STEP 11: BUILDING YOUR DROPSHIPPING STORE
Dropshipping is a little more complicated than you thought, isn't it?
Everyone on YouTube makes it sound so easy. And it always seems as if they make money straight away...
This is not the case. Just like any other new business venture, you need to plan, strategize, stay informed.
Fortunately, you've already done most of the hard work!
Building an eCommerce store is actually very easy. Some
But which eCommerce platform should you choose?
If you did some homework, you would have found suggestions for a multitude of them. That there are so many options to choose from, is a good thing.
However, choosing the correct eCommerce platform to fulfill your needs, is an important part of setting up your dropshipping business. It goes hand in hand with your business name, the niche you will service and which products to sell.
There are different options available, but the two main brands vying for your dropshipping business,
Shopify has been in operation since 2004 and had over 820 000 stores using their platform in June 2019.
According to WooCommerce.com, they've had almost 81 million downloads of WooCommerce to date and over 2 million stores!
Apparently 28% of all online stores use WooCommerce, whereas Shopify claims 18% and Magento 13%.
There's a ton of free information available on how to start an online store. The question is, which platform to choose?
You can find a quick overview of the pros and cons of 10 different eCommerce platforms, at eCommerce CEO, here.
Which eCommerce Platform?
WooCommerce or Shopify?
There are different things to consider when choosing an eCommerce platform. Your budget, technical skill, ease of setup, ease of use, app integration, etc.
Your two main options for dropshipping are: WooCommerce or Shopify.
You can try any of the other platforms, but these two are the main contenders.
Good news is: these two options are straightforward in terms of what they offer.
WooCommerce is the cheaper option of the two to start your dropshipping store. You need web hosting, a domain and to install the free WooCommerce plugin in your WordPress dash. Advantages of WooCommerce include:
- no monthly fees and
- additional free plugins.
You can thus develop your online store for the minimum of setup costs.
If you go the WooCommerce route, your costs would more or less look like this:
- Hosting: Anything from $5 per month (basic hosting for a small store), to $30 per month for mediums sized stores, to $150 per month for large stores My suggestion is to check out Bluehost. (I'm not an affiliate. This is an unbiased suggestion.)
- Most hosting services offer free domain services for the first year. So, it's a good idea to go with one of the big names like GoDaddy, or HostGator if you want to play it safe. You can even use Wix if you've used them before. Bluehost, however, is still my first choice as they also offer a free domain (if you can afford 36 months upfront).
- To set up a WooCommerce store, visit the WooCommerce site itself here.
Shopify is a firm favorite among dropshippers because of its ease of use and a plethora of apps and tools to use.
Shopify works a little differently. Unlike a WooCoomerce store where you get your domain and hosting first, you get Shopify first and then your domain and hosting. You can get your domain and hosting through whoever you like, or you can use Shopify to set it all up for you (for beginners, this is probably the best option).
Domain costs through Shopify start at $11 per year. Your Shopify Plan includes hosting. You can find more info on Shopify Hosting, here.
Shopify Basic will set you back $29 per month, with additional transaction fees of 2.9% + 30¢ per online transaction. This is the best option to start out with.
WooCommerce vs Shopify
Domain Registration & Hosting
- You set it up yourself
Domain Registration & Hosting
- Done-for-You option
- Open source, free plugins
- need coding knowledge to customize
- App store: some free apps, but you pay for the best apps via monthly subscriptions.
Ease of setup and use
- if you're technically inclined, this is for you
Ease of setup and use
- drag and drop, plug and play!
- no formal support, you find solutions
- Lots of user forums though
- 24/7 support via email
- There's also chat and telephone support
So, which is best overall?
It probably comes down to your level of technical knowledge. If you're a newbie, then Shopify is by far the most obvious option.
If you have technical expertize and some coding knowledge AND you like to have the power of customization at your fingertips, then go for WooCommerce. Shopify will only irritate you with its simplicity.
Overall though, if you want to save time and want the eCommerce platform that will throw the least amount of worries your way, then go with Shopify.
Getting a dropshipping store up and running via Shopify
Because most people looking for advice on dropshipping are newcomers, I will only discuss the Shopify setup here.
It's not a complicated process. The beauty of this platform is that even complete beginners, who have never built a website or online store before, can have a complete store in a few hours. All the steps are on this page, but you if you need a PDF version of this setup guide, you can access it here.
If you ever feel lost or confused, Shopify has a great Tutorial section that you can refer to.
On your Home page, just scroll down all the way to the bottom for the link to the free Shopify Academy.
Here follows my quick summary of how to set up your Shopify Store. For a PDF version of all these steps, refer to the link at the bottom of this post.
Shopify Step 1
Go to the Shopify website and sign up for their free 14 day trial.
Once you've entered your email address and clicked on "Start Free Trial" you'll go to the following screen:
Type in your email address again, choose a password, and your store name.
