Shopify dropshipping: the ultimate guide for small UK businesses

Launching a Shopify dropshipping store is an excellent ecommerce move. Learn more about how to use this platform, as well as its pros, cons and costs, in our expert guide.

Our Research

When recommending the best ecommerce platforms, our expert team of writers and researchers focus on the features that matter most to small businesses. We rate platforms on their value for money – including setup costs and ongoing transaction fees – design features, including store templates; inventory management; payment processing options; help and support, plus customer feedback.
Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Looking to set up an online business but don’t want to deal with inventory or having to set up a website from scratch? Shopify dropshipping is a great way to avoid those problems and launch your side hustle.

Shopify dropshipping is a popular ecommerce model that allows you to sell products without having to deal with managing stock. If you have limited stock or simply want to see how a product performs in the market, dropshipping is a great strategy to try out. Shopify dropshipping also equips you with a wide range of apps which means you can design a bespoke store that is not only super customisable, but capable of growing alongside your business.

To help you understand how Shopify can be your fast pass to a successful side hustle, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide covering everything you need to know – from pros and cons to hidden fees.

Shopify logo
Run a Shopify dropshipping store for just £1 a month

You can test building for free for three days, then pay just £1 a month for the first three months

Visit Shopify Start building for free

What is dropshipping?

Dropshipping is a method of business where you commission suppliers to ‘drop’ shipments to your customers' doorsteps on your behalf. No mess, no fuss, and no having to deal with tons of boxes and packages in your own garage at home.

You don’t have to stock or keep track of inventory, which can make it a very alluring prospect (especially in these post-pandemic times) as a new revenue stream, whether that’s full-time or as a side hustle on the weekends.

Shopify is one of the numerous dropshipping platforms you can get your hands on. It hosts your website for free, which eliminates the need to purchase an expensive and impractical dedicated server. Instead, you’ll pay a simple monthly fee to access and manage your site.

Here are some of the top dropshipping features you’ll get with Shopify:

  • Unlimited inventory allowance
  • Stock management tool
  • Revenue reports
  • Multiple product variants permitted
  • Comprehensive fraud detection features

90% of consumers would buy online more often if they were given the option of free shipping and 73% of people are more swayed into buying something if they can get free shipping for it. This makes Shopify a great option as another one of its great features is the ability to edit your shipping rates to offer free delivery for customers (although remember that you’ll need to absorb these costs in your product pricing).

Why should you not dropship?

Dropshipping is a good choice for SMEs and startups because it offers good scalability. Mid-sized companies tend to move away from dropshipping because they have the resources to foster and manage their own supplier relationships.

Is dropshipping profitable?

Dropshipping is the ecommerce solution with the highest profit margin. This is because it has incredibly low startup costs. Software tools like Shopify mean you don’t need to handle shipping or inventory management, which saves sellers a lot of money, time and resources.

Shopify dropshipping tutorial with step by step guide

So you’ve read through the above and decided Shopify might be the right platform for starting your dropshipping business. Now how do you get started?

Below, we’ll go through the simple step-by-step process to set up your Shopify dropshipping store.

1. Set up a Shopify account

To set up your Shopify store, first visit the Shopify website to get started with the platform’s free trial (followed by three months for just £1!).

From there, you’ll be guided through the setup process, which includes entering your email address, choosing a password and payment plan, and entering your Shopify store name.

2. Design your online store

Our expert team of researchers recently completed their latest round of ecommerce web builder testing.

We ranked Shopify as our second-best option for design functionality, thanks to its strong set of website features and beautifully designed templates.

 

Example of interface where inventory can be managed on Shopify. Example shows inventory being logged in for a white t-shirt

Shopify editor

Shopify has a more limited choice of templates compared to rivals like Wix, but they are all professionally designed and curated for specific industries, which is useful for branding your business.

How do I set my store up for dropshipping?

Tailoring your ecommerce account for dropshipping involves a couple of extra steps. Firstly, you’ll want to input your payment details on the ‘Settings’ page, so that you’ll immediately be able to start taking payments once the store is launched.

