I have wanted to share my experience with dropshipping in recent years on the blog.
First of all, I want to make it clear that I do not consider myself an expert in dropshipping, but I have tried this ecommerce model in my own project and analyzed many others in all this time.
I would like you to have a much more complete and realistic vision of everything behind dropshipping when you finish reading this post so that you can decide for yourself if it is really the ecommerce model you are looking for.
I will try to be totally transparent and honest with you. I’m going to tell you the good and the not so good of dropshipping.
But above all I am going to explain to you how I would do it if I started an online store with this business model today.
How to do ecommerce with little investment thanks to dropshipping
If there is something that makes dropshipping especially attractive compared to other online business models, it is, without a doubt, its little or no barrier to entry.
That is, for
do GETTING STARTED with dropshipping does not need a large economic investment, or very advanced technical knowledge. What you will need the most is time.
But since you probably still don’t know what dropshipping is all about, I’m going to explain it to you quickly before delving further into the subject. Quiet! Believe me if I tell you that pronouncing it is more difficult than understanding it hehe …
What is dropshipping?
Dropshipping is an ecommerce technique in which the owner of the online store (also called a dropshipper ) acts as an intermediary between the customer and the actual seller .
The actual seller is usually a large product supplier working with multiple dropshippers at the same time.
And what benefit does the owner of the online store get? You may be wondering …
Well, here the dropshipper has the freedom to put the price he wants to the products and thus define the profit margin with which he wants to work. In other words, the supplier does not impose a minimum PVP (Retail Price) to work with him.
The great advantage of dropshipping is that you do not have to invest anything in buying stock of products , so you do not need to physically have a warehouse to store them, or even take care of shipping the orders. All this is done by the provider.
All the dropshipper has to do is collect the orders and notify the supplier.
Where to find product suppliers?
Finding good product suppliers is vital for a dropshipping online store to become profitable.
These are, from my point of view, the minimum requirements that a dropshipping provider should meet in order of priority:
- That the products are of quality . We do not look for top brand products, but they do have a minimum quality that guarantees that we will not have many returns.
- Have experience selling online . I usually discard those that have been selling for less than 5 years.
- Good prices . For a dropshipping store to work, we need to offer attractive prices, but that in turn give us a minimum profit margin (at least 50% for medium-low ticket products; € 20-50). Conclusion; we need to buy cheap.
- Fluent communication . That is, if we contact the provider, it does not take a week to respond.
This is very important to take into account in case we have to manage a return.
Taking these requirements into account, it is usual to look directly for suppliers in China. And the web par excellence for this is AliExpress.com.
Apart from AliExpress there are other marketplaces from which to look for suppliers, such as: eBay or DealExtreme.
However, the biggest drawback of these two is that they are not compatible with the main dropshipping tools, the product catalog is usually smaller and the prices somewhat higher. Hence, AliExpress is still the most used option today.
Start with the most important thing: the niche.
The market niche that you are going to focus on will make the difference between the success or failure of your dropshipping online store , even before you start selling.
A very common mistake that is repeated over and over again among people who start dropshipping is that they spend 10% of the time (at most) looking for the market niche and 90% to set up the store.
If you really want to have a chance of dropshipping success, don’t skimp on finding your niche. If you need 4-5 days to do it, go ahead! It will be your time best spent.
Seriously, be patient at this stage of the process and carefully analyze the pros and cons of each niche you study. Because this will be one of the few things that you will not be able to change once you launch the store.
To make it a little easier for you, I am going to share with you below a checklist of requirements that a good niche for dropshipping should fulfill.
- Focus on a very specific niche , the more specific the better. This will greatly reduce your competition, help you to stand out more easily from the rest and make your store a reference for your target audience.
Example of a specific niche would be: training material for yoga lovers.
- If there is already someone selling, all the better . I’m not saying to look for niches saturated with a lot of competition, but rather to look for a balance between specialization and market size .
