Get Started
Printful Blog logo
Creative services
Photography services

Blog / Beginner's handbook / Dropshipping Mistakes You Should Avoid

Beginner's handbook

Printful Blog

Master the art of ecommerce

Launch your own print-on-demand business

Sign up with Printful

No upfront fees • No order minimums • 338 premium products

Printful Blog

Blog / Beginner's handbook / Dropshipping Mistakes You Should Avoid

Beginner's handbook

Dropshipping Mistakes You Should Avoid

Dropshipping Mistakes You Should Avoid
Karlina Rozkalne

By Karlina Rozkalne

13 min read

Let’s explore the key dropshipping mistakes that could impede your ecommerce success. From overlooking vital details to missing strategic opportunities, understanding these common errors is crucial for anyone navigating the dropshipping business model. 

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting, this guide aims to illuminate pitfalls and provide actionable insights to help you build a more robust, profitable online store. 

Let’s dive into these essential learnings to ensure your dropshipping journey is smooth and successful.

21 dropshipping beginner mistakes to avoid

We’ve rounded up the 21 most common mistakes to avoid in the dropshipping business model. Whether you’re a beginner or are looking to refine your strategy, this will be a valuable read. Let’s dive right in.

1. Planning too much, doing too little

That’s one of the most common dropshipping mistakes. Endless planning can lead to analysis paralysis, a psychological trap where the fear of making the wrong choice prevents making any choice at all. That often happens when entrepreneurs get lost in endless planning, missing out on real-world learning. 

The key is to strike a balance: limit your planning phase, then take decisive action. Start small, test, and adapt your strategies based on real experiences. 

The market won’t wait for the perfect plan. Embrace a hands-on approach; real-world experiences are invaluable. When making money online, swift action often trumps a flawless plan.

Printful logo
man with jacket
Printful logo
Create and sell custom products online
Let’s go

Defining your customers should be one of the first steps when starting your dropshipping business.

Failing to pinpoint your potential buyers is like sailing without a compass. This lack of direction can waste resources and efforts. More and more, customers crave personalized experiences because they help them feel connected to a particular brand. A 2023 study revealed that 56% of shoppers will become repeat buyers after a personalized experience.

a green circle with black textSource: Segment

To hit the mark, dive deep into identifying your potential buyers: understand their demographics, interests, pain points, and habits.

Skipping thorough research on dropshipping suppliers is a major misstep and can derail your business. After all, suppliers have a direct impact on customer satisfaction and your business’s reputation. 

To ensure success, vet different suppliers: check their production capacity, delivery times, and customer reviews. You should prioritize suppliers with reliable track records and clear communication.

You can work with more than one dropshipping supplier, but it’s best to start with a single supplier because it lets you check their product quality before diversifying your supplier network.

There’s no print-on-demand company that’s unanimously hailed as the best one, as each one offers perks tailored to different customers. We’ve put together an on-demand company comparison table so it’s easy for you to weigh the differences. Check out the screenshot below to see what you’ll get.

a chart with green and red ticksSource: Printful

Before launching your dropshipping business, you should do proper research about your target audience, competitors, and the market. Otherwise, you’re shooting in the dark, and even if your online business becomes successful, you won’t be able to replicate it. 

The best approach is to start by scrutinizing your competitors. Here are some helpful questions to get you started:

  1. Who are your top competitors?

  2. What products and product variations (colors and sizes) do they offer?

  3. What advantages do your products have compared to your competitors?

  4. How much does the same product (or something similar) cost on competitors’ websites?

  5. What are the marketing strategies of other brands (on social media, with paid ads, newsletters, giveaways, or coupons)?

  6. What are their shipping costs, and do they offer free shipping?

  7. How have others approached their product descriptions and visuals? What can you do better?

  8. Are other businesses taking advantage of the trends you’re interested in?

Pro tip: Check the negative reviews on your competitors’ pages or stores and see what you can do better than others.

5. Not having a clearly defined niche

That’s one of the most common mistakes new dropshipping business owners make.

Choosing the wrong niche or a broad niche can cause a ton of headaches because having a store without a clear focus will make it difficult to:

  • Develop a targeted marketing strategy

  • Build a loyal customer base

  • Stand out in a competitive market

Venturing into a new niche requires careful research to ensure it’s worthwhile. To build a successful business, it’s best to create a niche store focusing on a specific area. Tailoring your store to a well-defined, profitable niche allows you to create a strong connection with potential customers.

6. Trying to sell too many products

Offering a random assortment of products in your dropshipping store can weaken your brand and confuse potential customers. A scattered catalog makes it hard for customers to understand what your ecommerce store stands for. Instead, create a cohesive product lineup that tells a clear story and resonates with your target audience. 

Focus only on the best-selling print-on-demand products, or, if you want to offer a wide range of products, organize them into thematic collections. This strategy keeps your offerings diverse yet unified under a single concept, making it easier for customers to navigate and align with your brand.

Valuable read: 21 Trending Products to Sell Online in 2024

7. Not calculating costs

When creating your first store, setting the prices could seem challenging. Failing to factor all the costs into your prices is one of the most costly mistakes you can make. 

