What strategies exist to identify profitable dropshipping products?

Research, then more research, then a lot more research.

To find a profitable product you need to know the potential competition, what they are currently selling, and what they are selling the product for.

You need to know what areas have problems with no current solutions.

You need to know what products people are looking for and what they are willing to pay.

You need to be an expert so you can identify products that are currently being sold that may be marketed incorrectly. These are the kinds of products you can create an effective advertising campaign to reach the right customers in the right markets.

Take a walk thru your local mass merchant. What do you see? If you just see a big mess of assorted products, you need to look more closely. In a big brick and mortar store, every product in the store is placed there for a reason. Each store is organized by departments, and each department has an employee or staff at the corporate level that is in charge of each department. These are called buyers, category managers, product managers, merchandisers, or some other descriptive term. These are the “experts” that have done their research and determined what should be in the product mix or what should be offered for sale.

You need to develop your research so you become the expert with regards to your chosen product. Research and product knowledge are your strategies.

If drop shipping is so easy and profitable, Why aren’t more people doing it?

Drop shipping is only profitable if you have a unique product or brand name that makes you different from all of the competition.

  • If you are trying to sell by drop shipping the exact same item from the same supplier that many other sellers are buying from you will have trouble being competitively priced. You will be faced with razor thin profit margins. Remember, drop ship suppliers do charge you for their service and they really don’t care which one of their customers makes the final sale. They make the same profit no matter who sends them the order.
  • Also, you need to develop some unique and creative ways to convince the customer to buy from you instead of all of the other sellers offering the same product. If you try and compete on price alone, you have already lost the sales game. Someone else will always be willing to cut their price to compete, and if you are drop shipping and someone else is importing direct and fulfilling orders from their own warehouse, I guarantee, they are paying a lower price than you.

So here are the facts about drop shipping, good and bad:

Pros– Drop shipping makes it easy for you to enter the market. No big investment in inventory, no need for a warehouse of storage space, no need to pack and ship customer orders.

Cons– The same easy entry into the market means that it is easy for ANYONE to start a drop ship business. That means lots of competition on items.

Pros– You don’t have to pack and ship orders.

Cons- You have no control over how fast a drop ship supplier will process and ship your order for you. If a bigger customer comes along with more orders he may go to the head of the line, then maybe your orders gets pushed back and are not shipped for a day or 2.

Cons– Customer service by the drop ship supplier is not controlled. Maybe Gladys in the drop shippers customer service office takes a few sick days. Her job is to send you tracking numbers when the order is shipped. You have advertised to your customers next day shipping. All of a sudden you start to get a lot of customer calls and emails asking for tracking numbers. Your workload just when thru the roof. OOPS.

Cons– Returns. If a customer wants to return a defective product or just doesn’t like what he received how do you handle the return process. Do you accept the return back to your address? Or, do you have it returned back to the supplier and hope the supplier handles it properly. Remember, if you are selling on Amazon or eBay your account can be suspended because of poor service or lots of customer complaints. That would be a big price for you to pay for the convenience of drop shipping since it is extremely difficult to get your account reinstated.

Cons– Passive income. Many people advertise drop shipping as an easy way to make passive income. Let me assure you, drop shipping is not a passive business, no matter how much automation you can introduce in your order handling process. There are still many, many tasks that must be checked and verified. You must make sure your supplier does not run out of inventory. You must make sure your supplier hasn’t raised his price. You must make sure your supplier has actually shipped your orders on time and correctly, and then notify your customer of the ship date and tracking number. You must offer customer service to answer any questions or handle any problems.

As you can see from the list, there are a lot more cons than there are pros, and this is just a simple list. So why don’t more people drop ship? because it is not as easy as many people advertise it to be.

Can a small business outsource their marketing manager?

The question is can a small business outsource their marketing manager?  But just as important is the question, Should a small business outsource their marketing manager?Yes, as a small company you can, and many companies do outsource their marketing services.

Yes, as a small company you can, and many companies do outsource their marketing services. You outsource to get access to marketing skills you could not otherwise afford.  You outsource to access part-time “experts” to form and deliver your message.

Just make sure you can clearly communicate your company image and marketing goals to your outsourced manager so you can work towards a consistent company brand, image, and presentation. It was your idea, dedication, and hard work that started the company in the first place and you should have the best input about the direction you want for your company.  Try and maintain a working relationship with one marketing manager and don’t jump from marketing company to marketing company unless you are not getting the results you desire.

One of the most important messages a marketing program can project is consistency and a standardized image in all stages of the company presentation. You want customers to see you as a valued, professional company and a unified look on your website and marketing materials helps to build trust with your customers.

