eCommerce has always been about convenience — why go to a store when you can shop and have your products delivered without getting up from the couch. But what a lot of would-be eCommerce store owners don’t know is that it’s a two-way street. For managers, setting up an eCommerce business can be just as convenient and done entirely from home… as long as you know how to use dropshipping.
Rather than managing costly warehouses and the staff to maintain them, a dropshipping supply model takes shipping out of the equation entirely, at least for the sellers. Your job as a dropshipping online store is to make sales and then — for a percentage of commission — pass the orders on to the manufacturers or wholesalers, who ship the products from their own storage.
You’re essentially a middleman between the customer and the supplier, but one who’s paid accordingly. And all that work can be done from the comfort of your own home. Of course, you have to understand the eCommerce business, online marketing, and sales trends... but that’s what this blog is for.
Like any business, it all starts with an idea. Online business ideas can come from anywhere. Have you spotted an opening in a lucrative market? Do you predict a trend or niche that others don’t see? Maybe you just want to turn your personal passion into your day job.
Whatever your motivation, you don’t want to “leap in” to an eCommerce business without doing your research. When you’re piecing together your business plan, consider:
Spocket was designed with these questions in mind. We list products by location and how much profit you stand to gain from the commission. That cuts down on a lot of your research and budgeting. All you have to do is browse and click.
If you’re new to eCommerce, you’re probably wondering “how much money does it take to start an online business?” In this area, dropshipping has a clear advantage, considering that it requires little capital to get started. However, you’ll still need to cover the costs of website hosting, digital marketing, and a few other minor fees along the way. That means your store will be more successful if you budget out your costs early on.
Put together a business plan — complete with a proposed list of products — and then crunch the numbers. How many sales would you need to cover all your costs? Are you confident that your marketing strategies can bring in that many customers? If not, keep tweaking your business model until its viable.
The most popular eCommerce platform is Shopify, and they’ve earned it. Their template-style, user-friendly interface makes web design a breeze, which is one of the obstacles that stops most people interested in eCommerce. Thanks to Shopify’s 3P app community, users can integrate different features to personalize their store — including our Spocket dropshipping app.
Last but not least, Shopify has five different pricing plans to accommodate businesses of any size.
BigCommerce is the number two eCommerce platform, although it targets more experienced and enterprise-level brands rather than newcomers. Although it offers plenty of exclusive features, the steep-learning curve and awkward pricing structure tend to scare off dropshippers.
If you prefer designing your own site instead of using a template, WooCommerce is another eCommerce leader. WooCommerce works as a WordPress plugin, meaning you can design your site anyway you want on WordPress and add eCommerce functionality with WooCommerce. For example, you could create a photography blog site, and then use WooCommerce to sell your personal prints. WooCommerce is also free-to-use, so you only have to worry about other costs.
Where your target customer base is should determine which suppliers you use. While AliExpress has been synonymous with dropshipping in the past, as the dropshipping market matures, other, better alternatives emerge.
For starters, AliExpress has scathing reviews from people who have used it in the past. One of the most common complaints is that products never arrive or that they’re defective with no refunds.
Moreover, AliExpress is based in China, which is fine if you’re a Chinese business selling to Chinese customers, but it can be costly for American eCommerce brands. If you’re selling outside of China, you’ll save more money using suppliers based where your customers are — not to mention cut down significantly on delivery times.
Once you get your internal business logistics sorted out, it’s time to shift your attention outwards to your customers. How do you reach out to your target customer groups? What influences their purchasing behavior?
Unfortunately, there is no one right answer. Different customer groups have different shopping behaviors and different interests. Posting a weekly blog may attract one type of customer, while paid Snapchat ads may attract another.
Before you make your first sale, you have to understand the mind of your shoppers. But rather than guess or assume, it’s better to base your decisions on concrete evidence. Collecting data and analytics on your target customers is always recommended, and in fact can save you money in the long-run by avoiding failed campaigns.
There are hundreds of different marketing strategies, so choose the one that fits your business best. Newer trends like influencer marketing or selling directly on social media may require some time to learn, but if that’s the outreach method your type of shoppers prefer, it’ll be worth the effort.
Technology has always been a friend to eCommerce, and recent trends in automation and virtual assistants are no exception. Even with dropshipping, there’s still a lot of “busy work” in setting up an eCommerce business: entering product data, monitoring orders fulfillment, and updating your site are tasks that practically anyone can do, but they take up valuable time that you could be using for higher-level tasks.
For all eCommerce, dropshipping or not, it’s recommended to use help. A virtual assistant refers to a remote worker who fulfills a daily workload, but at a fraction of the cost of an on-site assistant. Considering how the majority of an online store’s maintenance is online, it makes sense to save money by hiring remotely.
Help could also mean automation, through the help of apps like Zapier or Shopify Flow (available for Shopify Plus only), which allow you to create automated tasks. For example, you can set them to tag every customer who spends over $100, or add email addresses to your separate Mailchimp account. All and all, this kind of help saves your countless hours and make up for the minor costs.
If you’re looking for online business ideas to make money, a dropshipping eCommerce site is an obvious one. There’s very little startup capital needed, and you don’t have to worry about shipping logistics, the hardest part of eCommerce. As far as home business opportunities online go, dropshipping is one of the more forgiving when it comes to newcomers and upstarts. The only drawback is you have to teach yourself the different strategies and techniques for earning money online — but that’s why we have this blog!