Dropshipping or Mini-importation; Mini-importation or Dropshipping! Are these ventures two sides of the same coin or are they distant cousins that never knew they shared a bond? Analysts are quick to point out that a Dropshipping business differs from a mini-importation venture in some fundamental ways.
Points of Convergence
However, before I dwell on the differences, it may be useful to see where these two forms of businesses converge. The processes for starting either a Dropshipping business or a mini-importation outfit bear close resemblance as you will see below:
Step 1: Source for Products/goods
Whether you opt for dropshipping or go full throttle into mini-importation, a key requirement centres on finding the right sources for your product orders. Most dropshippers and importers often get their products from China. The reason is not hard to decipher: China now stands as the manufacturing powerhouse of the global trade market, producing over 80 per cent of the world’s goods. Products such as flat screens, phones, generator, freezers even the popular Apple products are all coupled/produced in China.
A practical step for obtaining products will entail visiting merchant websites such as Alibaba, Aliexpress and DHgate. These platforms offer quality and reliability, as they engage merchants after a thorough screening process.
You can begin your enquiries by registering on any of these merchant sites to browse for products and place your orders.
Step 2: Make purchases from a reliable supplier
This step is essential to the survival of your dropshipping business or mini-importation enterprise. While the merchant platforms conduct stringent screening procedures for sellers, the possibility still exists that you could be shipped inferior goods.
One way to avoid this loophole is by exercising the power of consumer feedback. Before you place an order from any supplier, you can check the feedback score and rating for that supplier. You can allow scroll down below the products to read customer reviews on the product you about to ship.
This feedback mechanism offers a good insight into the reliability and trustworthiness of the seller. The ratings are usually between 0 – 100% and 0 – 5star reviews. Experts advise you always go for suppliers with a grade of 90 and above. Also, go for sellers with at least a 4-star review.
It is also helpful to study the product descriptions to match what is offered to your needs. While at it, you should even the delivery method and time attached to the product and the warranty on the products.
Step 3: Making payment
In the past making payment for goods abroad was an arduous task. However, thanks to the internet of things, you can make payment for goods in any part of the world, right at the convenience of your home.
There are several media through which you can pay for your products, but they differ from one seller to another. While some suppliers allow Mastercard or Visa card payment, others prefer PayPal, Alipay or Shree. The bottom line is that paying for goods and services is mostly instant and the seller can immediately confirm receipt of payment.
But should you pay attention to getting scammed or receiving inferior goods? What if you make payment and your products do not arrive? Or you receive goods with a description different from what you ordered.
These merchant platforms understand that these realities exist. Many of them operate a method called Buyer Protection or an Escrow Account. This account is set up to keep your payment with the websites. The system works such that after you receive and confirmed that the goods are in order, the sites then release the funds to the sellers’ account.
If for any reason you have objections to the quality of goods received, you can notify the merchant sites by way of instituting a dispute. If your claims are verified, then your funds will be returned to you.
Step 4: Product delivery
The significant ways by which you receive your products are Free shipping and Premium delivery. The former costs nothing but takes some time to reach you( anywhere between 20 to 30 days). Premium delivery entails receiving your orders from international courier companies like DHL, FedEx and EMS. This method costs more but ensures the timely delivery of your order (3 to 5 work days).
Step 5: Marketing and Advertising
Your dropshipping business or mini-import venture will only succeed to the extent that you market/advertise your products. You can apply creativity and utilise modern tools of technology including marketing on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter among others.
So now that we see the similarities linking dropshipping to Mini-importation, we can now move on to what stands these business models apart:
In this business model, you do not need to own a store (physically). When you receive an order for a product, all you have to do is re-route the request/shipping order to a third party (including a manufacturer, another retailer or wholesaler. These third party agents bear the responsibility of shipping the goods to the customer.
A mini-importation business revolves around you paying a determined number of items direct from the manufacturer and having the item shipped to a chosen location.
Pros of Dropshipping
1. Dropshipping often requires a low start-up cost
2. You do not need to bother about securing an office or storage space, thereby saving on rental/warehousing costs.
3. You do not grapple with inventory handling costs.
Pros of Mini-importation
1. You often achieve higher profit margins since you set your prices based on indices of the local economy.
2. You can develop your products appear in customised labels.
Cons of Dropshipping
1. You will have to deal with low-profit margins
2. You cannot determine the prices of the goods you order
3. You may also have to deal with set prices and other hidden charges
Cons of Mini-importation
1. You will incur substantial operating costs including warehousing expenses and office space procurement.
2. Start-up costs are often on the high side.
Mini-Importation and dropshipping in Nigeria are two of the most amazing small scale businesses in Nigeria. You should learn a little more about each of them and see what works for you.