Over a year ago, I created an eBook designed to show people people how you could start your own DropShipping website on WordPress, using plugins designed to help with WordPress DropShipping. The 'DropShipping Guide For WordPress' also showed ways to find products, increase your sales and how to automate your business.
I decided to re-create this guide and move it onto the blog to open it up to more entrepreneurs and allow more inspiring DropShippers get started, step by step.
The Basics Of DropShipping - What Is It?
DropShipping is a type of fulfilment service, that allows you to focus your costs on other aspects of running a business, such as advertising without the need to spend large amounts of money on inventory.
If you run a DropShipping business, you will never touch the items you are selling.
A customer will place an order on your store, you will then contact your chosen supplier who will ship the item directly to them.
It doesn’t always work, so sometimes you may have to rethink the naming of your store and play around with available domain names!
You can get domains from a variety of places, I usually get mine from either;
As you can see from the image above, dropshipping is quite a simple process.
- You create your online store (more on that later) and fill it with products
- A customer finds your store (usually through social media)
- The customer then purchases a product from your store
- Once you receive the notification, you purchase the same product from your chosen supplier
- You provide the delivery address of the customer who purchased from you
- Your supplier ships the product straight to them
- The customer gets their product and everything is fine and dandy with the world!
Running a DropShipping store can be highly profitable, especially against a normal brick and mortar store, or even other e-commerce websites, due to not having warehousing costs, potentially lower purchase costs and little to no need for employees.
How To Get Started With DropShipping
If I am honest, you can get started with building your DropShipping business, quite quickly, and there are tons of different ways to do it. For this particular guide, we will focus on WordPress, due to the low start up costs, but you can also use eCommerce platforms such as Shopify or Magento.
If you want to compare the most popular platforms, check out the Shopify vs AliDropShip article.
I usually recommend WordPress and it's eCommerce focused plugin WooCommerce due to it's low costs, the ability to play around and edit your store as you wish and also the near unlimited number of apps, themes and add-ons that you can play around with.
This article will provide you with a step by step guide from understanding how to find products, choose plugins to run your store and even adding and fulfilling your orders.
Why Choose WordPress For DropShipping?
DropShipping via WordPress can be a lucrative and great way of owning your own e-commerce venture.
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Many entrepreneurs who start in the world of DropShipping will look at using ready-made platforms or services that can actually end up being more expensive, due to the on going platform fees.
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Researching & Finding Products
I am going to go out on a limb here and suspect you have already chosen a rough niche (or category within you want to promote..i.e hiking or walking).
There is an on going argument about if you should go for a niche store, or for a general store, and I am not here to carry that on, but I did write about the pros and cons for both if you fancy a read. At the end of the day, it's whatever works for you, but whatever you choose, you will want to do roughly the same type of research for these products.
Some of the most popular places to at least start doing high level research include;
- AliExpress Popular Products - It’s always a good place to start, as this will be one of the main places you will be sourcing your products from. Have a look around, check out the popular products and even checkout AliExpress different categories.
- Amazon Best Sellers - Another place to browse is Amazon’s Best Seller section. Here you can find what is hot currently in a number of different categories and niches. The prices will be higher, and more likely branded, but you will be surprised the number of items on Amazon that are actually DropShipped from overseas! Amazon is the king of marketplaces these days, so if it’s selling well on there, then it's a good item to have written on your list as a potential.
- eBay Daily Deals - Many people dismiss eBay as the second son behind Amazon. Don’t. eBay still hold their own and is usually tapped up by savvy buyers looking to buy items cheaper than Amazon prices.
- Websites popular within your niche - Take the Hiking example, you may want to look at MountainWarehouse or GoOutDoors.
After the initial research and deciding on your rough niche, it’s useful to cement your ideas by researching about trends within that niche.
Taking the hiking niche as our example, we have headed on over to Google Trends (https://trends.google.com/trends/) and start to play around with various queries.
As you can see from the term ‘outdoor hiking’ have a good search trend over the last 12 months. With the search term hitting 75 as an average score over the year.
