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If you’ve stumbled across the terms drop surfing and dropshipping, than naturally you’ll want to know what the difference is. They’re similar terms and it can be confusing to understand the nuances between them. I would like to share some information with you today about the main differences between the two and how each model works.
So, what is the difference between drop surfing and dropshipping? Dropshipping is a business model whereas drop surfing is a dropshipping product sourcing strategy. With drop surfing, you still dropship products, but you ‘ride the wave’ by selling products from the cheapest suppliers. You are not loyal to one supplier and routinely seek out the lowest price among suppliers.
Let us now take a closer look at the drop surfing and dropshipping business model to see how they relate, differ, what is best to use and how you would do it.
What Is Drop Surfing?
Drop surfing is closely tied to dropshipping and its actually a sourcing strategy thats part of the dropshipping business model.
Therefore to understand drop surfing you first need to understand dropshipping.
Dropshipping is where you sell products to customers that you never physically touch or see. You research for products, market them and then when a customer buys from your store you then place an order at the manufacturer/supplier.
You provide your customers delivery address when you make the order. Insofar, they end up picking, packing and shipping it on your behalf.
So as the store owner, you don’t purchase inventory until you receive an order and take a payment from your customer.
Drop Surfing works exactly the same way, but it is somewhat different.
When you receive an order, instead of sourcing that product from a designated supplier (that you always order from), you analyse and review the market to find the cheapest and best price. Both in terms of unit and shipping prices.
In essence you are always on the hunt for new suppliers, routinely changing as prices fluctuate and/or suppliers run out of stock.
You are always seeking to source your products cheaper and faster with drop surfing.
Once you find it, you place the order and the dropshipping process continues.
As you can see, drop surfing is therefore an order fulfilmment method rather than a model.
Should You Drop Surf or Use Traditional Dropshipping Methods?
With a very rigid mindset it would be possible to use ddop surfing systems, processes and perhaps software over traditional dropshipping sourcing methods.
However, there is no real need to chose one over the other. You can use both interchangeably as you see fit.
There are examples and times where researching and finding new suppliers makes sense. Perhaps products routinely go out or stock or that the market prices routinely fluctuate.
But other times, using the same supplier may afford you benefits. For example, you may have ordered from them before and can guarantee that they provide a good service. You may have seen one of their samples or maybe they deliver quicker than other suppliers (that you have and or are yet to try).
Besides, unless you are paying for a software that can analyse a lot of data on your behalf drop surfing is going to take time and effort. Sure it can increase your profit margins and make you more money but do you have this time at your disposal?
Whether or not drop surfing or dropshipping is best for you and your business will come down to context, niche and the marketplace itself.
Why choose one or the other when you can interchangeably work between the two.
How Would You Source Products?
Let’s say you like the idea of dropshipping and drop surfing. How would you even go about finding products and how would you source them to begin with.
AliExpress is considered one of the best marketplaces and platforms to do so. In fact, it is one of the most profitable producing sourcing options that is available today.
This is because they offer considerably lower prices than domestic suppliers, and the shipping rates are generally cost-effective too.
AliExpress is also an incredibly easy to use platform too, and it was designed to help you identify the and purchase from the best suppliers because it rewards those with high selling metrics and feedback.
The reason why dropshippers choose to source products through AliExpress is because it just works so well.
Moreover, due to the growth of AliExpress, even US-based suppliers and manufacturers are joining the platform too.
When you visit AliExpress, you’ll soon see how significant a marketplace it is. There are dozens of niche categories and millions of products.
Due to the high competition among suppliers, the best products rise to the top, prices are competitive and quality is always improving.
For you as the dropshipper this means easier sourcing, better prices, and better customer satisfaction.
Using the AliExpress platform is entirely free, you can sign up in minutes and there are no account or hidden fees. You do not need a business licence, nor do you need to be a registered company.
You can use the platform as much as you like because AliExpress charge suppliers to list and sell on the platform. For us as dropshippers, it’s great.
It also means that you can purchase as many products as you like, and sometimes you can even benefit further from bulk purchases (if you did ever want to hold inventory). All products can be shipped globally (and the shipping options include over 199 countries.)
There are numerous shipping methods and options available, each offering different delivery timelines and each coming in at different price points. All orders can be tracked to keep your customers informed.
Other features to not are the complete buyer protection; money back guarantees and a variety of safe payment options including PayPal and payment cards (so you do not need to use a credit card).
As you’ll see, there’s a reason why AliExpress is one of the best and most widely sued marketplaces to source inventory. There are so many benefits in sourcing there.
But most importantly is profit margins. That is ultimately why you want to dropship.
Products on AliExpress typically sell for at least a third of what you can charge customers located in other parts of the world. Sometimes profit margins can be at a multiple of 5x and higher.
So for example, you can buy iPhone cases for as little as $2 each on AliExpress. Dropshippers are successfully selling these same very cases for $10, $15 and even $20 to customers in the US.
How Would You Drop Surf?
