If you’re looking to create your own dropshipping store, you’ve probably heard about branded dropshipping. All the biggest dropshipping stores have been doing this for several years and now everyone else has caught onto their secret.
In this article, I’ll walk you through step by step how you can brand each element of your dropshipping store. I’ll simplify the whole process so it doesn’t become a complex psychology lesson.
To be clear, this is not a guide as to whether you can sell other brand’s products in your store. It is a guide to building your own brand.
How Does Branded Dropshipping Work?
The most common type of dropshipping is done by adding hot trending products from AliExpress to a Shopify store. There are however many flaws with this type of dropshipping which is why branded dropshipping has grown in popularity.
Branded dropshipping works the same as regular dropshipping except this method involves creating a brand around a product or niche. Dropshippers do this by building a specifically built store themed around their niche, private labeling their products and creating a community through social media.
Most dropshipping stores have a short life span due to the fact you are dealing with trending products anyone else can also sell and usually do as soon as you start making money. Creating a brand enables you to stand out and look much superior to other stores selling the same product. This means you can create a long-term business that can make you money for years to come.
Putting in the extra work of creating a brand provides the customer with perceived value. This ultimately means you can charge higher prices and make more money!
If you want more info on what branding is and how it works, check out this article Branding in the digital age.
1. Best Store Type For Branding?
There are different types of dropshipping but to keep it simple there are 3 main store types associated with dropshipping, One product, niche and general stores.
If you want to build a brand, I’d recommend going with either a one product or a niche store. This is because, with one product and niche stores, you have a specific audience to target. You can build a store tailored towards a specific personality type and theme it in a way that resonates with your audience.
General dropshipping stores generally focus on selling trending products from a variety of niches. It can be difficult to create a store that resonates with people when your audience is so varied.
If you’re trying to target everybody, you’re targeting nobody!
2. Choose the Right Niche for Branding
You can brand any niche or product, however, some niches and products are far easier and more effective to build a brand around. Ideally, you want to choose a niche that has a hungry and passionate audience of people.
Think about groups of people you know who are really passionate about something in their lives. This could be hunting, religion, MMA, fishing, moms and the list goes on.
These types of niches are far easier to brand as you know who your customer base is and you can create a store that really speaks to them. Every aspect of your store will be targeted towards your customer and how they live their lives. Choosing a niche with a specific audience also makes advertising much easier.
Compare this to a store selling clocks. You can create a brand around clocks but it’s much more difficult. You have people who are into interior design, however, it’s far broader and not many people are passionate about clocks.
3. Knowing your Target Audience
This is where it’s very helpful to create a dropshipping store based around a niche you’re already interested in. You need to know how you’re audience thinks, talks, their desires and their problems. Each group of people communicates differently and it’s important that you know this so you can relate to your audience.
Using a tool such as Facebook audience insights can help you gain information about your target customer. You can identify their average age, gender, economic status and location. Keep all this information in mind as you’re creating your brand, this way you can create your store to feel as though it’s designed for them.
Let’s say you’re a stay-at-home mom and you have an eCommerce store selling compound bows. It may be very difficult for you to understand how to communicate and relate to bow hunters if you’re not in that world, and vice versa. Having an interest or some knowledge in a niche is a huge advantage.
To better understand your audience read articles, read forums, read reviews of the products on Amazon and binge watch YouTube videos on the topic. Really immerse yourself in the world and understand why the audience is passionate about the niche which will make creating a brand much easier.
For more info on how best to understand your target audience, check out this video.
4. Naming your Branded Store
It can be hard to find a good name these days as all the good ones are taken. Even still, I’d always recommend trying to find a name with a .com with whatever country URL extension you’re selling to on the end. This is far more familiar to your customers which provides more trust.
If you’re naming a one product store, it’s best to name it after the product but with your own spin on it. For example, there’s a one product store selling a portable blender and they’ve called it blend jet. This gives the impression to the consumer that they are the original creator of this product.
Doing this provides many advantages but one of them is it means customers can’t price check and find a lower price. They may find other portable blenders but nobody else is selling the blend jet so they are forced to buy from them if they want a blend jet blender.
If they named their store portableblender.com, it doesn’t feel like a unique specialty brand and therefore people would just Google portable blender and find the cheapest one.
When it comes to niche stores, you want to name it after the niche so it is easily identifiable to anyone shopping for that niche. Having the name of the niche in the actual domain also helps with SEO and increases the chances of someone finding your store in Google.
Ideally, you want a name that is easy to remember, easy to say and really slips off the tongue easily. I think 2 word names are best but 3 words can work if they are short and easy to say and remember.
