I have used several free and paid tools, and I have also tried both fulfillment options. I can say that automation is the best choice, but then it comes at a cost.
In this article, I will explain:
- Dropshipping fulfillment methods
- Various supplier databases and the fulfillment methods you can expect from them
- How dropshipping works in a nutshell
In the end, I am positive that you should be able to decide what route to take, or what dropshipping supplier tool to use.
- It is better to spend money on paid automation tools than do manual work; manual fulfillment is not worth your time.
- There is a thing called partial automation, and it is best for print-on-demand or customizable products
- Full automation is not free; oftentimes, it is a service that you can only get if you pay for a service subscription
Learn From Our Founder
Learn from our founder, Nawras Ganim on how to fulfill dropshipping orders.
Ways to Fulfill Dropshipping Orders
There are three main ways to fulfill dropshipping orders. These are:
- Manual Fulfillment
- Partial Automation
- Full Automation
Manual fulfillment typically is how a dropshipper with no supplier integration would start fulfillment. The other method is automation, and there are two ways to do it.
1. Manual Fulfillment for Dropshipping Order
Manual fulfillment is what happens if your dropshipping set-up is also manual. Let us say that I have a Shopify store, and the way I set it up is that I copied and pasted images from my supplier.
In this case, the example I am using is Old Chicago Coffee.
Once a customer orders from my store, I need to go to Old Chicago Coffee’s website, sign in as a buyer, add the product to my cart, and pay like a customer. Below is the website of the supplier, Old Chicago Coffee.
In the checkout section, I will use my customer’s delivery address, not my address. Then, this supplier will ship that item to my customer.
As you can see, this method is tedious. I must place an order again and again to the same supplier for every order that I get from my store.
Beginners in the dropshipping industry who do not sign up for an automated tool have to go through this. On some occasions, you may find a supplier who does not offer any way to automate their ordering process.
If at all possible, I do not recommend that you use this process. It will take up a lot of your time, and you will do too much manual labor. In addition, manual order processes like this are highly prone to errors.
2. Partial Automation for Dropshipping Order
Partial automation means you do not need to input all the customer data to order from your supplier. The information is already there, and all you have to do is click a button to checkout.
Here is an example of partial fulfillment from Spocket:
When customers order from your Shopify store, you must go to your Spocket dashboard, and then click on the Order tab at the left.
Then, you will see all the pending orders on the page. In this case, you have the option to delete it or fulfill it. To fulfill the order, click on Checkout, and then follow the prompts.
Now, why would you delete an order? In some cases, a customer may cancel an order. If you cancel the order from your store, it does not automatically cancel from your supplier tool. As such, you need to manually delete it.
Partial fulfillment is beneficial to dropshippers selling personalized products. It gives you time to consult your customer if everything is within the customer's specifications. For example, for personalized print-on-demand t-shirts, you want to verify that the spelling of a name is correct.
It is only after this verification from your customer that you will pay your supplier to fulfill the order. Many dropship supplier tools do this, particularly print-on-demand (POD) supplier tools.
3. Full Automation for Dropshipping Order
The last method for order fulfillment is the fully automated one. In this case, if a customer orders from your store, this order gets to your supplier immediately. Then, your supplier processes this order, without speaking to you or verifying anything else.
How does this work?
In this process, you integrate your supplier tool with the Shopify store. Then, you add your credit card to your supplier tool.
Once a customer orders from your Shopify store, the supplier’s tool gets a notification (these machines will talk to each other). Then, your supplier’s ordering system will automatically charge your credit card for the order.
From here, someone in the supplier’s company will receive a notification about the paid order, and they will start processing it.
When I dropshipped phone cases from Printify, I had first-hand experience of how this works. Someone ordered from my store, then Printify charged my credit card automatically, and their system also got the store information such as the delivery address.
When I woke up, I read the notification and email from my store and Printify, telling me that I was charged for the order. In less than a day, they printed the phone case and sent it to my customer.
Fully automated fulfillment is great if the products you sell are final, or if they do not need customization. In this system, the supplier will get ahold of your customer’s information—only the necessary data like name, shipping address, order type, and quantity.
Use a fully automated fulfillment system if you want to save time and effort. This works best if you want to focus on marketing and less on menial tasks. The thing is, most automated systems are not free.
Types of Suppliers
There are three main types of suppliers for dropshipping, and each has its own merits and disadvantages. These supplies are AliExpress, fulfillment tools, and private suppliers. Of these three, the best that we recommend is a private supplier, and we’ll show you why.
AliExpress is a retail marketplace for China like Amazon. Over time, it morphed into a marketplace where dropshippers find suppliers willing to ship products straight to customers at an international level.
