Do You Have to Advertise for Dropshipping?

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Advertising a dropshipping business can be expensive, time-consuming and confusing. Trust me, if you’ve never run Meta or TikTok advertising campaigns before, there is a high chance you’ll run at a loss on your first attempt.

To fully optimize your return on ad spend (ROAS) it takes a lot of work. The problem is most beginners do not understand which changes are required to increase ROAS and are often left making random changes hoping it will work.

The next question is, can you avoid all that and dropship without ads? In this article, I’ll guide you on whether you need ads for a Shopify dropshipping business and your best options for marketing without ads.

Which Ads Do Most People Use for Dropshipping?

The most commonly used platforms for dropshipping stores to advertise their businesses are Meta, TikTok, Instagram and Google. Each will have its benefits and drawbacks depending on your products, target audience and budget.

The most popular platforms for dropshipping stores to advertise is Meta (Facebook) and TikTok. Meta has been the go-to advertising platform since I started dropshipping in 2016, however, TikTok ads are growing in popularity.

If you’re starting a one-product dropshipping store, I suggest you read my article on marketing a one-product store.

On average, TikTok ads have a slightly lower cost per click (CPC) of $1.63 compared to Meta of $1.84. Both platforms are a favorite among drop shippers because it allows merchants to target very specific buyers based on interests and demographics which can lead to high conversion rates.

Instagram is another advertising method dropshipping stores utilize and often has the best return on investment (ROI). Paid shoutouts to influencers are a powerful way of reaching a large audience on a budget.

Google ads are the most popular platform among high-ticket dropshipping stores. Whilst the CPC is often higher than Meta and TikTok, the conversion rates are higher. This is because Google has search intent marketing meaning people are actively looking for the products as opposed to selling to buyers who aren’t looking to buy.

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Are Ads Necessary for Dropshipping?

Whilst ads are not necessary for Shopify dropshipping, for a brand-new dropshipping business, you won’t drive any traffic to your store without advertising of some kind. This does not have to be in the form of paid ads but you will have to leverage social media to market your products initially.

You can build the most professional Shopify store filled with desirable products at amazing prices, without traffic, it’s pointless. Nobody will find your store unless you spend some time or money promoting your business.

Paid ads are not required for a new dropshipping business, however, it makes it a lot easier. Even if you’re planning to build a dropshipping business without ads, I suggest investing a small amount of money in ads for proof of concept first.

After a business has proof of concept, free advertising methods are actually a better long-term and sustainable business model. By implementing the free advertising strategies listed below, you’re building a community around your niche.

This is how you will create a brand and increase your customer lifetime value (CLV). The big advantage to this strategy is that it can’t be replicated by another website which is one of the biggest issues with running ads for a dropshipping business.

So whilst ads are not essential for dropshipping, they should be used as a stepping stone to the next stage of your store.

The good news is that there are many free strategies you can implement to drive traffic to your dropshipping store without needing to run ads.

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How Do You Advertise Your Dropshipping Store for Free

Before I guide you through the most effective tactics for driving visitors to your store without ads, let me tell you the biggest downside to this strategy. Free and organic traffic takes a lot of time before you start to see any substantial growth.

This is worthwhile if you’re guaranteed that you will see some success in 6 months time and your hard work will pay for itself. However, no matter how much confidence you have in your business’s success, e-commerce is difficult and the failure rate is high.

The advantage of ads for dropshipping is it allows you to test products and validate your ideas before pursuing free marketing strategies. It’s a risk-averse way of increasing your chances of success before you spend months building a dropshipping business only to find the store is failing.

SEO

Search engine optimization is the most powerful method of driving free, organic and high-converting customers to your business. However, it’s not easy and this is the reason there are SEO agencies all over the world charging to rank local businesses on Google.

Google prioritizes authoritative and established websites in their search engine results page (SERPs). So what is the best way for a dropshipping business to optimize for SEO?

I suggest writing a blog on popular search terms related to your niche. This can be something you do yourself or you can have a writer do it for you or even use an AI tool such as chat GPT to write it for you.

The goal should be to provide value to your visitors. This helps drive organic visitors to your store and shows Google you’re an authority and an expert in this niche.

Pinterest

Depending on your niche, Pinterest can be a worthwhile platform for marketing your products. I know of websites that rely solely on Pinterest and 90% of their traffic comes from Pinterest.

However, creating pins can be time-consuming as you may need to create multiple each day and you really need to understand how the algorithm works in order to succeed with Pinterest.

Remember, 76% of Pinterest users are female. Take this into consideration when deciding whether your products will resonate with a female audience. Niches such as beauty, travel, DIY, crafts, health and fitness, fashion, home decor and pets are very popular on Pinterest for the e-commerce space.

Advertising on Pinterest

YouTube Channel

Starting a YouTube channel around your niche is often an under-utilized tactic for organic website visitors without advertising. Creating guides, tutorials, under-generated content and reviews of your products may be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors.

Checkout e-commerce stores such as BlendJet and Lettuce Grow, they have created large YouTube channels showing recipes and how-to guides that provide value to their audience and increase sales.

Advertising e-commerce businesses on YouTube

Affiliate Marketing

If you don’t want to advertise your own products, let someone else do it for you. Affiliate marketing can be used to allow other people to promote and market your products for you.

This way you’re not paying for advertising and hoping you make sales, instead, you pay a percentage of each sale to your affiliates once a sale is made.

Affiliate marketing may not be something you implement as a new business but is worth considering once your business is a little more established and has some consistent traffic.

Conclusion

I completely understand why people don’t want to run ads for their dropshipping business. it can take time to learn how to run ad campaigns profitably and you can spend a lot of money during that learning process.

However, marketing is an important skill in e-commerce and if you want to build a successful dropshipping business, I believe it’s a skill merchants will have to learn at some point. In the early stages, I recommend starting with a low average budget until you learn the ropes.

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