That is, if you find a very specific niche that you find interesting and you do not detect any competition. Hmm … that niche is probably too small or not profitable and that’s why no one has stayed with it.
- Avoid complex products . The easier the product is to understand, the easier it will be to sell and the less likely it is to receive returns. For this reason, if you are starting in this, I would not recommend entering the technology or electronics niches.
- Focus on mid-ticket products . That is, products that you can sell from € 20 to € 100 and that allow you to apply a good profit margin.
Selling “non-brand” products above that price consistently over time is going to be tricky. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it will certainly be much more complicated.
- Make it timeless . This means that it does not depend on specific dates / seasons of the calendar for sales. So I would recommend that you try to avoid niches related to; halloween, christmas, summer, etc
- That allows you to create attractive content for social networks (Facebook and Instagram especially). This, which may seem silly at first, will give you a beastly advantage over other niches that don’t have it. Mainly because it will allow you to quickly get a qualified audience at a very low cost.
- That it has a stable consumption trend and if it is increasing, the better . Forget about fads and niches “hit”. You can use Google Trends to get a rough idea.
Do you remember the spinners? Well, that’s a good example of a niche “hit” that you should avoid.
Look at the Google search trend for that product since it appeared on the market.
And please burn this to yourself; “More products in the store, does NOT mean more sales.” I know dropshipping ecommerce with 4, 5 or even a single product, which have managed to invoice several thousand euros per month.
A good example of a niche that would meet all of the above requirements could be gel manicure.
It is a very specific micro niche within the giant beauty sector, but at the same time it is large enough to generate a good volume of sales. The products are not complex, the price is average ticket and their search trend has been quite stable in recent years and most likely will continue to be.
AliDropship, the definitive tool for dropshipping with AliExpress and WooCommerce.
Well, we already know that AliExpress is the marketplace par excellence to find dropshipping suppliers with attractive prices and minimal guarantees.
Now, can you imagine for a moment what it would mean to have to manually replicate all the orders you receive in your online store on AliExpress?
And when I say replicate, I mean repeat the entire process on AliExpress; search the products, select the configuration options if it is variable, add them to the cart, enter billing / shipping information and make payment. And all that for each new order you receive.
At first, with very few orders, it might even become feasible to do so. But as the number of daily orders grew, it would be practically impossible to manage manually.
You would have to spend most of your time just doing that and the chances of making mistakes with orders would grow exponentially.
Luckily, today there are already tools and plugins that allow you to connect your WooCommerce store with AliExpress so that all the orders you receive are automatically generated in AliExpress without you having to do anything at all.
So that you don’t have to spend a good part of your time looking for the perfect tool, I have already done that analysis work for you.
AliDropship is the most complete plugin to sync WooCommerce with AliExpress and dropship like a pro.
Main advantages of AliDropship over other plugins
- Allows bulk import of AliExpress products. This would save a lot of time in creating product sheets.
- Automatic price and inventory update.
- System cash-back . This functionality is super interesting because it allows you to earn up to 12% extra for each order .
Simply explained, what this system does is place orders with your AliExpress affiliate ID (you can create a free affiliate account) so that they also pay you commissions for recommending their products. And best of all, it makes it automatic
- Automatic price rules. Another feature that will save you a lot of time. With this you can define conditions so that the prices of the products to be imported are automatically calculated and thus not have to define prices one by one.
For example a rule could be; apply to all products between € 15 and € 30 a 100% margin at the original price and round decimals to XX, 99 cents.
- Good documentation, detailed, with examples, videos and screenshots.
- Good technical support. That is, if you need to contact the support team to resolve an incident, they do not take more than 24 hours to answer me. (They also have chat support).
- Great community of users behind. This always makes your life easier when it comes to finding information or answering questions.
- Newsletter with lots of guides, tips, success stories and tricks for dropshipping.
