Jeff Moriarty is the first to admit that luck played a huge role in the success of his dropshipping business, DogChristmasStockings.com. A full-time digital marketing consultant, Moriarty got curious about dropshipping when he noticed a lot of his marketing clients were doing it. “I decided I could tackle a project like that as well,” he says. Because of his full schedule, he knew that holding his own inventory and dealing with shipping was out of the question. “I needed to be able to do it during my off-hours and I didn’t want to get burned out in the process,” he says. “Dropshipping makes it so much easier to multitask.” He joins a worldwide community of dropshippers who have found a product niche and seen their online store grow from humble beginnings.
Moriarty sought out a unique market and landed on Christmas items for pets. He had some experience building sites in Shopify, so that part was a breeze and took a single weekend. That was four years ago.
“This was my first time dropshipping and I got lucky and it worked out for me,” he says. “I also got lucky with my suppliers.” He front-loaded a lot of marketing work into the business, and around the second year of business Moriarty was able to fund a trip for himself and his family throughout Asia.
DogChristmasStockings.com now generates about $10,000 in annual profit for Moriarty. Furthermore, that $10,000 comes from very little work. The site is pretty much self-sufficient—Moriarty says he only works on it during the holidays.
Dropshipping has certainly found appeal as a way of supplementing income and opening opportunities for travel. Many dropshippers have taken to social media telling of their journey from working 9-5 jobs to going on global adventures following their success as online entrepreneurs.“The goal of this was to pay for vacations,” Moriarty says. “Now each year, this business pays for all of our travel.”
The fairly freeform model of dropshipping allowing entrepreneurs to choose their level of commitment—from a part-time side hustle to a full-time job—has been a major draw for many who have entered the business.The potential of the store, were he to manage it as a full-time job, is not lost on Moriarty. “I am sure if I ever wanted to make it really go somewhere, I could quit my job and work on it 40 hours a week, but I like what I do and this side hustle gives us a nice vacation each year.”
While Moriarty is happy with maintaining his business as a side hustle, he says there are some downsides to being a smaller client when it comes to his supplier. “Because I am not one of my supplier’s biggest clients, I get pushed back when it comes to issues or problems,” he says. A strong rapport with suppliers is one of a dropshipper’s most valuable assets. When problems arise, this can often be the difference between life and death in the business. “This last Christmas there were tons of late orders, but they had to ship out their biggest clients first, so this was upsetting. I am at the mercy of the dropshipper sometimes.”
This disappointment is mitigated by the supplier’s commitment to quality. “They have been very good at quality,” Moriarty says. “Whenever they do mess up, which happens rarely, they fix it right away no questions asked. This makes my customers happy.”
He says those new to dropshipping should make an effort to differentiate their business, no matter how unique the niche might be. “You are dropshipping a product that others can sell as well, so make sure your business has advantages over others,” he says. This might mean superior customer service, an interesting spin on your items, or even unique packaging.”
Growing up in the Midwest, Moriarty and his wife Aimee have always enjoyed walking their pets during the picturesque fall period. Finding a successful niche often involves playing to one’s strengths and interests, and as dropshipping has expanded, suppliers working within smaller niches such as Moriarty’s have emerged.
Simon Slade, CEO of SaleHoo.com, attests to the importance of using your pastime as a motivator. “Once you’ve identified your hobbies, try and think laterally and outside the box to generate product ideas that aren’t so obvious,” he says. “The more specific your niche is, the better.”
Moriarty also advises dropshippers to be wary of consulting trends on Amazon. “I tested a new product last year that was killing it on Amazon,” he says. “I ordered a huge amount of the product to get better margins. Just after that, another seller came in and sold close to cost. I ended up losing money to get rid of my inventory.”
Another strategy that has worked well for Moriarty’s business is capitalizing on his existing customers, which tend to have a better ROI than new customers. “Advertise to your customers,” he says. “Many people I know just look for new customers. Instead, use tools like email campaigns, SMS and desktop push notifications to remarket to your customers.”