There are many tools you can use to help find the right domain name. They can give you some ideas you may not already think of and save you a lot of time as you can be there for hours guessing names and hoping they’re available. Domain wheel and Shopify name generator are the 2 I use.
5. Creating your Branded Store
When it comes to the best Shopify theme for a branded dropshipping store, there are a few I would recommend. Free themes are completely fine to use and many successful stores are using them. The only problem with free themes is because so many other dropshippers use them, they kind of have a distinct dropshipping look about them.
Because people are more aware of dropshipping these days and it has a negative reputation, you want your store to look least like a dropshipping store as possible. For this reason, I’d recommend going with a paid theme if you have the budget for it, especially for a branded store as you want to stand out.
It may be an option to start off with a free theme and upgrade to a paid theme once you start making some sales.
Below are the Shopify themes I personally have used and would recommend.
The theme of your store needs to match your niche. It needs to look professional but also be relevant to the niche you’re selling to otherwise the whole feel of your store won’t feel right.
The color scheme you choose also needs to match the types of products you are selling. If you create a camping store with light blues and pinks, customers are instantly going to be turned off, the same goes with a baby store with blacks and browns, you’ll never make a sale.
If you’re unsure of which type of color pallet to use in your store, check out the Alidropship color psychology article as it will give you the colors that best match each niche.
I always find it’s best to use 2 main colors throughout your store that make it easily identifiable. I then use one extra bright color on the add to cart buttons to really make them pop and stand out for the customer. The 2 main colors need to match the theme of your store. For example, light pastel colors for a baby store and earthy colors for an outdoor store.
Many high end brands create their online stores simple and sleek. They are not busy and they don’t look cheap and salesy with discounts and specials. A branded dropshipping store is very different to a regular dropshipping store.
I’d avoid using many of the typical Shopify dropshipping store tactics. Don’t use discounts, coupons, specials, urgency apps and scarcity apps. I personally wouldn’t use trust badges either but many people have mixed opinions about that. It all makes a branded store look spammy which will lower the perceived value of your products.
6. Creating a Branded Logo
A logo needs to be distinctive and stand out so your customers will remember it the next time they see you. I wouldn’t say a logo isn’t essential for every eCommerce store but if you’re creating a brand then I believe it’s necessary.
If you want to create your own logo you can use Shopify’s logo maker or Canva has a logo maker which you can use on the free version. Another alternative is to pay someone on Fiverr who can create a professional looking logo for you. This is usually cheap, anywhere from $10 up to $50 depending on the design and designer.
It also needs to be a logo that you can use as a favicon which is the little icon in the tab at the top of the screen. This logo also needs to be the same logo you’ll use on all the main social media platforms.
7. High Quality Images
This is an essential step if you want to create a branded dropshipping store. You need high quality, professional looking images that showcase your products in a positive way.
Great images are the number one factor in improving your conversion rate. You are creating a brand so if you plan on using the images AliExpress and Alibaba provides, you’re doing the same as everyone else which isn’t good enough, you need to stand out.
Check out these 2 furniture dropshipping stores Warmly and Articture. They have created their own professional looking custom images and it really shows. These stores have a luxury furniture store look instead of a dropshipping store.
If you’re selling print on demand clothing a great option is placeit, they have models that make it appear as though they are wearing your clothing. Glorify is a great choice if you want to give your product a more professional and unique look.
It may be worth you either taking some photos of the product yourself if you have any type of photography skills or paying a professional to take the photos for you.
The best branded stores keep it simple and sleek with amazing images and not much else on the screen. They want their product to be the star of the show and it gives their product a premium and luxury feel. If you have pop-ups, trust badges and discounts, it feels cheap.
8. Branded Social Media
You need to get on the big social media platforms if you want to create a brand. This helps build a community of like-minded people based around your niche.
Even if you don’t use these platforms often, it’s still worth creating Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. If you have the confidence to get in front of the camera YouTube can be a great source of traffic. Pinterest can provide plenty of traffic if you’re in any niche that females are interested in.
Make sure all your logos and color schemes are consistent throughout all the social media platforms to help create your brand. With everything being related throughout your store and social media, it provides the same experience which provides trust and loyalty from your customers.
You don’t need to spend too much time on these platforms, however, it is important to be consistent on these platforms. If you plan to only post and engage on social media once a week, make sure you do it. This will hold you accountable and your consumers will get used to this consistency and expect it from you.
If you’re comfortable having an image of yourself on your eCommerce store, social media platforms and YouTube you should do it. People relate and connect to an actual person far more than a faceless online store, seeing the person behind the business builds far more trust.
