Internet has entered our lives more than 20 years ago. Back then it was a rarity because only 1% of people knew what it was and use it only for work. Today more than 3.5 billion of people consider themselves active users of Internet and the number is growing every day. According to the statistics, every day 10 more people join the population of online world. It’s a separate universe, the world within world, but since it’s inhabited by us, this virtual realm is not so different from offline reality.
There’re folks who work online, study, socialize, shop, fall in love, get married … And of course earn and spend money. There are quite a few ways to make money on the Internet, but it all boils down to sale of goods or services. It is a huge market that does not even require your physical presence anywhere, all you need is a computer and access to the Internet.
No wonder that it’s difficult to imagine the volume of sales and purchases that are being made every second and the number of deals. Profits are staggering but so are expenditures, since there’s just no way to earn a lot without spending a lot first. Well, almost. The name of that exception is dropshipping.
Dropshipping is almost perfect and risk-free way to build a successful business. It offers a lot of advantages including no need for start capital or warehouses, and very few drawbacks, which could be easily eliminated with the sufficient preparation and careful planning. So let’s look step by step at building a prosperous, profitable business without any expenses and having a lot of fun along the way.
1. Identifying products and target audience
You must consider all the characteristics and features of the products you’re going to sell. We advise starting with something that you already interested in. That way initial research would be minimized, since we like knowing all kinds of stuff about the things we’re passionate about, including best manufacturers and trends. Opt for a small range of products that you yourself wouldn’t mind at least browse and that would be a perfect starting point.
Legal issues research and market analysis are the next steps since knowing the competition is always a wise politics and need for special permits or licenses can be daunting to say the least. For example, did you know that import of knives or throwing weapons including the souvenirs from China is rather limited?
As to the market analysis, we have only one advice: browse, browse and browse some more. Look at the other stores and pay attention to the reviews and ratings. Unlike you these stores probably have the whole departments working on sales and marketing, so use this information to your advantage.
Such places as Oberlo, Ebay Daily Deals, Amazon Best Sellers, etc. are your holy grails at this point. Any popular social shopping site like Polyvore and Pinterests is another invaluable source of data, so it’s worth your time and attention setting up an account there.
2. Sourcing for dropship suppliers
There’re paid solutions but first of all we don’t trust them for obvious reasons (there’re ALL kinds of advertising, we weren’t born yesterday) and secondly we’re considering scenario with initial capital investment of… well…. $0 cash.
We recommend googling the products that you’d like to sell, but skip first pages of search results, which most probably will be occupied by large companies. We all know that like attracts like, and these kind of suppliers are probably interested in large orders (not our case today).
So start with page 3 or 4 and look for small and medium-sized companies who are looking for ways to grow and are more likely to cooperate with not too mature businessmen who aren’t yet at the top. These kind of companies don’t show up on the first result pages simply because they can’t afford spending a lot on expensive SEO services and advertising.
3. Two DON’Ts
Don’t try to rent or set up an office before you’re sure that you have a solid business and earning money that would cover having an actual working space and hiring employees. In the beginning working from home is totally fine (at this stage your business won’t care if you are wearing nice suit or pajamas).
Setting up a legal entity is another thing that can wait a bit. The first weeks and even months of a new business are a time of uncertainty and hard work. Later on, perhaps after 3 or 4 months, doing everything by the book would be a good idea, but at the moment you should devote all your resources to nurturing your company.
4. Creating a store
You can start selling on eBay or Amazon, but the competition there is measured in thousands. But why become just another faceless person in a crowd when you can stand out with Shopify, an acknowledged leader, who already had helped thousands to grow from zero to hero?
So, pick up any name from the hat (something generic like BestDeals, you can work on that later on) and go to Shopify.com. Choose ‘Start your free trial’, type in the name of your store and click ‘Create your store’.
5. Using Star theme
Stop, don’t point out at thousands of other themes. Yes, we know, that a lot of Shopify themes can’t be called anything but good, but do you want to settle for mediocre when you can have the best? After all, isn’t getting away from ‘nine-to-five’ way of life is the reason of venturing out to brave the wild waters of e-commerce? Star is the ship that will unerringly guide you to seemingly unreachable shores of success and we can prove it.
First, it’s free. Like totally free. Like costs nothing but looks so impressive, that people might think that you just spent all your budget on hiring big names in web design.
It ridiculously easy to set up and configure and at the same time offers plenty of resources to customize everything according to your vision. So even if you know close to nothing about designing a store, it’s no biggie. You start simple and grow sophisticated later, it’s THAT easy. Thanks to its excellent visuals, Star will make your presence among the competition prominent, which is of utmost importance. Just download it and start working on your store.
