E-commerce is a potentially lucrative career path — but what if you don’t have the upfront funding for bulk orders, or storage space for wholesale stock? That’s where dropshipping comes in. We’ll explore the benefits of dropshipping in this article, and then we’ll teach you how to dropship from AliExpress.
Dropshipping is a great model to start your e-commerce business without having to worry about storing and shipping inventory. You can start with very little investment, anywhere around the world. Dropshipping works by simply listing the products you want to sell on a website or marketplace. Once a customer has placed an order, you ask your supplier to ship the product directly to them. If you want to understand how to dropship but don’t know where to start, then this guide will help you understand how to set up your dropshipping business.
What is dropshipping?
In simple terms, dropshipping is a type of retail business in which you take orders, but where you outsource fulfilment and shipping to a third party. That means you’ll buy directly from suppliers and manufacturers, and they’ll then ship the products directly to your customers.
You don’t have to keep any goods in stock at all. Instead, you accept payment from your customer, create product orders on a third party site and enter your customer’s details into the name and shipping fields at checkout.
What are the advantages of dropshipping?
- Low start-up expenses: It doesn’t cost a lot to establish a dropshipping business.
- Fast setup: Dropshipping businesses are quick and simple to set up.
- Multiple platform options: You can dropship via your own site, or via a marketplace like Amazon.
- Simplified operations: You can focus on marketing and product selection instead of on packing, shipping, warehousing, and inventory management.
- Scalability: It’s easier to grow your business when you have fewer operational headaches to worry about. You can test products in the market quickly without having to commit to large orders.
You can dropship manually or use an app to make the process simpler. Some marketplace sellers partially or fully automate their dropshipping businesses.
What are the downsides of dropshipping?
Unfortunately, dropshipping does come with certain downsides, such as:
- High competition: As you’re selling unbranded products that haven’t been copyrighted, other dropshippers can easily compete with your business.
- Supplier errors: You’ll have no oversight of your product or packaging quality, so errors from your suppliers can happen. Yet, you’ll have to take responsibility towards your customers regarding any complaints.
- Lower margins: Because you’ll be selling products that aren’t exclusive to your brand, it’ll be difficult to charge more and enjoy higher profit margins.
- Lack of customisation: Since you’re not producing your own inventory, you won’t have much opportunity to customise or improve the item you’re selling.
- Shipping and delivery: Dropshipping means longer delivery times, unless you opt for a Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) model, where your supplier sends your inventory directly to Amazon’s FBA warehouses.
The dropshipping process
To start your dropshipping model, it's important to understand how the model and ecosystem works.
- Manufacturers: These are the companies who create the product and sell to wholesalers and in some instances to retailers
- Wholesalers: These are the companies who buy the product in bulk from the manufacturer, mark up the price and sell the product onwards to retailers with wholesale prices
- Retailers: These are companies who sell products direct to consumers with a markup
As a dropshipper, you’ll be the retailer deciding the product and price. When an order is placed, you send the customer information to the manufacturer or wholesaler to mail directly to them. You’ll have a retail price to sell to a customer and a separate cost to buy from the manufacturer or wholesaler. The profit you make is the difference between the two. You can source products for your dropshipping business at cheaper prices from marketplaces that have a list of dropshipping suppliers, such as AliExpress, Doba and WorldWide Brands.
What is AliExpress?
AliExpress is an online international marketplace based in China. AliExpress’s parent company, Alibaba Group, also owns Alibaba.com, Taobao, Tmall and a number of other subsidiaries. Small businesses, most of which are located in China, use AliExpress to sell products to customers all over the world.
Marketplace sellers in the UK often use AliExpress as a source for dropshipping products. Next, we’ll explore why.
Why is AliExpress a good dropshipping solution?
Successful dropshippers run their businesses like well-oiled machines. Dropshippers take the funds they receive when customer orders come in and use them to place third party orders; items get dispatched quickly, and customers stay happy.