So know you have an understanding of how and where you can acquire products, how would you actually implement the drop surfing strategy.
It all starts with researching for a niche that you can base your store around. For illustration purposes, let’s continue with the phone cases niche as referenced above.
So, you would build your store around phone cases. You can do this on platforms like Shopify or CommerceHQ.
You would create all your required pages, and categories of products.
Then, you would visit AliExpress or another supplier and browse extensively for suppliers and sellers of phone cases.
You would then build out a supplier inventory, like an excel sheet, that would include a long list of suppliers who sell the specific type of case you want to sell. You would document information like products URLS, Prices, Supplier Names/Contact details etc.
You’ll notice on AliExpress that there are dozens of sellers that are selling the exact same product. You want to make note of these and make it easy to find and locate them for when you start making orders on your store.
Next, you would need to build out your product pages. Include plenty of images, write compelling sales copy in your product description and generally make your store and products attractive for customers. You would of course set prices at healthy profit margins (3-6x) or whatever the market enables you to.
With all in place from a store perspective, you would then begin marketing your products. You can do this through a multiple of channels and strategies – both free and paid. For example, paid social media marketing ads like Facebook and Instagram are an effective avenue to pursue. They are incredibly popular among dropshippers because they are so cost-effective, and you can closely target your ideal audience.
With Facebook Ads you can even laser target who your ad shows to including age demographic, interests and user segmentation e.g. you could even specify the device a customer is using to be the same very model of phone that you are selling cases for!
Soon you would start to take orders on your store. It is from here you would begin to ‘drop-surf’.
At this point in time you would access your spreadsheet (or visit marketplaces directly like AliExpress). You would sift through the list of suppliers and compare current prices.
You can then purchase from the best supplier at that specific time. You can source from the supplier with the cheapest unit prices or shipping prices (or both).
You can then use that supplier for as long as you want as you are receiving orders. As new orders come in you can review supplier prices once more. Whether this be on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis.
In fact, there is even software that can run these price comparisons for you on your behalf. This will of course automate the process. Of course these will cost you, and may not be ideal from the outset as you want to maximize your income, but is a great idea as you scale.
You can drop-surf for every category of product you sell, in any niche and on any store that you have or run.
Can/Will Customers Go to AliExpress Directly?
In this hypothetical scenario, you as the store owner and middleman, would be cut out from the process and you would not be able to make any sales.
This is perhaps one of the biggest concerns with new dropshippers and drop surfers. If products can be sourced so cheappy then why does a customer not go to AliExpress directly.
There are two main reasons as far as I am aware for this:
- They do not know about AliExpress, that it exists and they can get their products cheaper. As part of this they have no idea that you are dropshipping and sourcing products in this way.
- They do not trust or want to place an order on the platform. Perhaps they feel that it is too high a risk or are not comfortable using it for whatever reason.
Either way this presents us with a huge opportunity. It means we can source products at an alarmingly good rate and we can charge a significant markup to our customers (without them knowing or even minding).
Besides, if you have any ethical concerns around this, just remember that global brands and retail stores have been doing this for year. Ever seen a “made on china” label?
How To Start a Successful Drop Surfing and/or Dropshipping Business
Starting a dropshipping business is easy. In theory. You need to build a store and drive traffic and customers to your store. Then all you need to do is fulfil orders when they come in. Plus, platforms like Shopify and AliExpress make the whole process that much easier because they are intuitive and easy to use.
Succeeding with dropshipping is difficult. There’s a lot to set up, understand and manage. There are numerous areas that you can fail at or struggle to overcome that will completely prevent you from making it a profitable venture.
And that’s of course why you want to start. You don’t just want to own a business that makes sales or own a business for the sake of owning a business. You wan to own a business that turns a profit.
And there’s no reason why dropshipping cannot do this for you. In fact, there are hundreds of entrepreneurs who have turned it into their full-time income.
Getting on a reputable dropshipping course is one of the best investments you can make. You will literally get access to all of the information and training you need in once place. In a digestible and logical order. That you can use to replicate on your own store and business in real-time.
That will show you the exact steps to take and what you need to do at certain stages along the way. It will show you what to do but more importantly not what to do. What you need to be aware of and stay way clear of. It can save you a considerable amount of time, effort, and money in the long-run.
eCom Elites ($197) is one of the most comprehensive dropshipping courses on the market. If you want to succeed with dropshipping I suggest you take a look and sign up.
I’ve written my own review on the program which you can look at here. It’s my own personal case study having signed up and applied the content on my own store (scaling it all the way up to $10k per month).
While drop surfing is a relatively new term to describe a fulfillment method, dropshippping is the business model that you should be using if you are looking to build a successful eCommerce store online.
To build a business as leanly and affordably as you can with dropshipping is an opportunity that does not present itself too often.
Drop surfing is something that you can test and see if it works for you. It’s just one of the many ways you can source products, improve your profit margins and expand your possibilities.
But if you do not like the sound of it, or believe it may be too much work or effort for marginal gain, you might as well get started with traditional forms of dropshipping.