Chris Wane failed 5 eCommerce stores for 3 years before finally learning how to do it properly and making £10,000 within six weeks of launch for his sixth store. After 12 months, the store made up to half a million dollars. Since then, he’s build a seven figure dropshipping business using his unique strategies. Read on to learn more about his journey and strategies!
SaleHoo’s Sean: Hi there. It's Sean from SaleHoo. And today I'm interviewing Chris, a massively successful entrepreneur that has spoken on stage at the annual Shopify Corporate Summit in Berlin, and has been featured by Oberlo, Market Watch, CJ Dropshipping, Sell the Trend, and it's an honor to have him featured here too on SaleHoo. He is also the CEO and founder of the Advanced Dropshipping Academy, where he has now taught over 2,000 students from 139 different countries on how to create profitable dropshipping businesses from home. So, Chris, can you give me a background of your ecommerce journey? I understand that you were juggling a nine to five for some time while pursuing dropshipping?
Chris Wane: Yeah. Correct. I started dropshipping way back in probably 2014. I think it was when I first heard about it, gave it a go, completely failed, probably for the first three years or so. I think I just failed it. I had like five failed store attempts and I was trying to work it around a full time job. I had no idea what I was doing. Didn’t know how to find products, didn't know how to market properly, I was just trying to wing it. I just wanted to make some cash on the side.
And then, I think, around 2017 or so, I decided to kind of really knuckle down and truly learn how to do it properly, and then launch my sixth store, which became the one that got me featured by Shopify and Oberlo. Within the first six weeks of launch, it made £10,000 at that time, and then up to half a million dollars I think it got to. And that's when Oberlo reached out for the first time for the interview with them. It was a long time coming. Obviously, since then, we've built a seven figure dropshipping businesses. We've launched the Academy. We're teaching people to do the same now based on kind of our kind of unique strategy that we use.
Sean: Okay. So the sixth store was a six-figure store, right?
Sean: Oh, nice. And how long did it take to get to that level?
Chris: I think it was within twelve months of that store launching; but I was working a full-time job. So it wasn't a full-time thing, I was doing it in the evenings, a couple of hours in the evenings and building up to six figures whilst I was working. I think, because I didn't know how long it was going to last, I was a little bit wary about quitting. But once I realized there was actually a long-term career in dropshipping and eCommerce, I quit the job and focused on it fully. And then we launched more eCommerce brands and websites, and grew them up to a seven-figure level across multiple websites.
Sean: That's amazing. How long before you actually quit your job though? Because for twelve months you stuck to it, even though you were making so much money from your eCommerce store.
Chris: It was when I launched another store and I managed to get that successful. That's when I felt confident enough.
Sean: Okay, great.
Chris: Because with one store for all I knew, that was the only one. I was worried. I was scared. It was a big step. Quitting a job, for most people, is a big step. I wanted to be sure I could actually do it. And it wasn't just a fluke. And once I realized that I could do it, I could repeat the process. That's when I felt comfortable enough to take that leap. And I'm glad I did, because within the first 30 days of quitting my job, I doubled my monthly profits.
Sean: Wow, that's amazing. But were the seven figure stores, would you say that, were they your biggest successes?
Chris: I think the business is the biggest success, but in terms of individual success, I think the biggest one we had was we had a product that was doing £10,000 profit per day for a while, which was great. I think that was probably one of the best products we ever had. We had a lot of different products that were working, but not really of that level, where it was doing ten grand a day in profit. So that was a good one. That was a great success. But yeah, I think the business as a whole, and the fact that we've managed to build it up to what it is has really been the biggest success of all.
Sean: Surely, even after you got major success from your first two stores and you continued to build other stores, were there still setbacks that you were encountering, trying to build more? Because, surely, for scaling like a whole different ballgame, a whole different set of challenges.
Chris: Yeah, definitely. We got setbacks every day. They don't stop. There are always challenges and failures, even now. We still make mistakes and still learn from things. It's the nature of running a business. There’s always going to be failure. But you just learn from it. We just use it as an experience and then make sure we don't do it again. But there's a lot of failures along the way, a lot of products that didn't work.
