There’s a reason why dropshipping is such a popular business model among aspiring entrepreneurs. Selling products that you don’t need to ship or store is accessible in that it doesn’t require much capital to get started. Also, it comes with low overhead, and, with such a wide selection of products available to sell, entrepreneurs can more easily experiment with their business without too much risk.
It’s an excellent choice for business owners who don’t have a large space to operate within, considering the dropshipping business model has built-in inventory management. Entrepreneurs who use dropshipping can run their business from practically anywhere and don’t have to worry about many of the logistics involved in running a traditionally supplied business.
Still, for all the benefits of dropshipping, there are a few drawbacks that may lead to financial problems.
Along with the labor involved in order fulfillment, you also export your trust. Too often, well-meaning and legitimate dropshipping businesses find themselves entangled with suppliers who are out to make a quick buck at the expense of the customer. This ultimately damages your business’s reputation and may cause consumers to perceive it as a scam when really, you aren’t the problem so much as the dropship supplier is (which is why it’s so important to shop around and try out a different supplier every now and then).
There’s no doubt finding a reliable supplier can be difficult. And, even when your dropshipping supplier does come through for your customers, sometimes you are met with such a low-profit margin that you may wonder whether running an e-commerce platform is even worth it.
An e-commerce store is a great way to earn an income — provided you’re selling the right dropship product. One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make is to sell items willy-nilly, without considering the possible complications of the sales channel or order fulfillment process. To aid your discretion in what products you offer your customers, we’ve compiled a list of items to absolutely avoid selling in your online business, so you don’t make financial mistakes.
Your Dropshipping Business Shouldn’t Sell 11 These Items
1. Large Items
As the owner of a dropshipping business, you may be tempted to sell large items like furniture with the expectation that they will yield you high-profit margins. The furniture itself may be worth big bucks, but the headache is not.
Here’s why; If you’ve been in the dropshipping business for a while, you’ve likely used ePacket, a shipping method that is offered by third-party providers operating in China and Hong Kong. ePacket is designed to ship lightweight items at low cost and high speed. This is the shipping option of choice for popular Chinese online store AliExpress.
For a dropshipping product to qualify for this super-cheap, super-speedy shipping method, the weight of the package cannot exceed 4.4 lbs. The longest side of the package cannot exceed 60 cm (if rolled, the limit is 90 cm). You cannot use ePacket to ship anything worth over $400 U.S. dollars. The shipping cost for large items often surpasses what the item itself is worth, making this a poor choice for the dropshipping retailer.
For obvious reasons, furniture is a no-go for ePacket shipping, which is why you should avoid it altogether as a dropshipping model. Not to mention, there is typically a higher risk of large items being damaged in transit than smaller items.
2. Items That Cost Over $100
If you want to keep your dropshipping company profit margins up, don’t bother with items that cost over $100 before shipping and handling. Of course, you can opt to have a pos financing system, but anyway, there are several reasons why selling expensive items doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
For one, your customer base is looking for a bargain. They’ve come to your website because they think they’ll find a good deal there. Because the customer is coming in with that expectation, it’s unlikely they’re willing to spend any amount in the triple digits on a single item. Customers who are willing to pay more will likely avoid a discount site altogether.
Secondly, it’s hard to justify the markup on items worth more than $100. If the wholesaler’s price is already high, there’s less of a chance you’ll be able to get away with charging the customer much more.
And lastly, items with a hefty price tag, such as specialty or luxury products, are already offered elsewhere in abundance. For instance, if someone wanted to purchase a musical instrument such as a bass guitar — which is a high-cost item, even at a discounted price — they would likely go to a specialty store rather than purchase from your business. While finding a niche for starting your own online store is a great idea, it’s highly recommended that your niche items are not inherently expensive.
3. Clothing and Shoes
One of the greatest woes of buying clothes online is that you can’t try on a piece before you buy. Sometimes you can’t rely on product descriptions or product images, either.
Too often, this leads to disappointment, negative customer reviews, and returns. The returns you may have to deal with as a merchant could be enough to make you vow never to sell clothing again. Any item that must be sized, whether clothing or shoes, has a higher likelihood of being returned by the customer.
It’s also very easy to unknowingly misrepresent an article of clothing. For example, if you are an e-commerce business that only ships to the U.S., but your dropshipping supplier is a Chinese clothing manufacturer, it’s likely that the clothing is sized incorrectly for a U.S. audience. Consumers may become confused about irregular sizing, leading to mixups, frustration, and returns.
A disgruntled customer may take to your e-commerce store’s website to complain that a pair of jeans don’t fit as specified or look like the picture, and a bad review will scare away a potential customer. For this reason, it’s best to stay away from any sized items at all — it’s just not worth the hassle.
4. Fragile Items
Fragile items, such as glass and porcelain dishware, figurines, etc., can present a problem in transit, especially when shipping internationally. Depending on the quality of packaging by the wholesaler, an item might arrive damaged or broken. The safer option is to only ship plastic and other non-breakable materials. If you’re determined to ship fragile items, it’s a good idea to consult your dropshipping supplier about their fulfillment method. Ask your sales channel how they package that particular item, especially if it is a new product about which you cannot find much information. You may also want to read reviews of the item to see whether customers experienced problems with how their package arrived.
