If your interests include anything related to entrepreneurship, online business or any form of e-commerce, you’ve most certainly seen those Shopify/Oberlo ads promising you can start a business from scratch in 24 hours.
You may also have heard about the famous “Dropshipping” business model – you open a web store and list goods from Aliexpress at price 2x-3x higher than the original. When a customer buys something from you, you just purchase it from the original dealer at Aliexpress, using your customer’s address (and some of their money 😀 ) The business model is so lucrative because it allows you to enter commerce without having to care about warehouses, shipping and significant investments in goods before you even start. It is also one of Shopify’s key selling points and streams of enormous revenue.
For every one interested in trying dropshipping, Shopify will earn at least $29 (its monthly fee), so they have naturally dug out all the success stories and given them a proper amplification. The more people try e-commerce, the more revenue.
So, when I first started reading about dropshipping on Shopify’s media channels, something about that model sounded too good and easy to be true. You’ll find hundreds of success stories on dropshipping, free Shopify webinars on dropshipping and an overall promise of relatively easy money, 4 hour workweeks, etc. When you read about it for the first time, starting a dropshipping business may look:
- Easy as f*
- Possible on close-to-zero budget
- Perfect side income, not interfering with your 9-5 job
Two months ago together with a friend of mine we decided to kickstart a dropshipping experiment and see exactly how hard it is to launch a dropshipping business.
We failed, but nevertheless it was an interesting project and I decided to write an honest post and tell you about the pros and the cons of dropshipping on Shopify and what you’ve got to be prepared for if you want to try dropshipping and maybe even succeed.
There’s a little bonus too – I’ll share all the resources I’ve gathered on dropshipping on Shopify and few tips on Facebook advertising from my own experience.
First comes the idea.
From my experience I believe that spotting a niche and defining the theme of your dropshipping business is the hardest part of the journey.
When you choose your niche you will know who your customers are and possibly where to look for them. There are plenty of resources on the process – check out Anatomy of a profitable niche; What Should You Sell Online; What we did is we browsed few of the biggest e-commerce platforms and see what is trending. I recommend AliExpress Most Popular Products, Amazon Best Sellers, Alibaba best sellers, Ebay Daily Deals, Lazada Top Sellers, LightInTheBox Top Sellers List, Polyvore, Wanelo, uncommon goods, Amazon.de Trending
My advice is no mather what you consider to be your product/niche, always to verify it both on Google Trends and Google Adwords Keyword Planner. The first one will show you if there is a demand (and also market) for your idea and the second one may tell you how saturated your market is (and how costly it will be to enter it). Always try simple Google searches too and see what content is there on your topic on the first few pages.
You may try dropshipping for everything imaginable as long as you can find it on Aliexpress, but most gurus will tell you to aim for products under $10, or even under $5. They will give you the highest margin and the consideration time is much shorter.
Initially we decided to try Edison bulbs. Most of them are cheap, they are featured on almost all the trending hipster interior designs. Later on we decided to add vintage rope lights as they often go together with Edison bulbs.
But trying to identify the customers for Edison bulbs wasn’t an easy task. Our main traffic strategy was Facebook ads, so we needed to easily identify the people we’d show our ads to.
After failing to identify the Edison bulbs buying persona (we did eventually, only to find out how much we didn’t know anything about our buying persona), we tried to think of something broader and so we decided to build our e-shop around everything vintage, since at least people who like vintage usually like Edison bulbs too.
We would try launching ads on single products only to determine the one that would hopefully sell most, but we filled the shop with different options using Oberlo – the app that does automatically import products to Shopify from Aliexpress.
Coming up with a brand in 2 hours
We came up with the name “Wow so Vintage”, because it sounded funny, the domain https://wowsovintage.com was free and it had the name of the chosen niche in it.
I did the logo myself, using few references from Freepik – I wanted something that’s easy to associate with the pin-up/60s branding and colors. The logo resembles an old advertisement or a tin sign on the streets.
Setting the store
If you’ve used CMSs before, getting familiar with Shopify is really easy, so setting a store in 24 hours is absolutely possible if you’re determined enough.
When setting a Shopify store it is important to check several steps, in my opinion the most important things to consider are:
- The five most important pages – About, FAQ, Shipping and Terms, Refund Policies, Contact US
- Complete Integration and tests of Google Analytics and Facebook pixel before launch so that you can track from the first moment you’re online
- Images optimization and copywriting. The things we neglected the most and left for the last minute, which was a mistake. Though it may look easy, filling your website with the right content takes time and consideration.
- Testing purchases and checkout system, before you launch so that you don’t miss customers due to wrong integration of PayPal for example.
For our About page we came up with a touching story we wrote for our target customers to respond to:
And now the real deal – how difficult is it to acquire customers for your dropshipping store
Earlier in this post I told you that spotting a niche and defining the theme of your dropshipping business may be the hardest part of the journey. Well, only If you don’t count bringing customers to your shop.
While you can really open your e-commerce store in 24 hours, building your brand and refining your ad strategy may need a much higher dedication in terms of time and money.
If you ever decide to start dropshipping, plan your acquisition strategy carefully.
When we opened our e-commerce store we decided to focus on customer acquisition via Facebook ads and kinda forgot about how important it is to build a brand for convincing your customers to buy your stuff.
