Dropshipping is a way of doing business that turns the traditional supply chain on its head. In traditional shipping, stores import products and warehouse them until they’re sold, then distribute them to their buyers.
In dropshipping, there’s no warehouse stock, and when an order is placed, the store owner forwards the order to the supplier direct, so the supplier takes care of the distribution end, while the buyer believes their product is coming from the store (rather than the supplier).
It’s a streamlined way of doing business, and it can save you having to buy and store stock ahead of time.
So if you’re going to do it, how do you choose the best dropshipping platform for your purposes?
Let’s take a look at some of the more popular dropshipping outfits, and see if there’s one that suits you best.
Magento has built a reputation in dropshipping, not least by offering two scaled options – Magento 1 and Magento 2 (version 2 being significantly slicker and more open) – and two editions, the open source Magento 1, and the premium Magento Commerce.
If you’re just starting out, minimize your costs and clutter by going with the open source version until some cashflow starts rolling.
The downside with Magento is that you need some expertise to really start the process rolling, which might well mean hiring some Magento developers to get things going. So, it’s easy in one sense, but not especially cheap to start with.
Magento’s ecommerce features are pretty high-end – you get fast loading speed, slick item displays and a smooth checkout feature. Magento websites have a fairly straightforward front-end.
Beware the back end, though – that’s where all the complicated stuff is, and why you might at first need to hire in some expertise. Get the hang of it though, and it’s money well invested.
Magento, for our money, is up at the top end as far as scalability is concerned – you can start from nothing, and expand to unlimited products and orders as the need for your chosen products grows.
Support is mostly via user communities and forums, which feels less robust than having dedicated Magento staff on hand to deal with your specific queries.
Overall though, you get a lot of functionality from Magento, even though the up-front expertise costs can feel steep, especially for total newcomers.
Ironically, our second choice strips things right back to basics. If all you need is basic functionality that’s easy to use, WooCommerce might be the dropshipping solution for you.
It’s significantly less slick than Magento, but it is very user-friendly to get started with, even if you’re brand new to the business.
It’s not overburdened with e-commerce options and if you want to customize it, you’ll have a harder job than you would with Magento.
As a WordPress plugin, it’s easy to set up, even for relative beginners. Your e-commerce options are basic but functional, and come with elements like pre-installed payment gateways and geolocation support.
If you want to upgrade, there are over 75,000 WooCommerce-specific sub-plugins to add in. Go nuts.
Easy to use and with a clean-feeling construction process, WooCommerce won’t land you with a hefty outlay for bought-in expertise. It may take longer to get the wheels turning at a profitable pace, though.
It’s much more suitable for small-to-medium dropshipping operations, because the bigger you get, the more clunky the performance becomes.
There is a WooCommerce support system, should you need it, backed by some hefty documentation online.
One of the bigger names in dropshipping, Shopify is used by hundreds of thousands of stores. You pay Shopify a monthly fee to use the platform, which differs depending on what elements and customization options you want.
There are only 10 free Shopify themes, so to make your store stand out, you’re going to have to pay for something different. After which, Shopify charges you on a per-sale basis, unless you use its own Shopify Payments system.
Quick to set up and relatively easy to operate, it has become popular for its transparent process and its rich e-commerce experience – there are theme settings, credit card payment options, and ways to deal with taxes, languages and SEO.
If you’re new to the business and not a tech-genius, Shopify gives you an in-road to dropshipping without demanding much learning from you.
You simply sign up, select a package, choose a favorite theme, customize to your heart’s content, and wait for the sales to kick in.
It’s also pretty effective at scaling up to the size of your expanding business, and offers several professional support channels, including via email and chat.
Shopify has stolen many a march on some of its competitors by being, above all, the friendliest dropshipping option on the market.
OpenCart is a free ecommerce platform – so, that takes care of initial costs! In many ways, OpenCart has some of the benefits of Magento – it’s free, open source and pretty powerful – but it also comes with similar drawbacks, in that you need a fair degree of tech know-how to really get the most out of it at first.
You do get lifetime free support and updates with OpenCart, though, so your initial outlay, probably including expert developers to build your site, and taking anything from 2-5 months is the major hassle of the whole affair.
OpenCart supports multi-currency transactions, has integrated payment gateways and allows for unlimited products and categories.
Not one for newbies, OpenCart has advantages for those who know their way around a dropshipping programming environment and can customize where angels fear to tread.
While it allows for unlimited products, scalability is not in OpenCart’s favor. More one for smaller operations, you can get support direct from OpenCart through a ticket system.
BigCommerce is similar to Shopify, but less well known. With several monthly options, it comes in three package sizes – Standard, Plus, and Pro. That means you can choose a level that suits you.
E-commerce-wise, you have order and inventory management, multiple payment gateways, and even marketing options in BigCommerce. While not as friendly as Shopify, it’s easy for newcomers to use, and you can customize your store without advanced tech-knowledge.
The options of different plan levels mean you can scale your business pretty easily with BigCommerce, and like Shopify, you can get support via email, live chat, phone, and forum.
Which is the best dropshipping platform for you depends on your starting capital, your tech-knowledge and how you want to scale your business, but in a growing market, there’s a dropshipping solution for you.