Here are the challenges if you use a marketplace like AliExpress:
- Slow shipping – can take anywhere between 20 and 60 days
- Slow processing – suppliers and sellers take up to seven days to pick up and pack your order
- Manual order – you have to go to AliExpress, log in to your account, and place the order manually
- Expensive – many AliExpress sellers today are not the manufacturers themselves but middlemen. They source their items from sites like 1688 and post the items in AliExpress.
AliExpress sellers are also known for having poor and slow communication. It takes days before they respond to you. In the end, your dropshipping business can suffer because of the sales suppliers’ poor performance.
2. Middlemen or Fulfillment Tools
These are marketplaces where dropshippers and suppliers meet. Some examples are CJDropshipping Spocket and DSERS. While these tools come with automation and product import capabilities, they are far from perfect.
For one, most people who post their products here are also middlemen—they source their items from the real supplier and add a profit on them. In addition, the tool company itself, like Spocket, takes a cut from the revenue of the supplier, forcing the supplier to increase prices.
Overall, I can say that these tools are only great for small orders. Once you hit 10 orders per day, you will be better off using a private supplier.
3. Private Supplier
A private supplier is the manufacturer. You can find them on sites like Alibaba, or if you are willing to do research, you can find them through their social media and their websites.
Since you are dealing with the supplier directly, you will enjoy the following benefits:
- Lower prices; you do not need to pay extra fees because there is no middleman
- You are in direct contact with the supplier or manufacturer
- Faster shipping and processing times
- They offer automation through an ERP system the most common examples are Dian Xiaomi and Mabang.
You can integrate the ERP with your Shopify store, and it is free. After the integration, you can import the supplier’s products to your store and process orders from there automatically.
Common Dropship Supplier Tools and Fulfillment Process
In this section, I will provide a list of the best dropship supplier tools and what they can do in terms of automation and integration with your Shopify store. This list should help you decide which tool to use to find suppliers and what level of automation the tool provides.
- AudoDS - Our Recommendation – full automation; AutoDS integrates with Shopify, WooCommerce, Facebook, and other platforms. The service costs at least $9.90 monthly.
- Spocket – partial automation; you can integrate it with leading e-commerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, etc. The starting cost subscription is $39.99 monthly.
- Printful – partial and full automation; the system is free to use, but it is specific to print-on-demand dropshippers and you need to design your products. Printful does not charge any fees for items you sell.
- SaleHoo – full automation; you must subscribe to the SaleHoo Dropship plan, which costs $27 monthly. It integrates with Shopify only.
- Printify – same as Printful; you can choose partial or full order processing automation. You do not pay fees for fulfilled orders.
- Dropified – full automation; Dropified allows you to find suppliers in AliExpress and eBay, and it integrates with Shopify. WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and more. The cost of Dropified varies between $14 and $250 monthly.
- HyperSKU – full automation; the service is free to use with no option to upgrade to any kind of subscription. HyperSKU only integrates with Shopify and WooCommerce.
- AppScenic – full automation, but this feature only works if you get a paid plan. The rates start at $24 monthly. You can integrate AppScenic with Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix, eBay, and other e-commerce platforms.
- Importify – full automation for AliExpress, Amazon, and DHGate suppliers; the platform costs $37.95 monthly for the automation service. You can integrate Importify with Shopify, Wix, WooCommerce, and JumpSeller.
- Brand Distribution – manual fulfillment; the dropshipping service costs €69 monthly plus VAT. There is no direct integration available—you must use BDroppy to import products to your store.
- CJDropshipping – full automation; the service is free, and it integrates with major platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, and Etsy.
- DHGate – manual fulfillment; DHGate is like AliExpress with no direct integration. You must use third-party apps to integrate it with Shopify. DHGate is free to use.
- Eprolo – partial automation; Eprolo integrates with multiple platforms, including TikTok. Eprolo is completely free to use.
- Banggood – manual fulfillment; Banggood is like AliExpress where you need to use other platforms like AutoDS to integrate it with your Shopify store. Banggood is free to use.
- KimmyShop – manual fulfillment; there is no direct integration, but they offer a data feed. There is a set-up fee of $15 for activating a dropshipping account.
- Wholesale2B – partial automation; you can integrate it with major platforms and use the service for $37.99 monthly.
- Syncee – full automation; Syncee offers a free plan, but the automation only works from the Basic Plan and up. The Basic Plan costs $29 monthly. Syncee integrates with many platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, Squarespace, Wix, and others.
As you can see here, there are many supplier tools that you can use to dropship all sorts of items. It is only a matter of what tool provides the services you need. As you may know, not all dropshippers have the same business requirements—and not all these suppliers carry the same product types.
