It seems like every time you log onto a social media site, you see hoards of advertisements from online shops you never heard of. With all of the exciting promotions and bargains, it’s certainly tempting to take advantage of the deals. But who is taking advantage of who?
Dropshipping sites are increasingly popular: you’ve probably already seen them and not realized. It’s a clever business model, but what are dropshipping sites? Can you trust them?
What Is Dropshipping?
Traditionally, online shops store their inventory in designated warehouses where items await shipment to customers. Some retailers cut out the middle man and simply ship items straight from a third-party manufacturer.
Using a dropshipping business model, a company never handles “their” items. After placing an order on a dropshipping site, the vendors will input your address information into a third-party site and order that item. Dropshipping sites advertise products they find on third-party sites, often from sites like Wish.com or AliExpress.
Think of it as if you wanted to buy a new bag from an online boutique. Instead of the boutique selling you their own products, they are actually just listing items they find on AliExpress. When you place an order with them, they buy one of those purses and send it to your home then keep the profit.
Are Dropshipping Sites Legit?
You might be wondering whether or not you will receive a product from dropshipping sites. Yes, most dropshipping sites are legit. When you give them your payment information, they will send you a product.
They can’t simply run off with your cash, and you can always report them to PayPal or your bank if they don’t follow through.
However, it doesn’t mean that these shops aren’t deceitful. Dropshipping sites often use different strategies that mislead consumers into thinking they get an exclusive deal. This is the catch of using one.
Some build the illusion they are a real shop with workers and their own special products. However, in reality, many of these shops are just single individuals who know a little bit about web design.
There are even Shopify plug-ins that make integrated online shopping platforms with third-party retailers seamless and setting up your own dropshipping sites easy.
You could get those same, often poor-quality items for a fraction of the price from the third-party directly. In fact, if you see an item you really want on a dropshipping site, it’s pretty easy to do a quick search through one of those cheap online retailers and find the original listing.
Signs of a Dropshipping Site
How do you know when you’re looking at a dropshipping store? While most would never advertise that they are a dropshipping site, there are some clear red flags to look out for. Keep the following signs in mind.
Questionable Product Images
Because they don’t sell their own products, it’s not uncommon for several different dropshipping sites to list the same exact products. Many “popular” items (i.e. moneymakers) make their way to the front page of dropshipping sites.
You’ll even notice that different sites will use the same pictures in their listings. It is a clear sign that these are not original products at all, and a quick reverse image search may lead you directly to the original listing on the third-party site.
There are even bigger red flags raised when you recognize the item from a luxury brand. If you notice a product on sale that closely resembles something from brands like Coach or Gucci, it is likely a knock-off.
It’s not just luxury brands that should raise suspicion. Many franchises have partnerships with large companies. However, they will clearly state that they have permission from the company to sell these products.
Sites that sell merchandise from your favorite shows or games without these explicit statements likely sell the items without permission. Dropshipping sites advertising anime and movie merchandise are incredibly common.
Additionally, stores may sell artists’ work without their permission. If you recognize the work of your favorite artists being sold on smartphone covers or mousepads on a sketchy site, reach out to the artist over social media to let them know. They will appreciate the heads up and hopefully help get them the compensation they deserve.
“Just Pay Shipping”
Many of these sites advertise ridiculous sales that are too good to be true. The most common promotion is “for a limited time, you just need to pay this flat shipping fee!” It seems like you’re getting a deal, but the flat shipping fee is often a significant markup from the actual price of the product.
Long Shipping Times
Because many dropshipping sites turn to overseas vendors for their cheap products, the waiting times are extensive. It typically takes a month or two for packages to arrive from Chinese vendors like AliExpress.
The surge in popularity of dropshipping creators has led to several cheap warehouses popping up in North America, though. Such measures taken to cut shipping times make this an increasingly less reliable red flag, sadly.
Many dropshipping sites have a strong social media presence. If they don’t have an explicit reviews section, sift through the comments on the posts.
When you see an overwhelming number of poor reviews (or notice that comments get deleted from posts), it may be a sign that this is not a great shop to buy from.
Stores typically ship their items in marked packaging. At the very least, companies ship items out with their brand mentioned somewhere on the box or bag. Dropshipping companies have no direct involvement with this process, though.
When items arrive from such shops, they will be in the original third-party packaging. This packaging is often plain plastic with markings in a foreign language. In some cases, it may even come with an initial receipt to the third-party company.
Should I Order From Dropshipping Sites?
Whether or not you want to purchase from a dropshipping site is a personal choice. Learning a little bit about the nature of this business model does encourage people to look for alternatives (or cut out the middle man).
Just remember to be wary about sketchy stores you see online and beware of deals that seem too good to be true.