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Blog / Marketing tips / Branded Dropshipping: 8 Secrets to Ecommerce Success

Marketing tips

Branded Dropshipping: 8 Secrets to Ecommerce Success

Branded Dropshipping: 8 Secrets to Ecommerce Success
Lilija Karpjaka

By Lilija Karpjaka

21 min read

Dropshipping is an attractive business model, and the data proves it. The global dropshipping market is predicted to exceed $300B in 2024, and it keeps growing. This is excellent news for anyone who wants to start an ecommerce store using the dropshipping business model. However, the market increase also means fiercer competition from similar dropshipping businesses.

This is where branding comes into play as a strong advertising strategy.

Branded dropshipping will give your brand an identity and help your customers associate your products with reliability.

We’ll begin by refreshing the concept of branded dropshipping and then get into the basics of ecommerce dropshipping and how you can start selling branded products with Printful. By the end of the article, you’ll learn:

  • Why branding is important for your business

  • How to showcase your brand identity

  • How to start branding with Printful

Let’s get started.

What is branded dropshipping?

Branded dropshipping is a low-risk business model where you sell customized products under your brand without needing to stock inventory. Instead, you partner with suppliers who handle your product fulfillment, packaging, and shipping. This allows you to focus on creating a strong brand identity and marketing your products. With branded dropshipping, you can offer a premium shopping experience that sets your ecommerce business apart from the competition, attracts loyal customers, and drives long-term success.

Learn More:

a group of clothes and a backpack on a rack

Source: Printful

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Customer with received custom jacket
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How do I start a branded dropshipping business?

1. Select your dropshipping niche

Before you showcase your brand identity, define your product niche. Your niche will play a role in portraying your brand, from text fonts and colors to the language style and unboxing experience.

If you have a theme for your product designs that a specific group of people want, you’ll attract a higher level of loyalty. Buyers of niche brands seek a distinctive look that they resonate with and can’t find in larger markets. Find and define your niche, and you’ll find your target audience. Or, you can approach this the other way around: define your target audience and get a better understanding of which dropshipping niche you should focus on. 

Identify your target audience profile and research their values and preferences. You can start with a narrow niche and, over time, expand to a larger pool of potential customers.

By defining your niche, you can lay the groundwork for how you’ll approach your designs, such as product packaging, which seriously enhances your customer experience. It’s the little things that go a long way.

2. Develop your brand identity

Good branding for ecommerce brands is more than simply an internationally recognized logo. It’s supported and driven by values and a strong brand voice that run like a thread through everything from the brand’s website and social media to packaging and the packed-in freebie stickers.

The first step to getting there is to develop a brand identity—a beautifully packaged promise of quality and trustworthiness. This helps form positive customer relationships, which is crucial to making them return. If customers leave with neutral or sour opinions, convincing them to come back is much harder.

Here’s what to consider:

Your brand’s purpose

The brand’s purpose is the big “why” your business exists. You might know it, but does your target audience? Defining an intention is especially valuable for brands committed to a specific cause or particular values. By addressing the purpose through a brand story, you’ll build trust, increase customer loyalty, and inspire engagement. You will also get a clearer idea of the fundamental base of what operating strategies will guide your business to succeed. A brand’s motivation defines what distinguishes its products from competitors, which greatly helps marketing efforts.

The aim here is to inform the audience about the direction the business is taking and its long-term dream. This can be shared on a brand’s website and weaved into other elements like content copywriting, packaging, and designs.

Your brand’s values

Strong values play a big part in effective branding strategy as they can charm the audience and help build customer loyalty.

Statistically, most US consumers prefer shopping with companies aligned with their values. Loyal customers are also more likely to recommend your business to others, which means you get marketers who don’t even work for you.

Forbes contributor Kimberly Whitler claims that word-of-mouth marketing could be the most valuable form of marketing as consumers trust it above all other marketing forms.

Check out this list of 200 brand values for inspiration.

Your brand voice

Think about your core message to your target audience and what language style will best accommodate it.

Try to sound friendly and familiar, like there’s someone behind the brand that your audience can connect with. Most of us can’t help but like things that are familiar to us.

When your customer meets your brand, there need to be sparks and emotions. We connect to things that get us, and brands can synthesize this feeling of connection by becoming the physical expression of their customers’ personalities.

a laptop and a cup of coffee on a table

Source: Unsplash

3. Choose your dropshipping supplier

Once you’ve settled on your niche and brand identity, choosing the right dropshipping supplier is the next crucial step. The supplier you select impacts your product quality, shipping times, and customer satisfaction. 

