Shopee is often called the 'Amazon of Southeast Asia,' and for good reason.

Indonesia, which is by far the largest economy in Southeast Asia, provides 27% of Shopee's traffic.

At the same time, Shopee was the most visited ecommerce marketplace in Thailand in Q1 2022, and the platform is also active in Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries.

But what if we told you there's a way to sell on Shopee without worrying about stocking inventory?

This guide will explore three strategies to help you start an online business without filling your garage with boxes of unsold fidget spinners.

So, if you're ready, let's start!

3 Strategies to sell on Shopee without inventory

Shopee Malaysia homepage

You can use various strategies to sell on Shopee without keeping products in stock.

But considering there is no one-fits-all solution, we will discuss the most popular methods and guide you on what fits you best!

Here are three business models for selling products on Shopee without inventory:

  • Dropshipping
  • Print on demand
  • Digital products

Let's check them out one by one, starting with dropshipping!

1. Dropshipping

If there is one business model that fits best with selling products without inventory, it's dropshipping.

Shopee dropshipping is a business model where you list your products on Shopee and sell them without keeping them in stock. Your supplier is responsible for shipping the products to your customers. Your job is to take care of the Shopee product listing.

If this sounds confusing, don't worry, it's actually quite simple!

Here's how the dropshipping model works on Shopee:

And for visual learners, here's an infographic that explains it:

The dropship model - Infographic

One of the key benefits of dropshipping is that you can start selling a wide range of products without investing in inventory.

It allows you to test many product ideas without any upfront costs!

And let's not forget about the flexibility dropshipping offers.

Want to expand your product offerings without worrying about storage space? No problem.

Want to test out new products without committing to a huge inventory purchase? Easy peasy.

Dropshipping makes it all possible.

Here is an overview of the pros and cons of dropshipping:

ProsCons
Low startup costs.The dropshipping mindset.
Quickly test products without an inventory.High competition.
Your supplier handles shipping and logistics.Less control over shipping and product quality.
Creating a new Shopee seller account doesn't take long.Profit margins can be slim.
It's possible to start earning profits in the short term.Refunds can be complicated.
Difficult to build a brand identity.
The pros and cons of dropshipping

Yes, dropshipping, in general, has more cons than pros. However, there are always methods to deal with those cons and make them less apparent! (You can find more about these methods here.)

And regarding the dropshipping suppliers, some manufacture the products, while others are a middleman between the factory and you (so they provide the 'dropshipping service').

Either way, there's one thing all dropshipping suppliers have in common; they can store, pack, and ship your products directly to your customer's door.

Since Shopee is operating in Southeast Asia, it would be best to find a supplier located in Southeast Asia as well.

You can always try to search for suppliers on popular platforms like Alibaba and AliExpress. And alternatively, you can check our list of the best suppliers in China!

Another option is to find a private dropshipping agent (which we will discuss shortly).

However, dropshipping on Shopee isn't as simple as dropshipping on your own online store.

You see, while it is possible to do dropshipping on Shopee, you must comply with Shopee's seller policies.

For instance, you must:

Shopee arrange shipment
Source

And if you don't want to deal with Shopee's policies, there are two other routes to take:

Shopee Supported Logistics
Source

If you want to start dropshipping, we recommend using an ecommerce platform like Shopify. That way, you will have your own store and won't have to comply with any dropship policies from third-party marketplaces!

You can find a step-by-step guide to building your own dropshipping store here.

Dropshipping with private agents

A private dropshipping agent is a middleman between you and your dropshipping supplier.

They will source, store, pack, and ship your dropshipping products. Furthermore, they ensure you get the best price, quality, and delivery times for your product.

What is a dropshipping agent - infographic

For example, a dropshipping agent can

  • Do quality checks for your product.
  • Ensure you get identified as the seller on the packages.
  • Support you with brandingprivate labeling, and white labeling.
  • Select the best shipping methods for your target country.
  • Provide help in case of shipping delays or broken products.
  • Accept returns for you.
  • Update you on the latest product and shipping trends.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Here's an infographic of six reasons to use a private dropshipping agent:

Reasons to use a dropshipping agent - infographic

Some of the best dropshipping agents in 2024 are Eprolo, HyperSKU, and Wiio. Check them out if you're interested; they may be a great fit for your Shopee listings!

2. Print on demand

Have you always dreamed of selling products that you've designed yourself?

If so, you can do it with print on demand (POD).

And the great part is, you don't need to keep an inventory for it!

Print on demand is a business model where you design graphics printed on products like T-shirts, hoodies, or mugs. Once you receive an order on your POD store, you forward it to your POD supplier, who prints your graphics on the product and ships it directly to the customer.

Here is an infographic on how it works:

The print on demand model - Infographic

As you can see, print on demand is one of the closest alternatives to dropshipping!

Products sold in POD stores are often apparel such as shirts and hoodies. But you can also sell products like mugs, towels, art prints, phone cases, and even notebooks or mousepads!

