Drop shipping is a business model that lets you curate, market and sell a unique collection of products without any inventory, storage or staff costs. Shopify connects to hundreds of drop shippers via apps that automate every step, making it the quickest, easiest and most economical way to launch an ecommerce business.
Below, we’ll show you how simple it is to set up a Shopify trial store, connect the free Oberlo drop shipping app and start building a collection of drop ship products. We’ll also explore other drop ship supplier apps that you can use to expand your collection and grow your drop shipping empire.
1. Start Your Shopify Account
The first thing you need to do is start your Shopify free trial. To open an account, visit Shopify and enter your email address, business name and create a password as we did below.
If you’re not yet sure of your business name — or even your business concept — don’t let that stop you from test-driving Shopify and Oberlo. You can change your store’s name and even your email address at any time in your Shopify store settings. In fact, exploring drop ship products using Shopify and the Oberlo app is a terrific way to brainstorm and test different business ideas.
For more on developing a solid business concept, read our guide on researching niche markets.
After you enter the information above, Shopify asks you a few details to set up your test store.
As you can see, there’s no problem with telling Shopify that you’re just “playing around.” They know many successful sellers started this way.
Next, Shopify takes you to your store dashboard. This guides you through basic setup steps: adding products and setting up your store theme (design) and domain (web address).
We’ll cover theme and domain details in later steps. First, you’ll want to explore and add drop ship products to your Shopify store and, for that, you need to connect the Oberlo app.
2. Install the Oberlo App to Your Shopify Store
Since Oberlo is Shopify’s own, fully integrated drop shipping supplier network, it’s quick and easy to install and use. The simplest way to do this in a new Shopify store is to click on “Products” in the left menu.
The following “Products” page will pop up.
Here, click on the “Find Products” link and Shopify directs you to its Oberlo startup page.
Note: if you want to add Oberlo drop shipping to an existing Shopify store, go to the “Shopify Apps” page and search “Oberlo,” like this:
However, you get to Oberlo via the “Products” or “Apps” links, Shopify connects it to your store automatically once you click the button, so you need to click the “Install App” button.
Within seconds, your new Oberlo drop shipping dashboard will pop up. Here is where you can explore products to sell in your Shopify drop shipping store, plus research top sellers, sort through niche-based items and brainstorm ideas.
Note that in the lower left corner of the Oberlo screen, you can return to your Shopify dashboard at any time. It’s a completely seamless integration. Now, you’re ready to start searching for products.
3. Search For & Select Products to Sell in Your Shopify Drop Shipping Store
Once the Oberlo app is installed in your Shopify store, your product discovery fun begins. Oberlo’s intuitive interface lets you make broad or very specific product searches with a few keystrokes. It’s a good idea to start by exploring a variety of products related to your business idea (or ideas) and see what you come up with.
For example, our site, TheHorseJunkie, targets horse lovers and enthusiasts, so we start by searching the word, “horse.” This returns more than 1,000 products to browse through, from jewelry and horse grooming items to bags and apparel.
We can narrow our search using specific keywords like “horse bracelets” or “horse backpacks” or by using Oberlo’s “Filters,” which appear to the left of your product search results.
These filters let you narrow your search results to products based on specific factors. Here’s what each of these filters means:
- Verified supplier: These suppliers meet several factors, such as high-volume drop shippers with a 95 percent-plus on-time and satisfaction rating; note that other suppliers meet a set of standards as well, but verified suppliers are the top-performing group
- ePacket: This is a specific low-cost and quick shipping method for goods shipping from China and Hong Kong; this is one what that drop shippers can maintain very low shipping costs and stay competitive; however, you can exclude ePacket-shipped items if you prefer
- United States-based warehouse: If you only want to offer goods that ship from U.S.-based warehouses, you can filter your search for this; however, this doesn’t guarantee that these goods are U.S.-made — just stocked in and shipped from U.S. locations, which generally ensures faster shipping than ePacket but also tends to cost more
- Price: If you want to target products with specific price points, you can filter your searches by price range
- Order count: You can filter your searches for products that have already been sold by other Shopify/Oberlo sellers
- Shipping method: You can filter your search for items that ship via a specific carrier or method, including items that ship for free
- Warehouse location: You can search only for products that are warehoused in China, the U.S. or Europe
You can test different Oberlo product filters to see what results they deliver. Generally, the Verified Supplier filter helps if you want to launch a drop shipping store with the most proven suppliers. However, you don’t have to limit yourself to Verified Suppliers.