The term ‘hiking poles’ starts quite low in December 2017, reaching its peak around June or July (possibly because it’s warm and people want to go outdoors) and then falling back down to around 50 towards the end of the graph.
You really want to check out a number of different search terms to help identify good quality products that can be DropShipped.
Narrowing Down & Checking Out Competition
You have found a broad niche, found products that you think might fit into that niche and also looked at search trends.
We are off to a good start.
But, before you get onto the next stages and start setting up your store, you will want to check competition and how popular your current category or niche is.
One great way of doing competition research is to run reverse image searches on products.
A lot of sellers are lazy, and will use the standard image given to them by the manufacturer.
Once you have found a few stores selling the items you are interested in, check their pricing.
If they are offering very competitive pricing, then it may be worth having another think about what you want to sell, or try becoming a more more niche.
As stated before, rather than being a generic ‘outdoor’, try being a bit more focused on ‘outdoor hiking’ or ‘cross country running’ or something similar.
One of the final bits of research you need to do is keyword research.
Usually keyword research is associated with blog owners or people trying to rank website, and stems from the need for SEO or Search Engine Optimisation.
Keyword research allows you to find the products or even categories for your store that have a good search volume, and also a rough idea on how competitive it might be to rank for that particular term.
One tool that is great for Keyword research is called KeySearch.co.
The term Hiking Poles is currently being searched for roughly 12k a month (on Google at least) and is on the tougher end of keywords to rank (but don’t despair).
Just because a word or phrase is ‘moderate to rank’ or ‘difficult’ it doesn’t mean that that product is now not feasible, it just means when it comes to writing your descriptions, and accompanying blog posts (you will want to start a small blog post on the side of your DropShipping site for easy free traffic) you can start to target words and phrases associated that may be easier.
You can also have a look at the top sites that are currently ranking for that particular keyword to give you a great idea of what they are selling or if they are even a store at all!
You can also use Google's own Keyword planner (you will need a Google adwords account).
As you can see, the search volume for Google is around that 12k mark again, and they have also stated that the competition is ‘high’. Because the item has a good search volume too it, that isn’t always a bad thing having some competition.
Google Planner will also provide you with a list of other items or keywords to investigate, that may offer lower competition and possibly even higher volumes.
Stock & Prices
Now we have a potential store type, a niche, product ideas and keywords all sorted, it’s time to check stock and prices. For this, we will be going back to AliExpress, as the majority of the time this is where you will be sourcing your products.
Because you can get great prices and there is a huge variety of products available. For this we will just be getting a rough idea for some of the products you thought about selling a little while ago.
You should be finding products that are around 50 - 60% cheaper than the list prices on competitor sites.You will also want to get an idea of at least 10 products - ideally all around the same niche or at least high level category. For this example, we will look at mens tungsten rings, as they are highly popular at the moment
Each ring is priced at £1.34, with nearly 3,000 ratings and currently 1400+ orders (those are ones that are in progress). As you can see, the same ring is currently selling for £21.48 on Amazon.
You can also get them engraved with your own markings and warrant an even higher price if you really wanted too! We can determine that there is a healthy profit margin on each of these sold.
The Foundation - What You Need To Get Started
Once we have decided on a niche, and what products we may or may not want to feature in our store, we need to actually get the foundation of the store set up. There are a number of items that you need to get sorted;
- A Domain
- A Security Certificate (sorry, unlike ecom platforms WordPress doesn't come with one)
- A plugin to create your store (with or without automation, more on that later)
Sourcing A Domain
Unlike eCommerce platforms, you will need to purchase a domain name from a registrar.
When choosing a domain, try to go for .com extensions if possible, or co.uk (or your country equivalent if you fancy) as it builds up trust with your customers.
Would you buy a product from TheHikingStore.inc ?
If the domain name that you want is already taken, then registrars will give you a list of alternatives or similar names.
It doesn’t always work, so sometimes you may have to rethink the naming of your store and play around with available domain names!
Finding A Host
The web host is vital to ensuring someone can find your store, the host is where your website is held, including all the files and images.
