That moment you’ve been waiting for…
You’ve set up your store and are ready to roll!
(Cue celebratory dance.)
But there’s still a final piece to the puzzle.
Marketing is the be all and end all when it comes to driving traffic and increasing conversions – otherwise you'll be waiting for customers till the cows come home.
So, when it comes to dropshipping, you need to have a marketing strategy just like any other business. It’ll be your road map for generating leads, turning them into paying customers, and getting them to come back again – it truly is critical to your business success.
The dropshipping industry is getting increasingly competitive, so you’ll fall short if you don’t take proactive steps with your dropshipping marketing tactics.
There’s so much information out there and we know it can be overwhelming to know what will really work, so we’ve created this dropshipping marketing guide to show you exactly how you’ll turn your store into a winner.
Let’s dive in.
First, what is dropshipping?
You’ll probably know plenty about this business model, so we’ll keep things brief here.
Dropshipping is an eCommerce model where you sell products online, but instead of holding inventory in a warehouse or storage facility, the stock remains with the supplier.
When someone places an order on your website or store, the supplier sends the products directly to your customer.
Dropshipping has become one of the most popular ways to make a living or run a side hustle online due to its low-risk nature. There are fewer overheads and upfront costs compared to wholesale eCommerce, where you purchase and store your own inventory, and handle order fulfillment too.
How do you build a dropshipping store?
Although anybody can open a dropshipping store, there are a few things you need to consider when you’re starting out.
Market research, buyer personas, finding reputable suppliers, and setting up an online store are just a few of the crucial steps of starting a dropshipping store. Knowing exactly how to start a dropshipping business will equip you with the knowledge to launch confidently.
In many cases dropshipping can become a passive income, but like any other business you can’t expect success without doing some legwork – at least in the beginning. Luckily you know all this hard work will pay off in not too long at all!
Once you’ve built the foundations of your dropshipping business, it’s time to look at your dropshipping marketing tactics.
Dropshipping marketing vs traditional eCommerce marketing – What’s the difference?
Although dropshipping is similar to other types of eCommerce, there are a few nuances you need to consider when it comes to marketing.
First of all, when you’re dropshipping, the product’s quality, branding, packaging, as well as order fulfillment are all in the hands of the supplier. So you need to make sure you’ve really done your homework and you have all the information when it comes to promoting any particular aspects of the product. There’s nothing worse for customer relationships than promoting information such as product details or shipping estimates that then turn out to be inaccurate.
So you’ll need to know your supplier’s shipping and return policies, as these are details that prospective customers will be looking at before committing to buy from you.
Secondly, the competitive nature of the dropshipping market means you really have to stand out from the crowd to make your business a success. This means doing plenty of market research to determine the viability of your products amongst the competition and, for example, finding a niche product with low competition. This is why it's extremely important to run a competitive analysis before diving into any dropshipping business.
18 Expert dropshipping marketing tactics
The good news is that today’s digital world offers an abundance of marketing avenues for every budget.
For a balanced marketing strategy, you should include some form of both paid and organic marketing, but the balance between the two is down to you and your budget. Luckily there are plenty of low-cost strategies to make things work from wherever you’re at.
So without further ado, here’s our list of our favorite dropshipping marketing tactics – to lead your business to success and watch those dollars streaming in. Ka-Ching!
1. Going viral on TikTok marketing and IG reels
- Required budget: (free aside from the time investment)
Video content is everywhere. And if you’re not yet leveraging TikTok marketing and Instagram Reels for your business, you’re definitely missing an opportunity to build brand awareness – exactly why we’ve chosen it as our #1 dropshipping marketing tactic.
There are no guarantees that your videos will go viral. But you gotta be in it to win it, and the only way you’ll have a chance is to try – and try consistently – by doing the following...
Trends are an important puzzle piece in your social media marketing strategy and there are several things you need to think about.
Firstly, consider using trending audio from a popular film, recognizable sound effects, or audio taken from someone else’s viral TikTok marketing or Instagram Reels.
Music is crucial on social media, and there are always trending songs making the rounds. The song Stay by Justin Beiber and The Kid Laroi was a massive trend on TikTok marketing in 2021, and it attracted content creators worldwide to create funny and creative videos.
Finally, there are hashtags. Hashtags have always been an important part of social media as a way to categorize and find content. When you’re posting content, using all relevant trending hashtags (you can use up to 30 on IG) will give your content a better chance at ranking.