- Economical price. Yes, Alidropship is a paid plugin, but the great advantage is that you only pay once and you have professional support and updates forever. I also think that its price is quite cheap for everything it includes. Just for the support and all the features it brings, it’s worth it.
As if those were few reasons, now you can buy your Alidropship license with a 15% discount using the following coupon: STARTER15
Why don’t I recommend a free plugin?
Well, the main reason is because you cannot demand any type of support nor do you have guarantees that it will be kept up to date. And honestly, if you are serious about dropshipping, it is the least you should invest in.
How does AliDropship work?
The first thing you should know is that this plugin has two versions, one for WordPress and the other exclusively for WooCommerce. (With the purchase of a license you will have access to both).
It goes without saying that the version you should use is WooCommerce.
Once the plugin is activated, a shortcut to the AliDropship configuration will appear in the main menu of the WordPress admin panel.
The first thing to do once you enter the configuration panel is to register the plugin license to be able to configure it. The license key is a long combination of letters and numbers and it is sent to you by email when you purchase the plugin.
You just have to paste it into the field that I show you below and click on “Activate”:
Well, you already have the plugin license activated, so the next thing will be to configure the general settings from “AliExpress> Settings”. In this section you can configure things like:
- Add a note on orders. This is very important as it allows you to notify the supplier that you are a dropshipping seller and that you only want them to contact you if there is an issue with the order.
- Activate order tracking.
- Or include your Aliexpress affiliate url to activate the cash-back option I talked about earlier.
Apart from that, it is important that you leave the update settings well configured from the beginning. With these settings you will tell AliDropship how to update the information of the products when they change in AliExpress .
You will find these settings in the “AliExpress> Updates” section and you can define in detail what you want AliDropship to do in the following cases:
- The product is out of stock on AliExpress.
- A product variation runs out of stock.
- The AliExpress provider updates the inventory, that is, it changes the number of available units of the products.
- The supplier changes the price.
From here you can also activate AliDropship’s automatic product update system and choose how often you want all these changes to be checked on AliExpress.
As you can see in the previous image, you can choose between updates once a day, a week or a month.
IMPORTANT: You must bear in mind that this automatic update system only works if you have the Google Chrome browser open . If you don’t usually have your browser open, you can also do the manual update with a single click.
Finally, without going into detail about them, here is a list of the main options that allows you to configure AliDropship:
- One-click predefined price rules. Of course you can also configure yours from scratch.
Multi-currency to display prices in different currencies.Color variations picker with thumbnails.
Activity reporting dashboard. You will have access to a complete record of all the changes that the products undergo in AliExpress ordered by dates.Order tracking report dashboard.
Migration assistant to export the configuration to other stores and save you hours of work.
How to import products from AliExpress with AliDropship?
Although we already have AliDropship installed in WooCommerce, I have not really explained how to connect our online store with AliExpress to be able to import products and register orders automatically.
To do this we are going to need a new tool that will “bridge” between WooCommerce and AliExpress. This tool is an extension for Chrome that we must install in the browser and that receives the same name as the plugin, AliDropship.
Once the extension is installed, you will see an icon like the one below in the browser bar.
Click on it, write the url of the home of your store and click on the “Add” button. Then WordPress will ask for your permission so that the AliDropship extension can connect with your store and act as a bridge with AliExpress. Click on “Authorize” to allow the connection and voila!
Listen to me. It may seem complicated, but I assure you that it is only 3 steps and in less than 1 minute you have it.
From now on, when you enter AliExpress and you are logged in with your customer account (you can create one for free without buying anything) you will see a red bar with the name of AliDropship at the top of the page.
With this bar you will be able to select the products to import, search with one click the suppliers with the best price , modify the information of each product if you need it and even edit the images and thus import only what really interests you.
