Starting an online store is very easy. In 2019, you don’t even need to hold a stock of items to post them to your customers.
In this article I’m going to show you how to start your own online store in under 24 hours using Ali Express and Shopify.
This is known as ‘drop shipping.'
What is drop shipping?
Drop shipping is the process of selling products where you only focus on the selling and a third party takes care of stock and delivery.
This is how it works.
Using a site like Ali Express (I’ll talk more about this later), you can find thousands of items to sell.
For example, let’s say you want to sell cell phone accessories like iPhone covers.
They are going for as little as £0.24 per cover. Visit any online marketplace or bricks and motor shop and you’ll see them being sold for more than 100% markup.
There’s a high chance that the listing on eBay is from someone drop shipping.
Once a customer orders an iPhone case for £3.38, the seller will place an order on Ali Express to the customer's address. The Ali Express manufacturer will then ship the item to the seller and you keep the profit.
What is Ali Express?
Ali Express is the biggest ecommerce platform in Asia. It’s basically the Amazon of Asia.
There are a few things that make Ali Express different to Amazon and
make it great for drop shipping:
The cost of products is cheap – Most of the items on Ali Express are made in China in bulk and so, as a result, are cheap. You can find items on Ali Express that are as much as 50% less expensive than Amazon.
Of course, the quality of these products varies. If you’re paying £0.23 for a cell phone cover, it’s not going to do a great job at protecting your phone.
Sellers ship anywhere – Many manufacturers on Ali Express rely on sales from drop shippers for their products. When sending items to customers, you can tell the manufacturer that you’re drop shipping and to remove all their own branding so the customer doesn’t know where you originally bought the item.
This means that whether you live in the USA or India, you can find products on Ali Express that are shipped globally.
A Shopify store
To run an online store you’ll need a website. While you can do this on eBay and free listing sites like Gumtree, it becomes difficult to scale.
The best solution to fulfill your ecommerce needs is Shopify.
If your store becomes successful and you start getting several orders per day, it becomes a time-consuming process to order each item manually, especially if you’re using several different suppliers.
Shopify has dozens of useful apps like Expressfy and Ali Express Dropshipping, which syncs your store with Ali Express.
These apps will import items from Ali Express to your site, update your stock, allow you to set pricing rules, and send customer info to the supplier to ship out your products.
Shopify offers a 14-day free trial so you can get started right away
even if you don’t have much money. After your free trial you’ll need to choose
a paid plan. Your other option would be to use a free platform like WordPress
(it’s what we use here).
WordPress is ideal for content and blogging sites as that’s what it was built for. I would not advise anyone to drop ship using WordPress as it doesn’t have the robustness needed to run a store.
A few pro tips to get you started
Getting started on Ali Express is super easy. You just need to find a product and create your store on Shopify.
However, before you start selling, consider these factors:
Make sure you have a good product – Many items on Ali Express are poorly made and don’t look anything like the photos. Order yourself a few samples of the product you wish to sell to ensure it's of a good quality.
For most items there will be at least two or more sellers, so review the quality of each to find the best item. Don’t always go with the cheapest as you’ll get a high return rate.
This can cause issues if you accept PayPal as a payment option as too many refunds will see your account blocked.
Refunds – To minimize the chance of refunds, don’t drop ship clothes or art. Clothing sizes on Ali Express don’t match sizes in Europe, and clothing is one of the most retuned items in ecommerce because consumers don’t like how the items look on them.
Art is subjective so once consumers have a photo on their wall they may not like it and want to return it.
Find products from manufacturers who offer refunds if a product is faulty. You can contact suppliers on Ali Express and ask them questions about this, and they respond pretty quickly.
You will likely lose a portion of your revenue to refunds, so keep in mind the suppliers that do provide full refunds if a product is faulty.
Traffic – Have a plan on how you’ll promote your store before you get started. Will you use Google AdWords, Facebook ads, or organic posting on forums and Instagram?
You won’t sell a single product if you cannot drive people to your store. You’ll either need to invest in ads or spend hours each day promoting your items organically.
I don’t do any drop shipping because it’s very easy for other people to
copy products as they aren’t yours.
But I have drop shipped in the past and it taught me so much about running an online store and driving traffic, and I’ve applied that knowledge to other areas of my businesses.
Have you drop shipped before? Leave a comment below letting me know your thoughts.