You will need to ensure that your domain provider can support an eCommerce store, as well as being able to provide you with a security certificate, usually called an SSL certificate (the padlock you see before site URLS).
The SSL certificate is vital for taking payments on your store, customers will not provide their details if you don't have this.
Usually you will need to go to a number of different places to get these different items. For this article, Bluehost have offered a special package, which includes
- Discounted Hosting
- A Free Domain Name (For the first year)
- Free SSL Certficate
They are offering this from just £3.25 (or about $2.75) per month.
The good thing about using Bluehost is that they will install and set up WordPress for you. Simply login to your dashboard and it will be there, waiting for you.
Choosing A Plugin
There are a number of different plugins that can be added or installed to create your DropShipping store.
AliDropShip actually offer two plugins, an all in one package that can be installed on a WordPress site quickly and easily.
The AliDropShip plugin transforms an everyday WordPress site into a fully functioning DropShipping store, with themes, business logic and an easy way to import products straight from AliExpress.
The plugin will also auto fulfil orders with a simple click of an order button, with integrated emails and order updates for customers.
AliDropShip costs $89 - This is a one off cost, and doesn't have any limitations on products, invetory or orders.
The WooCommerce version actually comes as part of the AliDropShip plugin, so you are given both plugins, allowing you to choose what type of store you want to run.
The WooCommerce version works with the hugely popular WooCommerce plugin that transforms WordPress sites into eCommerce store. Using the WooCommerce version allows you to utilise specific themes and plugins that work with this particular plugin.
This plugin works like AliDropShip, allowing you to set up a fully working DropShipping store with relative ease.
The major difference is that it focuses on finding top selling products, from a specifically curated list. They provide product titles, images, descriptions and they are basically there for you to start promoting from the get go.
Pricing for DropShipMe is based on products, rather than paying for the plugin, you pay on the number of products you decide to use. You can import 50 products for free, and then go up to packages of 1,000 products for $199 one time payment.
You can actually get started with DropShipping with just the WooCommerce plugin. Users can add products from sites of their choose such as AliExpress or Wish and then fulfil these orders as they arrive. Sites such as AliExpress allow for quick and easy buying of products without automation.
This can take more time, as you don't have the beauty of automation, but you can add all the details of your supplier from whatever site you decide to use, allowing you to potentially send details of orders via email and PDF.
To use WooCommerce, you will need to purchase a single site licence for $49.
If you are strapped for cash, then this is a possibility.
The final plugin on this list, is WooDropShip, which you may be able to tell works again with the popular plugin WooCommerce.
It works very similarly to AliDropShip, by allowing you to sync your store to sites such as AliExpress, as well as having a Chrome plugin that can be used when browsing through AliExpress.
Pricing is different from the other plugins, and works on a monthly basis, starting from $14.99 for a limited number of products, this can then be expanded out to unlimited orders and products for $49.99 per month.
The plugin that I recommenced is usually AliDropShip: the plugin provides you with everything you could ever want to get started with your store, plus it doesn't cost you money per month like some of the plugins mentioned above.
Installing & Setting Up Your Chosen Plugin
Depending on what plugin or service you have gone with, there will be a number of different instructions. Luckily the beginner steps are going to be very similar. As with all WordPress plugins, they need to be installed within WordPress, and they follow a simply upload and install process.
The same can also be said for any themes that might come as extras. For a step by step guide to installing and setting up AliDropShip read this article.
Adding Products To Your Store
Depending on what plugin you chose earlier, you will have aa slightly different way of adding products to your new store.
Manually Adding Products
Starting with the one method that is going to be the same, no matter what.
Using WooCommerce, AliDropShip, WooDropShip or DropShipMe, you are always going to be able to simply add a new product manually.
Each plugin will of course have their own product category, but the steps will be very similar in nature.
You want to start off with creating a simple title for the product, for example 'Happy Ninja T-Shirt'. This will be the title that your customers see when browsing your store. Next up, you want to provide a description, this can be a few sentences, or it can be a sales pitch, you decide based on your audience and the product.