Reputation

To make an informed decision, investigate potential dropshipping suppliers. Look for reviews and testimonials from different dropshippers—reliable suppliers should have a positive track record of fulfilling customer orders on time and providing quality products. Customer reviews and ratings are a good starting point.

Product quality

Before committing to a supplier, order samples of the products you plan to sell. This allows you to check the quality of the products and ensure that they match the descriptions and images provided by the supplier. High-quality products mean fewer returns and increased customer satisfaction, which is vital for building a strong brand.

Shipping

Shipping speed is another critical factor in customer satisfaction. Confirm the average shipping times to your target markets. Be wary of suppliers with long shipping times, which can lead to dissatisfied customers and negative reviews.

Customer support

Next, test the supplier’s responsiveness by asking questions before committing. A reliable supplier should respond promptly and provide clear, helpful answers. Good communication ensures you can resolve any issues quickly and keep your customers informed.

Return policy

Make sure you understand the supplier’s return and refund policies. A flexible policy will help manage customer returns and maintain satisfaction. Ensure the supplier can handle returns efficiently and that their process aligns with your business model.

Branding options

Since you are focusing on branded dropshipping, check if the supplier can accommodate custom branding options, including custom packaging, labels, and other branding materials.

In summary

Finally, while it might be tempting to choose the cheapest option, consider the overall value. Compare product prices, shipping costs, and any additional fees. Ensure that the pricing allows for a reasonable profit margin after accounting for marketing and operational expenses. Some suppliers offer discounts for bulk orders, which can help increase your profitability.

Remember—choosing the right dropshipping supplier sets the foundation for your business. Take the time to research and weigh your options carefully.

Branded Dropshipping: a Guide for Ecommerce Businesses

Source: Pexels

4. Develop a product line

So, you did your supplier research and now know your options.  It’s time to start creating a product line!

Start by picking products that fit well within your niche. For example, if you focus on fitness apparel, choose items like leggings, sports bras, and tank tops.

Before committing to a full product line, test a few items. This is where print-on-demand shines—it allows you to experiment with different products and designs and see what your customers like best without any upfront investment.

Plus, you can order product samples to check the quality and see how your designs look in real life. This will ensure everything meets your standards and let you experience the unboxing process yourself.

As you gather feedback from your first products, pay attention to what sells best and what gets the most positive responses. This information is invaluable. It helps you refine your product line, offering trending products your customers love.

a man and woman posing for a picture

Source: Printful

5. Select an online selling platform

The next step is to decide how you’ll reach your customers.

The sales channels you use for your business will affect how you reach customers, manage your store, and handle transactions. Here’s how to make the best choice for your business.

First, decide whether you want to use an ecommerce platform or a marketplace

Ecommerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce offer complete control over your dropshipping store—from website customization to personalized features, they allow you to match your store to your brand. Plus, you can enhance your brand presence with custom domain names, personalized email addresses, and integrated marketing apps.

As for marketplaces (think Amazon and Etsy), their biggest selling point is a built-in customer base, ready for you to tap into. These platforms are excellent for reaching a broad audience quicker. They also handle aspects like payment processing and customer service, allowing you to focus more on product sourcing and branding. However, they offer less control over your branding and customer experience.

Besides functionality, you’ll also need to consider any costs associated with the platform or marketplace you choose. Monthly subscription fees, transaction fees, and additional charges for premium features can add up quickly. Factor these costs into your budget to ensure your online business remains profitable.

a screenshot of a phone

Source: Printful

6. Showcase your brand identity

Showcasing your brand identity is like rolling out the red carpet for your customers. It’s your chance to make a memorable first impression and tell your story. Whether it’s through your website, logo, color scheme, or other branding elements, creating a cohesive and engaging brand presence will set you apart from the competition and help build a loyal customer base. Let’s dive into how you can make your brand shine.

Website

Your brand identity can manifest as a brand story. The website is your product catalog and storybook, where you can set the stage and exercise your brand voice. 

An ecommerce website design can be sleek with a trendy web user interface, but for some niches, it makes sense to think outside the box.

Dogecore perfectly mirrors its niche with its old-school website design and fun content.