How do I start to import product from China into the USA and Canada?

Over the years I have exported many products to Canada from both China and from the United States. Fortunately, I was over 18 so I never had to face any of the issues you will face. I am not sure about the age of majority in Canada but to legally sign contracts you need to have reached that age. You may need to be at that age to set up an Amazon sellers account, register a business, open a business bank account, deal with Freight companies, and customs agents.

In the US the age is 18 is sign contracts, register businesses and all the other legal stuff you will need to do. The Good news is Income tax laws. In the USA the tax man will take money from anybody, and I would guess Canada will be similar. You will probably need to contact an accountant or Tax attorney for Canada specific regulations.

You want to create your own brand and yes this is legal to add your own label here or have the factory apply for you if the quantity is large enough. With China factories, everything is negotiable based on the quantity of order.

When you import you will have to make sure the product is labeled made in China. Most factories are very aware of this requirement so it is almost a no-brainer. If your laptop bags are constructed of manmade materials there should be no special labeling requirement. If you want to make them out of animal skins, you will need some additional documentation to show they are not made from endangered species skins. Other products like electronics, chemicals, food products, nutritional supplements, children’s toys and clothing, and more, all have must stricter requirements for labeling and certifications.

Product selection.

Do your research and planning carefully. You have mentioned laptop bags. If possible, pick products you have an interest in or are knowledgeable about. This simple step will make it a lot easier to develop unique sales content for your Amazon listings. Your goal will always be to figure out why a customer would buy from you rather than from one of your competitors.

Take a look at the listings of competitors selling on Amazon, you will see product after product being sold using exactly the same sales copy and photos as everyone else. You need to develop a unique look and sales approach to attract customers to your listing. I did a quick search on Amazon CA for laptop bags and there are only 503,901 listings to choose from. Many, many choices and many look very similar to each other.

Use unique high-quality photos and in use photos, Clothes on real people instead of mannequins, Auto parts installed on vehicles, product shots showing the product in use, anything to let your customer see the intended use and the benefits of the product.

Write unique sales copy detailing the product’s features and benefits. How will this product help the customer? What will it do for them? Will it make some part of their life easier or better? Will it solve a problem? Find something to say that your competition does not mention. Always list accessories required to hook up the product, tools required to install the product, anything necessary to enhance the performance of what the customer has purchased. The extra sales you make can make the difference between making a profit on a sale, and making a really good profit on the sale. You can charge a higher price since the customer will hit the buy button based on convenience. They don’t have to order from someone else, the items may help qualify for free shipping, etc.

Vendor selection.

You want to buy from China. There are a lot of options available.

  1. Aliexpress is good if you only want to buy a few pieces at a time. You won’t get the lowest price and shipping may be higher but, if the supplier does rip you off you have only invested a little bit of money.
  2. Alibaba- Many sellers are listed, some are factories, some are only trading companies, simply taking orders for the factories, and shipping to you. Again, for you as a small, newer seller, verification of the seller will be difficult. You pay upfront when you place the order and take your chances about when the product will be shipped, and the quality level you will receive. My recommendation is to hire an inspection service to do a quality check before the merchandise is shipped. If you receive a container load of bad quality merchandise it will be very difficult to negotiate a refund or return privilege to get the problem corrected.
  3. Search engines- You may be able to identify factories from their websites. Similar problems to buying from Alibaba.
  4. Trade shows- This would be my number # 1 choice to find suppliers. There are trade shows available for all types of product categories and located all over the world. Use your favorite search engine to find a listing of trade shows. Most major shows have many foreign factories exhibiting at the shows. These factories are usually very reliable since they do spend a lot to attend and exhibit at these shows. As a bonus, you may find a local supplier available where you can buy smaller quantities as needed to test the market.

Shipping and Customs clearance.

If you are only placing small orders that are being shipped by mail or EMS service, simply ask your supplier to quote you a delivered price to your destination. It is called CIF price and means the cost of merchandise, insurance, and freight.

If you are shipping larger orders by container, it will be best to use a freight forwarder and customs clearance agent. Some companies will handle both these functions, sometimes you will need to use separate companies. The freight arrangements, documents, required, and customs forms will be a little difficult for a beginner.

That is about it for a simple explanation. 500-page Textbooks have been written to cover most of the details and even them not everything can be covered easily.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask again.

Is e-commerce passive income?

E-commerce, especially with the acceptance and growth it has enjoyed over the last 20 years is still a great way to make money. But… and you know there is always a But with every question. E-commerce is about more than just throwing a few items to sell on a website or sales platform like Amazon or eBay. It is hard work and definitely not Passive Income.