As you search products, you can see ratings and reviews for every item, including products listed on Oberlo by the biggest international dropship network, which is AliExpress. This can help you decide if an unverified seller is a good risk or not.
Other filter options may or may not matter, depending on your store concept or audience. However, if you want to focus on U.S.-made drop ship items or perhaps sell customized goods, you can explore other drop ship partners too. We discuss alternate drop ship supplier options at the end of this guide.
How to Select Oberlo Products to Sell
- Write product descriptions: Most Oberlo dropship suppliers provide item details like size and material, but few provide a ready-to-go detailed product description; even if they do, you really should write your own to connect the item to your brand and customer
- Review pricing: Oberlo automatically sets a suggested retail price, but it’s a good idea to review the profit margin and search online to see if that price is competitive with other sellers; marking your price up on all items then offering free shipping sitewide is a marketing tactic that many successful drop shippers use
- Communicate shipping times to customers: With drop shipping, fulfilling orders is out of your hands; it’s a good idea to include the estimated delivery times in your product descriptions
With these considerations in mind, starting with 10 to 20 items or so is a good goal to launch your Shopify drop ship store. This gives you a variety of products to import, promote and test without spending a load of time on setup.
Following this advice, here’s how we selected and added a few starter items to our Shopify drop shipping store.
Using Oberlo’s product search for “horse,” we found a sterling silver horse pendant necklace that we’d like to sell.
Based on the product brief, this necklace has good reviews from all sellers. We can quick-add the item by clicking “Add to Import List,” but we clicked on the item to see more information first.
In Oberlo’s item detail page, we find product images, our cost (the “Price”), our shipping cost (free via ePacket) and expected shipping time — between 10 and 20 days.
Scrolling down, we find more details like seller reviews (4.9 out of 5 stars) and the number of sales on Shopify stores (one in 30 days and 26 in six months). We can scroll even further to see if the supplier provides good product information that we can use in our sales description.
With positive reviews, a good number of sales, quality images and plenty of details for our description, this item is a good fit with our brand. So, we click “Add to Import List,” then continue the same process to identify a few more products.
4. Import Oberlo Products into Your Shopify Drop Ship Store
Before importing, we have the option to edit item titles and descriptions and review prices. We can also import them with the information provided by the supplier and edit them in Shopify or not at all. Since our list is short — just 13 items — we edit and review them in the Import List quickly, so that’s all done when they import into Shopify.
To do this, we proceed through the four tabs on each item.
Under “Product,” we can:
- Change the title of the item
- Manually add it to one or more Shopify Product Collection if already set up; if not, this can be done later in your Shopify dashboard
- Identify a product “Type,” which Shopify can use to add items to “Collections” automatically, which we’ll set up in step six
- Add keyword tags for search engine optimization (SEO) and site search
Under “Description,” we can change the manufacturers’ details to a product description that better connects with our audience — in our case, people who love and ride horses. Note that we added this line, so our customers know how long the item will take to arrive up front:
Imported, ships directly from the manufacturer. Typically arrives in 2-3 weeks.
Under “Variants,” we can see our item cost, shipping (this ships for free), suggested sales prices and projected profit and can make any changes to our selling price if we wish. Of course, pricing can be reviewed and changed anytime once items are imported into Shopify.
If the item comes in different sizes or colors, that’s shown here too. You can also see the manufacturer’s stock keeping unit (SKU) number, which we leave as is.
Under “Images,” we can select which manufacturer’s images we want to include in our upload by scrolling over any image and clicking the “+” sign.