Secondly, you'll want to add a ‘Theme’ for your site. This will enable you to add some important customisable elements such as shipping information.

What is our top-rated ecommerce website builder for design?

Shopify might score highly for its professional-looking website builders, but our research found that Squarespace is the best builder overall for its wide range of themes and well-crafted templates.

Learn more about how the two platforms compare in our full review of Shopify vs Squarespace.

3. Launch your ecommerce business

Congratulations! You’ve now built your online store and are ready to get up and running accepting payments.

Shopify makes it dead easy to launch your store. Simply access the ‘Sales Channels' option in your Shopify settings, then select the ‘add an online store' option.

This will permit you to start adding your products, and your ecommerce business will now be live.

4. Find your suppliers

To start selling products on Shopify, you’ll need to seek out a supplier located in the UK, or anywhere else in the world.

We recommend the former if you want to spend less on shipping costs – but you might want to ship internationally to take advantage of larger marketplaces, like AliExpress (based in China).

You can use the internet to find an online supplier database. Or, you can seek out a Shopify app that connects you and your store to thousands of reputable suppliers.

Screenshot of Shopify app store, showing most relevant apps for search result 'wishlist'.

Shopify marketplace

Which is the best dropshipping supplier to integrate with Shopify?

We recommend DSers.

DSers is an online marketplace that integrates perfectly with Shopify, and even allows you to manage several individual Shopify stores.

With DSers, you can browse AliExpress and import the products that pique your interest directly to the app.

It’s a fully automated process that even checks in with the buyer to make sure they’ve received their product and are happy. This will save you time and money, and ensure customer loyalty.

Want to shop around for a Shopify dropshipping supplier?

No dropshipping store is the same, and there might be different areas you want to focus on when choosing a supplier, like a budget constraint or a need for license-approved suppliers. Including location, products handled, the supplier's technology, and how returns are dealt with. Read our full guide to the top dropshipping suppliers to learn more.

5. Grow your customer base

Marketing your website might not strictly be a part of the ecommerce setup process, but the truth is that launching your business online is not just about registering a domain name – you also need to cut through the other ecommerce websites and get noticed so you can grow your store and customer base.

Screenshot of sample ecommerce post on Instagram showing a clay sponge and its pricing

Shopify social media integration

In terms of SEO, Shopify has lots of useful features that can boost your website search ranking and make potential customers more likely to click on your URL. These include meta descriptions, blogging tools, and header code.

Shopify also boasts some excellent integrations with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. You can link your social media profiles with your online store so that your posts appear on both channels, thus advertising your products to a larger audience.

You can also easily install email marketing apps from Shopify’s extensive app marketplace – solutions like Mailchimp, Constant Contact and Convert Kit can help you create engaging content.

Shopify pricing

Swipe right to see more
0 out of 0

Starter

Basic Shopify

Shopify

Advanced

Price
Price

£1 per month for 3 months

Then £19 per month

Price

£49 per month

Price

£259 per month

Features

A simple, instant storefront
Unlimited product pages
Fast and secure checkout

Features

Unlimited products
Abandoned cart recovery

Features

Professional reports and analytics
5 staff accounts

Features

Advanced reports
Calculated shipping rates

Online card processing fees

2.9% + 30p for online sales

Online card processing fees

2% + 25p for online purchases

Online card processing fees

1.7% + 25p for online purchases

Online card processing fees

1.5% + 25p for online purchases

Shopify has three main pricing plans, ranging in price from £19 to £259 per month. You can also trial the platform for free for three days, and if you sign up the Shopify Basic plan, you'll only pay £1 per month for the first three months.

All of these plans are suitable for dropshipping. You’ll be able to list unlimited products with every payment tier and sell across multiple sales channels.

The main situation in which you'd want to pay for the more expensive Shopify plan (as opposed to the Basic plan) is if your business is growing its operations. The Shopify plan permits you to have three more staff accounts than the Basic plan, as well as up to five inventory locations.