We had to test multiple products, different angles, and different kind of sub hooks with video creatives and all different sorts of things that we have to test to see what works best. And then once you figure out what works, you just optimize it a little bit more. So, there were challenges along the way. I mean, people call them failures, but we saw them as learning experiences and just carried on. It sounds really cheesy.
Sean: But it is true, that's a really good mindset.
Chris: The way I see it is, you can only fail if you stop. We just go in and then made lots of mistakes and challenges and expensive mistakes along the way. But you just deal with them and move on.
Sean: And, actually, one of the things that I wanted to ask about – one of the setbacks. Because I watched some of your videos, and one of the things you mentioned was the profitability ceiling. Like, there's only up to a certain point where you can scale a product before there's diminishing returns. Do you see that as a setback, or just an indicator for you to pivot? How do you approach that profitability ceiling that you mentioned?
Chris: Well, every product has a certain level of demand for it. Ultimately, if there's only a certain level of demand, you can only meet that demand with the product, you can only scale it so far. So, when we talk about profitability ceilings, it's very much a case of, we can only scale certain products. So far, not every single product that you try and sell will be a golden goose, seven-figure winner. So, I think it's going to be some products that may only make ten, twenty, thirty thousand dollars.
And then, at that point, there's not really much else you can do with it. And that's fine. You just have to pivot to something else. But really, it's all about scaling profitably. If you hit that point where you can't scale any further without profits taking a nose dive, then you need to take it back to the level it was profitable and just keep it. We’ve had many products in the past where they've been running $100, $200 $300 a day profit. That's as far as we've been able to take them, because whenever we tried to scale them, the profit just disappeared.
You've been able to scale it because, especially, with the likes of Facebook ads with it being an auction, the more you give Facebook to budget, the bigger the bid Facebook can make for that impression naturally decrease. So, with some products, you can only take them so far. So, you see that dip ultimately and there's nothing wrong with just keeping a product ticking over each day. That's making a few hundred dollars a day, starting to a few hundred dollars a day profit you can put towards testing out product profit.
You just reinvest that profit back into the business to find something else. And eventually it starts to snowball. So, you might have two, three, four, five different products that are doing 300 a day and you've got a decent income coming in each day. Then you don't always have to find that big six, seven-figure winner. You can find multiple small products that sell consistently, but at a lower level, and that can still work really well.
Sean: Yeah. I think one of the things you mentioned in one of your videos was about cash flow. As long as you're profitable, you can always reinvest that back into the business.
Chris: Something I did initially, which is one of the reasons why it's been so long to quit, was because I wasn't really taking profit out. I was reinvesting it back into the business to grow even more.
It went back into the business in order to scale it because I didn't have a big budget, especially for advertising. I think I started with £250 when I first got that. That's all I had up to my budget, and I had to stretch that out and make that work, ultimately. So. Yeah, reinvesting the profits helped that cash flow because I wasn't taking that much for myself. That was the best way we found to do it. And it worked. We ended up scaling up to what it is today.
Sean: How would you sort of… advise, I guess, aspiring eCommerce entrepreneurs to know when their tipping point is? When they can say, “Okay, I'm going to leave my nine to five,” or, “I'm going to drop out of college.” I think that's all over YouTube. People say they dropped out of college or whatnot? When do you think it's the tipping point where they can say, “Okay, we've made it, and it's the ideal time to finally 100% focus on the business”?
Chris: Yeah, I think it's different for everybody, but I think that the general consensus is that you have at least six to twelve months’ worth of bills saved up in terms of, say, salary or wage. A monthly salary saved up for at least six to twelve months in savings. I think making roughly 75% of whatever your monthly job is paying you - basically monthly wage. So if your side off is making you 75% of your monthly wage, and you've got six to twelve months of savings, that's an okay time to quit your job but everyone's different.
For me, that didn't feel like enough. I needed to make sure I was covered for years. I wanted years worth of savings until I felt comfortable quitting my job, just in case that first store that was doing really well at the time, didn't end up working long term, or we weren't able to find another product, or build another brand or do something else. So, everyone's different. You've got to just go with when you feel comfortable about what you've done is sustainable.