What is the best fulfillment method?
The best fulfillment method is full automation unless your business is print-on-demand customization. If not, I recommend that you invest in a dropship supplier tool that fully automates your order.
Why? Below are the reasons for choosing full automation over partial and manual fulfillment methods:
- Fewer Errors – Manual fulfillment is prone to errors. Just imagine if you have to order 36 different items from 36 different customers. You will need to create an Excel sheet to have a data table that will tell you "what items belong to who”. If you placed the wrong order for a customer, this order would go through processing, and end up in a return and refund. It’s just not worth the headache.
- Faster Processing – automated order fulfillment eliminates the need for human intervention from your end. Once a customer places the order, this order goes straight to the supplier. There is no need for you to schedule a time to process these orders.
- Cost Reduction – you will one day need a virtual assistant to process your orders. As such, you need to pay this VA a salary simply to process orders manually. If not an employee, it is you who have to process the order. Each minute you spend processing these orders is time spent and money gone. With automatic fulfillment, you can use your resources in better ways.
- Customer Satisfaction – customers will typically receive a notification once a supplier dispatches their orders. With automation, this notification also happens automatically. The faster it happens, the more satisfied your customers are going to be. And since there are no errors, you will have happy customers who will come back and order again.
Automated order fulfillment is the best way to go to save time and money. It is a better investment than paying for cosmetic changes to your Shopify store. Since supplier tools and order fulfillment come in the same system, I recommend that you pick a dropship supplier tool that also has order fulfillment. automation.
How does dropshipping work?
Dropshipping is a retail business model where you sell someone’s products without buying inventory. Typical businesses require that you stock up on inventory, with your money, and then sell the items.
Dropshiping does not work this way. In dropshipping, you pick winning products to sell, create or build your Shopify store, and then market these products.
Once a customer orders from your store, it is the only time you notify your supplier, pay him, and then he (the supplier) will ship the order straight to your customer.
Dropshipping is easy to do. If you are interested in learning more, we have a comprehensive tutorial about it. I suggest that you read our blog called What Is Dropshipping & How Does It Work?
How to Set Up a Dropshipping Store
Setting up a dropshipping store essentially requires two things: the store platform and the supplier system. The platform that I recommend is Shopify, as it is easy to use and it is affordable. For the supplier system, you can choose from any of the automation systems we discussed earlier.
There are three things you need to do to start:
- Find a product and supplier
- Build your store
- Market your products
First, you need to decide what niche or market you want to penetrate. For example, camping gear. From here, you can list down all camping gear items you want to sell and look for suppliers. Most dropshippers start with AliExpress, but I recommend that you use the dropship supplier tools we discussed.
Why? Because these tools make your work easier. They provide you access to thousands of suppliers, and then they also allow easy integration of their systems with your store.
The next step is to build your dropshipping store on the Shopify platform. This building process includes:
- Designing the store
- Creating and uploading legal pages
- Deciding on your shipping rates and product prices
- Integrating the supplier database
- Adding a payment channel like PayPal or Stripe
If it is your first time, it can take you weeks to build a store to a certain level of satisfaction. Take your time—do not launch a half-baked store.
Lastly, you need to market your dropshipping store. There are many ways to do this. You can publish blog posts, post on X, market on Instagram, or market your dropshipping store on Facebook. Whatever it is, I must tell you that marketing has a learning curve.
Overall, be patient because dropshipping is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It is just like any other retail online store—it will take time to see massive success in this business.
FAQ: How to Fulfill Dropshipping Orders
How do you handle orders for dropshipping?
You can handle dropshipping orders either the manual way or the automated way. The process depends on the supplier tool you selected.
What is the fulfillment method of dropshipping?
You pay the orders via your credit card. You either notify your supplier and pay, or you register your card details in their system. If it is the latter, orders will process on their own (charge your card) even if you are asleep.
How do I fulfill an order on Shopify?
It depends. If your set-up is automated, you do not need to take steps to fulfill orders. If it is manual, you have to log in to your supplier’s dashboard and ay from there. Some suppliers make manual order fulfillment possible from your Shopify dashboard.
How do I automatically fulfill orders on Shopify dropshipping?
You need to work with a supplier, or company, that offers automated fulfillment. One example of this is Dropified.
The next step that I recommend you take is to visit these platforms and check if they have the services you need. Be careful and take your time. Once you make a decision, it would be so difficult to transition to a new dropship supplier tool.
In addition, I recommend that you create a free account with Dropship.IO. Use the tool to gather business intelligence—find winning products, spy spend on your competitors, know what apps they use, and use this information to leverage your business!