You always want to keep social media in mind when thinking about trend analysis.
So the better you get at staying on top of trends on social media, the more likely it is you’ll end up having your content go viral. Imagine that!
The algorithm on all social channels prioritize accounts that post consistently and regularly. They want to keep people on their app as long as possible, so the more regularly you post, the more they’ll trust your content.
If you don’t have time to post every day, use a scheduler, like Later or Sprout Social. Simply upload each post with the correct captions and hashtags, triple check them for errors (you can’t edit them once posted) and then schedule them in.
Schedulers also work for other content, too, not just Reels and TikTok marketing, so check out apps like Later and Sprout Social to see how they can help you automate your content to save you time when executing your dropshipping marketing strategies.
Build your community
Having a loyal community on social media is so important, as they will spread the word and take your brand to their family and friends – basically free advertising! This is especially important for dropshipping businesses where competition is high. Many businesses fail to spend time in this area, because it can seem tedious engaging with your community and responding to every comment and question. But it’s worth the small effort it takes.
Social media gives you direct access to potential customers. You’re able to build relationships in an authentic and organic way, which in turn will build your positive brand image over time.
The more active you are, the more you’ll be rewarded.
2. Email marketing
- Required budget: (free other than any email software you’re using)
Email marketing is another indispensable element of your marketing strategy, but many businesses fail to fully take advantage of all the opportunities it offers.
Having direct access to your customer's email inbox is huge! Unlike social media where prospects are cold leads, email marketing warms up your audience and gives you the opportunity to communicate with them in a place where they have their guard down. So you need to start working on that email list asap!
The most common way to collect email addresses is to set up a pop-up on your website that offers a discount code or other benefit in exchange for their email.
Once your email list is set up and growing, automation is your best friend. You can easily set up different email automation flows with apps like MailChimp or Omnisend that will send out relevant campaigns to your customers at ideal timings.
Typically, businesses will set up specific email campaigns such as:
- Welcome emails
- Promotional campaigns
These are generally sent out within the hour of someone subscribing. They’re often quite brief in nature, and include a friendly, on-brand message, and their discount code, if applicable.
Newsletters are a great extension of your brand. They’re an organic and authentic way to give your subscribers value without asking for anything in return. This builds stronger relationships and trust with your customers.
Promotional campaigns are where you promote your products. They can be a standalone email or a series of emails, depending on the specific promotion.
3. Start a blog
- Required budget: (free aside from the time investment)
Blogging is no longer an insider secret – most brands, solopreneurs and content creators these days feature a blog on their website, and with good reason. Not only does it give you the opportunity to promote your products to people already interested in your brand, but it can also set your brand up as an expert in your industry.
Most eCommerce sites, like Shopify, have a blog feature you can implement on your website at no additional cost. Then it’s just a matter of being consistent and carving out that time every week, month or quarter to write valuable, informative blog posts.
With this dropshipping marketing tactic, you should write about topics related to your particular niche, which are (first and foremost) relevant to your customers, but can also mention your products where applicable. The main purpose isn’t to push products, so try not to be in too much of a sales mode as that will definitely turn off your readers!
When planning content for your blog, it’s good practice to do so ahead of time. Using a content calendar for all of your channels and planning for the month ahead will keep you organized, so you’ll never be stumped on what to post.
Stay up to date on the latest news and relevant dates throughout the year, like Halloween and Black Friday, so you can capitalize on those busy times of the year.
A related topic is search engine optimization (SEO), which is crucial to any business that has a digital footprint as it’ll give you a good ranking in Google search results. Having a blog actually works towards your SEO too, so you’re really killing two birds with one stone too.
4. Get organic traffic with SEO content marketing
- Required budget: (free, but you need to do your keyword research)
Google is the yellow pages of the modern world and many customers find new brands this way – which is why you want to make sure your ranking in search results is as good as it can be.
When looking at your dropshipping content marketing strategy, ie. what sort of blog posts and social media posts you’ll be putting up, you want to always be thinking about SEO at the same time, as using the right keywords will mean that Google’s algorithms can find them.
One smart way to work on your SEO is to use low-competition targeted keywords, which you can find by using software such as Ahrefs or SemRush. Low-competition keywords are topics that haven’t been written about a whole lot and this smaller competition makes it more likely that your post would be displayed higher up in search results. Competitive analysis is crucial when it comes to SEO and search so make sure you do this step thoroughly.