Some Important Considerations About AliDropship
- In order to use AliDropship you need to have ionCube installed on your hosting or server. I am not going to go into details of what ionCube is because it is irrelevant for this post, but if for some reason your hosting does not have it, when you activate AliDropship it will show you a message like the following:
The solution is simple. Contact your hosting support and in a matter of minutes, they will activate it. I at least had no problem with SiteGround, in 5 minutes I already had it.
- I don’t recommend importing product descriptions for 2 reasons; Google can penalize you for duplicate content and secondly, the descriptions are usually very poorly translated into Spanish and poorly optimized for SEO. So to avoid this, it is best that you write them.
- Beware of product image file names . When you import the products from AliExpress, the images are automatically uploaded to the WordPress media library with file names (combination of numbers and letters) not optimized for SEO.
The solution is quite simple. Once all the photos have been imported, you can modify the file name to optimize it for SEO with the free Media File Renamer Auto plugin .
TIP: Whenever you add products from a new supplier to your store, always make a trial purchase beforehand to see the quality of the product first-hand. This is the best way to validate if the supplier is of quality .
Driving traffic to our dropshipping store.
You may have hit the niche, found the best product provider and have an online store with the best design in the world and still not sell ANYTHING.
challenge work begins when you have to publicize your online store and drive traffic to it.
Once you have reached this point, you must be aware that it is not enough just to dedicate your time but you will have to invest money in advertising to capture your first traffic and start selling as soon as possible.
If someone promises you that you will get sales in a couple of weeks without investing a single euro, they are probably lying to you.
In dropshipping – as in any online business – a minimum investment is needed to have any chance of success. I at least don’t know how to do it any other way.
And now yes, we are going to see the 2 main ways of attracting traffic that you have.
SEO vs Paid Traffic
The first thing I want to make clear is that neither is better than the other, both have their pros and cons. But luckily, both are complementary and in fact, I recommend that you work both in parallel .
I’ll tell you how I would do it if I started a dropshipping ecommerce now.
Starting with advertising to gain traction
During the first month of any ecommerce project, it will be practically impossible to get direct sales from organic traffic through SEO. Therefore, at the beginning I recommend 100% to pull paid traffic through advertising so that the store achieves the first sales.
The ideal to grow fast is that during the first weeks (I would say at least the first 2 or 3 months) the profits are reinvested in paying for the publication and creating new campaigns or raising a budget for those that already work, if we can afford it.
So from now on when I talk about advertising campaigns, I will refer to campaigns on Facebook and Instagram ADS. (It could also be done with Google Ads, but I don’t recommend it to begin with because it is more complex to manage and more expensive).
I am not going to go into the detail of how to create FB and Instagram Ads campaigns because that alone would give to write a series of 10 posts like this hehe …
What if I am going to show you is the advertising strategy that I would continue taking into account that we start with a small budget.
Suppose we have a budget of € 5 / day and would spread it over 2 campaigns:
- DISSEMINATION: € 3 / day for a dissemination campaign . EYE! This campaign is aimed at cold traffic. It is not for sale, so no buy buttons or prices or offers. Because if you do, you will be wasting money, no one will buy from you cold and even less without knowing you at all.
- SALE: € 2 / day for campaign directed to sale.
What is sought with the dissemination campaign is to generate empathy, publicize our brand and the product through valuable content that is entertaining. (Think of the typical posts that people share on your wall because they are curious and attract attention.)
Quick lists of tips, tricks or curiosities usually work very well for this type of campaign. If, in addition to photos, we use video creatives for ads, the reach skyrockets and the CPC drops.
It goes without saying that you will have to try different copy, audience, images, videos, etc., and measure which ad works best.
It is very important that you also add a button or link to these ads that leads to a web page where this information is expanded in more detail. BUT I REITERATE; nothing to sell on this page.
Once you have enough data on impressions, interactions and clicks in the campaign, then it will be time to “take out the heavy guns” and show the sale ads.
The sales campaign will already show ads for the product / s with the buy button. But you should keep in mind that you should only show them to people who have at least clicked on the links in the broadcast ads (and if you have used video, who have seen at least 70% of it).