Your success will depend on several things:

  1. Finding a unique product to sell. The competition for selling common items is intense. On all of the major sales platforms, you will find lots of sellers of similar products and razor thin profit margins unless you have something unique to sell.
  2. Developing unique and creative ways to advertise and market your product. You must figure out a way to make your products stand out from all the other similar products. You must give your customer a reason to buy from you instead of all the other competition. Write unique and creative sales copy. Take high-quality photos showing your products in their best way possible.
  3. Customer service. You must be able to answer customer questions in a timely manner, ship goods quickly, and handle any follow-up issues the customer may have. Be knowledgeable about your products so you can offer assembly or installation tips. You must appear professional and trustworthy before you can expect to give your customer sensitive information like credit card numbers.
  4. If you are going to sell from your own website you must market the hell out of your products so people know you exist. Customers can’t find you if they don’t know your name or if you even exist. You must be willing to use free marketing, social media marketing, paid advertising, email marketing, and whatever else it takes to drive traffic to your website.
  5. You must continually strive to improve. Add new products, seek out new marketing opportunities, and stay ahead of the competition.

Now when going thru all of the above points, nowhere do I mention passive income. E-commerce is not a passive business even with all of the advances made in the field of automation and performance apps. E-commerce takes hard work all the time. Researching and sourcing new products and new suppliers, writing and creating attractive advertising, and most importantly developing hands-on customer service.

Why you should try and sell higher priced items when you have a Niche.

Welcome to the world of retail. You will always have to remember that you have costs associated with any order. Then remember that it costs the same to process a $15.00 order as it does to process a $50.00 order.

When you have a niche, hopefully, you have chosen one that is unique that will allow you to sell higher priced items and make higher profits. If your product isn’t really unique or low competition, you really don’t have a “ Niche”.

You will pay someone to process an order, review it, make sure the payment has cleared, print a label and send it to your shipping department. They then must pick the merchandise from your inventory, choose the right sized box, package the merchandise securely, and ship it out. You then have to pay your customer service staff to notify the customer with a tracking number and to handle any customer service issues that might come up. You must also factor in the cost of potential returns.

Even if you are a solo operation and do all of these things yourself, you pay with your time and effort, because after all, time and your effort are valuable.

Here is a basic example. The numbers are just guesstimated to use as an example. I will assume you use Amazon to sell your merchandise.If you don’t use Amazon replace that selling fee with your sales, advertising, and marketing costs per order.

Item # 1 Sells for $15.00. The cost of goods, $7.50. Amazon selling fees ( estimated 15%), $2.25, order processing costs $3.00. carton costs, $1.00. Gross profit before fixed overhead and taxes= $1.25. That’s a lot of work to make $1.25.

Item # 2 sells for $50.00. The cost of goods, $25.00, Amazon selling fees, $7.50, order processing costs, $3.00, carton, $1.00. Gross profit before fixed overhead and taxes= $13.50. Decide for yourself. Which priced item would you rather sell?

You have to sell over 10 pieces of that $15.00 item to make the same gross profit as selling one $50.00 item. That is 10 times the effort and order handling.

Some people will say, “Let’s sell the low priced item and make it up on bigger sales volume”. It can be done but why work that hard?

You are young, you have a head full of ideas, but no money. How do you proceed?

Your young, your mind is filled with ideas but you have no money. Why not continue to work at your 9 to 5 job, use the time to learn about how a business is run and gain experience to help you when you are ready to execute some of your ideas? Take the time to live below your means and save as much as you can so you have some money to fund your ideas when you are ready. Everybody has to start somewhere and seldom do people have the skills to start at the top. Take your 9 to 5 job seriously, be curious and learn all you can, and you will find that you might even earn the respect of someone who can eventually be your mentor to help you succeed. Remember, you don’t find mentors, mentors find you based on what they see from your performance and dedication.

While you are developing your skills, take the time to firm up some of your ideas. Start making a plan or even a simple outline to determine what you want to do, what skills you will need to execute your idea, and how much it will take in terms of investment or time. Taking the time to commit your ideas to paper gives you something to build on, something to turn into an executable business. If you only keep your business ideas in your head they will never be more than simple ideas.

What should you do when you get a drop ship order?

When you use the drop shipping model for e-commerce here are some things you should always do.

  1. When you process payment send your customer a receipt of the transaction by email. If you are using a sales platforms like Amazon or eBay/ PayPal they will do this for you.

2. Process a purchase order to send to your supplier with customer shipping info so supplier can ship item. Do not include your selling price on this purchase order.

