5 Ways to Run an E-Commerce Store Without Inventory

If you’re thinking about starting an e-commerce store, there’s a lot to consider when deciding on a business model. One of the biggest challenges in running an e-commerce store is finding space to keep stock. For the business owner who wants to avoid managing and distributing products, here are five ways to run an e-commerce store without dealing with an inventory.

  1. Dropshipping

One of the easiest and low-investment e-commerce models is dropshipping. If you choose to go this route, you’re essentially a middleman. You sell a product from a third party, like a manufacturer or wholesaler. When a customer orders it, you’ll forward the order to the dropshipping partner and they will pack and ship the product. There’s no need to hold or distribute stock.

The advantage of a dropshipping is that it’s a great way to get started in e-commerce as startup costs are low. The disadvantage is a lower profit margin. Your profit is the difference between what you charge the customer and what the dropshipping company charges.

  1. Print-on-Demand Service

If you are creative and want to design your own products, a print-on-demand business model is ideal. Popular print-on-demand items include t-shirts, mugs, business cards, bags, posters, prints, and books. It’s a great way for artists, painters, photographers, illustrators, graphic designers, cartoonists, and writers to turn their creativity into a profitable business.

Most print-on-demand e-commerce businesses don’t have their own premises for printing equipment and use a third-party printer. You can pre-design products and once a customer places an order, forward the order to the printer who will print and ship it to the customer. It eliminates the problem of sitting with unsold stock and is kind to the environment as you’re only printing as needed.

  1. Use a Fulfillment Agency

Using a fulfillment agency is similar to dropshipping. You’ll be using a third-party logistics service to store and distribute products. The difference is you’re not selling products from another supplier or manufacturer. You can sell your own products and outsource the storage and shipping to a third party. If you sell a variety of products, using a fulfillment agency simplifies your life. You won’t have to manage a large inventory, stay on top of orders, or risk making mistakes when packing or shipping orders.

When choosing a fulfillment agency, take into account their reputation, turnaround time, and how long they’ve been in business. Your brand name is on the line and you don’t want to partner with an incompetent fulfillment agency with poor systems that can result in errors and unhappy customers. Shipbob is a solid choice and they integrate with various e-commerce platforms including Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce.

  1. Offer an Online Service

One of the best ways to avoid an inventory is to offer an online service. Options include consulting, coaching, online courses, downloadable stock photos, web design, or app development, to name a few.

However, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is an easy way to make money. Being successful at selling an online service is more than just coming up with an idea and throwing up a website. If the service or product you’re offering isn’t what the public wants, you’ll be stuck with a stagnant website and little or no sales. Before you get started, think carefully about your skills and identify which are the most marketable and in demand. Next, brush up on your digital marketing skills to understand how to attract traffic to your website and convert them into sales.

  1. 3-D Printed Products

An exciting new industry has taken the world by storm in the last few years. It’s called 3-D printing. It allows you to create unique customized three-dimensional products like furniture, jewelry, and clothing. In fact, anything from creating prothestic limbs to printing 3-D models of photographs is possible with this technology. For innovative creatives who want to offer one-of-a-kind products, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

To produce 3-D objects requires a computer-aided design (CAD) program to design the product. To print it requires a 3D printer. Smaller 3D printers as well as large industrial printers are available. Once a product is designed, it is printed by building successive layers until the entire object is finished. This process of adding layer upon layer is why this method of production is also called additive manufacturing. Due to the specialized nature of 3D printing, it works well for niche markets and can be a lucrative business.

When your e-commerce store is still at fledgling stage, managing stock is easy. Once your business expands and your inventory outgrows your garage, it can become a nightmare to keep track of things. Don’t wait until you’re tripping over boxes and mixing up orders. Before you launch an e-commerce store, decide on whether you’re comfortable handling an inventory, how big your product line will be, and have a plan in place to manage it.

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