantage of running a dropshipping business. Since you only buy what you’ve already sold, it means you never have to invest in inventory or stock. This saves serious capital as most businesses end up spending a large percentage of their entire investment only on product, leaving very little to nothing for marketing. As a marketer, I believe this is missing out on everything.
The founder of the 2nd largest e-commerce store Jeff Bezos started Amazon by selling only books. Although Amazon is an “everything store” today, it was started with books for only 1 reason: the large number of titles available. He said
Books were great as the first best because books are incredibly unusual in one respect, that is that there are more items in the book category than there are items in any other category by far.
My takeaway from this is that he focused on listing large number of titles from single category. With Dropshipping you can do that, and more. You can list virtually unlimited items from any amount of categories you like. Essentially, you only need product photos.
Almost 90% of your total capital can go into marketing since you don’t have to invest in product giving you an opportunity to run your marketing campaign on steroids. As you get a sale, you can use that money to buy the product.
Business Structure & Taxes
Your business can be structured in a way where you may not be paying sales taxes on your orders, and the burden may also not be passed on to your customers. While in some cases, customers may have to pay customs duties as packages arrive from overseas, generally that will not happen on smaller cheaper products that are invoiced by wholesalers at the wholesale price. Please do your own research on taxes and structure as different rules will apply with different countries involved in the chain.
As with any business strategy, there are obvious disadvantages too. The single biggest disadvantage of dropshipping is long-shipping times, as items often ship from different countries, and primarily from China. But this varies on case to case basis. Once dropshippers figure out their best-sellers, they start to keep inventory and stock at 3rd-party-logistics (3PL) in the destination country. The other disadvantage, also linked to the first one, is customer experience. The delayed shipping times can result in bad customer experience. However, experienced dropshippers can address this issue too using 3PL, providing real-time email / phone support, and by being up-front about their shipping times.
In the second part of the series, I’ll talk about the strategies we use to scale this super lucrative business.