In our guide to the best ecommerce platforms for small businesses – based on exhaustive user testing – we ranked Shopify second out of seven.

In fact, it had the best customer score of all seven online builders we reviewed, and scored highest for customer satisfaction. 93% of users said they would recommend Shopify to a friend.

The one area in which Shopify doesn’t overly impress is value for money. This is because it has less built-in features. Plus, you’ll need to pay for a pricier plan in order to get reduced sales fees.

Shopify’s cheapest plan, Basic, has a 2% transaction fee – not the cheapest on the market.

Does Shopify have a free platform?

Yes. You can trial the Shopify platform for zero charge for three days, and then for three months at just £1 a month.

Want to know more about how much Shopify costs?

It’s a good idea to get a full breakdown of what each of the Shopify payment plans offer you, so you know exactly how much you’ll need to spend with the platform. Read our full guide to Shopify pricing to learn more.

Shopify dropshipping: Pros and Cons

Shopify
4.6
Shopify’s superb features and extensive app market give ambitious ecommerce businesses everything they need to scale rapidly.
  • FREE TRIAL 3-day free trial
  • PRICE FROM £19 per month
  • Preempts and predicts what a merchant might need next in all aspects of creating a website
  • Best range of apps and extensions
  • Perfect for dropshipping
Summary Shopify is perfect for users looking for that all in one online store solution. Its ability to predict what a merchant will need next when creating a website is a brilliant feature, and its countless apps give you complete control over your business, enabling you to grow through diverse multi channel integration options and automated SMS and email marketing. It is definitely better suited to store owners with complex, larger inventories and because there are fewer built in features, using the platform can get expensive compared to other feature-filled competitors like Squarespace and Wix.
Show moreless
Pros
  • Huge range of apps makes it easy to manage your inventory
  • Comprehensive range of POS (point-of-sale) options
  • Great for creating product categories
  • Easy to use and set up
  • Integrates with arguably the best dropshipping app available - DSers
Cons
  • No specialist supplier network
  • Some core functions will require a third-party app
What else does Shopify give you?

Shopify is probably the best-known ecommerce solution currently available – but is it actually the best fit for you? Read our full review of Shopify to find out.

How does Shopify dropshipping compare to other platforms?

Shopify is one of our top-rated dropshipping builders alongside Wix (our top-rated website builder for SMEs) and WooCommerce.

All three of these ecommerce builders integrate well with popular inventory and supplier apps. This is a big bonus when it comes to customising your online store to create the perfect dropshipping strategy.

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0 out of 0

Shopify

Wix

WooCommerce

 

BEST FOR

Best range of apps and extensions

BEST FOR

All-round ecommerce platform for small businesses

BEST FOR

Customisation and scalability

Pricing

£19 – £259 per month, billed annually

£1/month for 3 months

Pricing

£14-119 per month, billed annually
£13.50-£107.10 with code “GET10!”

Pricing

Free to download but themes and plugins cost extra

Try Shopify Try Wix Try WooCommerce

As you can see from the above table, Shopify is slightly more expensive than Wix or WooCommerce.

Still, we recommend it over the latter two platforms if you want the ability to customise your store with a huge range of sophisticated apps and integrations.

Which is best?

If you’re still unsure about which of our top dropshipping builders is the best platform for you, read our full guides:

Is Shopify right for your dropshipping business?

In a nutshell, Shopify is the best dropshipping platform for startups or side hustles.

Its easy-to-use builder gives you all the tools you need to create a flourishing website that speedily delivers top-quality products to customers, and you barely need to lift a finger.

The caveat to this is that Shopify is not the cheapest sales platform available, so more budget-conscious SMEs might want to look for a cheaper ecommerce builder, like one of our top nine free ecommerce platforms.

But the truth is, you get what you pay for with Shopify: a smartly designed software tool with a huge range of apps that can adapt as you grow your sales base.

Check out the free trial today to start small and learn the ins and outs of Shopify using just a handful of products.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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