After that, you will want to give the product a category that it fits into, and then the all important image. If you are sourcing from sites such as AliExpress, you are allowed to use their images, but it can be worth talking to the store owners who might have higher quality images available that they don't publicly share.
Finally, it's time to add the pricing and the inventory totals.
WooCommerce, and the other plugins all give you the option of setting your everyday price, plus a sales price. If you then decide to have a sale, it will show the discounted price to your customers. For more complicated countries, yo ucan also add any tax that might be applicable.
As this is a manual upload and process, you will need to keep track of the stock levels yourself, if you are sourcing from other suppliers, you can usually turn stock management off, unless you know they only have a certain number per day / month.
Once you are happy with the product, you can save and publish it.
Automatically Importing Products
AliDropShip and WooDropShip both have Chrome plugins that can be used to import your products into your store. Simply browse AliExpress and click the 'import' or 'add product' button when you hover over the product you like and it will place the product in the back end of your store.
AliDropShip allows you to edit the product before you import, but you can also edit it after the import if you prefer.
The automatic process will also link a supplier to the product, a selling price (if you want it too) and images, so you are basically ready to go.
Plugins such as DropShipMe will provide you with products that are ready for import and need very little doing too them, you are of course limited to the products that they suggest or provide though.
Managing Your Orders
At the heart of any eCommerce business, is the need to actually fulfil your orders, i.e getting the products someone has purchased to them.
If you have opted for the cheaper, manual option for your DropShipping solution, then you are still in luck, WooCommerce makes it quite easy to sort the orders out and sending them too suppliers.
You can find your orders by heading to the WooCommerce plugin page, and then 'Orders' which is quite a simple thing to do.
You will now see the order, the customers details, and how far they have got, i.e did they successfully pay for the item, or is it still waiting to be paid for.
If you click on the order you want to fulfil, you can then start to copy these details over to your chosen supplier platform, or if you are using one single supplier, they sometimes allow you to send over an CVS file with the order details. They will then send a payment link or invoice for the days orders. It's an effective method if you are focusing on a small number of products and a small number of suppliers, but quickly becomes unmanageable if you start to grow your store more.
DropShipping plugins come with the added advantage of auto fulfilment, or at least a much quicker way of ordering your items.
Most of them will allow you to bundle a number of items together and do one click ordering. For example AliDropShip will take you to AliExpress and start to import all the details into the shipping fields for you, again allowing you to bundle a number of orders together and then paying for them all at the end.
Tracking And Updating Statuses
The beauty of AliExpress is that they offer some type of shipping statuses, though they are quite high level and can be a bit rubbish, but it's better than nothing.
With AliDropShip, you have the option of automatically setting up your status updates. This means that once you have placed your order on AlIExpress, the order will be marked as ‘Processed’.
To check that you have this turned on, head on over to AliDropShip - AliExpress - Settings - Order Fulfillments. Once your seller has shipped your order, AliDropShip will update this to ‘Shipped’.
You can also manually update orders by updating the 'orders' within WooCommerce.
How To Track Your Orders
I can guarantee, you will be constantly asked what the status of an order is, even if you have set up emails to be sent, they will still ask!
Luckily, AliDropShip comes with auto updating of tracking numbers (as long as the seller provides them). By default, AliExpress does provide you with ‘Processes’ and ‘Shipped’ and can provide you with a little more info again if the seller pays for it.
If you want to force a sync of your tracking IDs or order updates, head on over to AliDropShip - Orders - Tracking and use the sync button.
Again, other plugins will do similar, by allowing you to get tracking ID's and being able to send them to your customers.
How To Take Your DropShipping Business To The Next Level
There are a variety of ways to take your DropShipping business to the next level, and it depends on what you have installed or use already, and where you want to take the business.
If you want to automate more of your business, then look at investing in one of the plugins mentioned above, they come with a number of different add-ons and plugins themselves that help take some of the strain off of running your site.
For those who use Social Media to promote their business, one useful tool is Social Rabbit. The plugin works by scheduling and posting images and posts to a number of social media platforms. You can sit for an hour or two at the start of the weekend set it up for the week ahead. You can even set it to grab images from free resources to help fill out your social media accounts.
