Want to be successful at dropshipping in South Africa? Check out this guide on how to start your dropshipping business in South Africa.
Dropshipping is an online business model where you sell products online without holding any inventory. First, you sell the products on your online store. Then, when a customer buys, you order the products from your supplier, who ships them directly to your customer. In this article, we see how to start dropshipping in South Africa. We’ll cover the different steps, how dropshipping works in South Africa, how to get started, where to find products, as well as the advantages and limitations of the dropshipping business model.
In this guide, we’ll get into all the key aspects of drop shipping:
- What is dropshipping and how dropshipping work in South Africa
- The benefits of dropshipping in South Africa
- The limitations of drop shipping in South Africa
- How to start your dropshipping business in South Africa
- The best dropshipping suppliers in South Africa
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What is Dropshipping in South Africa?
First, let’s see what dropshipping is exactly and how dropshipping works in South Africa.
What is dropshipping?
Dropshipping is a business model used by online stores where the seller does not have to handle the product directly. When a customer places an order on your website, you buy the products from a third-party supplier. This supplier then ships the products directly to your customer. You make money by adding your margin on top of the price charged by your dropshipping supplier.
The main advantage of drop shipping is that it requires much less working capital than running a traditional online store. Indeed, you do not need to buy inventory, store it in a warehouse, and handle the shipping management. Your main responsibilities are to market the products, attract customers, and place orders with your supplier. The barrier to entry is lower and it is much easier to get started.
However, beware that this is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Just opening a dropshipping store is not going to guarantee instant success. Like any business, being successful at drop shipping requires effort and time.
How does dropshipping work in South Africa?
Dropshipping is perfectly legal in South Africa. You can start a dropshipping business and make it profitable. But there are a few things to consider if you wonder how to start a dropshipping business in South Africa.
First, dropshipping products from abroad can be complex, costly, and lead to long shipping delays. The postal service is not always as reliable as in other places. International suppliers might also not use the delivery companies that you know and trust on your side.
In addition, most products shipped from overseas attract import duties. The products are sent directly to your customers by the manufacturer, so it means your customer will be liable for the import duty. You should make them aware of this and of the amount they should expect to pay. If you do not, this will cause a lot of problems and customer complaints. There are ways around this, and it is possible to pay the import duties before the product arrives, but this is something to keep in mind. In practice, using international dropshipping suppliers is a challenge in South Africa.
Finally, you need to operate your dropshipping store like any legitimate business. Do not deal with counterfeit goods, and always deliver the products your clients expect. You will also have to pay taxes on your profits.
Work with local dropshipping suppliers
Most of the dropshipping examples you find online are based on AliExpress, a dropshipping supplier based in China. But, as we just mentioned, this is not the ideal setup in South Africa, as all experienced dropshipping store owners will tell you.
The ideal solution is to find dropshipping suppliers in South Africa. It will avoid unexpected issues with taxes, logistics, payment, and business etiquette that you could have with suppliers abroad. South African dropshipping suppliers can generally ship faster and more affordably than international ones. They are also generally easier to work with in terms of pricing and stock. Finding them is not easy, but it is worth it. Building that type of relationship will be a huge differentiator.
To help you get started with this, we have included below a list of local dropshipping wholesalers in South Africa.
Benefits of Drop Shipping in South Africa
Low startup cost
One of the big advantages of dropshipping is that it does not require a lot of capital to get started. First, you do not need to order a large number of products to access wholesale prices. Indeed, when you dropship, there is no minimum order requirement. In addition, you also save on warehousing space, as you do not need to store the products.
Your initial costs will mostly be the setup of your online store, and the cost of samples to test your products and suppliers. Overall, it is a great way to start making money online in South Africa.
Easy to start
In addition to the low startup cost, a dropshipping business is also easy to start. Indeed, the initial steps do not require specific skills difficult to master. You only need time to research products and create your online store. As we will see below, with the available platforms on the market, setting up your online store is also quite simple.
Dropshipping avoids many of the complexities of having to manage inventory yourself. You do not need to order products in bulk, have warehouse space to store them and fulfill the orders. Your supplier handles this on your behalf.
Easy to grow
Another advantage of a dropshipping company is that it is easy to grow once you find initial traction. Indeed, as your business expands, your fixed infrastructure costs remain stable. This means that you will not need significant investment along the way.
As you grow, you will invest more in sales and marketing, and maybe customer support. But you can reinvest your profits into the business to grow your advertising expenses. This is a good way to feed the growth of your business.
Not having long-term commitments also gives you a lot of flexibility. You can adjust your products and strategies on the fly. This allows experimenting with various products and niches with limited cost and risk.
The business is also easier to manage, as you do not have to handle constraints like office or warehouse space leases.
Limitations of Dropshipping in South Africa
Despite all its benefits, dropshipping also has some limitations.
One of the main disadvantages of dropshipping is that you can usually only get low-profit margins. This is because of a few factors. First, as you are reselling an existing product without any modifications, you compete with other companies offering that same product. This often leads to a race to the bottom in terms of prices and leads to small margins.