9. Creating Unique Content
This is where it’s important to know your niche and understand your target audience. You need to connect with your target audience and the best way to do this is to speak their language, and no I’m not speaking about English.
I know nothing about sewing. If I tried to have a conversion with someone about sewing and they tried to explain to me how to sew, I wouldn’t have a clue what they’re talking about.
The same goes with a poker player trying to explain to someone how to play poker if they’ve never played. There is a certain language and lingo that goes along with it, it takes time to learn and understand their world.
Don’t use the same AliExpress product descriptions for your products. These descriptions are the same as everyone else would use and if you’re creating a brand, you need unique product descriptions. A good product description prioritizes benefits and life improvements over features.
Always make sure you have videos and content easily explaining how to use your product and answers to every possible question within your product page. Each time someone emails you a question about the product, add it to your product description so you don’t receive it again. You don’t want to lose any sales due to uncertain customers.
Creating a blog around your niche is something to consider. Even if you don’t want to write it yourself, you can pay someone on Fiverr or iWriter to write reasonable cheap articles for you on a regular basis.
This really helps with SEO and will bring in some free organic traffic as Google loves unique content. A blog provides value that helps build a relationship and trust which makes them more likely to make a future purchase.
10. Product Quality
If you want to build a brand, you need high quality products. You make be thinking how am I going to find high quality products on AliExpress as it’s full of cheap and inferior products. This reputation isn’t completely true, however, it can be tough to find high quality products without ordering many samples.
CJ Dropshipping is a better alternative to AliExpress as they personally pick the products that are on their platform so the quality is usually better. The pricing is often lower than AliExpress as they deal direct with manufacturers, avoiding multiple middlemen.
I would only dropship individual products short term to validate the potential of a product before I’d switch to ordering in bulk from Alibaba. Alibaba has a far better reputation when it comes to quality as they normally deal with businesses. But never ever make a bulk order without ordering a sample first and making sure it’s a premium product.
It does not matter how well you brand your store, if you sell low quality products your business won’t last. Your reputation is everything in eCommerce. Most people won’t buy anything without looking at reviews and if they read bad reviews, they won’t buy from you.
You can also find domestic suppliers within your niche which would provide quality products, reliable suppliers and faster shipping. Most of these products are already branded which means you can’t private label the products but you can still build a branded store around a specific niche of various branded products.
11. Pricing your Branded Products
This is why you go to all the hard work of creating a brand, so you can charge a premium price and make more money. You create a brand to make your product look expensive and give it a higher perceived value.
By branding your product in a specific way and providing all the benefits it will provide to their lives, you can charge a premium price because you are providing the customer with value. You need to communicate this value in a way that they feel like the high price point is justified and they feel like they are getting a great deal.
But how much do you charge? You don’t charge what you think the product is worth, you charge what you think the customer will pay.
If people don’t want to pay the amount you are charging for your products, your pricing doesn’t match what you’re offering. Customers will see your products, your store and your brand and instantly have a rough idea in their mind of the price, if it doesn’t match their idea, they are unlikely to buy.
If you charge a high price but your branding isn’t as good as it could be, they won’t buy. If your branding gives a perception of high end and luxurious and you have low prices, customers will be suspicious and feel as though something isn’t adding up here and are unlikely to buy.
At the end of the day, if your store looks like it’s worth a lot of money, people will be willing to spend more money. Often a higher price point will be the thing that compels someone to buy from you, it makes you appear as though you’re better than your competition.
12. Branding your Dropshipping Products
Having your logo printed on your products is a great way to really build your brand. This will look as though you are the original creator of the product which will build trust and authority amongst your customer base.
You can also request your supplier to have the product customized and improved upon to make your product unique to anything else on the market. To make these changes you will need to make a bulk order and negotiate these terms but it can make a huge difference to your business.
Customizing products is not something I would recommend initially as it can be a little risky. I would wait until your business is established and making a steady income before I took that next step.
If you made a large order and the products didn’t sell, it will be much harder to sell the products to other sellers as your logo will already be on the product.
13. Customer Experience
What happens when someone goes to an expensive luxury store to make a purchase, they provide you with a great experience. They carry your bags for you, they bring you coffee, champagne or whatever you want, you don’t get that service at Walmart.
Obviously, you can’t do that for your online store, you can however give your customers the best possible experience. There are many things you can do to create a happy and loyal customer base:
- Respond to your questions and queries quickly, don’t keep them waiting.
- Have a FAQ page, this will provide quick easy answers for your customers and reduce the amount of questions you need to answer.
