This is one of the most common questions new dropshippers ask, and it tends to be one that they obsess over, even after they’ve gotten an answer. And that’s because the answer isn’t very satisfying. People want exact numbers. They want a scientific formula that they can simply apply and succeed with. But that’s not the way dropshipping works. So what’s the answer?
There is no magic number of products. You can build a very successful store using only one product. Or just a handful of products. Or hundreds. It really depends on the store you’re putting together, how you marketing your products, the sorts of customers you’re targeting, how related the products are, whether you’re focusing on a specific niche or putting together more of a generalized store, etc. A lot goes into the decision for product totals.
That said, there are some general guidelines you can follow to get you started. Understand that these are not hard and fast rules. This isn’t a “do this each and every time” set of principles. You’ll learn your own “rules” as you gain experience and discover the sorts of stores that work for you. These are starting points. But they can be effective to get you moving in a good direction.
What sort of store are you starting?
This is the first question you’ll need to ask yourself. Do you want to start a general store, that sells lots of different, unconnected products or do you want to focus on a specific niche? For the former, you’ll necessarily need more products in your store, one because your lack of focus requires more products to make your store feel complete. If you only sold headphones you could get away with a smaller number of products, but with a general store, where you sell headphones, phone accessories, hats, and more you’ll need representative products for all of those categories.
As we’ve alluded to, there are two overarching types of stores you can start. A general store, which features lots of different products in many different categories, or a niche store, which focuses on some narrow range of products which have something very specific in common.
Of the two, niche stores are easier to be successful with, but they require more thought and planning. We’ll talk more specifically about each of these and discuss some of the pros and cons of each.
Starting a general store
General stores are relatively easy to set up compared to niche stores because you don’t have to put much thought into the products you carry (though if you do, you’re more likely to be successful, since throwing any old products into a store, and expecting them to sell is shortsighted). But even if you do take the time to search for products known to have good conversion rates. What you don’t have to do with a general store is to try to tie every product together with a theme. This makes general stores easier to set up, even though you generally need to add more products.
How many? Somewhere between 30 and 50 is a good start for a general store. Less than 30 and the store will lack credibility in the eyes of potential customers. Imagine if you walked into a convenience store and they had one rack in the middle of the store with ten items, and the rest of the store was vacant. You’d probably leave and shop somewhere else. It wouldn’t feel like a real store.
With a general store you need to make sure you have enough products to give your shop a feeling of authenticity. You can, and should add more products over time, but 30 to 50 is a good start. It’s enough to give your shop legitimacy, but not too many to make set up take overly long.
Remember, the main thing you should be concerned with when starting a new dropshipping store is to get it off the ground quickly so that you can start marketing and generating revenue. You don’t need to get every detail perfect before launch. You’ll have time to perfect things once your doors are open and customers are visiting.
General stores – Pros
- You can get one set up quickly without having to worry about themes, exploring profitable niches, or doing much brand building at all.
- General stores give you a wide range of products to market in your advertising. Depending on the time of year you can alter your marketing to focus on different segments of your store, pushing the products relevant to the season, specific holidays, or other criteria. With a wide range of products you aren’t hemmed in to specific marketing strategies.
- Larger numbers of products in a store mean greater potential for add-on purchases, where a customer comes to your site to look at the product you were advertising and then buys it, along with some number of other things.
- A wide selection of products can appeal to a wider segment of the market. Niche store appeal to a narrower range. So with a general store your market is larger.
General stores – Cons
- General stores afford sellers little space to do brand building. If you sell portable vacuum cleaners, headphones, and specialty hot sauces it’s hard to imagine a single brand that could encapsulate all of the those disparate products.
- General stores are harder to market because they don’t have a central theme. With a store focused solely on pet products, one advertisement can capture the flavor of everything you sell. That’s not possible with a general store because of the disconnected nature of the products.
- The flipside to a wider market is a greater degree of market segmentation, which means more marketing and advertising is required to find all of them.
How DropshipMe can help
Our free plugin helps automate importing products from verified suppliers into your WordPress-based dropshipping store. We’ve already done the research, so you can add products we recommend with confidence, knowing they’ll sell well. They also come with expertly written titles, descriptions, and optimized images, so you can add more products to your general store quickly and get off the ground almost immediately.
