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What Happened to Dropshipping?


Business models can rise and fall with remarkable speed. One model that has generated considerable buzz over the past decade is dropshipping. While critics have been quick to declare its demise, the reality is far more nuanced.

Dropshipping is still very much alive, albeit with significant changes in how it’s executed. This article delves into the current state of dropshipping, offering insights into its ongoing viability and evolution.

Stripe & Shopify won’t support your dropshipping business. We will.

A CG mockup of a storefront with clothing, bags, and plants.

The dropshipping storefront is cleaner than ever.

Dropshipping in 2024

Dropshipping, at its core, is a retail fulfillment method where an online store does not keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a store sells a product, it purchases the item from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer.

This model saw explosive growth due to its low startup costs and ease of entry (especially during the pandemic). However, with its rapid rise, many entrepreneurs entered the market unprepared, leading to customer dissatisfaction and a tarnished reputation for the business model.

Higher Standards, Better Practices

Today, successful dropshipping is characterized by higher standards and better business practices:

  • Curated Product Selection: Modern dropshippers are more discerning in their product choices. Rather than offering an overwhelming array of low-quality items, they focus on curated selections that meet specific quality standards. This approach not only enhances the customer experience but also reduces the risks associated with returns and refunds.
  • Hands-On Involvement: Unlike the early days of dropshipping, where business owners often relied on stock photographs and vague product descriptions, today’s entrepreneurs are more hands-on. They frequently test products themselves, ensuring they meet their standards before listing them for sale. This direct involvement fosters greater trust with customers and adds a layer of authenticity to the product listings.
  • Improved Customer Service: The importance of excellent customer service cannot be overstated. Modern dropshippers are increasingly prioritizing customer support, from clear communication to efficient problem resolution. This shift helps mitigate the negative perceptions that plagued early dropshipping ventures and builds long-term customer relationships.
  • US-Based Suppliers: Customers don’t want long shipping times or to buy from overseas anymore, so US-based suppliers are on the rise. These partnerships often result in faster shipping times and enhanced product quality, which are vital for maintaining customer satisfaction and competitive advantage. Additionally, working with domestic suppliers helps alleviate concerns around international shipping delays and customs issues.
Stacks of cardboard boxes with question marks stamped on them.

You’ll be surprised at what items are being dropshipped.

Top Products You Probably Didn’t Know Were Dropshipped

While many associate dropshipping with fast fashion or inexpensive gadgets, the landscape is broadening with unexpected top products capturing consumer interest. These items not only demonstrate the versatility of the dropshipping model but also highlight the evolving consumer preferences in today’s market.

  • Artisanal Coffee: Gone are the days when coffee was merely a morning ritual. The burgeoning market for artisanal coffee allows dropshippers to tap into a customer base that values quality, origin, and unique flavors. From single-origin beans to exclusive blends, this niche market offers high margins and the opportunity for subscription models.
  • Cleaning Products: As households become more conscious about sustainable living, eco-friendly and effective cleaning products have risen in demand. Dropshipping subscription-based cleaning products, including natural disinfectants, zero-plastic bottles and refills, and biodegradable sponges, provides customers with convenience and supports an eco-conscious lifestyle.
  • Board Games and Puzzles: In an era of digital entertainment, there has been a surprising resurgence in the popularity of board games and puzzles. Offering a curated selection of strategy games, family-friendly options, and intricate jigsaw puzzles can attract diverse demographics, from casual players to avid collectors.
  • Home Fitness Equipment: The shift towards home workouts has surged, especially in light of recent global events. Dropshipping high-quality home fitness equipment, such as resistance bands, portable weights, and yoga mats, addresses the growing demand for convenient and effective workout solutions. This category has the potential for high customer retention, particularly with fitness enthusiasts seeking reliable brands.
  • Pet Supplies: The pet care industry continues to thrive, driven by pet owners’ willingness to invest in their pets’ wellbeing. Dropshipping premium pet supplies, including organic food, eco-friendly toys, and trendy accessories, can be a lucrative niche market with loyal customers seeking convenience and quality.