Second, thanks to the dropshipping business model, you do not incur the costs of product inventory, warehousing, and shipping. But those costs do not disappear. They are covered by the product suppliers. This means that the dropshipping suppliers will pass those costs to you. And they typically make a profit on those additional services they provide. This will also reduce your margin.
With the usual e-commerce process, you will also benefit from economies of scale when your business grows. Indeed, if you order larger quantities, your cost per unit decreases, and your warehousing cost is amortized over a larger of products. Unfortunately, this is not the case for dropshipping, as you are not handling this part of the business.
Limited control over products and fulfillment
As your supplier handles production and delivery, you do not have control over the product and shipping part of your business. You have to rely on your supplier to offer a good service for these aspects of your business. This limited control over key parts of the business can be a bit scary at first. Researching and testing your suppliers will allow you to find partners you can trust.
As you will be selling existing products, it is also not possible to customize them or brand them as you would like. It is a limit when it comes to building your brand.
Complicated order processing
Dropshipping can also lead to complicated order processing. Indeed, if you are offering products from several suppliers, each of them might be using different shipping methods. This can be an issue, as your customers do not expect to pay multiple shipping fees on the same order.
If this becomes a problem, there are always solutions. You can for instance receive the orders yourself, and consolidate them before shipping them to your customers. But it then becomes much less hands-off for you. You move closer to traditional e-commerce stores in terms of process.
Customer service can be more challenging
As you do not control the product and orders fulfillment, this can make things tricky to manage when something goes wrong. You will have to take the blame, even if it is the fault of your supplier. But taking responsibility on behalf of your supplier is part of the business model. It is something you need to accept and be ready for.
Is dropshipping for you?
After reviewing the advantages and limitations of dropshipping in South Africa, is dropshipping for you? You should give it a try if:
- You want to start an online business
- But you want to avoid putting too much initial capital into the business
- And you are willing to find local drop shipping suppliers in South Africa
Then this might be a good fit!
How to Start Drop Shipping in South Africa
Now, let’s see how to start drop shipping in South Africa. Here are the four steps to launch your dropshipping business:
- Research your niche
- Find dropshipping suppliers and products to sell
- Create your online store
- Start marketing your products
Research your niche
The first step to starting a successful drop shipping company in South Africa is to find the niche you want to serve. A niche could be for instance “Pet food”, “Outdoor equipment”, “Baby clothes” or “Toys”. Your niche needs to be big enough so that you can make enough sales, but small enough to be able to market to it as a group with a specific identity.
Focusing on a niche will help a lot to build a successful South African dropshipping store. Finding random suppliers, adding some products to your site, and hoping for the best is usually not a winning strategy. If you start selling any product you can find, you might do a few sales, but your business will be difficult to grow. It is much easier to start from a small, specialized niche, and grow from there. You can then learn the products your customers like, and how to serve them better than anyone else on the internet. As they belong to the same demography, it is also much easier to market to them efficiently.
So, how to find your niche?
Our guide on how to find products to sell for your online store introduces many ideas about this. Looking at your hobbies and areas where you are an expert is a first strategy. Identifying trending products is another way to find promising niches.
Find dropshipping suppliers and products to sell
Once you know which niche of customers you would like to serve, it is time to find products to sell to them. For this, you will need to find suppliers willing to drop ship products to your customers on your behalf.
When we talk about dropshipping, most people immediately think of AliExpress to source products. However, in South Africa, it is not an ideal setup. Most experienced dropshippers recommend avoiding AliExpress if possible. Shipping issues, taxes, and import issues are common and can make your business difficult.
Instead, you should try to find local suppliers and manufacturers in South Africa. A good place to start for this is Dropstore. Dropstore finds local wholesalers in South Africa who are willing to dropship. Then they connect them to you through their platform. It can be a great place to start. You will find more details about it and a list of dropshipping suppliers in South Africa in the next section.
Once you have found suppliers and products, you should test them by ordering samples. Get them delivered to your place to experience the whole process. This will show you what to expect from this supplier in terms of quality, packaging, and shipping. Testing every product can be costly and will increase your startup cost. But sending an untested product directly to a customer is risky. We would not recommend it.
Finding good dropshipping suppliers in South Africa remains one of the biggest challenges of starting a drop shipping business. Once you have successfully found suppliers, you’ll be on your way to success.
Create your online store
Once you have found suppliers, the next step is to create your online store to promote and sell your products online. There are two main options to create your online store. The first one is to use a website builder like Portmoni or Shopify. The second one is to build your site yourself with WordPress and WooCommerce.
If you do not have a technical background, we recommend using a website builder platform. Portmoni for instance allows you to start your online store in a few minutes. It also integrates with local South African payment gateways like Yoco or Payfast. This will allow you to receive payments online easily. It is also affordable.
If you want to check more options, you’ll find 8 different platforms reviewed in detail in this guide about the best eCommerce platforms in South Africa.
Your website will be one of your main marketing assets. It is key that you take the time to design it properly. Add nice product pictures and make it easy to navigate. With a carefully designed online store, your visitors will more likely turn into customers. But no need to spend hundreds of hours on it! Once your design is good enough and you have loaded some products, you can already start promoting it and make your first sales.