SEO considerations apply to all digital parts of your business, from your blog, to your social media accounts, Amazon listings, and your website. By adding SEO keywords across your channels, you’re amplifying your reach.
5. Use paid ads such as Facebook, Google and TikTok marketing ads
- Required budget: (from $1/ day, then increase as your business grows)
Organic content on your blog and social accounts is a great start to building your brand presence and fostering awareness within your audience.
It’s free to post on your social media channels as much as you like, but typically, organic posting won’t increase actual conversions that much, as it’s just not as suitable for this purpose.
To start really boosting your sales, you need to pay to play, i.e., you need to pay for ads. While you may make some sales from organic posting alone, it won’t be anywhere near as lucrative as running paid ads.
The great thing about running ads is that you’ll be collecting a whole host of data as you go. So while your very first ad campaign might not be the golden ticket to brand stardom that you’re hoping, with every new round of ads you’ll be able to improve your targeting and ad creatives. You’ll know exactly who your customers are, who returns, who clicks on what, and why people abandon ship.
Facebook traditionally has the highest return on ad spend (ROAS) and therefore makes it the best dropshipping marketing tactic, but TikTok marketing is fast developing into a close contender, due to its very fast accumulation of data for ad results.
6. Add social proof to your site
- Required budget: (free if you already have a few customers, otherwise you may have to give a few products away to get reviews)
Think about it, would you rather buy something that an ad told you was a great product, or a similar product but one that you had recommended from a friend? 82% of Americans say they look for recommendations from friends and family before making a new purchase, and 88% of all consumers say they trust user reviews just as much as personal recommendations. Need we say more?!
Adding user reviews and ratings to your website and product pages can make a HUGE difference to your sales, because it instantly increases customers’ trust in your brand. You’re not just claiming something about the benefit of your products, you’re actually proving that they’re true.
There’s several ways to get ratings and reviews automated on your site, but the most common are email automations which will ask for a customer’s review a few days after delivery. You can also do SMS requests or pop-ups too, or even offer discounts in exchange for reviews.
7. Write catchy and concise product descriptions
- Required budget: (free)
There’s enough information streaming into our brains at all times already; the last thing people need is product descriptions that go on and on and never get to the point.
You want to be listing your product’s benefits early on and explain exactly what problem it’s solving, ideally in the first sentence. Bullet-pointed lists work really well for breaking up a listing’s text and are great for laying out benefits in a visually appealing way.
Take a good hard look at your existing products descriptions and be sure to kill your darlings where needed. You might be chuffed with a particular turn of phrase – but is it really serving a purpose? If it isn’t, out with it! Save the flowery language and lengthy story-telling for your blog and remember to keep it to-the-point in your product descriptions.
8. Optimize your checkout flow
- Required budget: (free)
We could write a whole article on optimal website features (oh hang on, we did!), but let’s just suffice to say that less is more when it comes to checking out. The fewer steps a customer needs to go through to complete their purchase, the less likely it is you’ll lose them at the last hurdle.
Another important point is being upfront with additional costs such as shipping and taxes, ideally as early as the product page itself, and to inform people of the returns policy from the get-go. These are some of the main reasons people abandon their carts.
The Baymard Institude found that 17% of customers abandon their cart due to long/ complicated checkout processes, 12% because of unsatisfactory returns, and a whopping 48% due to hidden costs.
So get your flow chart out, because you want to be making sure you’ve got all these kinks ironed out on your website. Otherwise all those dropshipping marketing tactics will fall down simply due to the fact that your website is a bit, well, crappy.
9. Use influencers to get the word out
- Required budget: ($25 - $200 per collaboration with a nano influencer collaboration)
Influencer collaboration marketing is THE hot ticket of the last 5 years or so. Influencers are the sort of people who are very active on social media, i.e. stories daily and posts at least a few times a week, but they’re not necessarily professional content creators.
In fact, smaller influencers with lower follower counts often have much better engagement rates than those with more impressive-sounding follower counts. And engagement is what it’s all about. You can check an account’s engagement rate with a free tool on Phlanx.com to get an idea of whether an influencer collaboration is worth working with.
The way it works is that you’ll pay an influencer to talk about your brand or product on their social channel (most often Instagram). This can be in the shape of them trialing your product, showing themselves using your product, running a competition, social media takeovers or ongoing collaborations and mentions.
Each influencer collaboration will have their own rates, but you’ll usually pay per post/story/bundle depending on whether it’s an honest review or a straight up ad. Some influencers may only want to do reviews to maintain their authenticity and trust with their community.