My goal is to quit the job and never have to go back. That's why I wanted to make sure I was able to run my own business, especially it being the first time I started doing it. Over the years, we've managed to build it up. We built multiple income streams, and I'm pretty comfortable. I probably will never have to go back to the nine to five, hopefully. Fingers crossed. We'll see.
Sean: I think that's a really good answer, because a lot of the people watching our channel, they're still getting into dropshipping, and I think they don't know what they're getting into. Some of them, they're thinking of already quitting and they haven't even started. For you, what's the criteria for products before you sell them? How do you know that's a good product to sell?
Chris: We have a different world. We have a very specific process we go through, as we call it. One of our data-driven validation processes is where we focus a lot on the numbers, and the stats, and things, rather than emotions, because a lot of people just jump onto AliExpress or whatever, pick something random and hope that they're going to make a million dollars overnight. Unfortunately, I've seen that we basically go through this process of looking at different kinds of winning product criteria. A lot of people are familiar with winning product criteria in terms of mass market.
But we also look at things like, ss there a demand for it? Are there proven sales trending upwards at the moment? Is it something that could work well as an impulse buy? Because different ad platforms are good for different types of products with Facebook and Instagram, it's very much impulse buys. So is the product suitable for those platforms.
With all the criteria we and things, we just make a list. We just make a list of products that we're interested in that caught our eye, that kind of hit our rough guideline as we are going through.
And then we just take a deep dive into scoring them all, ranking them based on performance across different metrics, start them by the highest performing ones, and then make a decision on which one we want to try.
But at the end of the day, dropshipping is all about testing those products, right? By doing that you're not going to find a six-figure winner straight away, but it's going to help you get rid of all that wasted time, money and energy of testing products that would never work in the first place.
So, we have this data driven process we go through to give us the best chance at the end of the day, because no one has a crystal ball, and no one knows exactly. Even as long as we have done this, we still have products that don't work. And we have products that do work. And it's about just understanding whether that type of product is something that could sell, something that hits those criteria. Something that pulls on people's emotions are always strong…products make people feel better about themselves, which is why beauty as a niche is probably one of the top performing niches. But all it comes down to the product at the end of the day. Does somebody want that product? And that's where the testing comes in.
Sean: Yeah. I think that people are doing a lot of research, and they research and research and research, and they just have analysis, paralysis without realizing that at the end of the day, the only way you'll know, is to actually just test it. Do they have to sell the products in Shopify, or can they sell it on Amazon, ebay? What do you personally do?
Chris: We just do Shopify. We don't do eBay or Amazon dropshipping. We're all about building off our own brands and teaching our clients to build their own brands, in terms of running their own traffic to their own website, being in control of everything that's happening rather than having to try and compete for a Buy Now button on Amazon with a bunch of other sellers. We don't want to deal with any of that and other policies that come with that.
We're focusing on Shopify dropshipping with your own website, your own brand, and then you test those products and then ultimately you want to get to the point where you get your own fulfillment centers and things like that, and shipping out yourself. Well, not yourself, but getting people to do it for you, and then you go from there.
Sean: I think the reason why some people like Amazon and eBay is because they like the fulfillment from Amazon in terms of finding suppliers. How do you go about that?
Chris: Yes. In terms of that, we don't really look for suppliers to compete with Amazon because it's very, very difficult to compete with Amazon. We look for suppliers that have good reviews, good ratings, they sell a decent amount of orders across their entire product line. We're looking at how they communicate with us individually in terms of response times, and the process of dealing with any issues that might occur. We look at things like that, but we use AliExpress a lot. There's a lot of suppliers on there now that are offering ten day shipping pretty much anywhere.
So that works really well. But, there's also other options where you can start to get fulfillment agents to do it for you even quicker. So there are options there as well. It’s so much about finding someone to compete with Amazon, finding some supplier that has a really good process in place that's going to make it easier for you to run that business, because at first you want to test, you want to make it easy and quick and simple to test products. And then once you've tested and you know it's working as profitable, then you can start looking at 3PLs and actually getting your own stock and actually source from the manufacturers themselves, and shipping your own packaging and things like that as well.