Starting a niche store
Starting a niche store requires a lot more thought prior to hanging your “open for business” sign. You need to think carefully about what niche you want to focus on, and why. You need to work out the size of the potential market and be certain that you’re not defining your niche so narrowly that you overly restrict your customer pool.
Niche stores are a balancing act. You want to target a specific product theme or customer niche but you want it broad enough to appeal to as many people interested in that niche as possible. And you want to try and avoid niches that are overly saturated.
So how many products to start a niche store?
A good rule of thumb is 5 to 20. Customers will understand a limited product selection more with a niche store than a general store, given your specific focus, and the more hyper-focused you are the fewer products you’ll need to appear legitimate. But you do need some. If you sell headphones you’ll probably need about 15 to 20 different models to feel like you’ve adequately covered the market. However for something more specific, like noise-canceling headphones, you can get away with fewer, simply because there are fewer to choose from. In a niche store you need just enough to appear legitimate to the average online consumer.
Like with general stores, you want to try and get up and running as quickly as possible. This can be a bit hard with a niche store, given the extra care that must be taken, but just get your filler products (the products you’re adding to your store to seem legitimate but that you aren’t actively promoting) deployed and given basic descriptions. Most people won’t look at them anyway, looking mainly at the product they’re visiting based on your advertising. So work on the small details later. Just get the store looking good enough to adequately support your marketing efforts.
Niche stores – Pros
- Niche stores give you far more latitude than general stores to build a brand and a following. If you sell nothing but mobile accessories you can come up with a shop name that perfectly captures the essence of your product line, and even brand your products with that name. Branded merchandise can begin to have legs beyond your own marketing efforts as satisfied customers spread your name via word of mouth. This means they have better long term earning potential.
- Niche stores allow you to build an entire store around a specific product. Imagine through your research you found the perfect product, something you knew you could market effectively, generate buzz around, and sell like crazy. You could then find a half dozen to a dozen or so other, related products and class them all together in a niche store. The filler products would exist simply to support your main product and generate occasional add-on sales. But the entire effort would exist because of the one product. General stores don’t offer this benefit.
- Niche stores can build a following among people that identify with your niche. And since niche shoppers are often brand loyalists, if your brand is strong they will return to your store for future purchases.
Niche stores – Cons
- Niche stores, by virtue of the narrow product set, offer you fewer marketing opportunities. As we saw above, this can actually be a boon, but it needs to be implemented properly.
- Niche stores can be wildly successful or massive flops, and this is dependant on the research you put in and the thought you apply while building it. Customers that visit a niche store that doesn’t seem to hold together, where the products don’t really feel properly unified under the store’s theme, will likely bounce. Make sure you do your due diligence. There’s more risk in a niche store, but also the possibility of greater reward.
How our plugin can help with a niche store
The DropshipMe plugin helps you research products on AliExpress far more quickly, which helps build a quality niche and theme rapidly. Since the research has already been done for you, you don’t need to spend time vetting products you want to add to your store.
If you find something with DropshipMe that fits your niche, add it confidently, knowing it will support your store efforts with strong conversions.
Starting a single product store
This final type of store is similar to a niche store, in that it focuses on a specific product category, but it’s different because it also focuses on one specific product in that category. It can be counterintuitive, but single product stores can be very successful when created and marketed properly. They let you put the spotlight on one very special product and not have to cloud your message with other, extraneous offerings.
As an example, any of the famous “As Seen on TV” products would do well in a single product store. Those products were sold as miracles and wonders, the greatest whatever it is that’s ever been created. In these scenarios selling related products would only damage your message. If you’re selling the greatest cleaning product ever, why would you also sell lesser quality cleaners? It makes it seem like maybe your product isn’t the greatest, or at least that you’re not confident enough in your message to hang the future prospects of your store on it.
So single product stores can be risky, but for the right sort of product, marketed properly, they can be massively successful.
So how many products should you start dropshipping with?
Just enough to accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish. That’s really the best answer we can give. You want to get your store off the ground as quickly as possible, so you don’t want to waste time adding hundreds of products, writing product descriptions for them and getting them sorted into proper categories and locations.
Get just enough products to support your chosen store type and your end goals. Then, once you’re up and running you can add more over time.
And remember to add our free plugin. You can feel confident that any products you find with it will convert well, sell well, and lend your store credibility. We’ve done a lot of the work for you so that you can focus on marketing and generating revenue. DropshipMe is the smartest way to kickstart your store and manage it over the long term.