How To Start an Online Store Without Inventory: 8 Tips

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tips for starting an online store without inventory

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How can someone start an online store without inventory? Please share your best tip. 

To help you start an online store without inventories, we asked startup owners and entrepreneurs for their best ideas. From using third party logistics companies to doing pre-ordering, there are several ideas that you may try out to start your online store without dealing with inventories.

Here are eight tips for starting an online store without inventory:

  • Use Third Party Logistics Companies
  • Partner With Craftsmen and Artisans 
  • Run an Affiliate Online Store 
  • Engage in Dropshipping
  • Use Print On Demand
  • Find Unique Items On Etsy
  • Offer Non Physical Products or Online Services
  • Do Pre-ordering

Use Third Party Logistics Companies

Using a third-party logistic company is the best way to start an online store without inventory. You can discard the hassles that come with dealing with your inventory. The 3PL company allows you to outsource everything to logistics, starting from warehousing and inventory management to fulfillment. Because of potentially higher charges, using a 3PL is better suited to stores that have already built up a powerful customer base. In brief, using a 3PL provides you with great flexibility in sourcing the products you think will best serve your customers. However, this method could be expensive but extremely beneficial for start-up online stores.

Caroline Lee, CocoSign

Partner With Craftsmen and Artisans 

The best way to start an online store without inventory is to partner with craftsmen and artisans that want their products sold and promoted. It’s a form of drop shipping and also taking a cue from Amazon. However, you are partnering with smaller or micro-businesses to sell their unique craftsman items on your page rather than partnering with a big wholesaler. You don’t charge them to be on your page or to promote them. It’s more of a consignment approach. Orders go directly to them and they ship them to the customer with your label on the shipping package. Money is processed through you and you pay them at scheduled times. You keep the set fee from sales agreed upon for hosting and promoting their product.

Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure

Run an Affiliate Online Store

With an affiliate store, you won’t need to worry about sourcing products. You would just need to find sellers who are ready to pay a commission each time an order for them is confirmed through your store. You get a percentage of the sale generated through you. All you have to worry about is marketing your store and increasing sales. It will be important to find a seller who is reliable since the reputation of your store will heavily depend on the customer service the seller has.

Nathan Hughes, Diggity Marketing

Engage in Dropshipping

Dropshipping is a great option for those who want to start an online store without actually having inventory. Dropshipping is a retail model that doesn’t require you to own any stock of any products. Instead, the store passes this sale to a manufacturer who then sends the product to the customer. Basically, you’re just the middleman between the manufacturer and the customer. You can choose to sell any product you want, with the advantage that you will never have to sell “old” products at a lower price since you don’t have anything in stock. You also don’t have to make any huge investments in buying products as your customers pay you to pay the manufacturer. This is a great option for those who want to start their own business ventures, without having to invest in inventory.

Rich Rudzinski, Drivey

Use Print On Demand

Print on Demand is one of the options for starting an online store with no inventory, and it is one of the pillars of our business model at RushOrder Tees when we started as kids from our parent’s garage. Print on Demand allows you to create the custom designs once an order is received. This lets you leverage the Customization features of your business while having a minimum stock, not requiring you to invest capital, have pre-existing stock and needs minimal skills. This provides flexibility and decreases cost of inventory on hand, while ensuring our production is Lean and efficient to minimize all defects and waste.

Michael Nemeroff, Rush Order Tees

Find Unique Items On Etsy

Many people who want to start online stores without inventory will register for a subscription service like Oberlo. They get to list the items for sale, without spending money on inventory. This is great, but sometimes the margins are razor thin on popular items. Instead, reach out to creators on Etsy. You can find unique items that aren’t sold on many platforms, and sell them in your shop. Usually you can work out a deal with the creator, to get discounted pricing. Then whenever you sell an item in your shop, order it from them on Etsy to be drop-shipped to your customer.

Dennis Consorte, Snackable Solutions

Offer Non-Physical Products or Online Services

One of the best ways to start an online store without inventory is to begin by launching a store that sells a digital service rather than a physical product. As a result of the pandemic, online consulting, coaching, and courses are in higher demand than ever. A digital course, whilst it takes time to create, is the perfect type of product that does not require any warehousing or shipping. Once your course is done, your time can be spent on marketing and not resolving logistical headaches! Take some time to identify your area of expertise, ensure it’s marketable and brush up those digital marketing skills to guarantee traffic to your website and turn that traffic into sales.

Andy Way, PartyLite

Do Pre-ordering

Let’s be real. Not everyone has the money to invest in an idea they truly believe in and would like to bring to life. Or they may not want to have to deal with an inventory. If you’d like to start an online store but don’t want to order products to lie around, you can do pre-orders. Make sure you at least have the costs figured out and that you’ve tested the product itself before you launch it. Preorders allow you to have limited or no inventory until you get a confirmed sale, reducing inventory risk and the waste of resources. From a strategic marketing perspective, it also lets you see which products or ideas have more potential without going all in. 

If you want no inventory whatsoever, try outsourcing your commodity to a fulfillment center. A pro tip: don’t pick the most obvious or popular e-commerce fulfillment center. They may not necessarily offer the best prices or quality of service. Take your time to research alternatives and choose one that truly fits best for your business.

Nicole Ostrowska, Zety


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