We decided to go with the following strategy: test different single product ads until one of our products starts selling and then focus all of our ads on this product until it starts bringing cash enough to test other products until we find second “hero” product and so on:
The first problem with this strategy is that it requires too much cash to test enough until you find your first hero product. You can mess so much things with Facebook ads and there is so much to tune until you run a really successful campaign.
The second problem with the “Facebook ads only” strategy is that if you rely on this strategy only, you may miss some important layers of the standard e-commerce conversion funnel:
You shouldn’t neglect content if you want to sell. And building a brand with a solid brand story may sometimes be a full time job. Besides writing a good “About me” text, we didn’t work enough on our brand.
We didn’t launch a blog or produce useful content for our target customers and so we didn’t engage our customers at the awareness stage of the funnel. Although we had few abandoned carts – people were one click away from the conversion stage, they may have eventually decided to buy those pretty standard products from other vendors, because they simply didn’t care about us.
One reason we didn’t start a blog was that we just didn’t know what to write about in it. We didn’t understand our buying persona. In the beginning we didn’t even have one, but when we tried to identify target buyers, we found out how little do we understand them.
So, repeat after me:
If you do dropshipping, think about how you’ll convince your customers. Content is important part of it, so be sure you can produce relevant content for the people you are targeting. Make sure you know those people and their needs.
However we did produce some content on Instagram and did a pretty decent Instagram growth hack that I will share with you.
Growing your Instagram account
Does anyone else feel like having a cozy afternoon dedicated to good music? . . . . #art #instalife #love #simple #like4like #follow4follow #vintage #vinyl #vintageculture #retrodecor #retrodecoartion #music #inspire_me_home_decor #happy #cute #instadaily #likeforfollow #followforfollow #instadaily #instalike #instagood
Since Instagram may be the most important visual social network one brand should be present on, we decided to bootstrap a presence on Instagram. Building a following base on Instagram may be a slow process and most of you know the small everyday hacks – liking photos with tags that are relevant to your niche, following such accounts (and later unfollowing them), and curating visual content on your profile.
Cool, but again time consuming. Unfortunately Instagram may be the only social network that doesn’t allow scheduling posts (and for a good reason – it makes automation too easy). To produce content on Instagram we used the only semi-automated scheduling service – Buffer (you schedule your posts, but you have to post them yourself anyway). We curated visuals that may correspond to our customer’s interests and posted them everyday.
But we managed to automate the liking-following-unfollowing stuff in a sweet way. By tweaking this free Python Instagram bot and running the script everyday on our machines, we managed to grow our audience really fast and most of our followers are real prospect customers.
Anyway, Instagram didn’t generate much traffic to our store, but in a long-term brand building strategy I think the bot may be really helpful growth hack.
Back to the content problem
As I think of myself as a customer, I have bought cheap items without considering much or reading content or engaging with the seller’s brand, but usually that happens when the brand is not a dropshipper, but a large Chinese e-commerce website like Gearbest. They just have enough money to remarket me all over until I finally purchase, because I have seen the ad too much and the brand doesn’t seem unfamiliar anymore. It’s funny how easily can we be fooled sometimes.
Anyway, If I ever try dropshipping again, I will:
Do a careful research and choose a niche that:
- I like and understand and may be the potential customer
- I may not like, but I know well the people that like it and I am able to produce content they will like.
Is Dropshipping for you?
Dropshipping may be for you if you are:
- Prepared to invest some cash and wait patiently. We did our experiment with $200 over a month and it was far from enough. Growing our e-commerce for a month was not enough too.
- Confident in your niche. Confident means that you have carefully tested the demand, you can identify the customer profile and you know what they like and are interested in => you are ready to produce content.
- Ready and willing to produce content. You need lot of it.
- Ready to invest time in building and promoting your brand.
- Curious enough to experiment with you ads and your brand all the time, because the best working strategies might come by luck and by trial and error.
- Stubborn enough to get familiar with Facebook ads, Google Adwords and remarketing. I believe that every successful dropshipper knows so much about online marketing that he may easily find a well-paid job as a CPA expert.
Try dropshipping if you are already interested in it. You may lose some cash or fail to receive even one successful purchase (3 abandoned carts though – it’s something), but you will nevertheless gain experience and invest some hours in learning new things and it will surely bring you one step closer to success.
Wanna share a dropshipping experience, ask for advice or a review of your store? Drop me a message, I am always happy to help.
P.S. Some Bonus Links on Dropshipping:
Shopify Installation and Integration
!!! Bulk Download Images
Dynamic Ads – Facebook for Developers
7 Must-Use Facebook Ads Strategies for Ecommerce Marketers
5 Ways to Generate More Ecommerce Sales with Facebook Ads
13 Amazing Abandoned Cart Emails
OpenBazaar – Decentralized eCommerce Network,
Dropshipping on OpenBazaar
15 Ways to Increase Social Media Engagement Quickly
World of Harry
Instagram Hashtags for Likes
Dropshipping Traffic Calculator
16 Dropshipping Tips
What is Dropshipping
What Should You Sell Online
Amazon’s Market Value Jumps $13.7 Billion
Google Ads, Analytics and DoubleClick Announcements Keynote
What is Revenue Optimization
A Checklist to Choose Which Internet Marketing Channel is Right for Your Business
Reddit AMA on Dropshipping – must read
Anatomy of a profitable niche
E-commerce Mind Tricks
What Motivates Consumers to Complete E-Commerce Purchases?
39 Quick Ways to Increase Your Website’s Conversion Rate