Imagine having top companies invent, design and buy products, test the market, employ world class copywriters to describe their products, hire top-notch graphic designers and photographers – and give you the whole lot FREE OF CHARGE! Well, that's exactly what you can do when you start using dropshipping as part of your eBay business.
This article reveals the inside strategies for getting this to work for you.
'Dropshipping' describes a process whereby a manufacturer or supplier delivers products directly to your customers without you ever needing to stock or pre-purchase goods.
Typically you list products on eBay, using your own or supplying companies' graphics and descriptions; you take payment, give the supplying company your buyers' names and addresses, and they send the product.
That's your part done; now you can go back to selling.
That's the theory, in practice it can be so different. Dropshipping is a wonderful way to make big money fast, and about the best way to lose money, too.
Sadly, it's a fact that many business owners – including dropshipping companies – care more about money than customer care and this can reflect badly for you, in the form of buyer complaints, poor quality products, long delays between customers paying and receiving their goods.
The onus is on you to take care of your business, and your customers, so be as careful picking dropshipping partners as you are planning all other aspects of your business.
MORE ABOUT DROPSHIPPING
* Some so-called dropshipping offers border on scams, asking a high fee to access a site, where you'll find more firms offering dropshipping information who in turn ask payment to access their sites, and so on, and so on. Where products are accessible with graphics and sales materials for your eBay listings, oftentimes the goods are rubbish, sometimes they're grossly overpriced. They might be seconds, end of line, customer returns, damaged … you get the picture!
* That said, there are many excellent paid-for membership sites offering sound contact details for worldwide dropshipping companies. Some membership sites continuously scrutinise their recommended suppliers, and score entries 1 to 5, acceptable to excellent, based on member feedback. The best we found, Worldwide Brands, is eBay acknowledged and operated by Chris Malta, Product Sourcing Editor of eBay Radio. The company has a team of researchers on constant lookout for new dropshipping and wholesale suppliers to add to their directory.
* Find dropshipping companies yourself via their own advertisements in local newspapers (not national; too competitive), at trade shows, by word of mouth from sellers of non-competing products. Search for them online via search engines such as http://www.google.com (our preference); use appropriate keywords like 'manufacturers dolls (or other product) New York (or other location)'.
* Look for firms selling lots of different products, on a related or unrelated theme. Within hours of deciding to sell dog featured jewelry, we searched http://www.google.com and found two firms willing to dropship their wide ranging products to our customers, with no minimum order, and a CD of graphics and sales materials arriving next day. Another firm, based a few miles from us, has more than twelve different products for over 100 breeds of dog, and no one currently selling their products on eBay! No graphics either, so we checked their products, bought one of each, and created our own unique listings.
* Typically you pay the supplier an agreed amount per shipment upfront, although some will invoice you later. For local firms you can pop down, offer their share, hand over delivery labels. When you have a good supplier, ask permission to pack goods yourself at their premises so you can insert special offer flyers, money-off vouchers. For distant suppliers keep close tabs on how well they serve your customers. See the next paragraph.
* Negative feedback is much more likely using dropshipping and other partner companies than where you handle all customer transactions direct. With the wrong partners you could generate bad feeling, requests for refund, negative feedback, dismissal from eBay. Check partner companies by reading feedback from your customers. Look for problem delivery times, product quality concerns, poor customer service. Mounting negatives with similar complaints signify problems you must correct or seek new suppliers.
* My experience of dropshipping has been exceptionally good. I have companies posting products to my customers minutes after they get my faxed order and they always put my company details into the package, never their own. They don't poach my customers, they've never asked payment from me up front, they're better than I'd hoped for. Getting them was remarkably easy and all down to good communications. I telephone every potential dropshipper before promoting their products. I get to know the other person, determine how serious they are about their business, how approachable they are. Those I have chosen for my business talked more about customers and products than money, they were considerate and caring, keen to please. That first impression has always served me well. Do the same, you won't be disappointed.
* If problems ensue, don't blame the dropshipper without checking first. It could be you haven't explained your requirements properly, they may have serious business or personal problems, it could be coincidence or a batch of particularly difficult customers to blame for those negatives. Be careful, check thoroughly, and have an emergency plan for major problems. Have plenty of eggs in your basket: use several dropshippers, not just one, and have quality replacements waiting in line.
* Sales materials and graphics are normally provided by larger suppliers or can be downloaded from their web sites. Some have printed catalogs from which you can scan product pictures, others have CDs containing digital pictures. Using their pictures and descriptions makes life a lot easier for you; you won't spend time and money buying products, taking pictures, creating descriptions. But typically, the bigger the company, the more aggressive their marketing, and the more likely their products are known to other eBay sellers. The moral is to not rely solely on these bigger companies. Very often firms without sales materials and graphics are small companies, probably unknown to most other resellers, with fabulous products, and closer control over quality and communications. Of three companies providing my entire dog jewelry stock, two are one man set ups, the other a father and son business.
* Good organizational and communications skills are needed, especially where you sell hundreds of different products from numerous dropshipping and supplying companies. I've seen PowerSellers listing hundreds of thousands of products at one time, all totally different, and obviously from lots of individual suppliers. Imagine taking just one thousand orders a month (many eBayers take tens of thousands), where you must ensure each order reaches the correct fulfilment company, with accurate customer details, and proper payment. Complicated and very time-consuming! Far better sell a smaller range of high
profit items from a few select suppliers.
* Check competition on eBay for your dropshipping company and their products before planning to sell. I found a wonderful dropship firm for CDs, there were hundreds of different titles, their graphics were bright and colorful, a more professional organization was difficult to find. I joined their program, downloaded their graphics and sales materials, created and uploaded my listings, and waited, and waited, and nothing happened. Soon afterwards I checked for others selling similar products on eBay and found dozens of them. I should have checked first as in the next tip.
* Search competition for your product by keying the name, title or maker's name into the search box top right on eBay's home page. No entries for similar products might be good news for you, might because others might still be selling these products, just not right now. Bad news too because others might have tried selling similar products with little success. Lots of entries signals lots of competition, but view listings first to check similarity to your product. Where you find just a few people selling similar products, see how much they charge, check completed listings for how many sold and how many second chance offers were possible. More than five firms selling similar products worldwide, I'd say is one or two firms too many, except where they sell through auction and you choose shop only listings. If overseas firms sell similar products, but not internationally, consider selling in other countries.
NOT QUITE DROPSHIPPING BUT EVERY BIT AS GOOD
* Artists and craftworkers are keen on making, not so keen on marketing, and are my favorite source of quality products. I make a point of visiting local craft fairs at least once a month where I find exhibitors selling stunning creations at a tiny fraction of eBay prices for similar items, if any exist. Many items are unique or limited edition and never get seen beyond a few miles of their makers' homes. My eldest daughter obtains designer jewelry this way, my youngest opts for hand-made dolls and teddies, and I take watercolor paintings on hand-made paper from a young Chinese artist whose work I sell exclusively on eBay. She dropships for me direct to my customers. Visit these fairs once and you'll return time and again. You don't have to buy items, most craftworkers and artists will work on commission, rather like a dropshipper who takes payment and delivers the product when you make a sale. Most will dropship to your customers. Find craftwork fairs advertised in local weekend papers, usually under 'Items for sale', 'Fairs and auctions', 'Days out', or similar.