With COVID-19 sending supply chains and logistics into disarray, shipping times for dropshipping have been more than uncertain. How should you handle it? In this video, we'll break down your options depending on whether you've already started a dropshipping business or not.

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Video transcript: A few weeks ago, we published a video about how the coronavirus is affecting shipping times for dropshippers. In that video, we shared data on what shipping times are looking like to various destination countries. 

Since we published that video, however, the confusion around shipping times has not gone away. You all have been leaving questions about what to do in this environment and it's time that we are really transparent and super helpful with you about how you and your business should be responding to all the uncertainty around dropshipping shipping times.

Today, I'm gonna help you do that by drawing a flowchart. This flowchart is going to help you determine what steps you should take depending on where you are in the process of building your business. 

You'll learn what you can be doing now whether you started your business already or not. In addition, I'll show you some AliExpress supplier research tips that will help you vet suppliers and determine which ones might be lying to you and which ones are telling the truth.

I just wanna clear up one thing before we move on. Oberlo, unfortunately, has no control over shipping times, and in fact, a lot of AliExpress suppliers don't have control over shipping times too. Once again, we're dealing with a pandemic that's affecting so many different systems, including a lot of transportation systems that suppliers previously relied on. 

If I could change this for you, I would, I can't. But the least I can do is help you make smart decisions about your business in this uncertain environment. Alright, let's start drawing our flow chart.

Success Depends on the Decisions You Make

Successful businesses are not made through luck. 

Successful businesses are made through the decisions that entrepreneurs like you make in response to challenges and setbacks. As of recording, in June 2020, shipping times for dropshipping suppliers is a challenge. And to be sure, lots of people will decide that this means dropshipping doesn't work or that they're not cut out to be entrepreneurs. 

If you're here, I'm going to bet that you're not in either of those groups. You may be frustrated, I don't blame you, but you think that there's a chance that you can still make progress and build your business even in these tough times. 

You're right. I'm going to help you make decisions today that will set your business up for long-term success. I'm gonna do that in a more visual way, so if you're a visual learner, you'll find this really helpful. Pop and let's begin. 

By the way, I have the handwriting of a crazy doctor, so if there's anything that you don't understand as we film it, fear not, we're going to write out the steps in a way that you can understand and you can find that information in the description below.

The main question we're dealing with is, "What should I be doing in the face of long shipping times?” Now the answer to that question depends on whether you are someone who has already started your business or someone who has not started your business.

If you're in that category, you haven't started your business yet, I don't blame you for looking around you and thinking, "Uhh, this doesn't seem like a good time to start," but I beg to differ. If you are in that category, there are three things you could potentially be doing right now, let's talk about this.

Non-Dropshippers

1. Build Your Store, Find a Niche, Do Branding

The first thing that you can be doing is building your store, finding a niche, and branding your business. Now, I know I put that in one bubble, but trust me, that is a lot going on, and that's not something that is going to take you, or let's say, it's not something that should take you just a few hours of work. 

This work right here, building your Shopify store so that it converts, branding your business so customers feel like it's speaking directly to them and they wanna come back, picking a niche that is competitive but gives you room to test products, that involves a lot of time thinking about what you're passionate about and where the opportunities are.

Right now, you have time. If you don't wanna be fulfilling orders that may not arrive to customers on time, then you've got a couple of days or maybe a couple of weeks to be putting in the work here. When you put in the work here, you're gonna be better able to capture customer interest once you feel better about turning back on the ads and fulfilling orders and sending products out to customers. 

Now, some of you might say, "Okay, but if I'm building my Shopify store, that means that I have to start paying for this store before I'm even making any money selling products." I hear you, that's why I've got another suggestion if you're worried about long shipping times but you haven't started your business yet. 

2. Build Your Customer Base

The second suggestion is for you to start building your customer base. This is the step to take. If you want to start your business and you have time to put towards your business, but you don't have money to put towards your business. You guys, that is the trade-off that you're always going to have to be deciding for yourself when you're building this business. 

Do you want to invest money or do you want to invest time? 

You have to invest a little bit of both at some point, but you can kind of change those levers depending on your priorities. 

If you want to start building your customer base, start building compelling Instagram pages, TikTok accounts, Facebook groups. These are social media sites where your customers will begin to gather even before you have a product to sell. They'll be looking for funny meme posts or things that inspire them. You can be making that content and delivering it and attracting more and more customers right now. 

This technique is proven. Dropshippers Kory and Rodney did just this, they spent months building a niche Instagram account and it worked like a charm. Once they launched their store, they had a ready-made group of customers just itching to buy. 

And do you know how much money it cost them to advertise to those customers? Zero. Big fat zero dollars. They had put in the time to build this community, so they didn't have to put in the dollars to advertise to them.

3. Learn

If both of these suggestions make your head spin, fear not, there is a third suggestion and it's perfectly suitable for someone who is brand new to dropshipping. That suggestion is: learn. 

I bet you think I'm being cute, like, learn is such a catch-all suggestion, you're thinking, "Right, you just want me to subscribe to your YouTube channel." Well, I would love it if you subscribe to Oberlo's YouTube channel, but I also wanna point out here that learning is not just going to be part of your beginning phase of entrepreneurship. 