Sean: But how would you recommend people transition from using a supplier from AliExpress to, like, wholesale or getting an agent or manufacturing? Is there one that you prefer? Like, do you prefer to use an agent?
Chris: I have used agents in the past when we first started launching a product. It's just 100% AliExpress. Once you start getting to 10, 15, 20 units a day plus, then you want to start looking at agents and fulfillment agents, and there's a bunch of different options out there. You just need to find what's suitable for you in terms of what you're looking for, and what they can offer. And it's just a matter of just getting in contact with them and seeing what they can do, what kind of deal they can give you, and then you work it out that way.
Sean: Actually, one of the things that I wanted to ask, too, was about marketing. Are there key things that you do that really pushed your store forward and allowed you to scale massively?
Chris: Yeah, definitely.
I think we're going back to what I was saying about the platforms and things like that. The different platforms need different marketing angles. They need different creatives depending on which platform you're advertising on. So things like Facebook, it's very much a platform where people go on not to be bombarded with ads. They go on to look at friends and family and see what they're doing and things that peers are liking. So, you have to use creatives that fit in with that platform.
So this is why you're now seeing a lot of eCommerce using real life social-proof type of ads. They're not doing the whole “corporate product” ads, or they're not doing the old style dropshipping ads, where you show the products and do some text boxes, they’re just getting people talking about how good the product is, right? It’s literally like your friend recording a selfie and telling you how good it is. We do this as well.
We advise our clients to do social ads like that, because they're very strong. People don't want to be sold to and just having someone recommend it. But multiple people with a montage, multiple people recommending that product does really well in terms of click through rates and conversions, because, like I said, people don't want to be sold to, they want to see other people having the problem solved that they have. And if they see that, then they do it, because then people don't buy the product, they buy what the product gives them: the solution, the benefit. That's what they're buying.
They're not buying the product. So in terms of the marketing, it's all about showing that benefit, that solution. But using that kind of native, social kind of angle as well can work really, really well. And that's something we've seen work incredibly well with some of our clients as well.
Sean: Actually, when I go through my Facebook feed, I see that quite a lot like this user generated content or a lot of people reviewing it. And I'm like, oh, I think they're paid, actually, but it's convincing, though. It's super convincing.
But some dropshippers, they don't have a lot of money to start with. Obviously, you've shown that you don't need a lot of money to start with. But how would you advise they approach marketing? Because I think that's such a big expense for most dropshippers entering the space.
Chris: Yes, I think the one word or two words, I guess, would be, “be careful.” I would say to people: just get in. I said when I first started with £250, it was cheaper to run out. It's a little bit more expensive now because there's more competition. Not just adoption, but just in terms of online advertising. In general, costs are more expensive than when I first started, which is why $500 would probably be a good starting point. But you need to stretch that out. If you've only got $500 as a budget, then you can't afford to spend $100 a day in ads, because that only gives your business five days to survive.
Chris: But if you got $500 and you spend $5 a day on ads, you now got 100 days for your business to survive. It's a huge, huge difference. It might take you longer to see results. It took me a long time to see results. That's because I can't afford to get quicker results, because spending more on Facebook ads doesn't mean you're going to make more sales. It means you're going to reach more people, right? If your funnel isn't optimized, if you have the wrong product. If you don't understand how to speak to your customer and offer the benefits they're looking for, then you're going to be spending money for, like, spending money.
Your funnel isn't going to convert. You need to understand the psychology of selling, and why people want products, and you need to optimize all of that. It's a lot easier to do that when you have a smaller budget, because you're not blowing through tons and tons of money straight away. You've been able to collect data slowly and make decisions without having to rush anything. So when I first started, £5 a day, that's all I could afford to do. And then once that £5 started making a little bit of profit, I started doing £10 a day and £15 a day, £20 a day, up until the point where I spending £5000 a day on ads.
