Dropshipping in 2024 isn't just a business trend, it's a strategic quest for those aiming to carve out their place in a market worth billions. With the right approach and deep market insight, the maze of ecommerce can lead to lucrative destinations.
In this guide, I'll be covering 3 essential ideas that any successful dropshipper must consider if they want to find success:
Before diving into product selection, let's first address why starting with a niche is critical. Understanding the importance of niche selection will guide us in avoiding common pitfalls and streamlining our path to finding winning products.
For starters, why should we even start with the niche at all?
Settling on a niche may feel like you’re limiting your choices, because you are. Limiting your options is actually a good thing, as having too many options will slow you down and perhaps even sabotage your successes. The ecommerce industry is massive, estimated to be around $3 Billion dollars.
Focusing on a single, infinitesimally small slice of this pie will still net you millions of dollars while allowing you to corner an untapped market. This means less competition and more opportunities. Rather than trying to cast a large net, you’ll likely find more success by digging your heels into a specialized corner of the market.
You don’t HAVE to start with a niche to find a good product. Many experienced dropshippers will often find a product and figure out the niche and audience from there. However, for beginners, this can be a complex and daunting task. So I suggest starting with a niche.
Many beginners fall into the trap of selecting products before understanding their market. Let's explore why this approach is risky and how starting with a niche first helps in creating a more targeted and successful dropshipping strategy
Unfortunately, many beginners tend to gravitate towards a ‘pick a product and find someone to sell it to’ method. This method is a trap. On the surface, it makes logical sense and offers itself as a fairly straightforward methodology.
You come across a product that you like, and because you like it so much, you assume that tons of other people will like it just as much as you. You ask your friends and family about the product, but because humans tend to surround themselves with other humans who share similar interests and values…
You’ll end up getting a lot of positive feedback. This positive feedback fuels your excitement for this product, and it’ll make you feel like it’s a guaranteed win. This is a dangerous mental state to be in. Remember, YOUR opinions and preferences DO NOT reflect the opinions and preferences of the general public.
When you take a product-first approach, you’ll inevitably have to figure out WHO to sell your products to. Many folks carry the mindset of “well everyone around me likes the product, so surely people are dying to buy.”
They’ll start their store, maybe throw some ads up, get zero sales, and then quit while touting that dropshipping doesn’t work. Unfortunately, the idea that “if you build it, they will come” just doesn’t fly anymore. You need more than gut feeling and high expectations. What you need is direction. Planning. Structure. With the product-first approach, you’re essentially working backwards in a blind haze trying to figure out what market will be the most profitable for you.
What problem does this product solve? Who has this problem? What are these people like? Do these people really NEED this product? Will this audience even buy this product?
And many times, you’ll find that what you THOUGHT was a winning product is actually a dud. Sure people might like it, but liking something and buying something are two totally different milestones.
What if they like it but have no money? What if they like it, but don’t see it replacing something they already use? What if they like it, but it’s more accessible on Amazon? There are a million factors as to why a product might flop, but in the product-first approach, you’ve wasted a lot of time and money just to find out that your item was a dud.
I’m not saying that a product-first approach is doomed to failure. In fact, many expert dropshippers take this approach because they’ve developed an eye for winning products. This approach is not very beginner-friendly given the reasons I mentioned above. But if you are taking this route, you’ll have to pay extra close attention to understanding your audience and really honing in on the demographic you want to sell your product to.
Because something like [Mid-30s, male, likes to go hiking, working professional] isn’t good enough. There are brands that enter a saturated niche, and then commit so hard to a highly specific sliver of that market, that they find immense success. Think about brands that go all in on seemingly strange angles like “all-pink clothes” or “edgy boxed water”.
Now that we understand the value of the niche-first approach, let's delve into how beginners can identify the perfect dropshipping niche that aligns with their interests and market demands.
There are several methods you can use to find a profitable niche for yourself. But in all honesty, perhaps the most effective way to go about this is also the most simple. Simply answer the following two questions:
It’s much easier for you to find winning products in a market that you’re either already familiar with, or have an interest in. Starting with a market where you yourself are the target demographic gives you a unique insight into what potential customers are thinking.
After all, it would be easier for a basketball player to find out what makes a good pair of basketball shoes versus a tennis racket.
How does your product fit into your customer’s life? What problem does this solve for your customer? What desires does it appeal to? How is it different from its competitors?
Picking a niche that you’re already familiar with can help you answer these questions really easily, and in doing so, help you find a winning product. The idea is to take what you already know and build on top of it with structured market research so you can make an informed decision.
In fact, you may already be involved with various clubs, groups, forums, or chat rooms full of potential customers. You’re not selling anything to them yet, and you might not ever sell anything to them directly, but…
These areas are a treasure trove of information regarding their wants, problems, and needs. Just by interacting with these folks, you’ll start getting ideas for winning products. After all, your potential customers are directly telling you what they need.
Arvid Kahl, in his book The Embedded Entrepreneur, further explores how you can better understand your customers to maximize your profits.
But in short, start joining communities for the niche you want to operate in. Be a helpful member, get your name out there, and just be a productive member of that community. It could be in Facebook groups, Discord servers, online forums, in-person clubs, or chat rooms. Every once in a while, you can also ask questions like “Has anyone ever used [product you want to sell] for [problem you’re trying to solve]?”
That way, you can get direct feedback from your target customers.
As an avid airsofter, I know that getting started in the hobby is an unexpectedly overwhelming endeavor. At first glance, it seems like all you need to get started is a replica airsoft gun and some goggles. The uninitiated dropshipper might try to sell some goggles and some airsoft replicas on their store without knowing that NOBODY will ever buy anything from their store.