Ready to scale your dropshipping store?

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Dropshipping can be incorporated into almost any business.

Dropshipping Use Cases (for Businesses That Don’t Want to Fully Adopt the Model)

While some entrepreneurs have embraced dropshipping as their primary business model, many established businesses leverage it strategically without committing fully to the approach. Dropshipping offers several practical use cases that can benefit companies looking to stay agile and competitive:

  • Testing New Products: Before committing to large inventory purchases, businesses can use dropshipping to test the market demand for new products. By listing new items without holding stock, companies can gauge consumer interest and adjust their buying strategy accordingly. This reduces financial risk and provides valuable market insights.
  • Exploring New Markets: Expanding into new regions can be challenging and costly. Dropshipping allows businesses to test sales in unfamiliar markets without the significant investment in warehousing and logistics. This approach helps determine regional demand and customer preferences, making it easier to tailor marketing strategies and product offerings for optimal success.
  • Seasonal and Trend-Based Offerings: Capitalizing on seasonal trends or temporary fads can be highly profitable but also risky. Dropshipping enables businesses to quickly adapt to these short-term opportunities without the burden of excess inventory. This flexibility ensures that companies can offer trendy products just when they’re in demand, maximizing sales while minimizing surplus stock.
  • Supplementing Product Lines: For businesses looking to expand their product range without overextending themselves, dropshipping provides a way to offer complementary items. Retailers can enhance their existing product lines with add-ons or accessories, enriching the shopping experience and increasing average order value without significant upfront costs.
  • Emergency Fulfillment Backups: Unexpected supply chain disruptions can jeopardize customer satisfaction and sales. Dropshipping can serve as a backup fulfillment method during such emergencies, ensuring that orders are fulfilled even if primary inventory sources are compromised. This contingency plan helps maintain customer trust and operational continuity.

By integrating dropshipping into their strategies selectively, businesses can enjoy the benefits of this flexible model without fully committing to it. This hybrid approach allows for smarter inventory management, better market responsiveness, and ultimately, a stronger competitive edge.

A pen resting on top of a paper with orange and blue bar graphs, line graphs, and financial forecasts.

The future looks steady for this business model.

The Future of Dropshipping

The current state of dropshipping provides a glimpse into its future. The model is likely to continue evolving, driven by technological advancements and consumer preferences. Some trends to watch for include:

  • Micro-Influencers: As influencer marketing becomes increasingly saturated, the rise of micro-influencers (those with smaller but targeted audiences) offers an alternative for dropshippers. These partnerships allow for more specialized branding and collaborations that connect with specific customer segments.
  • Augmented Reality: Visualizing products before purchase remains a challenge in online shopping. However, the integration of augmented reality technology allows customers to “try on” items virtually, increasing their confidence in their purchase and reducing returns.
  • Sustainable Practices: With growing environmental concerns, dropshippers are turning to sustainable practices, such as eco-friendly packaging and carbon-neutral shipping. These initiatives not only align with consumer values but also offer opportunities for branding and differentiation.

While dropshipping is not without its challenges, it remains a viable and potentially lucrative business model. For e-commerce entrepreneurs and small business owners looking to minimize initial investment while testing market demand, dropshipping continues to offer compelling advantages.

In the end, dropshipping’s success hinges on the same principles that drive all successful businesses: understanding your market, delivering value, and consistently meeting customer expectations. With these foundations in place, dropshipping can be a robust component of a diversified e-commerce strategy.


About the author

As President of DirectPayNet, I make it my mission to help merchants find the best payment solutions for their online business, especially if they are categorized as high-risk merchants. I help setup localized payments modes and have tons of other tricks to increase sales! Prior to starting DirectPayNet, I was a Director at MANSEF Inc. (now known as MindGeek), where I led a team dedicated to managing merchant accounts for hundreds of product lines as well as customer service and secondary revenue sources. I am an avid traveler, conference speaker and love to attend any event that allows me to learn about technology. I am fascinated by anything related to digital currency especially Bitcoin and the Blockchain.