3. Make sure your drop ship supplier uses your company name as the shipper on the mailing label. This is really important. You are the seller. You want your customer to remember your company and come back to you for future business.

4. Once your supplier has shipped, send your customer the tracking number and a nice message like “we appreciate your business” or “thank you for your order”. Ask your customer if they would like to receive your news letter by email. Keep in touch with your customers regularly. Make sure you include your website link and maybe a discount promotion to encourage your customer to take a look at your website for possible new orders, new items, etc. This type of marketing is the cheapest advertising you can ever get.

5. If you can, try and make arrangements with your supplier to include some promotional literature or brochures featuring your company, website, products, and promotions. Good drop ship suppliers will do this for you. Most will not want to be bothered with this extra work.

Use every opportunity you can to keep in touch with your customers. Build an email mailing list. Send them regular mailings featuring special promotions, new items, customer testimonials, pictures of satisfied customers using their new item, etc.

Can you make money selling items for $1.00 each?

The real answer is that no matter how much, or how little, you pay for that item you sell for a dollar, you are going to lose money if you only sell a single item. You must consider all of the other costs you must pay just to do business.

I will use the example that others have used. You pay $0.50 for an item that you sell for $1.00. You make $0.50 gross markup each. Not a bad markup in general.

If you have a brick and mortar store you pay rent and utilities. You pay employees. You have everyday business costs like advertising or marketing. If you have a dollar store and a customer walks in and buys one item for $1.00 you lose money. The cost to handle that transaction is just too high. Hopefully, your customer will buy 10 or 15 items at $1.00 each and allow you to make a little profit.

The same principle holds true for e-commerce stores. Your overhead may be lower but you still have to pay for someone to process the order, print the label, put the item in a box, and ship it. You need to pay shipping charges. You need customer service to notify the customer about tracking numbers, handle questions and returns. All this costs money.

Only you can determine how much it costs to process each order. Calculate how long it takes to process an order, print a label and pack and ship an item. Next calculate your labor rate and apply the cost of labor to the time spent to process an order. Add in credit card or Paypal processing fees, selling fees, advertising and marketing costs, and the allocation to overhead you charge for each order. All those business costs add up pretty fast. You will find there is not much left of the $0.50 “Profit” you think you may make.

I guess is you sell an item for $1.00 each, are completely automated in your order processing, and you sell thousands every month, you may be able to squeak out a little profit at the end of the month, but it will be really tough.

Good luck finding that item!

How do customers choose whether to purchase an item from you instead of from Alibaba when the price is cheaper?

Why should someone buy from your website instead of direct from a trading company on Alibaba? Let me count the ways.

  1. Convenience- Companies on Alibaba sell mostly in larger quantities. On your website, possible you sell one piece at a time.
  2. Shoppers experience- Ability to combine an order and buy multiple items at the same time. Your website may also be easier to shop from.
  3. Location- Your company may be located in the same time zone or at least similar time zones so customer service may actually be conducted in real time or at least more convenient times for you as a customer.
  4. Trust and professional image= The quality and professionalism of your website will make a big difference in the level of trust a customer places with you. They can see by your address and contact details where you are located and how to contact you in the case of a problem. If your website is done correctly your potential customer should see that you are an “expert” in the products you are selling. FAQ, installation or usage tips and tricks, customer testimonials, etc.
  5. Shipping methods- You may be able to offer more speed based delivery service options than a Chinese supplier.
  6. Delivery Times- Shipping from China can take 4 to 6 weeks or more depending on the product, inventory levels, and shipping method used. You may be able to offer next day delivery or other quicker methods.
  7. Payment methods available- Customers may be more comfortable using credit cards with your company, rather than sending secure data to an unknown company in a foreign country.
  8. Customer service- Have a question or a problem? With a local company website you can pick up the phone or even send a text and expect fairly rapid solutions to your problem. Or, get up in the middle of the night to call an Alibaba supplier who may or may not be able to communicate easily in English. They all will tell you, “Yes I speak English”, but the level of understanding may be difficult.
  9. Return policy- Did you ever try to return something to a Chinese supplier? Getting return authorization may be difficult, cost to ship back high, and don’t even think about trying to get a refund for any customs duties you may have paid.

Remember, when you talk about buying from Alibaba you are not really buying from Alibaba at all. You are buying from a third party vendor using Alibaba to list and market their items.

Keep in mind that price is not always the only consideration shoppers use to justify a purchase. If the price is the only consideration you are worried about, and it doesn’t matter about the speed of delivery, possible returns, trust or scam potential, and little details like those, then go ahead and buy based on the lowest price available.

Buyer beware!