Market your products
After creating your online store, you need to market your products to attract buyers and make sales. As a dropshipper, this is where you will spend a good part of your time and budget. Getting qualified visitors to your online store is what will make you successful.
The first and easy way to drive traffic to your site is to use paid advertising. It allows you to easily test if your products are selling and if your site is converting. The easiest and most targeted way to get traffic is Facebook Ads. You can also use Google Ads, but those are more difficult to master. The advantage of paid advertisement is that as soon as you start spending money, you will start getting visitors. If those visitors are interested in your products, you will start making sales. The disadvantage is that as soon as you stop spending money, traffic and sales stop.
Another option to market your products is to promote them directly to relevant groups, for instance on Facebook or WhatsApp. When the rules of the group allow, you can introduce your website and products. With this technique, avoid at all costs being spammy. If you do, you will most likely be banned very quickly from the groups. This might also negatively impact the reputation of your online store.
Finally, SEO and content marketing are a third way to get traffic to your site. Those techniques are slower to grow – they typically take several months to get results. We recommend not focusing on this exclusively, as other strategies will allow you to get revenue sooner.
And if you want more details and ideas about how to promote your website, just check this article.
The Best Dropshipping Suppliers in South Africa
As we have seen, dropshipping in South Africa works best if you can find local suppliers. Indeed, local suppliers will minimize your delivery time, ease product returns, and you will be able to build a relationship with them.
Here are the best dropshipping suppliers in South Africa, all reviewed below:
- AliExpress – Best for wholesale import, not for dropshipping
- Dropstore – Best to start
- Men’s Republic
- Cosmic Pets
If you wonder how to find suppliers in South Africa, this list is a good starting point for your own research.
Before looking at local options, let’s have a look at Aliexpress and see why this is not the best option for South Africa.
Founded in 2010, AliExpress is one of the most popular online marketplaces with more than 100 million products available for sale. AliExpress is owned by the China eCommerce giant Alibaba. Most of the products available on the platform are manufactured and sent from China. AliExpress allows dropshipping products worldwide, including South Africa.
AliExpress can be a great option to get started easily but does come with some limitations. First, products shipped from China go through the import process and will attract import duties for your clients. The import process is not the easiest in South Africa and can complicate things.
Second, suppliers on AliExpress tend to race to the bottom in terms of quality. Even if you find a good quality product, it might change without notice due to fluctuations in your suppliers’ competition or supply chain. It can be difficult to keep a stable quality over time.
In South Africa, AliExpress is a great option to import wholesale products. For direct dropshipping, we would not recommend it. Is it introduces many complications and can make your business difficult.
Dropstore is a South African company specializing in finding products from South African suppliers for eCommerce stores. They operate an online marketplace that makes it easy to find products to sell on your online store.
You can create a free account to explore the products they offer. Their partner suppliers are also listed on the platform if you want to check them out.
Once you have selected products, you can manually add them to your online store. They also offer integrations with WooCommerce and Shopify to automatically synchronize your products. Their pricing starts at R399 per month for 100 products, up to R1499 per month for unlimited products.
Dropstore offers a wide range of suppliers in many niches, from consumer electronics to home improvement or jewelry. More than 200 verified South African suppliers are available on the platform. They are a great way to start if you wonder how to dropship in South Africa.
Men’s Republic is a wholesale distributor of gadgets, phone accessories, and gifts for men based in Johannesburg. Launched in 2012, Men’s Republic offers a large range of products backed by thumbsUp! UK, and manufactured in China. Their full catalog is available on their website, and you just need to create an account to access the wholesale prices. Men’s Republic offers its products as a dropshipping wholesaler in South Africa.
Calasca is a South African online store that offers a reseller program. They offer more than 1000 products in a large range of niches, from homeware to outdoor or beauty products. You can easily sign up for the program on their website. Once accepted you will be able to access thousands of products from their partner brands.
Planet54 is a clothing and accessories online store that offers a wholesale portal in South Africa. They have more than 7000 products available in the clothing and clothing accessories niche. Their portal allows accessing a large amount of stock at wholesale price, plus exclusive deals at special prices. Their special offers are only available to wholesalers via their self-service platform. To access it, you just need to apply to their wholesale program on their website. Once your application has been verified, you can start enjoying their deals.
Cosmic Pets was established in 2006 and is a supplier of pet products with more than 400 partners throughout South Africa. You can check their product range directly on their website, and inquire about pricing.
It is currently possible to buy wholesale from them. But their dropshipping program currently does not accept new clients due to capacity constraints. Keep an eye on their partner page to check when it opens again.
The Bottom Line
In this guide, we reviewed how to start a dropshipping business in South Africa. Dropshipping in South Africa is a valid business model that can be profitable. But the local market conditions require building your dropshipping business in a specific way compared to other countries.
The main difference will be that it will be key to find local suppliers if you want to be successful. You will also need to use an online store that can be easily linked to local payment gateways like Payfast or Yoco.
But once you have found products, you can start marketing them and grow your business!
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