Shopify will then do so some background setup for you and take you through to this screen:
Choose the options as illustrated above:
- I'm not selling products yet
- Yes, I have products and I'll be ready to launch in a few weeks
- $0, I'm just getting started.
- Leave the tick box empty where they ask if you are setting up a store for a client.
- Click Next
Add your own personal details here. Don't worry, it's for Shopify and won't be available to your customers. (The last thing you want is an angry customer knocking on your door demanding a refund...)
This is your Home Page in your Shopify Dashboard.
You have a 14 day free trial, so no need to choose your Plan just yet.
The first three options are self-explanatory.
- Add product
- Customize theme
- Add domain
Each option offers a short description/explanation. If you want more info, click on the “Learn more about…” button. Here, you can learn more about products/theme/domain.
I would start by adding your Domain first.
Type in your name in the search field and hold thumbs that your name is available. Keep it to 3 words maximum and always try for the .com.
If you buy your domain through Shopify, it's only $14 dollars a year and your hosting is free once you choose a paid Shopify Plan.
Next, choose your theme.
Pick a theme that resonates with you. There are eight free themes to choose from.
And then the last and most difficult step. Getting your products onto your online store.
This is the manual method that requires a little more work. For each product you have to add photos, descriptions, titles, etc.
An easier option is installing a tool such as Oberlo Starter Plan, which is free. It allows you to import products with their images in just a few clicks. More on Oberlo in Step 12.
You can do it manually for each product, which is not so bad when you're just starting out. You should only have a handful of core products and a few add-on / supplementary products.
Copy and paste your product descriptions and rewrite them as your own. Upload your product photographs. Before you know it, you're good to go!
An alternative to copying and pasting, is to use a plugin such as Oberlo, Dropified,
They're worth checking out! There are many more than the six I listed. Do some research to see what suits your needs.
Some of these apps are even niche/industry specific.
Also worth considering, is that some use only US or European-based suppliers, which cuts down your shipping time, significantly.
Create Collections (if you want to).
A neat feature in Shopify is the ability to create Collections. This is basically a selection of products you group together.
You can decide what the criteria should be. Are they the same
Step 10: Shipping
When setting up shipping in your Shopify store, there are two dropshipping options you should consider.
- FREE + Shipping, or
- Free Shipping on all.
- Free shipping over X amount of dollars.
Go to your Shopify Main Dashboard, click on Settings, then Shipping.
It will direct you to a page where you won't have any Rates set up yet. Before you set the rates, create a profile. The link is at the top right of the white Shipping Profiles box.
Once inside your created profile, you can add Products and Rates.
Before you add rates, you need to decide which Shipping Option you will choose. You can use a combination, but for niche stores the best option is Option 2: Free Shipping on All Purchases.
Option 1: FREE + Shipping
I'm sure you've seen the ads where they announce a FREE product, “You just pay the shipping!”
This is usually the strategy used by dropshippers when they have cheap products. You absorb the “free” product by including its cost price + profit into the shipping fee.
You set this up in Shopify via weight. Here are some examples based on weight:
How to Edit the Rate, based on Weight:
You can choose your own rates based on weights. Remember, you still need to make sufficient money to turn a profit.
Reminder: You must deduct your advertising costs before you have your profit.
2. Free shipping on all purchases
The easiest option to set up and the most commonly used.
Dropshipping by offering “free” shipping is a tried and tested method to increase sales. You include the shipping costs into the selling price.
After you created the Rate Name, Add Conditions.
3. Free shipping over X amount of dollars.
If you want to offer shoppers an incentive to buy more, you can offer them free shipping on their purchases, if they buy over X amount.
In this example, I set the shipping to FREE, if the shopper buys more than $50.
Step 11 Store design and content
Marketing your products is essential to drive traffic to your site. Store design is equally important to keep those visitors on the site and to convert them into buying customers.
Once visitors are there, you want them to BUY. We call these conversions.
There's no point in driving traffic to your store, but your conversion rate is low.
This is where store design and content play an important role.
Uniqueness. Remember how important it is?
I covered how being unique can differentiate and elevate your business above your competitors. If you didn't take notes of the importance of being unique, or you need a quick refresher, then refer back to Step 3.
As a dropshipper, you need to have an online store. Whether you use Shopify or WooCommerce, or any of the other eCommerce platforms, doesn't matter.
What's important is making your store:
- stand out,
- user-friendly and
Two of the most important steps in setting up your online store, Store Design and Content, will help you achieve these three goals.
Store design tips
When designing your dropshipping store, keep in mind how your store will stand out and be user friendly.
Refer back to your notes from Step 2: Competition.
Remember what worked for your competitors, what didn't AND improve on them when doing your own online store.
Layout is also very important as your customers should always enjoy easy navigation, instead of being confronted by a site that is not user friendly.
Tick the following boxes: You online store must be
- have a good store name,
- have an interesting logo and
- sell great products,
This will ensure that your store is memorable.