But there’s no need to worry! There are 3 basic steps you need to take to ensure your online store is lucrative.

Step 1: Assess your product cost

When pricing your products, you should include design costs, production costs, shipping costs, taxes, and platform fees.

Step 2: Add a profit margin

A good profit margin for dropshipping businesses is 10–30%. Be aware that your own profit margin will also depend on the products you’re selling. 

Valuable read: 11 High Profit Margin Dropshipping Products + Examples

Step 3: Review your prices regularly

Stay competitive and adapt to market changes, customer demand, and cost fluctuations. This ongoing process helps ensure you’re not losing money, your pricing strategy remains effective, and your online store keeps making sales.

preview play-button

8. Lack of clarity in product descriptions

Product descriptions are crucial as they inform customers, boost search engine optimization (SEO), influence purchase decisions, and differentiate products. Here are 6 tips for writing stellar descriptions for any platform:

  • Focus on benefits. Highlight how the product improves the customer’s life, not just its features.

  • Be specific. Provide detailed information about size, material, functionality, and compatibility.

  • Use simple language. Avoid jargon; write in a clear, easy-to-understand manner.

  • Include keywords. Integrate relevant keywords for SEO but keep the text natural and user-friendly.

  • Tell a story. Create a narrative around the product to engage emotionally with your audience.

  • Keep it short. Aim for concise descriptions; clear and brief content is often more impactful.

preview play-button

Poor branding in dropshipping can be as detrimental as choosing the wrong niche. In a market with so much competition, lacking strong branding means you blend into the background. 

Branded dropshipping sets you apart, telling your unique story and connecting emotionally with customers. Your logo and color scheme are only a small part of strong branding—it’s more about creating a memorable experience and a trustworthy image.

Printful logo
man with jacket
Printful logo
Create and sell custom products online
Let’s go

Not optimizing your dropshipping site for SEO can significantly reduce its visibility and traffic. A well-done SEO helps your website rank higher in search engine results, drawing more potential customers. 

preview play-button

SEO strategies vary by site, tailored to specific keywords, content relevance, and user experience. Ignoring SEO means missing out on organic traffic and potential sales. Prioritize optimizing your site for SEO to enhance your online presence and attract a targeted audience.

Selling copyrighted items in your dropshipping store is illegal and can lead to your products being taken down or even blocked by some sites. Instead, focus on creating or sourcing original designs and products. 

That keeps your business legally safe and helps build a unique brand identity, attracting customers who seek originality and authenticity. Original designs can set your store apart and foster a loyal customer base.

Feedback is a valuable source of insights into customer needs, product performance, and areas for improvement. Here are 3 effective ways to gather customer feedback:

  • Read and analyze online reviews. Monitor reviews on your website and social media to understand customer opinions and experiences.

  • Send out surveys. Use email surveys or feedback forms post-purchase to collect targeted insights.

  • Engage on social media. Actively interact with customers on social media platforms to receive direct and candid feedback.

Listening to customer feedback is crucial for refining your products and services, ultimately leading to a more successful business.

Holidays significantly boost spending, and the amount people spend keeps growing every year. 

a graph of salesSource: NRF

Planning for holidays allows businesses to capitalize on increased shopper activity through special promotions, themed products, and targeted marketing. By aligning sales strategies with holiday dates, you can tap into the festive spending spree, driving up sales and enhancing brand visibility. 

We’ve created an ecommerce holiday calendar with a quick summary of dates and holidays to make 2024 your most profitable year yet.

a calendar with a number of days
Source: Printful

You don’t have to participate in every single holiday—pick a few you’ll focus on and tailor your marketing plan to them.

A common pitfall for new dropshippers is expecting instant success. Dropshipping, like any business, requires time, effort, and patience. Some sellers, enticed by stories of quick wins, become discouraged when they don’t see immediate results. 

This impatience can lead to premature quitting, often just before gaining momentum. It’s important to set realistic expectations and understand that building a successful dropshipping business is a gradual process. Focus on consistent growth, learning from challenges, and adapting strategies. Success in dropshipping is a marathon, not a sprint, and requires perseverance and a long-term view. 

In today’s market, mobile shopping is not just popular; it’s vital. As of 2023, over 70% of internet users shop on mobile devices. Some online sellers don’t understand that neglecting mobile optimization for their ecommerce websites means missing out on a vast customer base. 

a man and woman with bags and a phoneSource: The future of commerce

To optimize for mobile devices, ensure your website has a responsive design that adapts seamlessly to various screen sizes. Simplify the checkout process, use large, easy-to-tap buttons, and ensure load times are as short as possible. Additionally, consider integrating mobile payment options to enhance user convenience.

Ignoring social media is a significant oversight in the ecommerce business. In 2023, over 50% of internet users aged 16–24 use social networks for brand research.

a graph of blue barsSource: Statista

Social media platforms are vital for connecting with your audience and promoting your dropshipping store. Social media allows for targeted advertising, real-time customer engagement, and building a loyal community around your brand.

