Do you want to start a Shopify store but don't want to deal with having an inventory?

Don't worry; there are a couple of ways to start selling using Shopify without investing in a stock of your products.

This article will give you a crash course on the available business models and how you can get started with them.

So, if you're ready to dive into entrepreneurship, read on for some surefire advice about creating your own Shopify store without needing inventory!

4 Strategies to sell on Shopify without inventory

Shopify online store custom image

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

Considering there is no one-fits-all solution, we've decided to discuss the most popular methods and guide you on the best pick for you!

Here are four ways to sell products on Shopify without inventory:

  • Dropshipping
  • Print on demand
  • Digital products
  • Affiliate marketing

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

1. Dropshipping

Homepage of Fresh Juice Blender
Fresh Juice, a Shopify dropshipping store (Find more store examples here)

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

That's because it literally fits in the definition of dropshipping:

Dropshipping is a fulfillment method where a store doesn't keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a store sells a product, it purchases the item from a dropshipping supplier and has it shipped directly to the customer.

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

Here's how the dropshipping model works on Shopify:

  • You start a Shopify store.
  • You find a dropshipping supplier and list their product(s) on your store.
  • Once you get an order on your store, you place that same order with your supplier.
  • Your supplier ships the product(s) directly to your customer.

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

The dropship model - Infographic

Some dropshipping suppliers are the manufacturer of the products, but others aren't.

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

Moreover, they send out the product in blank packaging, meaning your customers won't know that a third party is involved.

There are even dropshipping apps like Spocket or DSers designed to integrate with Shopify and send any new orders to your supplier automatically. This means that they completely automate your order fulfillment process!

You can use Shopify to start a low-, medium-, or high-ticket dropshipping store and a one-product, niche, or general store.

Homepage of Shopify

One of the key benefits of dropshipping is that you can start selling a wide range of products on Shopify without having to invest in inventory.

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

And for this reason, dropshipping is a popular option for people starting to sell products on Shopify. It's simply a relatively low-risk and low-cost way to launch a new ecommerce business!

Let's check out 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.
Starting a new Shopify store 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

Overall, dropshipping is an excellent option for those looking for an easy way to get started in ecommerce.

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.)

For example, by starting a private label dropshipping store, you can brand your products to differentiate yourself from the competition!

Example of a branded product sold online
Example of a branded product (source)

If you are interested in starting a Shopify dropshipping store, you may want to sign up for our free 7-day challenge. It's a step-by-step guide that will help you create a dropshipping store in just seven days.

Start dropshipping with out 7-day email challenge

Alternatively, you can also check out our dropshipping checklist here!

Dropshipping with local suppliers

You may know that many dropshippers use Chinese dropshipping suppliers like AliExpress.

Yes, products from China are very cheap, which is great for your profit margin. However, there are also many cons associated with dropshipping from China, the main one being long delivery times.

That's why local dropshipping suppliers have become very popular lately.

Local dropshipping suppliers manage warehouses in the country of your customers so that you can offer them much faster shipping times!

Some of the most popular local dropshipping suppliers are Spocket and Syncee.

Homepage of Spocket

Exclusive Syncee Offer for Shopify and Wix users: Use DoDropshipping10 during checkout to enjoy a 10% off on the Pro, Business, Plus Marketplace plans. This offer is valid with your first subscription plan and for a limited time. Don't miss out!

However, if you are interested in suppliers from a specific region, you can find them here:

Dropshipping with private agents

If you don't mind your delivery times being a bit longer and you still want access to cheap products, then there is also a third option that may be suited for you; 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

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!

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 are an artist or graphic designer and 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 come as a total surprise!

When most people think of selling products through Shopify, 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 on your computer or in the cloud and can be copied without additional costs. In other words, you can sell digital products on Shopify without an inventory!

Digital products can be downloaded or accessed online, such as ebooks, software, or online courses.

For example, Shopify’s Business Name Generator is an example of a digital product in the form of software:

Shopify Business name generator

However, this ebook about getting great ideas is also a digital product:

Digital product example in the form of an ebook

And there are many more kinds of digital products! Just think about things like Shopify themes, 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 an infinite number of times.

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

4. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is another excellent way to sell products on Shopify without inventory.

Have you ever clicked on a link for a product or service from a blog, social network, or someone's website?

Well, it could've been an affiliate link!

Affiliate marketing is a business model you can use to generate revenue through affiliate links. These are your own custom links that link to someone else's product or service. When someone clicks on your link and buys that product or service, you receive a part of that revenue.

How does affiliate marketing work - Infographic

So, with affiliate marketing, you can sell products online without keeping an inventory. You do the marketing part, and someone else takes care of all the rest!

According to statistics, 38% of marketers think affiliate marketing is one of the top customer acquisition methods, and 81% of brands use affiliate marketing programs!

If you want to get started with affiliate marketing, there are several ways to promote your affiliate links and earn commissions.

One way is to start a blog around a niche you are interested in. For example, you could create a tennis blog, write an article like 'The best tennis rackets to use in 2024,' and add affiliate links to Amazon product pages for each item:

Example of affiliate links on a blog
Example: all links in the red box are Amazon affiliate links (source)

Or, if you have a significant following on social media, you can start doing influencer marketing campaigns to promote products for ecommerce brands.

