June 4, 2018

What You Need to Know Before Building a Dropshipping Website

Dropshipping is a great way to make money online. It's the most streamlined and hassle-free way to take advantage of ecommerce from an inventory perspective. But if you're planning to start your own dropshipping website, what do you need to know before you get started? What is the difference between a hit store and a dud one?

Not All Domains are Created Equal

Before you get started on building your website, you need to focus on finding a great domain that will support you in the long run. At the very least, you should pick out something that's easy for people to type and remember, and really captures what your store is about. Try to find a domain name that includes your primary keyword, which should be the main type of product you sell.

Come up with a list of options based on available names and carefully consider each one. Does it have the potential to stand the test of time? Does it accurately convey a brand message? Is it niche-relevant and high quality? A bad domain name can hold your store back and seriously hurt your credibility over time.

One option that can be really effective is to use a domain that has some authority already established through previous use by another website. When a website is taken down, or the owners simply forget to renew its registration, you can snap up its domain and build a new site that will benefit from Google's existing trust.

If you choose to try that route, look at metrics such as Trust Flow or Domain Rating to get a good feel for how trusted a domain is. If it has some questionable backlinks, or if it seems like it may have been penalized by Google, don't risk it. It's better to start fresh with a decent domain than it is to try to rehabilitate a great domain that has been hit by penalties.

You're a Seller, not a Buyer

It's easy to get carried away when dreaming about what you could offer through your store: drones, matcha tea, self-stirring coffee mugs and all of the countless cool things you can find through sites like Dropwow.

But don't get SNOS (Shiny New Object Syndrome), because you're not buying new toys for yourself— you're looking for things to sell for profit. Stocking something just because you happen to like it is not a recipe for success. You need to ensure that you're about to invest in something that's actually got legs, and isn't going to burn out by mid-year.

Instead of relying on your personal interests, get more information about what might sell in a given niche by looking for its dedicated fan bases or user communities — places like Reddit are great for mining for data on how particular products are being valued by those who know the most about them (as well as finding entrepreneurial advice in general).

With that said, also remember that dropshipping sites rely on good branding and marketing more than anything else because they tend to draw from the same collection of products. If you think you can present a weak seller so compellingly that it will become a success and set you apart, then try it — just understand the risk you're taking.
Your Choice of CMS will be Crucial
When you're start to plan your site, web technology needs to be one of the first things you look at. You want something that will handle all your requirements and remain easy to manipulate and update in the future.

Choosing a content management system (CMS) isn't a step to gloss over. Your CMS will be a HUGE factor when it comes to overall business profitability and productivity, so make sure you choose something that you're comfortable with but also ticks all the boxes from a technical perspective.

The most popular choice for opening an ecommerce site specifically for dropshipping is Shopify, and it's a natural fit for that approach because of its slick ecosystem and the availability of convenient supporting add-ons (you can also see what other stores are doing), but there are other options such as Wordpress, Magento, and Drupal (the last two are particularly good for enterprise users).

Before committing to a platform, take advantage of free trials, guides, resources, and any advice you can get from peers, colleagues and mentors. It's better to take a while to get it right now than to decide months down the line that you want to make a change.
Paid Traffic and Organic Traffic = Very Different
Many dropshippers drive the bulk of their traffic and sales through Facebook ads. While there's nothing wrong with that as a business model, you should be aware of the importance of PPC advertising in making your prospective business a profitable one.

The best stores make use of various marketing and sales channels, and aren't overly reliant on any one tactic. After all, social media changes 24/7, and investing everything in one approach will lead to disaster if that approach becomes obsolete overnight. Come up with a long-term plan for yielding organic traffic and make a solid estimate of how much time and work you'll need to put into it for it to work.
You're Only as Good as Your Suppliers
Dropshippers have a unique challenge when it comes to customer service. Unable to directly pack and ship orders, you need to be able to rely on your suppliers 100%. That's why it's important to cultivate close relationships with them, and consolidate things down to one or two core suppliers if you can (the more you spend with them, the more important you are).

And rather than ordering products from the other side of the world, why not consider domestic suppliers too? You might be surprised at their affordability and quality. Do plenty of research, reach out to relevant product manufacturers in your area, and glean the general level of interest in partnering with you. Starting off with the best possible deals will be extremely important for managing costs while you get up to speed.
You May Need Several Attempts
Ecommerce can be frustratingly fickle, and you may find that you don't hit upon a winner with your first dropshipping store. Don't be disheartened— many entrepreneurs will readily concede that it took a few false starts before their found the product niches that worked for them. More often than not, it takes the right combination of luck, hard work, passion and timing to make an ad or store go viral.

If you feel that you've hit upon the right inventory but things still aren't going your way, mix things up and get creative with your marketing to help make your store stand out. In dropshipping, the most important thing is being different and delivering in a consistent manner. Customers are tough to please, but once you have them engaged, you may have them for life.
Building a dropshipping store is a great adventure, and a brilliant way to dip your toes into the wonderful world of ecommerce. Just make sure that you spend enough time preparing and researching the niche before you dive in headfirst.
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Kayleigh Alexandra, content writer for Micro Startups
Kayleigh Alexandra
Content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to supporting startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for the latest entrepreneurial news and side hustle tips. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.