Ecommerce is not quite a new frontier, but it is definitely one that continuously grows. And within its ever-deepening fathoms rises a new term: drop surfing eCommerce.
What is drop surfing eCommerce? Yet a relatively new addition in the expanding dictionary of the internet’s pseudo-nautical jargon, drop surfing is an eCommerce model that emerged from the dropshipping world. Indeed, if you’ve come across the particular term, it’s likely you yourself are submerged in the drop-shipping business with your own eCommerce store, have dipped your toes in the eCommerce business, or are looking into being involved in it.
So What Is Drop Surfing Ecommerce?
What is drop surfing eCommerce, and how can existing businesses, startups, and budding and veteran entrepreneurs join in to ride the wave of this lucrative big kahuna?
All the need-to-know information about drop surfing will be given in this article, along with some tips on how to get started, and how you can get the best results and maximize your profit. Think of it as your surfer friends’ beginner course for you who suddenly had the urge to challenge the waters on a plank of wood.
But before we can take a dive into drop surfing, it is much better explained in detail after talking about dropshipping. Dropshipping in this case might be a more familiar concept, and being that it is the business model from which drop surfing grew, it definitely warrants a run-through.
What Is Dropshipping
So what is dropshipping, and how do we differentiate it from drop surfing?
To put it simply, drop-shipping is running a retail shop or eCommerce store, but you don’t have the products you sell in stock. Instead, when someone places an order from a store with the dropshipping business model, the store buys the products from a third-party supplier and has them shipped directly to the customer. Usually, the online store has one supplier that it directly conducts business with.
A dropshipping store itself differs from the usual structure of eCommerce stores because it does not keep its own inventory of the products it sells, functioning similarly to a reseller or middleman between customers and third-party suppliers, and can focus its attention on generating a marketing strategy.
Drop surfing vs Dropshipping
A drop surfer is not unlike a dropshipping vendor in that they get products from third-party suppliers. The difference comes from the “surfing” part. When drop surfing, a seller gets an order for a product and “surfs” different third-party suppliers, manufacturers, or markets for the lowest price to fulfill the order, making more profit the lower the price from the supplier. The seller never handles the product themselves. Price and profit aside, quality, the shipping costs and speed, product reviews, and the manufacturer’s reputation, are all factors that need to be considered when dealing with customer orders.
Simply put, in a Venn diagram with one circle being “Dropshipping”, with the other being “Checking different suppliers for the best price to fulfill a product purchase”, Dropsurfing sits comfortably in the middle, looking for the best deal to make the maximum money possible in a sale.
Drop surfers ask the question “why limit yourself to one supplier when there are other fish in the sea?” Supplier pricing and shipping prices and methods regularly fluctuate, so it’s good to be aware of these price changes by checking multiple suppliers to find the best price.
So what is drop surfing eCommerce? It’s dropshipping without monogamy.
The Pros and Cons
Just like any business and source of income, there are pros and cons to drop surfing.
Pros of Drop Surfing eCommerce
So now you might want to start drop surfing. What are the benefits of drop surfing can entrepreneurs such as yourself can expect? Let’s have a look, shall we?
- Low Start-Up Capital. Since drop surfing doesn’t require one to stock products, it doesn’t need you to touch your savings or have well-off relatives to borrow from.
- Low Risk. Because of the fact that you do not hold products on-hand and only make a purchase upon receiving the order and payment, there is virtually no risk of loss when you drop surf especially with thorough management and reliable drop surfing suppliers. This is good for any business that wants to try new products.
- Manageable in Comparison to Traditional Retail. There’s no need for warehousing and inventory management. No need to worry about inventory running out—you already have none. If you have a good supplier count, there is less worry about losing inventory.
- Zero Overhead Costs. Aside from not having to worry about capital and management expenses, you skip overhead costs entirely because you don’t handle the product yourself. This also means you can focus more funds on your marketing strategy.