After they’ve shared their post about your brand, you can then repost this content and use it within your own channels and website as continued social proof.
10. Start an affiliate or ambassador program
- Required budget: (no upfront cost [other than any software you’re using]; you’ll only pay when you make a sale)
Brand ambassador programs are basically extensions of influencer collaborations. So this person will regularly champion your brand on their channels (usually social) and highlight how they’re using your products in their own life. Some brands that successfully do this are food boxes such HelloFresh and apparel brands like Lululemon and Nike.
Affiliate programs are similar, but more geared towards sales. Affiliates are often owners of websites or YouTube channels who advertise your brand with special product links that will connect any sales that they facilitate back to them. You then pay them a previously agreed amount or percentage of the sales revenue as commission. SaleHoo has a very active program like this and we make about 50% of our sales through affiliates, so it can be a very powerful conversion tool indeed.
The two types of programs can also work in tandem where a brand ambassador may get paid a standing order for their ambassador-ship but also gets commission from an affiliate link.
To set up affiliate and ambassador programs, and continue running them consistently, we recommend that you use a dedicated app or software or app such as UpPromote. This will enable you to create links and manage all your relationships effectively, plus you’ll have experienced support when it comes to laying out terms of conditions and the legal side of things.
11. Collaborate with like-minded brands on social media
- Required budget: (You’ll likely need to provide some of your products for giveaways etc)
Collaborations with other brands is similar to influencer marketing, except that it’s often a marketing win-win for both sides. The way this dropshipping marketing tactic works is to work with a brand that has a similar target audience to your own, but one that’s different enough that you’ll get exposed to lots of new potential customers.
For example, if you’re a supplement company, you might think about collaborating with gyms, health brands, nutrition experts etc.
Another important consideration, is whether the other brand is active on social media AND if they have a significant amount of followers (1000+). If all of these are a yes, then you’ll know it’s a potentially winning collaboration.
Potential ways to collaborate are profile takeovers (where you let somebody else run your social accounts for a day/ week), cross-promotions (endorsing each other), and hosting giveaways and competitions.
12. Start a YouTube channel
- Required budget: (You’ll need decent recording equipment and editing software)
Studies show that marketers who use video grow their revenue 49% faster than those who don’t, while 81% of marketers say video has helped them grow sales.
It’s no surprise really, when people watch an average of 84 minutes of video a day globally and video content is more than twice as likely to be shared than any other content.
So you see what we’re getting at here: video content can make a big difference! As with all other content, videos need to be on-brand and relevant to your audience, providing useful and engaging material. Nobody will watch your stuff if it’s too salesy or just straight-up boring.
There are also a bunch of important factors to keep in mind when optimizing your videos for search engines, basically making sure that people will find your video when searching on YouTube, Google or similar:
- Include relevant and trending keywords in the video title + meta-description
- Add timestamps for key moments
- Use transcripts to use as blog posts or in the description
- Aim for maximum user engagement: the more comments and shares, the more search engines will rate your content and bump it up
- Use an engeye-catching video thumbnail to draw people in
- Post videos regularly and consistently
13. Recover abandoned carts with discounts or freebies
- Required budget: (free)
The best way to approach this dropshipping marketing tactic, is to try and reduce abandoned carts from the start. This means having a smooth and straightforward checkout flow with plenty of payment options and the ability to continue as a guest. Reducing friction is the name of the game!
But regardless how good your site is, you’ll never be able to stop all abandoned carts altogether. The average abandoned cart rate is a huge 69.9%, so anything you can recover from this will be a boon to your business and should feature heavily in your dropshipping marketing tactics.
One great way to follow up abandoned carts is to set up automated email flows that’ll lure customers back in with a discount count, free shipping or other freebies. By setting up an automation, you won’t even need to do anything past the initial set up, making it a very efficient tactic indeed.
According to research, almost 30% of abandoned cart email lead to a recovered sale, so it’s definitely worth following up!
14. Upsell + Cross-Sell to increase the value of the average basket
- Required budget: (free)
Your average basket value is a good indicator of how much revenue your business is making. So if there was a way to increase the value of every single one of them, that would be pretty significant.
Lucky for all you sly foxes out there, there is a way! Serving personalized recommendations as part of your check-out flow and overall shopping experience is a proven way of increasing overall order value. According to a HubSpot survey, upselling and cross-selling makes up up to 30% of revenue for up 72% and 74% of brands respectively.