Premium print on demand product examples on Printful
Available products from the POD supplier Printful

Here are the pros and cons of the print on demand business model:

ProsCons
A POD store is as easy and low-risk to set up as a dropshipping store.POD businesses generally struggle with tight profit margins.
Ability to (partly) design products yourself.It can be more challenging to deal with returns as the product is custom-made. (More info here)
You will never have to deal with any leftover inventory.Your store is only as good as your designs.
Often, you don't have complete control over the product's look.
The pros and cons of print on demand

When comparing print on demand to dropshipping, we see the following:

The main difference between dropshipping and print on demand is that with dropshipping, your supplier doesn't make any changes to the product, and the shipping time can be faster. In contrast, with print on demand, your supplier creates the product according to your custom design, and the shipping time can be longer.

Here's an infographic that summarizes all differences:

Dropshipping vs Print on Demand - Infographic

If you're creative, print on demand may sound like a great opportunity.

But remember that if you want to do print on demand on Shopee, you'll have to deal with the same restrictions you get with dropshipping.

So, read Shopee's policies and find a print on demand supplier that complies with them.

If you would like to learn more about the print on demand business model, take a look at the following articles:

3. Digital products

This one may be very obvious to you, or it may be a total surprise!

When most people think of selling products through Shopee, they typically envision a physical product like a phone case or clothing item.

However, an increasingly popular type of online product is digital content.

When selling digital content, your products are stored in the cloud and can be copied without additional costs. In other words, you can sell digital products on Shopee without an inventory!

Examples of digital products you can sell on Shopee include:

  • Digital products that are directly credited to the buyer (game credits, mobile top-up cards).
  • Digital products that can be redeemed online (online transport or food delivery vouchers).
  • Digital products that can be redeemed offline (movie tickets, hotel tickets, dining vouchers).
Shopee digital product sellers

And there are many more kinds of digital products! Just think about things like templates, stock photos, or music.

The best thing about selling digital products is that there are no production or shipping costs – once you create the product, you can sell it infinite times (except if you sell voucher-type digital products).

Here are the pros and cons of selling digital products:

ProsCons
It doesn't cost you anything extra to sell an additional digital product (once it's developed).Someone can easily copy and sell your digital products without your permission.
You are in complete control of the pricing.Digital products may require ongoing support and maintenance.
Digital products can instantly be sold and delivered to anyone with an internet connection. Marketing digital products can be more difficult.
The pros and cons of selling digital products

How do you start selling on Shopee without inventory?

Online store custom image

Do you want to start selling on Shopee without inventory but have no idea where to begin?

If so, here are the nine steps you can take to get started:

  1. Come up with your product idea
  2. Choose one of the three business models: dropshipping, POD, or digital products
  3. Create a Shopee seller account
  4. Find a supplier
  5. Define your ideal target audience
  6. Create your Shopee product listing
  7. Wait for organic sales to come in, or set up Shopee in-app advertising

FAQs about selling on Shopee

If you have more questions about selling on Shopee without inventory, check out the FAQ section below:

Is it free to sell on Shopee?

It is generally free to sell on Shopee. Creating an account and listing products for sale do not require any fees. However, Shopee does charge a transaction fee when an item is sold, which varies depending on the country and category.

Can anyone be a seller on Shopee?

Anyone can become a seller on Shopee as long as they meet the platform's requirements. You must create a Shopee account, provide your personal information, and adhere to the platform's terms and conditions.

Additionally, you must be legally allowed to conduct business in your country.

What is not allowed to be sold on Shopee?

Shopee lists prohibited items that cannot be sold on the platform. Some examples include wildlife products, lottery tickets, or mystery boxes.

For a complete list, it is recommended to check Shopee's official prohibited items list.

More places to sell online without inventory

Not sure yet about using Shopee to sell products online? Or are you curious about what else is out there?

We've got you covered! Check out the lists below to find more places to sell online without holding any inventory:

Plus, don't forget to check out our main how to sell products online without inventory guide here!

Summary

Before we go to the final verdict, we've created a quick summary of this article for you, so you can easily remember it:

  • You can use dropshipping, print on demand, or sell digital products to sell on Shopee without inventory.
  • Dropshipping is a business model where you don't keep the products you sell in stock; when you receive an order, you purchase the same product(s) from a supplier who then ships directly to the customer.
  • Print on demand (POD) allows you to design graphics printed onto items like T-shirts or mugs that are also shipped directly from the supplier to the customer.
  • Digital products are stored online and can be copied infinitely with no additional cost – examples include ebooks, software, or online courses.

Conclusion

Now that you know how to sell on Shopee without inventory, it's time to start!

These three strategies should help you start selling without your own inventory.

You can dropship products, create print on demand products, or sell digital products.

Once you find the best suppliers for your product, you're ready to start creating your Shopee listings and receiving your first sales!

Are you ready to get started selling on Shopee without inventory?

Want to learn more about ecommerce?

Ready to move your online store to the next level? Check out the articles below:

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