Dogecore ecommerce store's front page
Source: Dogecore

 

In the Words section, you’ll find a description of the brand’s creator, John Dogecore, who single-handedly destroyed the last vampire colony in Ireland back in 1994. And in the FAQ, the About Us section says, “Two monkeys with internet access, just vibing.” This type of website and use of a distinct writer’s voice no doubt captivates their Gen Z target audience, who appreciates the humor and the specific early-aughts aesthetic that’s back in fashion. 

Because the website’s storytelling even reaches into the product descriptions, one downside is that it’s probably difficult to do keyword research for product listings. This means that you’d have to use other tools, like social media, to generate traffic for a site like this.

Birthnerds ecommerce store's front page
Source: Birthnerds

Birthnerds is another excellent example of an ecommerce store targeting a narrow niche audience. They’re addressing birthing professionals of color to help promote healthy conversations around birth and lactation.

The website’s simple design, featuring an empowering black and yellow color duo, accentuates the brand’s purpose and adds a touch of seriousness. Anyone entering the website is greeted with the store’s mission, which is the cornerstone of its business.

Logo

Typographic (text-based) logos can express the character of your brand through typography, form, and color, which can create associations such as timelessness, playfulness, exclusivity, or any other characteristic you can name. 

These logotypes work for brand recognition and are effective for new businesses. However, typographic logos can also be tricky. They can communicate trust or convey confusion, make you look professional or amateurish, and come across as either the mark of an expensive brand or not so much.

In contrast, icon or symbol logos can elevate the perceived quality of your products and grow your brand reputation. This creates an impression of good craftsmanship, quality, and other luxury details. For niche-specific businesses, a logo can also create a skillfully-made feel to the products, making a more significant impact as your business grows.

Place your logo on packaging and packing slips so it’s the first thing that greets the package holder.

Various fashion brand logosSource: Weheartit

Colors

Think about how you want the customer to feel when they encounter your brand and try to enhance these emotions with colors. Choosing the right color schemes is an important step in adding a solid vibe to the brand’s overall look.

You don’t necessarily have to pick colors that align with your brand’s message and niche, but it helps create a more solid brand image in your customers’ minds.

An example of a product and color palette with autumn colors
Source: Fabmood

You can generate your own color palette or search among popular ones in Color Hunt. This tool can also come in handy for your product photography or mockup designs.

Labels

Product labels are the basics of branding for an online clothing store.

Professional brands pay attention to details, and custom labels help convey that a business is serious about its image.

Labels also differentiate your garments from those of other similar branded dropshipping businesses and refresh your customers’ memory about where the product came from.

a grey and purple swimsuit with floral design

Source: Printful

Packaging

Showcasing how your brand stands out through branded packaging is a highly effective way to set your brand apart from competitors. Packaging helps to communicate the branding, product messaging, and level of quality. For the receiver, the package is their first physical contact with your brand, and first impressions matter.

You might’ve heard that humans are visual creatures. Most of us process information based on what we see. All visuals, like size, shape, color palette, and other imagery convey meaning and create a map of associations within us. So make the most of your branding efforts in your packages, and just like with your color palette, use packaging types that match your brand.

Packaging inserts

Your packaging already acts as an incredibly effective marketing tool for your brand, but if you want to add a cherry on top, packaging inserts are it. Packaging inserts or pack-ins, as we call them at Printful, can build a personal connection with your customers. Pack-ins can also be used as cues for cross-selling, encouraging feedback, word-of-mouth marketing, social media engagement, and future sales, depending on what you want to offer. Here are some neat pack-in ideas:

  • A greeting or a thank you note

  • Personal note

  • Coupon code for the next purchase

  • Information about your brand’s purpose or goals

  • Sustainability effort info card

  • Small gifts like sticker freebies

  • A share on social request

You could even prepare handwritten notes (they can also be printed) that would add a sweet and personal touch to show how much you care about your customers.

a open book with a shirt and tags

Source: Printful

7. Add custom branding with Printful

Printful is an on-demand printing and fulfillment company. Whenever someone makes a purchase, we’ll automatically receive the order, fulfill it, and ship it out.

Here are some of the things we offer:

And various branding options.

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Custom labels

Custom labels are an investment that can potentially create a significant impact as a promotional medium. A memorable label helps your customers differentiate your product from other brands and ensures that they don’t forget who made the item.

You can find your product branding options by heading to Printful’s product catalog and using the search bar on the left-hand side.

