How to Protect Your Dropshipping Business from Copycats!

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One of the biggest flaws with the dropshipping business model is how easily copycats can replicate your business. Not only is it easy, but it’s a common and effective strategy for online retailers.

Think about it, you can test tons of products, try and source reliable suppliers, run multiple ad campaigns until you finally get lucky and have some success. Or, you can save yourself time and money and copy what’s already working!

It seems like a complete no-brainer to me.

Dropshipping stores don’t run ads for an extended period of time if they’re not profiting. This is why merchants find these dropshipping businesses and replicate most aspects of their store. They’ve essentially laid out a blueprint for success without the need for testing.

In this article, you’ll learn exactly how to protect each aspect of your business and I’ll give you an example of a store that has nailed this process and made it virtually impenetrable to copycats.

How Easy Your Dropshipping Store Can be Copied!

Let’s use the most common dropshipping method, which is dropshipping from AliExpress as an example.

If I find a store that has been running Facebook ads for 2 months, I know they’re likely making money. I can then use right-click and “Search Google for Image” or a tool such as Spocket’s AliScraper to find the exact product on AliExpress. I then have access to their product and supplier.

Spocket's AliScraper chrome extension
AliScraper chrome extension

Next, I would use the Koala Inspector Chrome extension to see the Shopify theme they’re using, the Shopify apps they’re using, their best-selling products and much more.

Koala Inspector to monitor other Shopify stores
Koala Inspector

I can then create a similar store on Shopify, use the Facebook ads library to copy their ad campaigns, use the same images from the AliExpress supplier and paste their product descriptions into ChatGPT and prompt it to rewrite them without plagiarizing.

You can complete all this and start making sales with Facebook ads in a single day. If your business can be replicated this easily, it’s unsustainable in the long term.

How to Stop Your Website Being Copied!

Here are several effective strategies to deter and prevent others from replicating your hard work:

  1. Customize your theme. Go beyond basic templates and create a unique look for your store. Use custom CSS, fonts, and layouts to make your site stand out and harder to replicate.
  2. Use apps to protect your content. Install Shopify apps designed to prevent content theft. These can disable right-clicking, add watermarks to images, and implement other protective measures.
  3. Don’t use Shopify’s free themes. Because of the high failure rate of dropshipping stores, most opt for free themes to reduce the risk. If you use a paid Shopify theme that looks professional, it’s less likely copycats will be willing to pay for the same theme as you.
  4. Use unique images and protect them. Unique and professional images give the impression you’re a legitimate brand. Be aware that other retailers will try to steal them but there are several tactics you can use such as watermark your images, register an official copyright, add a copyright notice, disable right click and copy, block screenshots or a combination of these tactics can deter most people.
  5. Create a headless Shopify store. A headless Shopify store separates the front-end and back-end of an e-commerce website, allowing for greater flexibility and customization. A more complicated option but is worth considering if you want to protect your business and make it much harder for competitors duplicate.
Shopify apps to protect a store from being copied
Shopify apps to protect a store from being copied

How Do You Protect Your Dropshipping Product From Being Copied?

If you’re selling AliExpress products, there is nothing you can do to stop other merchants from selling the same products as you. In fact, AliExpress is a marketplace and there is nothing stopping consumers buying your product from AliExpress, however, there is a tactic you should consider.

VIP Links to Protect Your Product

This is a strategy I have used to make it difficult for copycats to compete with me with the same product. Once I’m selling around 5 to 10 of the same product each day on my store, I’ll request a VIP listing link from my supplier.

This has many benefits including lower product cost and faster shipping times. Without access to this VIP link, it’s virtually impossible for a competitor to beat me on price or shipping.

If you want more information, check out my article on VIP links and how to use them.

Private Label your Products

Once you’ve transitioned from dropshipping to working with a manufacturer, customizing your products is a highly effective strategy to differentiate your product from anything else on the market. This approach involves working closely with a manufacturer or a Chinese agent to create unique variations or small iteration on already popular products to improve them.

This could involve simple modifications like color changes, material upgrades, or added features. For example, you might request a popular gadget in an exclusive color combination, or add a custom engraving option to jewelry items.

This includes having your logo printed on your product and custom packaging with your branding can significantly increase perceived value and make it more difficult for your product to be replicated.

If you go down this route, be sure you have an agreement with your manufacturer that you own the exclusive rights to your product ensuring they don’t distribute your product to other online merchants.

Give Your Products a Branded Name

Instead of using generic product names, create unique, catchy titles that incorporate your brand or convey the product’s key benefits. For example, rather than listing a “Wireless Bluetooth Speaker,” you might call it the “SonicBlast Pro X1” or “AcoustiWave Harmony.”

This approach serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it makes it harder for copycats to list identical products, as your branded name becomes a unique identifier.

Secondly, it complicates price checking for customers, as they can’t simply search for the generic product name across multiple stores. This branded naming also adds a layer of perceived exclusivity and uniqueness to your products, potentially justifying higher prices.

How to Stop People Working With Your Supplier!

Securing exclusive supplier agreements is a powerful strategy to protect your business from copycats. This approach involves negotiating with your suppliers for the exclusive right to sell certain products or product lines in specific markets or regions. To achieve this, start by identifying your best-selling items or those with the most potential.

Then, approach your suppliers with a compelling proposal that demonstrates the mutual benefits of an exclusive arrangement. This might include commitments to higher purchase volumes, marketing investments, or sharing of customer insights.

