Dropshipping is a business venture where someone carries little to no inventory but earns a commission on orders passed on to the manufacturer or original supplier. The ordered goods are sent directly from the source to the customer. This means the goods do not necessarily have to pass through some retailer or distributor’s warehouse in between. Though, of course, there can be some variations to this setup. A lot of network marketing entities, especially internet-based retailers, are into dropshipping. This is one of the online business ideas many are taking up globally. I particularly love Amazon’s definition: it is an order fulfilment option that allows eCommerce businesses to outsource procuring, storing, and shipping products to a third party (typically the supplier or manufacturer). Is it viable in Zimbabwe?

Dropshipping Overview – The Online Approach

It is important to have a basic appreciation of how dropshipping is done. The most common dropshipping approach is doing it online. You can do this by setting up an online store. You then showcase products from your supplier or manufacturer on that online store. Suppose someone discovers your online store and they place an order. You will pass on the orders to your supplier or manufacturer. The supplier or manufacturer will ultimately deliver the products to the customer’s shipping address. There is also an alternative where the shipping address can actually be yours. Then when the products arrive, you will notify the customers to go collect them. With this kind of dropshipping approach, it is possible to roll it out in Zimbabwe. Given that it is Zimbabwe, you will definitely have to consider certain variables.

Key Requirements

You will need to have an online presence. This includes a website (preferably an eCommerce store) and social media accounts. A professional eCommerce website can cost you between US$300 and US$500. For people to purchase online, they want a seamless and secure experience. That is why getting a professionally done eCommerce store is pertinent. This is also because there will usually be a need to integrate it with your dropshipping providers. Another arrangement is the dropshipping provider enabling you to open your eCommerce shop off their main website.

It would be great to have a VoIP number so that customers can call you on a professional business number. Internet service providers, e.g. TelOne, ZOL, and several others, do offer VoIP services. You would also need a workspace like an office that can double up as a small warehouse. This can be done effectively from home – which is the best way to avoid pushing up your operating costs.

You must have a foreign currency account (US$) that is recognized or works globally. It is unfortunate this is due to constraints of currency issues in Zimbabwe. You would need to find out which banks provide the best VISA or MasterCard accounts. You need an account that will be able to receive and make online payments globally. You can read my previous article on popular local banks that offer USD MasterCards or Visa Cards. It can help guide you. The other requirements will be driven by the dropshipping providers you work with.

Important Things To Consider

Dropshipping might sound simple and straightforward, but it requires a lot. For example, you must be wary of the contractual terms of a dropshipping arrangement you enter. There are several dropshipping providers, so it is wise to consider your options. Once you are good to go, conduct a test run first. Do not just jump into it without seeing how it works out before going full-scale. Some of the issues you will be assessing are how long it takes for items to get delivered and hidden costs, amongst others. Remember, customers will be dealing with you, so you have to be sure everything flows well.

It is strategic to take up dropshipping providers that are physically close to you. The most basic is to consider local providers. This is actually a business approach many have not quite considered. You must know that dropshipping does not necessarily have to be from a supplier or manufacturer abroad only. It can be within Zimbabwe – I urge you to engage suppliers and manufacturers to explore agreeing on dropshipping contracts. Then the next layer will be neighbouring countries. Then the last layer is global, where it can be from countries abroad.

The key issue to consider is that your supply chain must be as short as possible. The longer it is, the more you will be forced to charge to cover costs such as shipping and import duty. It is a delicate balance you have to pay attention to in all your decisions. When choosing a dropshipping provider, check if they provide professional packaging, if their shipping or delivery times are reasonable, and if they provide round-the-clock support. Some of the reputable dropshipping providers to consider are Alibaba, Amazon, and Shopify, amongst others.

What is the bottom line – is dropshipping viable in Zimbabwe? It is, but you will need to put in the work. The eCommerce culture is spreading in Zimbabwe so that you can ride on. Dropshipping does have benefits, e.g. low overheads, low startup costs, the ability to operate globally from anywhere, and the flexibility to scale or pivot anytime. Some of the downsides include fierce competition (which may reduce your pricing flexibility) and the fact that most of the key processes are out of your hands, e.g. packaging and shipping. Regardless, there is huge potential for dropshipping in Zimbabwe, and I highly recommend that you give it a shot.