What exactly is dropshipping?
Dropshipping is a way of selling products, that requires no inventory, no holding of stock, and can be set up quite easily. How exactly is it different from any regular webstore? Well, webstores generally have a stock of their own, but can also be used by others to make sales. Take Amazon for example, the company has its own stock and product lines, yet it is also used by independent sellers to advertise and sell their products. In contrast, a dropshipping website will take your order and then place it with the producer of the object you’ve decided to acquire. Said producer will then send it directly to you. Small or beginning webshops may find this approach quite appealing, since the cost of doing business is reduced to the bare minimum.
Conscientious dropshippers will of course calculate a margin on the price of the object they are selling, but generally it should not be too high. After all, in essence, this is a payment for the possibility to order a product off a nice-looking webstore in your own language. If all goes according to plan, you should receive your order in the allotted time, without having to look around on the internet and ordering it from a store you might not trust.
Less scrupulous dropshippers can present themselves in a number of forms. Some of those are relatively harmless, maybe the delivery will take more time than initially notified, maybe the price is higher than it should be because of an unethical mark-up by the dropshipper (When the dropshipper decides to make the price considerably higher without much added value). Neither of these examples are illegal, though of course best avoided. Sometimes the entire website is a scam, some people create dropshipping websites, without ever having the intention of delivering the requested product. This, of course, is just another version of theft.
How do I recognise a dropshipping webstore?
Dropshipping stores are essentially small webshops. They are generally unknown, and will have a nice design, to reassure the buyer. Up until this point, they may be confused with any beginning webstore. You should pay attention to the way you found out about this store. Dropshipping stores, and certainly malicious ones, attract their clients through targeted ads on social media. People who have already bought on the internet will likely be classified by social media giants as “active buyers”. Once that classification is given you are likely to receive quite a lot of publicity for webshops of all kinds.
When should your alarm bells start going off? The adage holds true once again: when it seems too good to be true, it likely is. A malicious dropshipping store will advertise large drops in prizes first and foremost. For example, you may get a targeted ad selling you a watch. The ad tells you that this luxury watch can now be bought exclusively for the low price of 70 euros, while it used to be at 400! It is extremely likely that once ordered, said watch will be shipped from a website like Alibaba.com or Wish.com, where the dropshipper only pays 2 euros for it, essentially meaning they made a 68 euros margin on a sale of something they never really possessed.
What can I do if I come across a website I suspect to be a dropshipper?
First and foremost, try to look for any reviews of the website. People may have already ordered from them, and their experiences will give you a good idea of the trustworthiness of the site. If you can’t find any reviews, and you don’t trust the seller, try looking up the product you came for online. Maybe this product truly is only sold by that webshop, maybe it’s available elsewhere. You can use the reverse google image search function (go to https://images.google.com/, enter the picture of the product and it will show you where else on the internet this picture is used) to find the picture that corresponds most to the product you wanted to order. If you find it elsewhere and the price is much lower, nothing stops you from still ordering it from the first site, but at least this way you have all the cards in hand.
If you’ve already ordered from a dropshipping website and had issues, let’s say your product never arrived, or you were overcharged on delivery costs, or there were delivery duties that were not expected, you can always contact the FOD Economy through this website: https://meldpunt.belgie.be/meldpunt/en/welcome
In conclusion, be mindful of where you order online, not everybody on the internet is interested in giving you the best possible service, and sadly, even with all our efforts, scams continue to abide.