Be prepared to offer something of value in return, such as a longer-term contract or higher pricing. When successful, these agreements can provide a significant competitive advantage, as they effectively create a barrier to entry for potential copycats. However, be aware that exclusivity often comes at a premium and may require careful negotiation.

It’s also important to clearly define the terms of exclusivity, including duration, geographical limitations, and any performance requirements. While challenging to secure, especially for smaller businesses, exclusive supplier agreements can be a game-changer in differentiating your store and protecting your market position.

Below is an example template you could use to request an exclusive agreement to stop competitors using your supplier and selling your product.

Supplier Template for Exclusive Rights

Subject: Exclusive Distribution Proposal for [Product Name]

Dear [Supplier’s Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I’m reaching out to discuss an exciting opportunity that could benefit both [Your Company Name] and [Supplier’s Company].

As you know, we’ve been successfully selling [Product Name] through our e-commerce channels for [time period]. Given its strong performance and growing demand, we’d like to propose an exclusive distribution agreement for [Product Name] in [specify market/region].

Our offer:

  1. Increased orders: We commit to purchasing a minimum of [X units] per [month/quarter], a [X%] increase from our current volume.
  2. Marketing investment: We’ll allocate [£X] for targeted campaigns to boost [Product Name] sales.
  3. Brand exposure: As the exclusive distributor, we’ll feature [Product Name] prominently across our marketing channels.
  4. Market insights: We’ll provide regular reports on sales, customer feedback, and market trends.

In return, we’re seeking:

  1. Exclusive rights to sell [Product Name] in [specify market/region] for [time period, e.g., 12 months].
  2. Preferential pricing reflects our increased commitment.
  3. First access to new variations or upgrades of [Product Name].

We believe this partnership would maximize [Product Name]’s potential, driving growth for both companies while protecting against market saturation from multiple resellers.

I’d love to discuss this proposal in more detail. Are you available for a call next week? Please let me know your thoughts or if you need any additional information.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,
[Your Name]
[Your Title]
[Your Company Name]
[Your Contact Information]

The Best Way to Stop Your Business From Being Copied!

Whilst there are many technical tactics and tips to reduce the number of online retailers replacing your success, nothing is 100% foolproof. You can’t stop competitors from looking at your dropshipping store and creating a similar store with similar ads.

Building a brand is the best strategy to protect your business from copycats replicating your online store. Branding essentially builds a protective moat around your business that deters competitors as they know they can’t copy or outperform you.

By focusing on branding, you build a community of like-minded and loyal customer base. Although this is something that takes time, it’s something that can’t be easily copied and is far more sustainable in the long term. So what steps do we take to build a brand that can’t be easily replicated by copycats?

1.Create a personalized brand story about your brand’s origins, values, and mission that resonates with your target audience.

2. Offer premium customer service with fast responses, being knowledgeable about your product, personalize your service and live chat.

3. Create video guides and tutorials based on your niche that help the customer in a unique way.

4. Focus on social media and providing content that resonates with your target audience and actively engage within your groups in a helpful way.

5. Personalize the shopping experience with features that make the store feel like it was built specifically for your audience as opposed to a typical Shopify dropshipping store.

6. Private label your products with your logo, unique and high quality images, descriptions that focus on the benefits and branded product names.

7. Provide unique offers such as additional variations of your product, bundles, free or express shipping, special discounts or giveaways.

8. Regularly check your competitors and find ways you can differentiate your business to make it stand out from the crowd.

There are countless ways you can brand your dropshipping store. Not only does this build trust and make it difficult for your business to be copied, but it also increases the perceived value of your product and enables you to charge a premium price and have your customers willing to pay for it.

I have a complete step by step guide for branding a dropshipping store if you want a more in-depth tutorial.

Example of a Store that is Difficult to Copy

If you’re looking for an example of a store that can’t be easily replicated, I have the perfect one for you.

Kachava sells a fairly generic product—protein powder—but has branded its store in a way that gives the product a higher perceived value, making it virtually impossible to copy.

For starters, it’s a headless Shopify store, which means you’ll likely require a developer to customize a store this way. The homepage features a custom video specific to their product, which means it can’t be stolen and reused.

Kachava is a branded store that can't be copied
Branded imagery of protein powder

The imagery throughout the store is perfectly branded to target their audience. This professionalism and trustworthiness make it unreplicable for anyone trying to copy their business model.

The product pages are very different to the regular product pages you’ll see on free Shopify apps. They include multiple flavor options, subscription options and payment options.

This makes anyone using a free theme unable to replicate their their product pages.

Unique product page
Personalized product origin story

The about us page is a personalized origin story as oppsoed to a generic about us page template many stores use. In addition, they’ve got a video of their origin story instead of an image that can be copied.

Social proof can be easy to fake but Kachava has utilized a celebrity endorsing their product. All this adds to their credibility and makes copying them impossible.

social proof with celebrity endorsement

In addition, they have included recipes, rewards club, reviews plus tons more which are a game changer if you want to build a sustainable e-commerce store. If protecting your store from copycats is important to your business, I suggest you take note of everything Kachava has done and implement the same strategies into your own business.

If your Shopify store is clearly being copied, Shopify has a Shopify acceptable use policy which helps protect its users as this violates the intellectual property rights. If you want to take it a step further, you can send a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice to request removal of the copied content or you could take legal action.

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