- High Reward Potential. Drop surfing can be a lucrative business with a good enough marketing strategy to convert many people into customers.
- Sell Anywhere. You don’t have to be limited to the local market. Your only limit is your marketing strategy and your reach.
- Sell Anything. You don’t have to be limited to a single product either. You can sell what is in demand. You can follow—or rather, surf—the wave of trends and meet growing demand with supplies with good profit margins.
These benefits are not exclusive to drop surfing, but the latter three are. In the comparison of drop surfing vs dropshipping, drop surfing has more potential and flexibility.
All you really need to start drop surfing and open your own e-commerce store is the right platform, a sharp mind for online business, and sturdy drop surfer legs to navigate the market for the lowest price once you find a customer. Finding the price that is cheaper than everyone else is the goal, and will increase your profit margin.
Cons of Drop Surfing eCommerce
We’ve heard of the pros of drop surfing, but before beginning any business venture, it’s always important to make sure you know its cons. So what are the downsides of drop surfing e-commerce?
- Can be a Timesink. Drop surfing has a reasonable learning curve and, due to the lack of backend inventory management, is no doubt easier to manage than a traditional retail store. However, compared to dropshipping which only requires you to have at least one supplier to connect with, drop surfing relies not only on your marketing strategy and detecting product trends but your ability to manage some of the logistics. This may require you to compromise on your other ventures. In the case of drop surfing vs dropshipping, drop surfing loses in this regard.
- Quality Control. Being on the lookout for low-priced products might give way to you finding yourself with low-quality goods. Consider establishing a good rapport and repeat transactions with a supplier with a good reputation even when they don’t have the lowest prices. A good working relationship may lead to negotiating better prices
- Competition. Drop surfing being easy to get into means that the waters can get crowded.
- Logistics Complications. The biggest strength of drop surfing can be a reason for some occasional complications. This can happen when dealing with a marketplace or suppliers. What’s more, customers may order things that you might need to get from many suppliers. There is a way to mitigate this problem: using a drop surfing system or software. More on that later.
Getting Started with Drop Surfing
You may have your proverbial swimming suit and surfboard ready and are eager to ride the waves, but how does one start a drop surfing business?
The first is choosing your platform.
What makes a good Drop Surfing Platform?
- User-Friendly. A good platform for any eCommerce business model needs to be accessible, allowing you to build an online store with a modern design and interface.
- Flexibility. The platform must allow you to sell what you want, where you want, and how you want. One of the key benefits of drop surfing is the lack of limitations. By extension, the platform you use must follow the same principle.
- Reasonable Prices. While exorbitant prices may yield good features, there are ways to make do without you relegating too much expense on your platform, especially for a solo entrepreneur or small business.
ECommerce Website Hosting Platforms
With those parameters in mind, here are some platforms you may consider.
- Shopify is a long-established platform, having been around for 15 years. It is great for quickly getting a platform for your business up and running, and is the highest-rated for ease of use and the fastest load times. There are four tiers to choose from: Basic Shopify costs $29, the more advanced plan starts at $79 –$299 per month, and Shopify Plus starts at $2,000 per month.
- Magento Commerce is another well-known eCommerce platform and offers extensive flexibility built into their site and 5,000 more extensions for any and all purposes. A lot of its product-oriented features are also configurable, making way for in-depth customization. Magento Open Source is free, but hosting will cost you $500 – $800 on dedicated servers. Don’t worry, there are options for shared hosting, with some prices going as low as $10 per month.
- BigCommerce is a platform built with large-scale, scalable eCommerce solutions in mind. It is flexible with good SEO features built-in. The platform has 4 pricing plans, with the monthly cost starting from $29.95 to $299.95.
- WooCommerce is another platform with significant usage in the world of eCommerce. The themes are fully customizable and also has strong SEO features. Being a plug-in of WordPress, WooCommerce is free. Hosting the website will still cost you though, but it can be as low as $4 to as high as $5,000, meaning you can easily control the cost to suit your needs.