One aspect of social advertisement that’s becoming increasingly popular is influencer marketing. To capitalize on this trend for your own business, collaborate with influencers who resonate with your target audience. They can authentically showcase your products, reaching potential shoppers in a personal and trustworthy way to help you make more sales. Start by identifying influencers whose followers align with your ideal customer profile, then craft campaigns that align with their content style.

Overlooking data analytics in dropshipping means missing valuable insights for your business growth. Here are the top tools you can use: 

  • Google Analytics: Universal tool for tracking website traffic, user behavior, and ecommerce performance.

  • Shopify Analytics: Specific to Shopify users, offers insights into sales, customer behavior, and store performance.

  • WooCommerce Analytics: Ideal for WordPress-based stores, providing detailed data on sales, customers, and products.

  • Etsy Stats: Essential for Etsy sellers, offering insights into shop traffic, listing performance, and customer engagement.

  • Amazon Brand Analytics: For Amazon sellers, providing detailed reports on sales, returns, and customer demographics.

  • eBay Seller Hub Analytics: Designed for eBay sellers, offering insights into sales trends, traffic sources, and listing performance.

The most important metrics to monitor are page views, bounce rates, cart abandonment rates, and customer demographics. This data helps to understand customer preferences, optimize marketing strategies, and improve the user experience. 

Leverage analytics to make data-driven decisions, ensuring your business adapts and thrives.

Since shoppers can’t touch or feel the products they see on your store, product photos determine your dropshipping success. A whopping 75% of online shoppers rely on product images when deciding on a potential purchase. 

High-quality photos build trust and provide clarity about what you’re selling. Plus, stunning photos can increase engagement and shareability on social media, directly impacting sales.

Let’s say you want to enter a highly saturated market and sell custom t-shirts or custom hoodies. With many sellers competing for the shopper attention, the first thing that can get you sales is an outstanding product photo.

Valuable read: Step-by-Step Guide to Stunning Clothing Photography

But that doesn’t mean you must spend a fortune on expensive photoshoots. With Printful’s Mockup Maker, you can create true-to-life product mockups for your store and socials for free.

preview play-button

Emails are a highly effective, low-cost way to reach your customers. And email marketing has a higher return on investment than any other channel. 

a close-up of a signSource: Oberlo

The first email is most important because welcome emails have a staggering open rate of 68.6%. To create a positive initial impression and keep your shoppers reading your emails, give them a discount code or offer exclusive first-time buyer deals, sneak peeks at new products, or a personalized thank-you message.

Here are 3 ways you can start building your email list:

  1. Offer incentives (e.g., discounts, freebies) for sign-ups

  2. Add a subscription form on your website

  3. Use social media to promote sign-ups

preview play-button

After you have an email list, you can build stronger relationships and drive sales by sending out:

  • Newsletters

  • Exclusive promotions

  • Product updates

  • Personalized recommendations

  • Event invitations

  • Customer surveys

  • Educational content

Printful logo
man with jacket
Printful logo
Create and sell custom products online
Let’s go

20. Underestimating shipping times and costs

Underestimating shipping times and costs can upset customers and damage your brand’s reputation. Customers value transparency and prompt delivery. To avoid these pitfalls, always factor realistic shipping times and costs into your product pricing and communication. 

Also, build relationships with reliable suppliers to ensure accurate shipping estimates. In case something happens and the deliveries are delayed, ensure you reach out to your customers and let them know in advance. Proactive communication about shipping can build trust and manage customer expectations, turning a challenge into an opportunity for excellent customer service.

It’s highly beneficial for your own dropshipping business to work with a supplier that has fulfillment centers worldwide. That ensures faster deliveries and lower shipping costs.

a map of the world with different countries/regionsSource: Printful

21. Neglecting cross-selling and upselling opportunities

Overlooking cross-selling and upselling is a major missed chance for additional revenue. These strategies are must-dos for businesses, presenting significant growth potential. Data shows that upselling and cross-selling can contribute up to 30% of ecommerce revenue. 

 

a pie chart with a percentageSource: Sales funnel strategist

Cross-selling invites customers to buy related or complementary products, while upselling encourages the buying of a higher-end version of the product. Implementing these tactics enhances the shopping experience by offering more value to the customer. 

You’re all set

Each error avoided is a step towards a more profitable and sustainable business. Use this guide as a roadmap to navigate the complex terrain of dropshipping with confidence. 

Here’s to building a thriving, mistake-free dropshipping venture!

Valuable read: 

Frequently asked questions

author

By Karlina Rozkalne on Jan 19, 2024

Karlina Rozkalne

SEO Content Writer

Karlina is an SEO Content Writer specialist at Printful. As a firm believer in attitude over aptitude, Karlina gives her 100% whenever she works on something new. Karlina spends her free time reading, traveling, and doing yoga.

Karlina is an SEO Content Writer specialist at Printful. As a firm believer in attitude over aptitude, Karlina gives her 100% whenever she works on something new. Karlina spends her free time reading, traveling, and doing yoga.