How to spot a dropshipping site

I saw someone on Reddit mention a weekender-style bag and how they wanted to get it. The minute I landed on the site, I could tell it was a dropshipper.

Since I work with a variety of eCommerce companies, it’s easy for me to tell the real thing from a dropshipper. But for many people I can see that it might be tough, especially if you don’t even know what a dropshipper is!

Why I Dislike Dropshippers

I can’t say I hate 100% of dropshippers. The types I do hate are the ones that create a Shopify store and start selling stuff from AliExpress or Alibaba. They’re just trying to cash in on the eCommerce trend without doing the work of actually creating a product that solves a problem.

I’m doing this article because the opportunistic dropshippers are the ones to watch out for. They want to make a quick buck, they don’t want to do a lot of work. So that means you’re likely going to end up with a low quality product, shipped all the way from China, with a terrible return or warranty policy and little to no customer support.

How to Spot Dropshippers

The images are not consistent

Do the products on the website all have a consistent look and feel? A real eCommerce store is going to use neutral backgrounds and professional photos. These dropshipping sites don’t use custom photos because they want to invest as little money as possible. They just take whatever photos are provided on Alibaba or Aliexpress.

Product images are not consistent. This is a dropshipper.
Example of a non-dropshipper. Consistent image look and background

Awful Refund Policy

Another tell of a dropshipper is that their refund policy is not so great. This one below indicates the policy lasts 30 days after purchase, but on this same site it can take up to 6 weeks to get your item! They also say the refund doesn’t apply to “sale” items, but many of these sites run fake sales, so that means many items won’t qualify for returns.

Shipping times are EXTREMELY long

Look at the shipping info page to see what the typical delivery times are. If they’re not storing stuff in the US, they’re most likely having it shipped straight from the factory. In that case, it will take over 2 weeks to receive anything.

Look at the policy below. They’re saying just to process the order can take up to a week. And the actual shipping times are 2-6 weeks because there is “high demand” which is never the case.

In many cases, these sites won’t be explicit about shipping times. For this particular site (fortheminimalist) they don’t mention it in the checkout or cart or even the product page. If you complain to customer support, they’ll likely just tell you it was on the shipping page in the footer.

If a site is being that evasive about shipping times, then expect that they’re doing so for a reason.

Types of Products

The types of products these sites sell are all over the place. They might say they have a theme, but they want to cram as many products on the site to maximize the chance someone will find something they want to purchase.

This “minimalist” site is selling everything from a computer vacuum to pet grooming gloves to a sushi rolling kit.

A site like uncommongoods.com sells a wide variety of products, but they also are upfront about their shipping time, returns, have a professionally designed website and authentic product photos.

Gloves, tailgate light, ice cream maker on a dropshipping site

Reverse Image Search

If you’re really not sure if a site is a dropshipper, pull one of their photos and use it to search Images.Google.com. I was easily able to find one store’s products on Aliexpress as well as tons of other sites.

Unprofessional Website Design

These sites are trying to make money by investing as little money as possible. That means their website is going to be a free or cheap template, and a lot of Shopify apps on top.

Compare this site below to the image underneath it.

Image 1
Image 2

Which of these images is of a dropshipper and which is an actual eCommerce store?

Image 2 is the eCommerce store.

How can you tell? The design is very clean, there is not a lot going on, and it has a clear structure and hierarchy.

The first image has apps, all caps, lots of colors, the quantity button isn’t centered.

People usually running dropshipping sites are not developers, so when they want to add a feature they usually have to install an app which often doesn’t fit the design of the store.

If it’s not that clear which site is which, take a look at some real eCommerce sites and you’ll start to get a feel for professional web design. A few sites I like are uncommongoods.com, spyguy.com, and Mahabis.com.

Not all eCommerce stores will have the best design. Personally I find Amazon’s very ugly and cluttered, but they test out their design so they back up their features and changes with data.

Trust Signs

Now that you have a few ways to tell if you’re on a dropshipping site, how can you be sure you’re purchasing from a real eCommerce store?

Real eCommerce stores will be up front about a lot of things that dropshippers try to hide:

  • Delivery times
  • Delivery cost
  • Refunds and warranties
  • Customer service phone number, email, or live chat & availability times

With this knowledge, you’ll be able to buy from legitimate sellers making their own products. Unfortunately, Amazon is full of dropshippers with the same mindset as these eCommerce store dropshippers: sell as much as possible while spending the least amount possible.

I’ll do another article about the sellers on Amazon and how to TRY and determine quality based on a few factors I’ve seen that low-quality sellers tend to use in their product listings.