But if you told me at the beginning, I was going to be spending five grand a day on ads – you can very slowly and gradually increase the budgets as we started seeing profits. If you're not seeing profits at $5 a day, you're not going to see profits of $50 a day, right? Basically, just scale it up slowly. If you're doing $5 a day with $500 budget, you've got 100 days to make a profit, right?
Sean: Yeah. I think that's really insightful, and actually very encouraging for our viewers, because many of them - they're not starting with $1,000. They only got $200, $400, $500 to start with. But would you recommend they do Facebook ads, or do you think using another channel would be much better? I heard TikTok has been such a craze right now, and a lot of people, like dropshippers are actually using it. What are your thoughts?
Chris: TikTok is just another platform. You just have to test it. It's very similar to Facebook and how it works. I don't know if it's a bias on my part, but I see TikTok as being a younger person's game. I don't know why. I know there's a lot of people my age and older on it as well. But I see TikTok as a kid's thing. So, if you're selling products that are aimed at a younger demographic, then maybe that could work really well. You're talking 18 to 24, 18 to maybe 30, essentially. And that could probably work.
But you just have to think about what product it is that you're trying to sell and who your target market is. Facebook and Instagram are still great for products. There's nothing wrong with them, in terms of the reach they have and things like, yes, a little more expensive. But you're still going to make sales with the right products on it, right?
That's still going to happen. There's nothing wrong with testing TikTok. I mean, we have people trying Bing now. I see Bing is just kind of like just something up on the side. No one really uses it unless they have to, but it's doing well for some people. So you can try different platforms and test. It all comes down to test, and you have to figure out what's working, what isn't. And then, if it is working on TikTok for you, then put all the budget down TikTok. Go that way. Do it. Because at the end of the day, all that really matters is it making you profit. Doesn't matter which platform you're using, whether it's profitable or not.
Sean: Whichever platform a person chooses, how do they know how much to allocate to it in terms of the budget?
Chris: Yeah. This is just in terms of whatever they can afford to do. Like I said, if you have a $500 budget, then I would be starting at $5 a day. I would be stretching out because not only do you get 100 days to make that work, you're also going to get a couple more paydays in there as well to help you out even more.
Chris: I think if you have a lower budget, you should be starting at $5, $10 a day.
Sean: Just like one ad?
Chris: Yeah. One ad, because you can't afford to test multiple things. We advise people to test, like, three different ads against different audiences to see how it performs. We need the budgets to do that. You can’t spend $0.50 on an ad and then make a decision if it’s working or not. You're going to have to spend $5, $10, $15, $20, $30 on an ad to figure out if it's working. So if you've got three, four different ads, you want to test your ads for your budget anyway at that point.
So you want to keep it simple. You want to keep the campaign simple. You want to limit the number of ads you're testing. You want to be very strict with what you're doing. If you have a low budget.
Sean: How about influencer marketing? Do you think that's something that they can use in the beginning, or ads are the way to go?
Chris: Yeah, definitely. I think influencer marketing can be really strong, but there's a lot of pitfalls with it as well, because Instagram is rife with fake accounts and fake followers. Picking the right influencer is the challenge now: whether it works or not, if you can find someone who is real and has a real engaged following with real comments, and every time that person posted influence of real people coming with real kind of just conversation, then yes, that could potentially work really well. And I was actually speaking to someone the other day, who has built up a $20,000 a month business with Instagram influencer advertising, without any paid ads.
It's also a lot of work. It's a lot of hustle, because of all the comments. You’ve got to find the influencers, you've got to contact them, you've got to negotiate price, you've got to then get all the creatives over to them for them to do it. And then you've got to hope those sales come in, and if they do, then they'll come in for 24 hours, 48 hours period, and then they'll stop. It's great to get going if you can find good influencers, which are hard to do these days, right?
Sean: Yeah. I think the moral of the story there is that there's no easy way.
Chris: It's not easy. There's a challenge. You have to be sure you want to do it at the end of the day, and it is hard work, but it works. It works, and it's really good. It can be life-changing as well. So you have to be motivated, at the end of the day, to run a business.
Sean: Have you done influencer marketing, though?