More tips to improve your dropshipping store:
Do your homework and spy on the most successful competition in your niche. This will give you great insights into what works in terms of appearance and site layout.
2. Tick tick tock!
The clock is ticking!!! You have less than 15 seconds to grab a visitor's attention. Make sure it's immediately clear what your site sells and which niche it services. If you can't keep them for longer than 15 seconds, they're gone. Forever...
3. Color schemes
You want to grab their attention, but you also don't want them running for the hills when they open your store. Be subtle about your use of colors.
Going psychedelic might grab a visitor's attention, but too many bright colors are a strain on the eye.
Choose a color scheme that compliments your logo. Use two or three colors (two is best) that are also in your store logo and incorporate it into headings, sub-headings, links, and borders around text blocks and images.
Keep up with web design trends and visit award winning websites to get a feel for what represents a visually stunning website.
For example, web designers predict that Dark Themes will be a web design trend in 2020. Play with dark colors as your background and see if it works for you.
4. Use Call-To-Action buttons.
Call-to-actions are buttons that lead your visitors to more information. Examples include “click here for more information”, “watch the video ad”, “watch the infomercial”, etc.
Make sure your links go where they should. For example, don't have a link in an advert going to the wrong product, or a link “Click here for our bestsellers” go to your “Contact Us” page. If people can't go where they're supposed to, you won't see them again...
6. Free apps
Make use of free apps from Shopify or WooCommerce. There are many free apps available to help you with every aspect of your online store. Experiment WITH THEM!
There are apps specifically designed to help with your store design.
Some must-have features/tools/apps are:
- Pop-ups and navigation
- Abandoned cart
- Upsells and/or cross sells
- Email marketing
At the very least, work through Shopify's suggested
7. Social Media
Include social share and follow buttons on each of your product pages. This helps with engagement and spreading the word.
It's also free advertising if someone shares a product they like!
Free apps do the job up to a point, but as soon as you have hundreds of visitors a day, you will need to subscribe to an app that specializes in Social Media Integration.
Step 11.2 Content
Here is a list of some Unique Content Tips:
1. Take your own product photographs.
Be creative! Take photos from different angles. Use props. Show people USING the product to solve a problem.
2. Write your own product descriptions.
We've already covered how bad the product descriptions on AliExpress are. Focus on writing how the product solves a problem. Do not focus on the product features.
Choosing a font and font size might seem like an easy decision, but it has far-reaching effects that few people think of.
Choosing a "fancy" calligraphy or handwriting font might seem classy, elegant and stylish, but it is difficult to read.
Choose a simple font, any of the Sans family of fonts will do the job nicely, and stick with it across your site.
Resist the temptation to have different fonts and different font colors for different Collections or Products. You should only use a different color font for links and perhaps headings, nothing more.
KISS Principle is best.
Which font size should I use for my online store?
Do not use font sizes smaller than 16. Remember that many of your visitors will use mobile to get to your store, so make sure that the font size is big enough to display nicely on their smaller screen.
4. Make your own product videos (this will be great for marketing campaigns).
Don't use videos on the site unless they are VERY short and to the point. Under 10 seconds is usually perfect. Adding humor adds to your site and brand identity.
5. Keep your content clear and concise.
Having too much content can also be detrimental to your visitor's experience and your site rankings. Product descriptions should not contain jargon or ambiguous terminology. It will only confuse your users.
Best productivity apps for Shopify
You also have the option to use tools such as Oberlo and Dropified.
These tools give you access to products and their trusted suppliers. You also have many automated features that will simplify your Shopify setup.
One very useful tool that both Oberlo and Dropified offer is the ability to import products (complete with images and descriptions) from AliExpress with a few quick clicks.
BEST NEWS: Both Oberlo and Dropified offer a free plan you can use, when starting out! Oberlo's Starter Plan is free forever, whereas with Dropified, you get to test-drive their premium option for 14 days for free.
You can find out more about the Oberlo features here.
I strongly suggest that you use the free Oberlo app when starting out as a dropshipper.
They're both excellent options. Oberlo is probably the most popular because it has such a massive amount of free resources available. Both do the same thing though.
You can find out more about the Dropified features here.
Go Live! (Once you have all your products, product descriptions, prices, shipping and apps set up.)
This is where it gets real. And where you need to fork out money.
Log in to your Shopify store. On your home page, scroll to the Select a Plan Banner. Click on it.
Choose your plan. When starting out, the Basic Shopify Plan is more than adequate. Shopify will notify you when you get so busy that you need to upgrade.
- You can only install some apps once you have an activated Shopify Plan.
- Install those first.
- Run them.
- If any of them have suggestions, apply them to your site.
- Next, find the Password Protected banner.
Once you have an Active Shopify Plan, you can go to the Password Protected banner and
This will launch your site and it will be LIVE to the world!
It's obviously a little more complicated than implied in these 13 steps. However, these are the basics to get you started on Shopify.
For your reference, click the red link below to get a PDF version of this Build Your Store Guide.