There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that an online dropshipping store in South Africa can be profitable. The bad news is that in South Africa, there is a very limited number of suppliers of products which makes it harder than using the dropshipping model in other parts of the world. If you’ve been looking into dropshipping, but your information has come from international sources, you need to understand up front that it may not be as easy setting up an online dropshipping store in South Africa.
But keep reading, because we' some great options for you.
What is Dropshipping?
Dropshipping is a form of e-commerce; it’s selling physical products online but you as the dropshipper need not keep stock. Your part is to set up a website that sells products from a third-party supplier. You only handle the transaction and then pass the order on to the supplier, who then delivers and fulfils the order.
The greatest benefit is that you can sell many products in your store, but you need not invest in the stock first, nor do you need to pay for warehousing of the stock, or delivery logistics.
Image Source: Oberlo
Dropshipping in South Africa: Pros and Cons
Dropshipping in South Africa is viable if done correctly.
It is not as easy to set up as our international counterparts who have an abundance of dropshipping suppliers to choose from, but if your store revolves around high sellers in South Africa that are available for dropshipping, it can be profitable.
- You don’t need to keep stock.
- It’s cheaper than producing a product yourself or investing in stock upfront.
- It’s easier to sell because you don’t need to keep inventory, nor handle the logistics such as delivery.
- It’s not easy to find South African dropshipping suppliers.
- Limited products and brands to choose from.
- If you do find a suitable supplier, their application process can be a little cumbersome and outdated, which is not usually the case with overseas suppliers.
- You need to base your store on the products available and not the products you may have a passion for.
Is Your Idea Viable?
When you want to know if a business idea is viable in South Africa, it’s best to look at the data: South African online shopping stats from BizCommunity research news show that the top three most popular online shopping categories for South African consumers are:
- Clothing (53%)
- Entertainment and education (51%), and
- Event tickets (51%).
Also popular are electronics and media, as well as furniture and appliances.
Steps to Starting an Online Dropshipping Store in South Africa
While the first step to starting any online venture would usually be to research your niche thoroughly, in South Africa you would first need to start with knowing what products are available, and then conduct research around the target audience for those products.
The second step would usually be to define how the products would tie into your website. For example, you could set up a website that revolves around the products, or you could tie the available products into your current offerings.
For example, let’s say you're a running coach. Your website could provide information that revolves around running, with the aim to get people to book appointments with you so that you can begin coaching them, but your website could also offer running goods that can be purchased.
In South Africa, it is harder to start a dropshipping store based on a passion or target audience rather than a store built solely for profit.
Here are the steps to take, specifically for South Africa:
#1 Find dropshipping products
It would usually be critical for entrepreneurs to start any online business with a firm definition of what they wanted to achieve and to thoroughly research the niche, but if you do that in South Africa, you may not find any suppliers for the products you want to sell, so first start by searching for suppliers of the category of products you wish to sell.
You can do that in two ways:
- With dropshipping platforms, or
- Dropshipping suppliers
Shopstar is a platform that makes it easy to build an e-commerce website aimed at the South African market, and it also has a dropshipping marketplace to easily find products that can be added to your store.
Shopstar makes it easy to set up a dropshipping website and sell products.
Shopstar is one of the best ways to not only find dropshipping suppliers but also build a money-making website. Shopstar offers features that are relevant and useful to South African entrepreneurs and it’s probably the easiest way to get going.
Products that are available by Shopstar dropshipping suppliers: arts and entertainment, appliances, baby, toys and kids, books, car and motorbike, cellphones, tablets, electronics, computers, fashion and accessories, gaming, movies, music, health, home, garden, DIY, jewellery, liquor, groceries, office, stationery, pets, sport, camping, outdoor, luggage.
As you browse through the products, you are able to see the pricing, and the commission you will receive. There is no time-consuming application process - all you need to do is click “add product to shop” and voila! Done.