 

Printful's product catalog

Source: Printful

We offer the following label types for branding:

Inside labels

Inside labels are available for apparel with tear-away labels and all-over print tops.

These are printed on the inside of the garment under the collar. They also serve a legal function by showing the info the apparel piece needs to have by law: country of origin, size, fabric, and care instructions. For all-over print tops, this information is printed on the label located on the side of the shirt.

You can upload your logo in any color in an area with a maximum size of 3″ × 3″ (7.62 cm × 7.62 cm).

Outside labels

Outside labels are available for all custom t-shirts we offer (except racerbacks) that don’t have a removable tear-away label. As you’ve already figured, outside labels are printed on the outside of the garment underneath the collar. You can display your logo or add any other small design without additional product information.

Upload your logo in any color with a maximum size of 3″ × 3″ (7.62 cm × 7.62 cm).

Find label templates by selecting your product and then looking in the product file guidelines.

Printful outside label product examples
Source: Printful

Sleeve Prints

If you want your logo to really stand out, try the Sleeve Print branding option for t-shirts and long-sleeve tops. Sleeve Print branding is hard to miss, and it’s a constant advertisement for both the wearer and any observers.

The size requirements for short sleeve shirts are 4″ × 3.5″ (10.15 cm × 8.89 cm).

The size requirements for long sleeve shirts are 3″ × 12″ (7.62 cm × 30.48 cm).

Note that if you’re unsure how your product will turn out, you can always order a product sample with a 20% discount and make design adjustments as needed.Check out our blog post on Printful inside and outside labels to get all the information you need about adding labels to your apparel.

Printful product examples with long and short sleeve brandingSource: Printful

Stickers

Design Kiss-Cut Stickers as fun freebies or seasonal surprises. Stickers also have a practical purpose, which makes them more interesting than business cards, and your customers might use them on their personal belongings.

And they’re great at gathering authentic user content, as stickers are fun to share on social media platforms like Instagram or YouTube. This type of content builds trust better than content created by the brand itself.

a screenshot of a post

Postcards

You can turn Standard Postcards into:

  • Thank you cards

  • Business cards 

  • Promo postcards

  • Flyers and coupons

Heartfelt thank you cards can serve as keepsakes, and they’re excellent for showing your appreciation for the support.

For marketing, postcards offer seemingly endless possibilities. You can promote your online store by sharing discount codes or special deals on the cards and including your website link or Instagram handle. You can also share fun info about your online business or its purpose.

If you wish to create your own packaging inserts, for example, by writing your own thank you notes by hand, you absolutely can. To do this, prepare your packaging inserts in bulk and mail them to one or several different Printful fulfillment centers in North America or Europe. We’ll store the packaging inserts in our warehouse and insert them into your orders.

a vase with flowers in it

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There’s a choice of hundreds of custom packaging suppliers. We highly recommend choosing from these three:

Sticker Mule

Sticker Mule productsSource: Sticker Mule via Unsplash

Disclaimer: Printful might earn a commission from signups or purchases completed via the link below. Read more.

In addition to stickers, custom labels, and other fun trinkets, Sticker Mule sells customizable poly and bubble mailers. This is one of the more affordable options for mailers since you can get bulk order discounts, and the shipping is free.

Arka

a blue rectangular pillow with white text and triangles on it

Source: Arka

Besides custom stickers, custom tape, and customizable tissue paper, Arka offers high-quality poly mailers you can fully customize from both sides. All of their packaging is made in the US, but you have to pay for shipping, so the overall unit price will be higher than for companies that offer free shipping.

PackHelp

a white bag with a handle

Source: PackHelp

If you’re mostly selling products in EU countries, PackHelp might be the best choice for you, as we have fulfillment facilities in the UK, Latvia, and Spain, and PackHelp is based in the EU too.  Besides the classic poly mailer, PackHelp also offers mailers made from natural and fully biodegradable materials—another excellent branding element for your business if you’re striving to be sustainable. Note that the minimum order count starts at 100 mailers.

Here at Printful, we’re also looking for ways to become more sustainable. In 2022, we switched from 30% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic material packaging to 90%–100% PCR plastic packaging for apparel products in our US fulfillment centers (which are still completely white-label). Our European locations are using eco-friendly packaging with 70–100% PCR plastic content.

More consumers worldwide want eco-friendly packaging because it’s better for the environment. Find out more about Printful’s eco-friendly packaging journey and how you can contribute to sustainability with print-on-demand in our blog posts.