If you want to make it as an entrepreneur, if you want to control your hours, if you want to work from, well, home, I guess, that's pretty much what you're doing already, but work from home on your own hours, you've to be a continuous learner. Because as soon as we've mastered Facebook ads, guess what? In two years, there's gonna be another marketing platform. Where do you think TikTok came from? It's brand new, it's blowing up. 

Learning is going to have to be a central part of your job as an entrepreneur. 

You may master one marketing platform and then the next year there's a new one you've got to figure out. You may think you've got the perfect supplier, then something happens, you need to find another supplier. If you love learning, entrepreneurship is for you. This is the perfect time in your new entrepreneurship career to learn and not judge yourself for what you don't know yet.

If you're like, "Oberlo, would you just please walk me step by step through all this process of learning and picking a niche and building a customer base?" Well, the answer is, I'd be delighted to. 

We have something called Oberlo 101 and this is a step-by-step course that helps you build your very first dropshipping store. It's gotten some rave reviews by all of you, which is incredible to hear, and I'm so glad that you're finding that course helpful. 

Let's say you took Oberlo 101 and you are now the proud owner of a dropshipping business except ugh, shipping times are really frustrating right now. What should you be doing? Let's go back to our spreadsheet.

Dropshipper

We're gonna climb up to the top, we had this one option that we've just explored for what non-business owners can do now. The second option, let's talk about now is, what you, the dropshipper with a business, should be doing in response to long shipping times. 

1. Market and Ship To Other Countries

The first suggestion is to market and ship to other countries. This is exactly what we talked about in the video we published a couple of weeks ago. We have data on the average shipping times from China to different destination countries, and this data comes from Oberlo dropshippers just like you. 

If you look at this data, you'll see that right now, shipping times to the United States is not that great. Now, I know the United States is a huge ecommerce market and most newbies will start by advertising there. 

If you're an experienced dropshipper, now is the time to boldly start marketing to other countries.

And in particular, I just wanna call out the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, as being two countries that have reasonable average shipping times right now, as well as populations that speak English. That means that you don't have to translate your ads to convert these customers. 

This suggestion is bold and to be honest, pro-dropshippers are already doing it. But you may not be in the pro-dropshipper camp. If you're not, no worries, there's still plenty you can do to work on your business, even while shipping times to those major ecommerce markets are slow. 

2. Research Suppliers

If you're a current dropshipper, the other thing you can do right now is supplier research. Here at Oberlo, we have zero control over AliExpress dropshipping suppliers. I just wanna make that clear. We help you connect the products from those suppliers to your Shopify store, but unfortunately, we're not the boss of those suppliers. 

I say that because I know right now there are some suppliers that make it seem like they can ship fast or make it seem like they have local US shipping and they don't. My hope is that these suppliers are in the minority, but I want to give you a couple of tips as to how you can do your best research to figure out who's a supplier worth working with and who are the suppliers you can trust. 

First of all, reach out to the suppliers. 

And when you reach out, don't just say, "Hey, is shipping times fast?" They'll say, "Yes," and they'll leave it like that because those suppliers want you to buy from them. Instead of asking these yes or no questions, ask more qualitative questions. Ask, “Where are shipping times fastest?” Ask, “What are the fastest shipping methods that you recommend?”

What you're looking for here are suppliers that get back to you with complete answers that seem honest. That's why I recommend doing this with multiple suppliers. This is easy a lot of times because you probably have a product that other suppliers offer. So reach out to multiple suppliers. See who gets back to quickly, who provides a complete answer. 

As well, go to the products that you're thinking of importing and scroll down. Now you can see customer reviews with little flags next to those customer reviews, that's the country of the person who purchased the product and is now leaving the review. 

Look for flags that correspond with the countries you want to market and shift to because those customers will often tell how long it took them to get their product. That's super helpful information for you coming straight from customers and not from the supplier themselves, who's incentivized to make the sale. 

3. Hit Pause

The last thing that you can be doing if you are an existing dropshipping business owner who's concerned about shipping times is, hit pause. I know you weren't expecting me to tell you to stop dropshipping and I'm not, actually.

I don't recommend that you quit, but I do recommend that if all of this is overwhelming and draining, that you take the time to slow down. 

Take a minute for yourself. There is a lot going on in this world, and you are not less of an entrepreneur for needing a bit of a break so that you can come back to your business at a later time and really give it your all. 

This is a tough time to be a dropshipper, but we know it won't last forever. I hope this flow chart gave you some ideas of what you can be doing now to build your business, even while shipping times are slow.

Conclusion

You probably still have a lot of questions, so leave them in the comments. I'm gonna try to answer as many as possible. And if you are a dropshipper, please respond to other commenters and share your experience. 

We have this incredible community, let's help each other out because as the world moves on from this global pandemic, there are some of us who are going to be poised to make life-changing businesses. Let's help each other out so that as the world moves on from the pandemic, we're all well-positioned to be successful entrepreneurs

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