Chris: Yeah, I've done it in the past. Kind of mixed results. It's not something I really teach our clients to do. We help people with it if they want help with it, because I have done it. But it's not something I might push in terms of a method of running your stores, but it is a valid method. I just personally don't like it. I think people are looking for quicker results, and if you have the budget, then paid advertising is by far the way to go.
You want to link in organic content as well, with your own brand and your own social media accounts, and get organic traffic through to buy posting regularly as well. Once you realize that the promise is working, Instagram info isn't something we really do much of, unless we're using them for creative purposes, to get content for more ads and things like that.
Sean: How do you structure your experiments in terms of marketing?
Chris: No matter which channel, we like to test multiple different creatives with different video ads, pictures, carousel ads. Or we test different kind of hooks and angles. So in terms of trying to capture what the customer is looking for, in terms of a problem or a benefit. So we kind of test the best angles we want. We think it's going to work really well. We test them, and we also test them against different campaigns for single interest testing, which everyone is kind of familiar with.
We use open audiences in terms of, just not putting any interest in there. There's targets in a demographic within a particular country. We test that. And we also test what we call kind of category flexed targeting, where we kind of group interests together in terms of categories. So whether it be brands. So we group a lot of brands together in one ad set and then narrow it down by a broad audience in terms of the niche where we're trying to target and see if that works.
We test different kind of angles with it. We test different creatives and then we just kind of review the data, use the data to make decisions and make tweets and optimizations based on what our data says and then go from there as a closing question.
Sean: Because we're running out of time. How do you think people who are entering dropshipping? Or, not necessarily dropshipping. It could be ecommerce in general, because some of them, I know they do DIY. They like to do wholesale. How do you advise they adapt to the changes that are going to be happening in the next one to two years? What are your predictions?
Chris: I think there's going to be definitely a lot more focus on the branding element, and we're already seeing it now. I think back when I first started, you could throw up a random general store with no real brand, and sell a bunch of different products that had no connection to each other. To do really well these days, it's a little bit harder to do that, I believe. I think you have to focus on creating more of a brand around the website and the product.
I'll put a logo on the product, but just more a case of creating a branded image around the product you want to sell. So it's definitely a lot more focus on that. We're already seeing it now. I think the improving customer service is definitely going to be one customer experience. Should I say in terms of shipping times again, we're already seeing a speed of now in terms of just when I first started dropshipping time, it's 40 days standard thing.
Now you're looking at less than ten days. We have products over in the UK within six days of ordering it from AliExpress. The shipping times have definitely improved, probably going to see that even more, and more and more fulfillment, and pop-up, and there's more options available. I think the focus really is going to be on that brand. It's going to be creating a brand. You can't just be a pop-up store and hope to do a bit of a cash grab. You have to really consider this as a business at the end of the day, and create real business using the dropshipping fulfillment model because that's all it is.
It's just a retail fulfillment model. It's not anything special. You're running an eCommerce business with a dropshipping model in the back end of it. That's all it is. So you have to really focus on the eCommerce brand. Your eCom is going to get bigger and bigger, especially now with the whole Covid thing.
Sean: And it's a new variant. Now we might go back into lockdown. Who knows?
Chris: So everyone's going online. Everyone's shopping online. It's only going to get bigger. More and more countries are coming online in terms of online spending, which is going to open up a huge market in terms of developing countries that may not be tapped into right now, they start spending online and you go from there. And there's a lot of, obviously, these kind of split payments popping up now as well. You can use Afterpay. So, those are definitely appearing a lot more. Now we give people options to split payments, which also helps with more mid- to high-ticket ecommerce products as well.
If you want to sell something a bit more expensive, you can now offer these split payments where people pay over a certain amount of months. So there's a lot of things that could potentially start to happen, but a lot of it is really going to be on focusing on creating a business with a real brand around that dropshipping product.
Sean: So, that's really insightful. Thanks so much, Chris. That's all the time we have. I'm going to leave Chris' channel in the description box below, if any of you want to learn more about Chris and his eCommerce journey. Thanks, Chris.
Chris: Yes. Thanks for having me!