- Wix is a good choice if you want both a store and a complete website. Most platforms may give you expanded directories, but only as add-ons. Wix gives them to you as part of the package. The set-up process can even be automated, thanks to Wix’s Automatic Design Intelligence, where you simply have to answer a few questions. Its prices range from $4.50 for its basic plan to $24.50 for its VIP plan.
Now that you’ve chosen a platform for your online store, it’s time to see which marketplaces let you drop surf. Unlike independent websites, marketplaces hosts multiple sellers and products, and usually can give your product more visibility. Some of these marketplaces are websites like:
- Alibaba is largely a business-to-business marketplace, and commonly sells mass-produced materials wholesale for replenishing inventory, including different kinds of electronics, and usually sources from China. Alibaba has a business-to-customer sister site, AliExpress, which is better for dropshipping and drop surfing.
- Amazon is likely the most popular marketplace, and you don’t have to visit Amazon to see it for yourself. It has an expansive catalog of products, ranging from different media, apparel, electronics, groceries, health and personal-care items, industrial supplies, and many more. Amazon is not without cons, however. It has high fees and may siphon your visibility as a seller.
- eBay has been in operation for about two decades and boasts a portfolio of a global customer base. It is also very easy to use, with a large catalog of different sellers and different products.
- Etsy differs most from the rest of the sites on this list in that it has a targeted customer base. People who visit the site know what they come here for, and that is handmade goods. If you are looking to sell crafts and other handmade items, Etsy is the way to go.
These are a few of the widely-known and acclaimed marketplaces, but with enough drop surfing know-how, you can find a vendor anywhere in the world.
Related: How to Sell on Etsy
Related: How To Sell On Amazon
Drop Surfing Softwares
With a market found, it’s time to consider the business operation. Drop surfing can also surely be done manually, but as your business grows, so does the work. In fact, it can be quite difficult to scale while only relying on manual management.
This is where using drop surfing software comes in.
Why use drop surfing software?
A good drop surfing software or tool can help you to:
- Decrease operation time. Using drop surfing software frees up your hands from most of the logistics, allowing you to relegate energy into marketing, or maybe some me time.
- Track price fluctuations. Prices change, often abruptly, making it difficult to quote customers. Drop surfing software can notify you of any change with your listed products.
- Track shipping and deliveries. You may have to deal with different suppliers and vendors for order shipping, and there are instances of problems developing from places that are usually out of your hands. The right tool will help you measure vendor credibility, and guarantee timeliness.
- Order automation. When your business scales up, you are bound to receive more orders. With the right software, you can automate order processing.
What tool should you use?
Here are a few to consider:
- Dropified is the software ideal for drop surfers who are particular about their suppliers. It offers a large catalog of products with great integrations. It has two monthly plans: the Builder Plan costs $39, while the Premier Plan costs $97.
- uDroppy is an online tool that can be easily integrated into your store and boasts a large database of suppliers. Its features help ease your drop surfing venture and include on-demand products, global shipping, automatic invoicing, and many more, and is easy to learn. The tool is completely free, but can only be used with Shopify.
- Oberlo has many features that can aid you in boosting your operations due to automation. It auto-updates your products, can automate customer order fulfillment, prices, and product syncing. Oberlo’s basic plan is free but limits products and orders. A more advanced plan costs $29.90 monthly, while the Pro Plan costs $79.90.
- AliExtractor is a tool exclusive to AliExpress, and sources the incredibly large product catalog on the site. You can easily find top-selling products with a quick search, find suppliers that ship in the US to ship to customers faster, and the like. Considering the prominence of the Chinese market, it’s worth looking into.
There you go, that is drop surfing, from start to finish. It may take some time to master, but with enough spunk, time, and the right tools, it’s a great online business model for getting the most profit with low costs.
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