Printful packaging and labeling

Submit your packaging for approval in the Warehouse section of your Dashboard, and after that, mail your packages to us. Note that there are storage fees for all products sent to be stored in our warehouses. As soon as your products are approved, you’ll be able to pick which custom packaging goes with which orders. 

  1. Sign in to your Printful account and open the Dashboard Settings

  2. In the Settings view, scroll down to the Stores section and click Branding. 

  3. Choose your store and upload the brand logo.

Right under the logo, you’ll find the Custom packing slip message box where you can either write a personalized message (remember the pack-in message ideas?) or a sustainability message to inform the target audience about your store’s environmental efforts.

Storage fees are calculated based on the dimensions of a single item in its storing condition. You’ll need to find your packaging measurements and fill in the correct dimensions. We’ll use these dimensions to calculate your storage fee.

The order packing label is white-label so that you can add your branding elements:

  • Show off your logo

  • Add links to your online store

  • Invite customers to check out your social media

  • Provide your contact info

a white and black label with a barcode

Source: Printful

With Printful, you can track all customer orders, which helps a lot when providing customer service about package delivery. 

If you don’t want to provide your address in the case of a product return, by default, all products will go back to the fulfillment center where each was made.

8. Advertise your branded dropshipping business

Advertising your branded dropshipping business is essential for attracting customers and driving sales. Here’s how to create a compelling advertising strategy that highlights your brand identity and resonates with your target audience.

Social media

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are powerful tools for advertising your dropshipping business. Showcase your products on social media through engaging visuals and compelling stories. For example, Instagram is ideal for visually appealing ads that highlight your product’s features, while Facebook allows for detailed targeting options based on user interests and behaviors.

Create eye-catching ads with high-quality images or videos that align with your brand identity. Use consistent branding elements like your logo, colors, and fonts to reinforce brand recognition.

Search engine advertising

Search engine advertising, such as Google Ads, can help you reach customers who actively search for products like yours. Create targeted ads using relevant keywords that potential customers will likely use when searching for your products. Optimize your ad copy to highlight the benefits and features of your products, encouraging clicks and conversions.

Email marketing

Email marketing remains one of the most powerful ways to reach and engage customers. Get new subscribers through incentives like discounts or free shipping. Send regular newsletters with updates, promotions, and personalized product recommendations. Make sure your emails are visually appealing and consistent with your brand identity. Personalized emails that address the recipient by name and offer tailored suggestions can significantly improve engagement and conversion rates.

Content marketing

Content marketing is another powerful way to attract and retain customers. This can include blog posts, how-to guides, product reviews, and more. For example, if you’re selling fitness apparel, you could write blog posts about workout tips, fitness routines, and the benefits of your apparel. Share this content on your website and social media channels to drive traffic and build trust with your audience.

Offer promotions and discounts

Everyone loves a good deal, and offering promotions or discounts can be an excellent way to attract new customers and encourage repeat business.

Time-limited offers, flash sales, and exclusive discounts for email subscribers or social media followers can create a sense of urgency and drive sales. Make sure to advertise these promotions across all your channels, including your website, social media, and email campaigns.

Measure and optimize your advertising efforts

Finally, it’s crucial to measure the performance of your advertising campaigns and improve them for better results. Use analytics tools to track key metrics like click-through rates, conversion rates, and return on ad spend. Analyze this data to figure out what’s working and what’s not, and adjust your strategies accordingly. Continuous optimization ensures that your advertising efforts continue to work and pay off.

a person using a laptop

Source: Unsplash

Ready to start your branded dropshipping business?

Branding a business can sound complex, but with a dropshipping provider like Printful, it’s much easier than figuring it all out by yourself. Just keep in mind your goals and values. It’s tricky to build a brand if it’s not something meaningful. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, a brand with depth won’t happen overnight. So take your time and start small. Refine your logo, invest in custom labels, or design those lovely mailers and focus on testing them in a specific shipping region. Trust that it will be worth it.

Branded dropshipping FAQs

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By Lilija Karpjaka on May 28, 2024

Lilija Karpjaka

SEO Content Writer

Lilija is an SEO content writer at Printful. She's passionate about ecommerce, and in her spare time, she's an avid reader of various book genres.

Lilija is an SEO content writer at Printful. She's passionate about ecommerce, and in her spare time, she's an avid reader of various book genres.