What is dropshipping?

what is dropshipping

Dropshipping is a retail fulfillment method where a store doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a store sells a product using the dropshipping model, it purchases the item from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer. As a result, the seller doesn’t have to handle the product directly.

The biggest difference between dropshipping and the standard retail model is that the selling merchant doesn’t stock or own inventory. Instead, the seller purchases inventory as needed from a third party—usually a wholesaler or manufacturer—to fulfill orders.

Benefits of dropshipping

Dropshipping is a great business model for aspiring entrepreneurs to start with because it’s accessible. With dropshipping, you can quickly test different business ideas with limited downside, which lets you learn a lot about how to choose and market in-demand products. Here are a few other reasons why dropshipping is such a popular model.

1. Less capital is required

Probably the biggest advantage to dropshipping is that it’s possible to launch an ecommerce store without having to invest thousands of dollars in inventory up front. Traditionally, retailers have had to tie up huge amounts of capital purchasing inventory.

With the dropshipping model, you don’t have to purchase a product unless you’ve already made the sale and have been paid by the customer. Without significant up-front inventory investments, it’s possible to start sourcing products and launch a successful dropshipping business with very little money. And because you’re not committed to selling-through any inventory purchased up front, like in a traditional retail business, there’s less risk involved in starting a dropshipping store.

2. Easy to get started

Running an ecommerce business is much easier when you don’t have to deal with physical products. With dropshipping, you don’t have to worry about:

  • Managing or paying for a warehouse
  • Packing and shipping your orders
  • Tracking inventory for accounting reasons
  • Handling returns and inbound shipments
  • Continually ordering products and managing stock level

3. Low overhead

Because you don’t have to deal with purchasing inventory or managing a warehouse, your overhead expenses are quite low. In fact, many successful dropshipping stores are run as home-based businesses, requiring little more than a laptop and a few recurring expenses to operate. As you grow, these costs will likely increase but will still be low compared to those of traditional brick-and-mortar businesses.

4. Flexible location

A dropshipping business can be run from just about anywhere with an internet connection. As long as you can communicate with suppliers and customers easily, you can run and manage your business.

5. Wide selection of products to sell

Since you don’t have to pre-purchase the items you sell, you can offer an array of trending products to your potential customers. If suppliers stock an item, you can list it for sale on your online store at no additional cost.

6. Easier to test

Dropshipping is a useful fulfillment method for both launching a new store and for business owners looking to test the appetite customers have for additional product categories, e.g., accessories or wholly new product lines. The main benefit of dropshipping is, again, the ability to list and potentially sell products before committing to buying a large amount of inventory.

7. Easier to scale

With a traditional retail business, if you receive three times the number of orders, you’ll usually need to do three times as much work. By leveraging dropshipping suppliers, most of the work to process additional orders will be borne by the suppliers, allowing you to expand with fewer growing pains and less incremental work.

Sales growth will always bring additional work—especially related to customer support—but businesses that utilize dropshipping scale particularly well relative to traditional ecommerce businesses.

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