As you proceed through each tab, Oberlo automatically saves your changes. Then, when complete, a quick click on the green “Import to Store” button sends the item to your Shopify product list immediately.
Here’s how our imported item looks like a live listing in our Shopify drop shipping store. It looks great, and we haven’t even set up our store yet. See what we mean when we say Shopify makes everything simple?
5. Categorize Your Oberlo Products
After importing a few products from Oberlo into Shopify, the next step is setting up your Shopify Store from your Shopify dashboard. You can start by setting up Product Collections to organize your drop ship items for easier shopping. To do this, click on “Collections,” then “Create Collection” in your Shopify dashboard, and you’ll see this screen.
We need an Equestrian Jewelry section to house our drop ship jewelry items, so we enter a title and a quick description of the section in the screen.
Scrolling down, under “Collection Image” we insert one of our item images from the products we imported earlier. Here, we can also name “Conditions,” which Shopify uses to add items to this collection automatically based on specific criteria.
For this, we added jewelry-related keywords that we know we’ll use in our titles. However, you can set up your criteria, Shopify gives you many options. You can also elect to add items to collections manually. It’s up to you how you want to manage this.
6. Set Up Your Shopify Drop Shipping Store
Once your product collections are set up, it’s time to complete key store details in Shopify. These include:
- Shopify store theme set up, which is the store’s design
- Informational pages for Customer Service and Shipping Details
- Menus to simplify navigation for shoppers
- Payment, shipping and tax information
- Create or connect a store domain name
Shopify leads you through each of these setup steps within your dashboard, so we’re not going to cover this in great detail here. However, we’ll walk you through the process so you can see how simple it is to complete and launch your new Shopify drop shipping store. The entire process took us about one hour.
Set Up Your Shopify Store Theme
Shopify automatically applies a basic free “Store Theme” which drives the design of your online store. You can set up this theme or change it to another theme under “Online Store > Themes” in your Shopify dashboard.
To see more free theme options, click “Explore Free Themes,” there are 10 clean, modern themes from which to choose.
You can also browse paid themes, which start around $140. As a starter store, the free themes deliver everything you need. It’s best to stick with these to save money at first, then explore paid themes later on as sales grow.
We chose the free theme “Supply” since it’s designed to display sites with larger inventories that we plan to build. Plus, it displays both collections and featured products sections on the home page. This might be a good one for your store, but it’s a good idea to check out all of the free themes to pick the best style for your brand.
Once selected, we can start customizing our store theme by clicking the “Customize” button.
Note: As shown above, Shopify keeps your store private until you’re ready to go live by using a password, and you’ll see this note as you proceed through the setup steps. You can find this password in your Store Settings and share it with friends or co-workers if you want them to view your site as you build it. Once your Shopify drop shipping store is complete, you disable the password to launch your live store.
The “Theme Customizer” is where you design the look of your store, including home page slider images, header and footer sections and other details. Here’s what we started with:
We followed Shopify’s edits list (on the left of the screen) and, within about an hour, completed customizing our store theme, including header, footer and homepage.
We already had a logo to insert into our header. If you don’t yet have one, Shopify lets you create a tidy logo using the typeface of your choice. To get a custom logo for your store, try the budget-friendly logo designers on Fiverr.
Here’s a look at our completed Jewelry Collection page, populated with our drop ship items from Oberlo.
Add Informational Pages
You can add one or more informational pages, like “About Us,” “Customer Service,” or “Shipping Information” pages easily to help communicate important details. Set these up by clicking “Add Page” under “Online Store > Pages.”
Set Up Your Shopify Store Navigation
Shopify lets you customize your store’s navigation so you can create clean, simple menus in your store’s header and footer sections. To do this, head to “Online Store > Navigation.”
Here, we built out a “Main Menu,” which appears at the top of our site, by adding all product collections and key information pages. Shopify even let us drag and nest menu items to create drop-down menus, as shown below. It’s all very easy.
As shown below, the menu we created includes a tidy pull-down navigation to our collections, plus gives shoppers quick links to our informational pages and blog section.