Another way to increase average basket value is to add freebies or complimentary products at certain order thresholds. Customers receiving free shipping above $100 or a complimentary goodie bag above $200 would be examples of this, which will also boost trust in your brand and increase customer loyalty to boot.
People love personalization and free stuff, so using this knowledge to your advantage is one of the most powerful dropshipping marketing tactics.
15. Build relationships with communities related to your niche
- Required budget: (free)
There are niche-specific groups and communities all over the internet. These are places where people ask questions and advice of their like-minded peers, exchange recommendations and generally connect over whatever it is they have in common.
Once you’ve identified your specific niche (and we highly recommend that you do!), find the places where your potential customer base gathers. These can be Facebook groups (for example mom or gardening groups), subreddits (on Reddit) and Quora Spaces or niche-specific forums (like gamer forums).
Once you’ve joined these digital communities, you want to engage with the people there and answer questions and offer recommendations. You should definitely include links to your store or blog as much as you can, but only where relevant and never trying to sell too hard – this will alienate you from the group.
Eventually you might even think about extending your Community Management and setting up your own customer forum or discussion board related to your niche. This will really foster brand engagement and loyalty which will boost customer retention in the long run.
16. Create competitions, giveaways and promotions
- Required budget: (cost of products given away)
Do you love a freebie? If you’re like most other people out there, you probably do! Giveaways and contests to win free products are a sure-fire way to build interest in your brand and increase engagement.
Getting something for free is going to instantly create customer loyalty with the winners, plus give you the opportunity to upsell other products to all participants.
There are several ways to approach hosting giveaways, competition and promotions. One popular way is to promote them from your social channels and let existing followers spread the word. Normally you’ll ask contestants to ‘like, follow, and share’, meaning each person hoping to win will attract at least one new person to the competition. Not bad, right?
A well-thought-through giveaway can result in higher website traffic, huge email lists, increasing social media following, new customers, and more.
17. Invest in professional product photography
- Required budget: - (cost of a photographer or equipment)
With dropshipping, sellers will often use photos provided by suppliers in their product listings. Which is a great time saver, however, if the quality is poor this can really come to bite you in the butt.
If you’re having second thoughts about the quality of product images or noticing a lack of conversions from your listing page, in all likelihood you’ll benefit from retaking these product shots.
This will involve ordering a test product – which is something you should do in any case in the name of quality control – and hiring a photographer for product shots. Alternatively, if you have a relatively modern smartphone, you can also build a makeshift product-shot set at home, but you may want to invest in a tripod and some lighting.
According to research, 93% of customers consider visual appearance to be the key factor in their purchasing decisions, so you definitely know that improving image quality will have a positive effect on your business.
18. Invest in user-generated content creation (UGC)
- Required budget: (free)
Today’s consumers are incredibly clued up about dropshipping marketing tactics and all the things marketers do to get their attention. For this reason, appearing as authentic and genuine is extremely important for your potential audience to give you the time of day to begin with.
UGC is content shared by a brand that was originally created by a consumer. This could be videos of unboxing a delivery, wearing a first outfit for the first time, or footage of using a product in everyday life – They are real examples of people interacting with your product.
Many businesses believe brand-generated content alone comes across as authentic, but the truth is only 51% of consumers experience it to be so. UGC on the other hand is 2.4 times as likely to be perceived as authentic.
So jumping on this extremely effective marketing trend is a no-brainer. But how do you find UGC creators and how do you use the content as part of your marketing strategy?
This could be as simple as asking your customers to share their product experience with a branded hashtag after they’ve received it. You can then reach out to them and ask permission to share their posts on your own channels. It’s important to be transparent about your intended purpose for any UGC and that don’t violate any copyright – or you risk running into legal trouble (and no thanks to that!).
As you can see, there’s a plethora of amazing dropshipping marketing tactics out there that can help you build your business to new heights of success – We recommend you build a solid marketing strategy combining at least 5-10 of these tactics.
Without them, you may easily get lost in the throng of noisier dropshipping competitors and never reach your customers at all.
Another way to quickly start and elevate your dropshipping store, and immediately have seamless automation in place is SaleHoo Dropship, a suite of expert-designed tools to make your dropshipping life easy and, most importantly, profitable!
Otherwise, if you have any eCommerce-related questions, just get in touch with our team of dropshipping experts who are available to help 24/7.
Good luck, and happy selling!