- As you receive questions or complaints from customers, take them onboard and continually update your store to reduce the issues continually arising.
- Hire Virtual Assistants to help with the customer service as it will be to time consuming otherwise.
- Have multiple payment method options.
- Be knowledgable in your niche.
- Use a live chat app such as Tidio or Zendesk to provide a great customer experience and reduce the chances of customers changing their minds.
- Create videos explaining how your product works.
Check out the video below for some tips eCommerce customers service.
14. Fast Shipping
This falls into providing the customer with the best possible experience. Because you’re building a brand, your reputation is important. This makes fast shipping important, but not essential as there are many branded dropshipping stores still shipping from China.
If you’re dropshipping from China, shipping times are going to be reasonably long, it’s unavoidable. There are however ways you can decrease the shipping times:
- Only deal with reliable suppliers with fast processing times.
- Use a fast shipping method, ePacket is the best option for dropshippers as it has the best combination of shipping times and price.
- Sell products that have fulfillment warehouses in your country. You can do this by filtering the search results on AliExpress to only ship from specific countries.
- Use a dropship agent, they can source the best suppliers and the best shipping method for you.
Your best option however is to do a bulk order using Alibaba. This way your order can be shipped to your country and you can choose to ship the products yourself or have a fulfillment center ship the products for you. This will result in higher profit margins and faster shipping times for your customers.
This is much easier with a one product store as you only have to do a bulk order for a single product. If you have a niche store with 50 products, it’s not realistic to order every item in bulk. You can however order your most popular products in bulk and ship the rest from China.
Check out the video below for more info on faster shipping times from AliExpress.
15. Building your Email List
Don’t neglect your customers after they’ve made a purchase. Once you’ve made a sale, you have your customer’s email which you can use for future email marketing.
Many people don’t take advantage of their email list and continue to spend money on acquiring new customers. This is a list of people who are already interested in your niche, have already spent money with you and are free to market to.
The key to email marketing is to provide value, provide more value and provide more value again, then try to sell something. If every email you send is a sale of some kind, you’ll find people will get annoyed and either stop opening your emails or simply unsubscribe.
Send them your blog posts, update them on anything new within your niche or send them a free ebook. This will also help build your brand by creating a community based around your niche.
People will be far more likely to make a purchase from your after you have provided them with something for free.
16. Creating the Ultimate Brand!
If you want to take your branding to the next level, you really need to get creative. The best stores realize they need to differentiate themselves so they can stand out. These are some tips you can use to make your store unique and memorable:
- Create a slogan or mission statement for your brand. A slogan is more of a powerful punchline that clearly makes your store identifable and memorable. A mission statement is your stores goal, purpose and what it stands for. This will be different depending on your niche and your audience, it should however resonate with your target audience.
- You can’t create a brand and ship your high quality product to your customers in ugly, cheap packaging with Chinese writing over it. You need to work with a supplier that offers custom packaging. Companies such as CJ Dropshipping or Zendrop offer custom packaging, private labeling and you can send marketing materials with your products to increase your brands awareness and more repeat purchases.
- Provide social proof for your customers. This means provide testominals, endorsments, social shares and reviews. LOOX is the best of the Shopify review apps as it contains genuine looking images with the reviews.
- People like to know who is behind a store. Consider creating an about me page with a picture of yourself and telling your store. This will make people trust your store a lot more.
- Give your products unique names. This can be a quirky name, this can be unique brand, this can be a specific model type. Many brands even have unique names for the different variants. Check out final.co below, they have made each straw color variant has a specialised name. Not only does this provide great branding, it makes price checking impossible as customers can’t find your unique product name anywhere else because you created it.
- Create a video explaining your product. This may be a video ad on your product pages or a video on your home page marketing your product in a unique way. Check out the video below from final.co of a great example.
As you can tell, branding is much more work initially but has the potential to pay off big time in the long run. Don’t underestimate how important each step to the overall feel of your eCommerce store is.
With each step, have the consumer’s needs in mind. The store you create is specifically built for your target audience, not you. This is why it’s so important to know your audience before proceeding with creating your store.
Check the top websites in your niche and see what they’re doing right. Their color pallet, their imagery, their advertising, their social media, their pricing, their content and their overall branding. Don’t be intimidated by the big players in your niche, you’d be surprised how easy it is to create a beautiful website with Shopify in such a short time.
If all this seems a little complicated, I suggest you check out my article on Branded Dropshipping Store Examples!. These stores have nailed the branding and are worth checking out. This will give you inspiration as to what is possible and provide you with some ideas.