Because airsoft goggles have a VERY specific specification for safety reasons. If goggles aren’t rated ANSI Z87+, most airsoft fields will deny the player entry.
What about airsoft replicas? Surely they’re all the same one way or another, right? Cheap airsoft replicas that don’t come from well-known manufacturers are known to break, have build quality issues, battery issues, and performance problems. Since many beginners are usually under the age of 18, the last thing you want on your hands is an exploding battery or some other issue that can open you up to lawsuits.
So what CAN you sell to beginner airsofters or people looking to get into the hobby?
Well I can speak from experience that getting into the hobby is frustrating because of the lack of consistent information regarding fields, how to play, cost of gear, and inconsistent recommendations for equipment beyond just your replica and your goggles.
For me, the marketing angle I would take, the niche I would pick, and the products I would sell are crystal clear.
Notice how starting with a niche I’m knowledgeable of has already given me the direction I need to hone in on a winning product? These are problems that I know many many people struggle with, so I know that I want my product to be the solution.
My idea is to sell a starter pack bundle with the following items:
It’s not really ONE product, but you follow the logic, right?
I already have my niche: airsoft.
I already have my specific audience: beginners or people looking to get into the hobby.
I already know what problems they have: the frustration of not having a single source of truth for all things airsoft.
And I already know how I’m going to test this product to market.
If this doesn’t work, I can easily mine this audience for more ideas. In fact, I can go even deeper into the audience demographic. I could specifically tailor the messaging to target parents who have kids that want to get into airsoft. A starter pack would save time, money, and headache for already busy parents.
Also as a disclaimer, I already know that this idea has legs (I haven’t executed on it yet, so it’s up for grabs) because I tested all of the individual products via TikTok Organic.
With a clear idea of our niche, the next step is to define our customer avatar. Knowing exactly who we're selling to is crucial for tailoring our products and marketing efforts effectively.
Your customer avatar, otherwise known as the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is a description of the type of customer that’ll make you the most money. At the beginning stages, most of this information will be inferred. As you start making more sales and getting more customers, you’ll have to make changes to your ICP to better represent your most profitable customers.
Anyways, now that you have your niche, you should get to defining your customer avatar. At first glance, this may seem like a simple endeavor, but having a fleshed out ICP will mold your marketing and messaging, leading to more sales.
The key here is to get as specific as possible when outlining your customer avatar. This can get pretty long and complex, so rather than have you read through another long block of text, here’s an ICP Worksheet you can download to help get started.
Not all of the fields will be relevant to your specific niche, but try to fill it out the best you can. It’s not an all-encompassing worksheet, just something to help you get started.
In the meantime, let’s take the airsoft example from before. There are tons of people who fall under the airsoft niche. Everyone from military veterans to 10 year-old kids. Obviously, I can’t sell something that’ll appeal to everyone in this niche. It’s just impossible.
That’s why I narrowed it down to beginners or folks looking to start airsoft. However, despite narrowing it down, there are still some issues. First of all, “beginner airsofter” can be anyone of any age, so I have to carefully define what these separate demographics are.
Presumably, the largest demographics are as follows:
I can immediately rule out Groups 4 and 5. This demographic is interested in one-off events, with very few of them likely to commit to airsoft long-term. Chances are, they’ll get a bundle discount with a local airsoft field for rentals.
Group 3 I can probably rule out. Veterans will likely already have much of the gear they need to get started. All they really need is an airsoft rifle, goggles, and a metal mesh mask– only one of which I’m willing to dropship due to safety concerns with quality control regarding goggles and airsoft rifles.
So that leads me to Groups 1 and 2. And as mentioned before in my example, I can simply target both of these groups with my starter bundle at the same time. With young adults, the messaging can be very simple. “Want to get started with airsoft, but don’t know where to start? Get our starter pack.”
Group 1 is a little more complex, but not too bad. Firstly, kids don’t have disposable income, so I wouldn’t be targeting them specifically. No, I would be targeting the decision maker, aka their parents. The messaging can be simple, but the more specific you can get with their pain points, the more likely you are to sell.
So for Group 1, I’d target the parent’s frustrations. Things like…
And all this culminates in messaging that revolves around something like,
“Airsoft Starter Bundle for kids, everything you need to make sure your child has maximum fun while being protected from eye injuries, scrapes, bruises, and more. Free PDF guide for how-to-play, how to choose an airsoft gun, and what to look for in airsoft fields.”
So don’t underestimate your customer avatar. You’d be surprised at how clear your decision-making becomes when you know EXACTLY who you’re selling to.
Having identified our niche and understood our customer avatar, we are now in a prime position to conduct product research. Let's explore how to find products that not only avoid failure but have the potential to thrive in our chosen market.
As we conclude, remember that the journey to finding your next dropshipping business idea in 2024 hinges on thorough preparation, from selecting the right niche to understanding your audience and choosing the right products.
Each step is a building block towards a successful dropshipping business. By embracing a strategic approach and focusing on market research, you can navigate the competitive landscape of ecommerce with confidence. Remember, in dropshipping, your knowledge of the niche, understanding of your customers, and the quality of your product selection are the keys to your success. Embark on this journey with these insights in hand, and you'll be well-equipped to find success in the dynamic world of dropshipping.
Something interesting to add, unique spins on your niche can also greatly influence your product line. Think about brands that go all in on seemingly strange angles like “all-pink clothes” or “edgy boxed water”. Fast fashion and water are incredibly saturated niches with intense competition, but by taking a weird spin on the niche, brands like Juicy Couture and Liquid Death have found immense success.
So if you want to learn more about how you can find the perfect dropshipping product, click here to learn more.