AliExpress is an excellent dropshipping product source for several key reasons:
- Size: AliExpress is a large international marketplace with over 100 million products
- Convenience: Sellers on AliExpress are familiar with dropshipping, often showing trending products at low prices for international sellers
- Low prices: AliExpress prices are very low, so your profit potential is high.
- Accessibility: AliExpress has no minimum capital requirements and sellers have very low minimum product order requirements
- Simple integration options: Apps make AliExpress dropshipping integration much easier.
How to find the best dropshipping products
To find the best dropshipping products, you can use the following research tools to keep on top of e-commerce trends and bestselling products.
Trend Hunter: Trend Hunter is the world’s largest trend community. The platform uses data, artificial intelligence and tips from everyday consumers to highlight latest consumer insights and market opportunities.
Reddit: Reddit helps you discover specific topics within niche communities. These topics can confirm that the problem you aim to solve is actually relevant and important.
BuzzSumo: BuzzSumo can help you identify trending topics on social media platforms such as X and Meta.
Jungle Scout: Jungle Scout gives insights into trending items on marketplaces such as Amazon. There are also data visualisations on historical product sales, rankings and reviews based on the product you’re looking to sell.
Choosing the best AliExpress dropshipping products to sell
When deciding on the best product to source from AliExpress, it's worth checking through their product categories. Once you’ve chosen your category and the product you want to resell from AliExpress, there are a few points you’ll need to consider:
Branded products: As a dropshipper and reseller, you’ll need to avoid reselling products with any brands and logos to avoid infringing on another company’s intellectual property – unless you’re looking to be a licensed reseller. However, being a licensed reseller will impact your margins and overall profitability.
ePacket delivery: Third-party logistics providers can help support faster shipping from local manufacturers in China and Hong Kong to your customers locally. This is important to consider when choosing a seller on AliExpress, as some sellers offer ePacket shipping and others don’t. It’s best to pick a seller who does, so your products can be shipped more quickly to customers in the US and Europe with local distributors such as UPS, Canada Post and Royal Mail.
Ranking and sales: Pick products that have 4.5-star ratings or higher, and choose from sellers who have positive customer reviews. For more insights into the seller, use third party tools such as AliExpress Seller Check. Additionally, you’ll want to check the number of sales the seller has made. If the seller has sold to many other customers, you’ll know that there’s demand for their product and possibly repeat orders.
Difference in price: Price will always determine what your overall profit margin will be. When looking at a product on AliExpress, check how much the seller has it listed for. Then cross-check the same product on market places such as Amazon. You’ll then be able to determine the average sale price of the product and the overall profit margin you may receive when you start to sell.
Product details: Order the product yourself so you have first-hand knowledge of the customer experience. You'll be able to see shipping times, whether the product is high quality, how it’s packaged and how to use it. This will help you understand any issues if customers have negative feedback later. You can also ask the seller for additional information before you place an order with them.
Business bank account: On AliExpress, you can choose to purchase products in a selection of specific currencies, including dollars, pounds and euros. On the site, you can configure the currency you want to make purchases in, and the price of all items will be displayed in that currency. Many AliExpress sellers will mark up goods in international currencies. You can negotiate and purchase the goods in currencies such as USD or CNH. To do this, it's important that you have an international business bank account with the ability to store funds and pay out in multiple currencies.
How to set up your dropshipping business on AliExpress
Step 1: Set up your store
First, you’ll need to decide what type of storefront you want to create. You can use your own website: platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce and Wix, and plugins like Woocommerce offer dropshipping integration options.
For an in-depth look at founding an online venture, beyond advice on how to set up AliExpress dropshipping, check out our comprehensive guide to starting an e-commerce business. If you decide to build a website on a platform like Shopify, you’ll need to:
- Pick a clean, easy-to-navigate template
- Create key top-level pages for your site: a homepage, product category pages, a product page template, shopping cart and checkout pages, and ‘thank you’ pages
- Create informational pages: an ‘about’ page, a shipping options page and a FAQ page, for example
- Consider adding a blog to drive organic traffic
- Choose and link payment options.