ProsCons
After the initial hard work of setting up your affiliate marketing channels, this business model can turn into a passive income.You must respect the terms and conditions of the affiliate marketing program you cooperate with.
You don't have to think about customer support.It may take a while to build up a significant income.
Starting an affiliate marketing business does not require a significant upfront (money) investment.
The pros and cons of affiliate marketing

Tip: If you doubt between this and dropshipping, you can learn about the differences between affiliate marketing and dropshipping here!

The best suppliers for selling on Shopify without inventory

Shopify has made it incredibly easy for even the smallest entrepreneurs and established businesses alike to start an ecommerce business without inventory.

But there is one catch - you still need reliable suppliers that can handle your orders quickly and accurately, so you don't have any hiccups in sales.

Lucky for you, we've taken the guesswork out of the equation by compiling a list of some of the best suppliers who can help take your Shopify store to new heights - all without ever having a single item in stock!

Check out the table below for our top picks and see which fits into your business model:

SupplierNicheLocationPricingRead Review
SpocketGeneralUS, EU, CA$40 / $60 / $100 / $299 per monthSpocket Review
SynceeGeneralUS, UK, EU, CA, AUS$0 / $29 / $79 / $129 per monthSyncee Review
AppScenicGeneralUS, UK, EU, CA, AUS$24 / $47 / $78 per monthAppScenic Review
SellviaGeneralUS$39 / $69 per monthSellvia Review
ModalystGeneralUS$0 / $35 / $90 per monthModalyst Review
DropCommerceGeneralUS, CA$19 / $49 / $89 / $149 per monthDropCommerce Review
AvasamGeneralUK / US£20 / £50 / £100 / £150 per month + VATAvasam Review
iDropshipGeneralAUSFreeiDropship Review
CJdropshippingGeneralChina / WorldwideFreeCJdropshipping Review
AliExpressGeneralChinaFreeAliExpress Review
PrintfulPODUS, UK, EU, CA$0 / $24.99 per monthPrintful Review
BlankaBeautyUS, CA$29 / $59 / $99 per monthBlanka Review
DripshipperCoffeeUS$30 / $99 / $197 per monthDripshipper Review
My Online Fashion StoreFashionUS$29 per monthMy Online Fashion Store Review
OGOPODAUSFreeOGO Review

You can find our in-depth article covering all these Shopify suppliers here!

How do you start a Shopify store without inventory?

Online store custom image

Do you want to start a Shopify store without inventory but have no idea where to begin?

Starting an online store on Shopify can seem complicated, but don't stress!

In reality, Shopify has made it very simple for you to get up and running.

Here are the nine steps of starting a Shopify store without inventory:

  1. Come up with your product idea
  2. Choose one of the four business models: dropshipping, POD, digital products, or affiliate marketing
  3. Pick a Shopify plan
  4. Find a supplier
  5. Define your ideal target audience
  6. Design and brand your Shopify store
  7. Install the right Shopify apps
  8. Set up your payment gateways
  9. Choose a marketing method that fits you and start advertising!

For a detailed description of each of these steps, take a look at this article here!

FAQs about selling on Shopify

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

Which Shopify plan is best for selling without inventory?

The Basic Shopify pricing plan is perfect for selling without inventory. It's a great basis for forming a dropshipping or print on demand store. To learn more about the best Shopify pricing plans, take a look at this article!

Can I sell on Shopify without products?

Yes, it is possible to sell on Shopify without products. You can sell on Shopify without having products in your inventory, or you can use Shopify to create an affiliate marketing website or sell your services.

Can you dropship without inventory?

Dropshipping is always without inventory, as selling products without having them in stock is part of the definition of the dropshipping business model.

Is it better to have inventory or dropship?

Having inventory gives you control over the product and allows for quicker shipping times, but it also requires investment and storage space. Dropshipping allows for lower upfront investment and less storage space, but shipping times may be longer.

The best option depends on your business goals, budget, and available resources!

More places to sell online without inventory

Not sure yet about using Shopify 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:

  • To sell on Shopify without inventory, you can use dropshipping, print on demand, sell digital products, or use affiliate marketing.
  • Dropshipping is a business model where you don’t keep the products it sells in stock; instead, when your store sells something, you purchase it 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 then shipped directly from suppliers.
  • Digital products are stored online and can be copied infinitely with no additional cost – examples include ebooks, software, or online courses.
  • Affiliate marketing involves generating revenue through custom links that link back to someone else's product - this means that once customers click on these links, they will be taken straight away for purchase, while marketers receive commissions off of each sale made via their link!
  • Some of the best suppliers for Shopify to sell without inventory include Spocket, Syncee, and AppScenic.

Conclusion

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

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

You can dropship products, create print on demand products, sell digital products, or use affiliate marketing to earn commission from sales.

Once you find the best suppliers for your product, you’re ready to start building your shop and making sales!

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

Want to learn more about Shopify?

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

Plus, don’t forget to check out our in-depth how to start a Shopify store guide here.

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