Other tools to look into include;
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Yoast SEO: Really useful for those who want to start using SEO to build traffic towards their site, being that a blog or just using long format style sales pages. Yoast is great for checking how good your SEO is and for giving information on how to improve.
Any recovery cart solution, MailChimp offer an abandon cart solution and it can really help when it comes to getting those buyers who are on the fence back into your store and more importantly, back to the cart that they originally abandoned.
Platforms To Find New Products Or Ideas
It’s always useful to have at least one platform designed to help you find what people like to call 'Red Hot Products'
You have already exhausted places like Amazon top sellers, eBay best sellers and even Google trends, but why not let someone do that for you?
This popular platform started out as a wholesale list provider. They would find wholesalers, liquidators and manufacturers who were willing to DropShip and would then check out their products and services to check they were legit.
These days they also provide tools to help you find upcoming trends, ways of finding that next big thing or just a nicer way of getting on contact with a manufacturer who might be right around the corner.
One of the new ones to the DropShipping scene, but by far one of the quickest ones to let others know who they are.
Ecom Hunt is a hot product or trending product finding service. They scour the web, including Facebook, Amazon and eBay, to pull data about products that are currently going mental. They then provide the products, manufacturers, profit & loss information and more to their members.
Another site that appeared around the same time as Ecom Hunt, DropShip Spy also offer information on hot products, or items that are currently trending.
Their data looks to have been pulled from mainly Amazon and Facebook, but also straight from AliExpress itself. They then provide the products, manufacturers, profit & loss information and more to their members.Check out the full review, or check out their website to learn more.
So that’s everything, hopefully this guide has given you a ton of information and all you need to go and start your own DropShipping Business.
As with any business, you should always make sure that you have a plan of action, especially when it comes too owning, or running an eCommerce business. Remember, testing, adapting and finding that niche is one of the best things you can do.
E-commerce is a fast paced business, and trends can come and go within heart beats, so always make sure you have stable products that sell day in, and day out.
Bonus - FAQs
There are always a number of questions that get asked, and quite a few that got emailed when the original eBook was created, so let's take a look through some of them.
1. Is DropShipping Dead?
No, that was simple.
DropShipping is really in its infancy, and is something that I believe will keep growing over the next few years. Gone are the days whereby you could throw up a store in an hour or so and not have to work on it, but you can still get started in this industury fairly quickly. You just have to work a bit harder for it.
2.Is DropShipping Legal?
Of course, though always best to check with your business office or your countries own version. As some countries tax DropShipping companies in a an odd way.
3. Do You Have To Use WordPress?
Not at all, you can use other platforms such as Shopify, but they come with additional charges and costs, whereas using WordPress can be one of the cheaper methods to get a store set up. You can check out a number of different platforms here.
4. Are There Any Recommended Hosting Companies For WordPress DropShipping?
If you are going with WooCommerce or one of the plugins to run your DropShipping store, then I recommend BlueHost. They have a great bundle on at the moment for SSL certificates, hosting and domain names, so definitely worth checking out.
If you are using AliDropShip, then they offer their own hosting, which is an obvious choice if you are using their plugin.
5. How Can I Decrease Shipping Times?
When searching for products to sell, always look for items that offer ePacket delovery. The delivery is usually free, but it can reduce shipping times down to 14 days, if not quicker.
6. How Can I Find Hot New Products?
7. Do You Have A Downloadable Version Of This Article?
Of course, the original eBook focuses more on AliDropShip and how to get started easily, as it's still one of the best tools to use for WordPress DropShipping, especially if you want to automate as much as possible. Grab your copy from here.
James started The Online Student as a typical blog telling people about his struggles and woes with DropShipping, Amazon FBA and even Affiliate marketing. He then decided that blogging about it all would give people the skills, knowledge and apps to get up and running (while making a little extra on the side). After a few months he realised it was quite lucrative and decided to work his ass off making it a bit more than just a hobby!