Set Up Payment, Tax & Shipping Information
With site setup complete, you’re ready for the final steps to launch your store. Shopify walks you each of these tasks in a few minutes. You can find links to the specific pages in the “Setting” tab, located on the bottom of your left-hand menu.
How you set each of these elements up depends on your needs, but here are a few tips:
- Payments: Shopify Payments is the simplest way to start a Shopify drop ship store; Shopify creates this account for you automatically, and it even adds a PayPal account if you don’t have one; you can connect a traditional merchant account service if you wish, but as a startup drop shipper, Shopify Payments is hard to beat
- Sales taxes: Shopify will help you determine if you need to collect sales tax and where, when you set this up per your location
- Shipping: If you plan to charge shipping fees for your orders, you can set rates up under “Shipping”; we elected to offer free shipping on all orders as a marketing tool, so we did not add shipping rates to our store; when needed, we adjusted our product prices to cover any shipping fees that our drop ship suppliers charge; you can test both option to see which drives more sales on your Shopify store
Of course, there are other settings that you can explore on this page, but these are the three that you must attend to in order to launch your Shopify drop shipping store.
Create or Connect Your Shopify Store Domain Name
The last setup step before launching your Shopify drop shipping store is setting up your store domain name, which is also called a URL. This is the “web address” for your new website. This is not a must-do action as you can launch your Shopify drop shipping store with the “myshopify” domain that Shopify provides, which looks like this:
However, it’s not very professional looking and certainly isn’t easy for a shopper to remember. You should have your own clean, memorable domain name, like ours.
If you don’t have a domain name yet, you can purchase one through Shopify. You can also buy a domain on hosting providers like Bluehost and connect it to your Shopify store. Of course, if you already have one, you can connect it, too. Shopify walks you through both options under “Online Store > Domains.”
After completing this step, you’re ready to remove the password-protection for your store and go live. To do this, click “Online Store” and you’ll see your “Theme” page. Click “Disable Password” and your store will be live. It’s that simple.
Next Steps: Add More Products & Market Your Shopify Store
After your starter Shopify drop shipping site is live, you can start exploring a host of additional drop ship product options and marketing channels. Curating an interesting collection of goods and marketing them effectively is the key to drop shipping success. Shopify helps you with all of this, which is why they are our top pick for starting a drop shipping business.
- Print-on-demand (POD) drop shippers: POD drop shippers like Printful and Printify let you add your unique designs to a range of products; when ordered, these suppliers print and ship the goods to your customers; we use this to create the Horse Junkie T-shirts and mugs sold on TheHorseJunkie
- Specialty drop shippers: Drop shippers like Modalyst and Spocket connect you with U.S., Canadian and European-made goods; you could also try selling custom-packaged coffees with Dripshipper
- Aggregate drop shippers: Tap huge drop shipping networks like Inventory Source to add entire vendor lines or name-brand products to your lineup
You’ll also want to expand your customer outreach using Shopify’s built-in marketing tools. Here are four channels that you can check out as soon as your store goes live.
- List products in a Facebook Shop: Shopify makes it easy to list some or all of your drop ship products in a Facebook Store, learn how to set it up in this article
- Sell on Instagram: Shopify also connects your drop ship products to shoppable Instagram posts
- Use email marketing: Shopify provides powerful built-in marketing tools that you can use to promote new products, coupons and other promotions to your customers
- Improve site search rankings: You can build out keyword-rich collection page descriptions and blog posts and use Shopify’s built-in SEO tools to help your site rank higher in the search engines
Of course, product line development, marketing and answering customer queries are ongoing tasks for any drop shipping business, but you’ll find that Shopify’s integrated platforms make these tasks as seamless as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions Ask the Experts
The Bottom Line
Setting up a Shopify drop shipping business is quick and easy. Use helpful third-party apps to find drop ship products to sell, add them to your site, and launch a complete Shopify store in just hours. Once your online store is live, you can start marketing your business.
To learn more about how the drop shipping business model works and the many ways that successful businesses use it, check out our drop shipping business guide.