Both companies aggregate hundreds of wholesalers and allow you (as the entrepreneur) to sell products of your choosing. So let’s jump right in and see the fundamental differences I uncovered.
Shopster has an amazing backend interface with an intuitive web 2.0 feel. The web newbies and less web savvy will find solace in Shopster’s 5-step program on getting started. Literally within 15 minutes you can be online and selling products with the sitebuilder.
The sitebuilder is huge for the average joe without web skills. Doba does not offer a sitebuilder and is partnered with a company called 3XP web solutions that will cost you more money on top of your monthly subscription to get up and running.
I created two sites to see where the rubber meets the road in terms of usability. I created Dealflicker.com (Doba) and trimslimusa.com (shopster). I built dealflicker with open source Creloaded 6.2 and shopster with the built-in sitebuilder tool.
Because of the custom nature of building Dealflicker, I immediately faced product distribution problems (not Doba’s fault….but lack of sitebuilder is). I had to do csv exports and custom formatting to get products out to 3rd party distribution channels like google base, pricegrabber, bizrate etc…Shopster on the other hand was a joy, I clicked on the 3rd party export channel and had 7 preformatted exports for various distribution channels.
Inventory management was the other shortfall I saw in custom building a site for Doba. Again, it would have been easy to build a custom module or add some code to facilitate inventory management, but that limits the average entrepreneur for an out-of-the-box solution. The inventory quantity seamlessly intergrates into the website to montior out-of-stock etc…
The one drawback I saw with Shopster compared to Doba was the breadth and range of products available for sale. Doba has an impressive inventory of products available to drop ship compared to Shopster’s smaller inventory. A relatively easy solution to solve for Shopster I’m guessing, as products are continually being added.
Both sites had the push to ebay features where products are selected and formatted on the fly and sent to ebay for live auction. Again, the Shopster really shined in terms of interface here, although both sites were effective in terms of functionality.
Both sites had ample education resources, with Doba having more educational resources than Shopster but not necessarily presented as effectively as Shopster.
Shopster was genuinely interested in making sure I had the resources needed and solving my problems. Doba was helpful as well, but leaned more toward online resources and upselling my account and 3XPservices.
Overall UI (user interface) and usability was obviously a big design choice for the folks at Shopster where as Doba was about functionality and content and large inventory, both valid approaches. I think Doba could benefit tremendously with the addition of a sitebuilder (acquisition of 3XP maybe?). Shopster could benefit from a larger inventory. In the end both are formidable drop shipping solutions but I think Shopster gets my vote in the end with the ease of use, comfort level and affordability.
Word to the Wise
Profit margin and shipping costs and fees remain to be a problem with the “drop-shipping clearing-house” space in general. It remains a challenge to turn a profit with so many mark-ups before the end user. Reason 101 of ecommerce tactics…don’t compete soley on price.
Although the ebay features are nice to haves, ebay has proven time and time again to fail as a money maker for the average drop-shipper.