For more information, read our blog about how Shopify works for sellers.
Step 2: Find and add products
Site built and tested? In that case, it’s time to add products. You can add products manually and keep track of them via a spreadsheet, or you can use an app, like Oberlo (which we’ll explore a little later) to make the process easier.
Many sellers on AliExpress provide product photos and descriptions, but you’ll gain a competitive advantage if you create your own custom descriptions and pictures. Some marketplace sellers order sample products and use studio light boxes to take high-quality photos.
Step 3: Go live and market your venture
When you have a healthy number of products in your store and you’re pleased with the way your website looks, go ahead and press the ‘publish’ button. Many marketplace sellers drive traffic with a combination of paid and organic marketing tactics. Paid channels include:
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising like Google AdWords
- Paid social media adverts
- Affiliate marketing
- Influencer marketing
Organic marketing strategies include:
- SEO website optimisation
- SEO-enhanced articles
- SEO-enhanced blog posts
- Word of mouth
Step 4: Convert site sales into AliExpress orders
If you don’t use a connected app for dropshipping, you’ll need to monitor orders as they come in and create AliExpress orders manually. In principle, this is a simple process:
- A customer orders and pays for a product on your website
- You visit AliExpress and order the product at wholesale price
- At checkout, you enter the customer’s details in the shipping fields
- The AliExpress merchant sends the product directly to your customer
If your site is popular and you receive a lot of orders, you may become overwhelmed quickly. That’s where apps like Oberlo come in. Oberlo has a free starter plan, and it integrates seamlessly with Shopify: all you need to do is create an account, add products and keep your payment method up to date.
When orders come in on your Shopify site, they flow into Oberlo. At that point, you simply click ‘order product’ next to each pending item in the Oberlo interface, and the app places AliExpress orders for you. Customer details, including address information, get transferred to AliExpress automatically.
Step 5: Monitor site and sales performance
Most e-commerce platforms let you track site visits, sales and other stats via your dashboard. You can also use tools like SEMrush and Google Analytics to keep tabs on key performance indicators (KPIs). Track your sales over time and adjust the AliExpress-sourced products you offer to take advantage of seasonal and consumer trends.
Tips for increasing your dropshipping sales
Once you’ve set up your store online, you’ll want to consider the following tips which will help improve your customer experience:
Product descriptions: Make sure you rewrite your product descriptions in way that’s optimised for your audience so you can help them better understand what you’re selling and how it benefits them.
Delivery time: Work out how long it’ll take for your products to be shipped from your suppliers, so that you can manage expectations for your customers. Typically, dropshipping products for end customers can take between 12 and 14 days.
Track delivery of products: As shipping takes longer than the same-day or next-day delivery times that customers have become used to, you’ll often have customers asking you how long they’ll need to wait once they’ve placed an order. Use tracking apps to provide good customer service. If you’ve set up your store on Shopify, you can use apps such as Tracktor or Aftership.
Free or low-cost shipping: If you’ve picked a seller who does ePacket on AliExpress and they also offer free or low cost shipping, then it's worth offering the same to your customers. This will help attract more orders for your products.
Returns and refunds: If orders haven’t been sent to customers once placed, you’ll be asked for a refund. AliExpress sellers don’t accept returns. This means that you’ll need to manage returns and refunds on your own. Make sure you’ve purchased AliExpress buyer protection, so that you can resolve issues with your supplier in case of poor quality merchandise or lost packages.
Search engine optimisation: To ensure you have a successful dropshipping business, traffic to your site will be important. The more traffic you have, the more likely you'll have orders come through. To boost your site traffic, your website needs to have meta titles and descriptions, as well as integrations for a blog, to promote your site through content marketing. Content marketing includes all content that can be searched on your website, including FAQs, blog posts and information about your business. Finally, make sure your social media posts link back to your site and are trackable, so that you can keep tabs on hyperlinks and potential customers.
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