5. Supplements, Diet Pills, and Health Products
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Facebook has stringent advertising policies. In addition to an extensive list of products (healthcare items and supplements included) that cannot be advertised on Facebook, there are restrictions pertaining to how you can advertise a new product in your online store.
Supplements cannot be advertised at all, and images showing “before and after” results are also not allowed. You also cannot use product images in a way that implies achieving health goals, such as muscle gain or weight loss, will occur as a result of using a product.
Supplements, diet pills, and health products are all items to avoid, considering that Facebook is a major driver of revenue for many a dropshipper. Without Facebook advertising, it may be harder to move your products. That is the number one reason why the above items don’t make great products; however, there are additional arguments to be made about the legality and safety of these products — some of which may be unregulated by the FDA or may even be illegal in some countries and regions.
6. Safety Equipment
Selling safety equipment simply puts the merchant at a far higher risk of liability than is necessary. For example, say a customer buys a motorcycle helmet from your website. By virtue of being a helmet, it is meant to protect the consumer from a head injury. If that customer gets into an accident while wearing your helmet and the helmet doesn’t perform as promised, you may have a major lawsuit on your hands. Since you can’t check the quality of items yourself, you’re placing all your trust in the supplier’s quality control.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t sell equipment related to activities like motorcycling — just steer clear of equipment meant to protect consumers from serious injury. Examples of safety equipment to avoid include:
-Flame retardant clothing
To a lesser extent, this even extends to equipment for electronic devices, such as a supposedly waterproof phone pouch, screen protectors, or other hardware meant to protect electronics. While you’re less likely to get a lawsuit thrown at you over a broken phone screen, your customers will not be happy, and you can expect a rather scathing review.
7. Counterfeit Items
It should be fairly obvious that selling counterfeit items is yet another invitation for trouble — if not just for legal reasons, then for your business’s reputation. It is completely illegal to sell counterfeit goods, whether you are producing, selling, or transporting such goods.
The top five counterfeit items most commonly bought on the internet are:
-Watches and jewelry
-Handbags and wallets
Pharmaceutical and personal care products
Whether or not you knowingly sold counterfeit goods, you can get in a lot of trouble. This is why it’s best to keep a close eye out for products of the above types that appear to be replicas of branded items. If the supplier price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Even if you are selling weapons such as pocket knives in a completely legal way, they can be a major annoyance to sell. The legality of a particular type of knife, for instance, may vary from region to region. Someone who is unfamiliar with weapon laws in countries their online retailer ships to would do best to avoid selling weapons altogether. There may be legality issues with selling items across national borders as well. At worst, your e-commerce business has unwittingly sold weapons that are illegal in a particular country; at best, a shipment doesn’t make it past customs. In the end, it’s probably not worth the trouble and risk of selling dangerous items.
9. Common Household Items
Avoid selling common, everyday items that consumers can find at just about any corner store. The reason? Well, just that. If you’re selling a generic item that can easily be purchased at any other store, including brick-and-mortar stores, you don’t have much of a competitive edge. For example, if a consumer has run out of toothpaste, they’re likely to buy it at any nearby drugstore. There is no incentive for the customer to buy from you, especially if they will have to wait several days to weeks for the item to arrive. But, if you sold something that was unique, such as a trendy type of teeth-whitening toothpaste with “exotic” ingredients, customers may be willing to wait for your specialty toothpaste (and hopefully buy some regular toothpaste in the meantime!).
The reason for avoiding cosmetics is similar to the reasons for avoiding items five and seven. Namely, you may end up accidentally peddling a good that is untested or unapproved by the FDA, and possibly even counterfeit. Counterfeiting makeup has become an extremely lucrative venture. Unfortunately for the duped customer, counterfeit cosmetics often contain unregulated and unsafe ingredients that can cause skin irritation, damage, and serious allergic reactions. The same goes for cheap makeup brands from foreign countries; they are often not regulated or held to the same standards as higher quality brands. They may contain highly toxic ingredients — something you definitely don’t want passing through your hands and into the hands of your customers.
11. Copyrighted Items
Selling copyrighted items is one of the biggest financial mistakes you can make on your e-commerce platform. Just like with counterfeit products, selling items that violate copyright laws is illegal. It may be tempting to sell items that are copyrighted because there is an existing fanbase you can target; however, it’s not a good idea. Should you be caught, legal charges can be brought against you, and your store may be shut down entirely. Companies like Disney and its subsidiaries are well-known for going after any instance of copyright infringement. A small dropship company that is found to be violating Disney’s copyright, for instance, stands almost no chance of recovering from a lawsuit.
Mike Austin is a Content Director at Adrack.com. He has worked in the Digital Marketing industry since 2009. As a conversion-driven marketer, he is passionate about helping businesses expand their online visibility and reach their goals.