6. Adding content to your store
You can use prepared logo but if you don’t have one ready, use Shopify Logo Maker and play around until you’ll like the results. After that it’s time to fill out the standard pages. Keep it simple!
Remember, users on the Web aren’t behaving all that differently from customers in a brick-and-mortar store. Let the words ‘usability’ and ‘utility’ became your mantra and concentrate on making the structure of your page as user-centric as possible. So, start with the basic set of sections: ‘About Us’, ‘Terms & Conditions’, ‘Privacy & Returns Policy’, ‘Shipping & Delivery Information’, and ‘Contact Us’.
About Us. Don’t spend too much on that now, just say a few things and be done with it. You are not famous enough for any visitor to be interested in something besides buying. Yet.
Shipping & Delivery Information. Just copy from any seller on AliExpress since prices and timeframes are rather similar.
Contact Us. Very important! Remember that shoppers will be contacting you and not the supplier for all kinds of reasons, so check and double check that all shoppers can clearly see ‘Contact Us’ link on your landing page. To create a contact page, click the ‘Add New Page’ button and change the page template to ‘Contact’.
To create policy pages for your store, chose ‘Settings’ → ‘Checkout’ and go to the Refund, Privacy, and TOS statements section to create them.
When money is involved, you want your customers’ purchasing experience on your site to be as smooth and convenient as possible and Shopify Payments is a good payment gateway. Connect PayPal gateway to your store and prepare for getting actual $$$.
7. Last Touches
‘Now can I open the doors for a stampede of shopaholics and start getting five-digit sums?’ Almost there. Just a few suggestions before the grand opening.
Shipping and billing
We recommend offering a free shipping for all your orders for now. Go ‘Settings’ → ‘Shipping’, delete all shipping zones that are non-international, and edit the international zone rate to Free. Later on you can add various options but for now it’s enough. For billing go to ‘Settings’ → ‘Account’ and type in your billing data.
In Seal We Trust
Trust seal can increase visitors’ confidence and trust and also lift up conversion rates and sales. This ‘trust badge’ on a checkout page will convince potential customers that the purchasing process in your store is safe and secure.
Shopify offers Free Trust Seals App (free plan available) that can prove to the shoppers that you are to be trusted. Moreover, many Web-savvy folks actually are used to seeing these badges on popular e-commerce sites and therefore may consider a store without such seal not worthy of spending money.
While ads yield almost instant results, SEO is the key to ranking high in search results and therefore to increasing sales. Creating blog content and optimizing product pages would go a long way towards building an audience of potential customers. It costs nothing in terms of money but can draw in deep-pocketed people, which is what you’re after.
You also need to optimize your site for conversions. Make a checklist with such questions as ‘do I use scarcity and urgency to convince people to buy?’, ‘did I add reviews for social proofing?’, ‘did I make my store cluttered or too simplistic?’ and make sure that you’re satisfied with answers.
Buy cheaper today! And get three for the price of two!
Compelling people to buy the product that they can get in other stores can be difficult especially in the beginning. The solution is making most of words like ‘sale’ and ‘discount’. Select the right product, make a great offer and you’ll easily convert visitors, who came in just to look, into paying customers.
Bundle deal is another great way to earn money that many e-store owners overlook (take advantage of that). Focus on selling more of the same product. If something is popular, people will appreciate a way to get more of it for less money. Upsell, upsell and upsell.
Sample what you offer
At first your product assortment will probably be small or limited, so ordering samples from your supplier is a sound idea. Besides opportunity of taking better photos and videos of the product, you’ll get the chance to try out the product for yourself and write convincing and accurate descriptions. Which also means eliminating potential customer complaints in advance.
Internet influencers are great motivators
Did you know that Instagram gives brands 25% more engagement than any other social platform and it generates a higher average order value than Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus?
Try finding in Instagram popular accounts that may consider featuring your product to their massive audience of followers. Also try contacting bloggers, vloggers, and press. You don’t have to try with the most famous and successful people. Your best bet would be people with smaller but steady audiences, because they’re not constantly spoiled by people who are looking for a feature. Remember that the loyalty of the audience matters as much as its size.
In the end
We are positive that with the right information, preparation, platform, theme, strategy and tools, your dropshipping business can take off and fly higher than sky. You can be the next success story starting with $0 and going to $1m and more. Becoming a pro at dropshipping requires time, careful research, and planning and it’s the easiest way to start an online business.
It’s also wonderful way of testing new product ideas and learning in the process. Right tools and services, used in conjunction with dropshipping, not only facilitate and automate more complicated aspects, but also eliminate potential pitfalls. Just arm yourself with courage and determination, plan ahead and you’ll reach the top of e-commerce Everest. Best of luck!
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