The second way to locate products is by researching South African suppliers. Here’s a list and a quick breakdown of product categories of the top suppliers in this country:
Mensrepublic.co.za: gadgets and gifts for men.
Calasca.com: homeware and garden, outdoor, lighting, sports, pets, baby, luggage and travel, electronics, jewellery, novelty.
Planet54.com: mens and ladies fashion, lifestyle, stationery, tech.
Gadgetgyz.com: connected home and CCTV, smartwatches, cellphones, computers and accessories, Xiaomi appliances.
Neatfreak.co.za: organisation for home, office, and storage.
Thescents.co.za: men and women fragrances.
Cosmicpets.co.za: pet products.
Marijuanasa.co.za: marijuana and growing products.
BrandsGateway: designer clothing.
Mantality.co.za: products for men, such as shaving accessories, t-shirts, keyrings, multi-tools, gadgets, grooming, shavers, razors, games, cufflinks, wallets, socks, belts, watches, bags, backpacks, and gifts.
Tip! If there are South African products you would like to sell in a dropshipping method, but can’t find dropshipping suppliers for, you can also check out the product’s website to see if they offer affiliate marketing programs that work in a similar manner to dropshipping. Scroll right down to the footer of the website and if they do offer it, they’ll use words such as “partner programs”, etc. Alternatively, contact them directly to find out if they would be open to you selling products on their behalf that they can deliver directly to your customers.
Another Tip! Andreas König, who started a successful dropshipping business in 2017, says about choosing products: “The best advice is to search for customizable products. If customers can choose anything about the product — like different parts or text or if they can upload an image that becomes part of the product — that will work because it’s not available at the grocery store around the corner." (Source)
The trick is finding high-search products with low competition. Try Google Trends to see what people are searching for.
#2 Set Up Your Online Website
There are two options for setting up your online store:
- Creating your own website. An example of this would be using WordPress as your Content Management System, together with WooCommerce which enables e-commerce on a website.
An example of a WordPress website that utilises the WooCommerce plugin to enable product sales. Building your own website involves a deep learning curve.
- Using an e-commerce website platform.
Unless you are experienced at building websites, it is recommended that you rather start with an e-commerce platform such as Shopstar, just because it does not require a learning curve and you can get set up fairly fast.
Building your store using an e-commerce platform such as Shopstar is a lot easier than any other method because the tool guides you as to what you need to do to get set up.
#3 Create a Marketing Strategy
You can build the most beautiful website in the world, but without a marketing strategy, all you will have is a beautiful website without sales. “If you build it they will come” is not a quote that is true for business.
If you have no digital marketing experience, it is advisable to hire experts to help you because it can get complicated.
However, if you are willing to learn and understand that it will take time to see results, it is recommended that you generate sales via online advertising, such as Facebook ads and Google ads. If you have no experience in these areas, be prepared to waste some money and call it your marketing learning fund.
Tips for creating a DIY marketing strategy:
- Research your target audience thoroughly. You will know when you have enough information because then you will know what matters to your target audience, where they hang out online, and the best ways to approach them. Look at incorporating an omnichannel marketing approach.
- Conducting target audience research will empower you with information about which social media channels are most effective at reaching the people most likely to buy from you, and then you can put methods in place to attract them to your online store.
Tip! Start with quick wins (paid advertising) and later on down the line, you can delve into content marketing which takes a few months to start generating results if your niche is not fiercely competitive (otherwise it could take longer).
There is an easier way though.
When you build a store with Shopstar, you can also make use of the additional services provided that other platforms do not offer.
For an additional fee, utilise experts for paid social and search ads, graphic design, copywriting and online marketing.
Pay less for Shopstar’s expert marketing services.
What makes this feature especially helpful is that the amounts you pay for these services are far more affordable than what is usually charged by pros. In addition, you need to know that there are way too many quickstart marketing agencies that promise the world, take your money, and never deliver.
Using boosted services by Shopstar is an excellent way to prevent this from happening to you.