Obviously this strategy is not perfect for all niches or the only one that works. It is the one that I have proven that has given me the best result with a small budget.
IMPORTANT: Although the majority of Aliexpress providers ship worldwide, I recommend that you first focus on selling only to the public in your country and that therefore, limit the advertising campaigns you do to that geographical area.
Vitamining with SEO content to not depend on advertising
As I have already mentioned before, it is very important that you work in parallel with the SEO strategy of the store for two simple reasons:
- You will get a constant source of qualified traffic at zero cost.
- You can greatly reduce the CPC of your campaigns thanks to the fact that this SEO traffic will allow you to create much more qualified audiences with the Facebook pixel.
The SEO of the home page, the categories and of course, the product sheets begins to work . Always focusing the content of these pages on transactional keywords, that is, for searches that indicate a clear purchase intention.
For example, if the online store is for gel manicure products, a transactional keyword could be; « Price uv nail lamps «.
A very common SEO mistake in ecommerce is not optimizing the content of the product category pages and using them only to show the list of products.
If you want to have a minimum possibility that your product categories position, they should always include a part of text that is original (no copy and paste from other websites), descriptive and focused on transactional words for that category.
It is not necessary to write a text of 1000 words, with texts of 200-300 words is more than enough.
Obviously just because you add text they will not position the categories, apart from that you will have to optimize:
- The information architecture and internal linking of the store. If the online store has several product categories, I recommend you always work with a SILO architecture.
- The link building. You will need quality external inbound links to gain authority.
- The anchor texts of the links. Every time you link any of the “strong pages” of the store, you should vary the texts and not abuse the exact keyword. You have to try to be as natural as possible.
As you can see, there are quite a few things to work on, but don’t wait until you have everything perfect to index the categories . Once you have defined the web architecture and you have added the texts to the categories, you will be able to index them and little by little work on the link building.
It goes without saying that if your dropshipping online store only has 1, 4 or 5 products, it doesn’t make sense to use categories.
What nobody tells you about dropshipping
We have almost reached the end, but I could not say goodbye without first giving you my most honest opinion about this ecommerce model.
I honestly believe that there are still interesting niches to exploit in dropshipping and I still believe that it is a good option if you want to start in the world of ecommerce and you do not have products to sell nor can you afford to invest a lot of money.
Now, I also admit that I am tired of seeing advertising by “experts” selling you the promise that anyone can invoice € 300 / day with dropshipping in a few weeks and without investing hardly any money.
Sorry to spoil the party, but things don’t work like that.
I’m not saying it can’t be done, but of course you are going to have to invest a lot of time and money and still, doing this is not going to guarantee that you will achieve it.
- Selling with dropshipping is the same or more complicated than with a traditional ecommerce model.
- Delivery times too long (14-18 days on average). This is a great disadvantage if you compete with sellers with their own stock who can ship in 24/48 hours.
- You have no control over the shipping logistics.
- Management of returns directly with the distributor . You are the one who faces any incident with the customer, so you will also have to take care of managing the returns and communicate with the supplier.
- You also have to invest a lot of time and some money if you want to be successful . Every business requires your sacrifice and this was not going to be less.
At least you will have to make a small investment in advertising and acquire a good dropshipping tool.
- If you want to keep the project long-term, you will have to buy stock and sell your own products. I remind you that the entry barrier for a dropshipping business is minimal, so if you find a good niche where there is business, sooner or later the competition will grow.
It will no longer be enough to have low prices, you will have to offer more competent delivery times, a more agile return policy, faster customer service, etc.
Now yes, as the French say; c’est fini!
I hope it has helped you to have a more complete vision about everything that involves starting an online store with dropshipping.
So if you were thinking of creating a dropshipping project, go ahead!
Research, experiment, test, measure and test again … Whatever you do, DO NOT GIVE UP EVER.