Drop Shipping Versus Affiliate Marketing: 5 Important Factors for Choosing the Best Option for Your Business

In today’s digital landscape, and as the world of e-commerce continues to evolve, there are numerous opportunities for entrepreneurs to establish successful online businesses. Two popular business models that have gained significant attention, drop shipping versus affiliate marketing. Both approaches offer unique advantages, challenges, and require different strategies for success making it essential to understand their differences to make an informed decision.

Follow along as we evaluate the business opportunities of drop shipping versus affiliate marketing, comparing their key aspects, differences, benefits, drawbacks, to help you determine which model best suits your business goals and aspirations. And, I’ll share with you my #1 recommendation between the two. I’ll even hook you up with a FREE Trial!


Drop shipping allows for greater control over the entire customer experience and offers higher profit margins, but it involves managing payments, suppliers and customer support. On the other hand, affiliate marketing provides flexibility, minimal upfront costs, and the potential for passive income, but it relies on the reputation and reliability of affiliate programs. You can switch from one to the other or run both simultaneously if you so desire. I recommend affiliate marketing for it’s simplicity and less customer support and payment issues.

Drop Shipping Versus Affiliate Marketing: Understanding the Basics

Before we dive deeper into the comparison, let’s define drop shipping and affiliate marketing. As aspiring entrepreneurs explore online business opportunities, drop shipping and affiliate marketing often emerge as attractive options due to their potential for profitability and flexibility.

These models allow individuals to establish their own online ventures without the need for substantial upfront investments or the hassles of traditional brick-and-mortar operations. However, each approach follows a distinct path to success, requiring careful consideration before making a decision.

Drop Shipping

drop shipping versus affiliate marketing - drop shipping example diagram

What is Drop Shipping?

Drop shipping is a business model where an online retailer does not keep physical products in stock. The retailer instead partners with a supplier or wholesaler who handles the storage, packaging, and shipping of the products directly to the customers.

The retailer’s role is to market the products and forward the orders to the supplier. When a customer places an order, the retailer purchases the items from a third-party supplier, who then ships the products directly to the customer.

The retailer acts as an intermediary, handling the marketing, customer service, and order fulfillment aspects of the business.

Affiliate Marketing

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing model where individuals, known as affiliates, promote products or services of other companies in exchange for a commission on successful sales made through their referral.

Affiliates drive traffic to the company’s website through various marketing channels, such as blogs, social media, or email marketing, and earn a commission for each sale generated through their referral.

graphic of how affiliate marketing works

Drop Shipping Versus Affiliate Marketing: Pros and Cons

To make an informed decision about which business model suits your goals and preferences, let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of both drop shipping and affiliate marketing.

Pros of Drop Shipping

  1. No Inventory Hassles: One of the significant advantages of drop shipping is the absence of inventory management. You don’t need to invest in storing products or worry about unsold items.
  2. Low Initial Investment: Drop shipping allows entrepreneurs to start an online store with minimal upfront costs. You only purchase products from suppliers once you receive orders from customers.
  3. Flexible Location: With drop shipping, you can run your business from anywhere with an internet connection. There’s no need for a physical store or warehouse.
  4. Wide product selection: With drop shipping, retailers can offer a vast range of products without worrying about stocking or managing inventory.

Cons of Drop Shipping

  1. Lower Profit Margins: Since drop shipping involves working with suppliers who handle the fulfillment process, the profit margins tend to be lower compared to other business models.
  2. Dependency on Suppliers: Your reputation and customer satisfaction rely on the suppliers you choose. If they fail to deliver quality products or have shipping issues, it can reflect poorly on your brand.
  3. Competitive Market: Drop shipping has gained popularity over the years, leading to increased competition. Standing out from the crowd can be challenging.
Cartoon character drawing up the pros and cons

Pros of Affiliate Marketing

  1. No Product Creation: As an affiliate marketer, you don’t need to worry about creating your own products. You can leverage existing products and services and focus solely on marketing and promotions.
  2. Passive Income Potential: Once you establish a steady flow of traffic to your affiliate links, you can earn passive income through commissions on sales, allowing you to generate revenue even while you sleep.
  3. Diverse Product Selection: With affiliate marketing, you can choose from a vast array of products and services to promote. This flexibility allows you to cater to a broader audience and explore different niches.
  4. Minimal startup costs: Affiliate marketers can start their business with little to no upfront investment since they don’t need to create or manage products.

Cons of Affiliate Marketing

  1. Reliance on Third-Party Programs: Your success in affiliate marketing is closely tied to the policies, commission rates, and reliability of the affiliate programs you join. Changes in these factors can impact your earnings. If a program changes its terms or ceases operation, it can affect the affiliate’s income stream.
  2. Limited Control Over Sales Process: As an affiliate, you have no control over the sales process, including pricing, customer support, or product quality. This can lead to a lack of control over the overall customer experience. This can impact the reputation and trustworthiness of the affiliate.
  3. Competition and saturation: The popularity of affiliate marketing has led to increased competition, making it crucial for affiliates to stand out and offer unique value to attract customers.

Comparison between Drop Shipping and Affiliate Marketing

Now that we have explored the fundamentals of both drop shipping and affiliate marketing, let’s compare them across several key aspects to help you make an informed decision.

diagram comparing drop shipping versus affiliate marketing

Business Model Differences

Drop shipping involves running an e-commerce store, managing inventory, and handling customer service. On the other hand, affiliate marketing focuses on promoting products and earning commissions without the responsibilities of inventory management or customer support.

Investment and Risk Factors

Drop shipping typically requires upfront investments in building and maintaining an e-commerce website, purchasing inventory, and handling fulfillment. In contrast, affiliate marketing has lower upfront costs, as affiliates can start by creating content and promoting products through their existing platforms.

Control and Flexibility

Drop shipping provides more control over the entire customer experience, from product selection to shipping and customer support. In affiliate marketing, the control primarily lies in the promotion and content creation aspects, while product fulfillment and customer support are handled by the merchants.

Revenue Potential

Drop shipping allows for higher profit margins per sale, as retailers can set their own prices and control costs. Affiliate marketing, on the other hand, offers the potential for recurring passive income, as affiliates can earn commissions on multiple sales and ongoing customer purchases.


Both drop shipping and affiliate marketing can be scalable, but they require different approaches. Drop shipping scalability involves expanding product lines, reaching wider audiences, and optimizing operations. In affiliate marketing, scalability relies on growing the audience, building a strong online presence, and establishing partnerships with reliable merchants.

older gentleman holding a handful of cash her earned online

Customer Support and Fulfillment

Drop shipping requires retailers to handle customer inquiries, returns, and order tracking, while affiliate marketers do not have direct involvement in customer support or order fulfillment, as these responsibilities fall under the domain of the merchants.

Drop Shipping Versus Affiliate Marketing: Which One is Right for You?

Now that we have examined the advantages and disadvantages of drop shipping and affiliate marketing, let’s explore how to determine which path is the right fit for your online business and for your goals and aspirations, by considering the following factors:

Identifying Your Goals and Resources

Define your business and financial goals, and long-term objectives. Consider your available resources, including your budget, time, and expertise. This will help you align your choice with your desired outcomes. Drop shipping typically requires more upfront investment in building and maintaining an online store, while affiliate marketing requires less initial financial commitment.

Are you looking for a scalable business with the potential for high-profit margins? Drop shipping might be the right choice, as it allows you to have control over pricing and potentially higher profit margins. If your primary goal is to generate passive income and build a strong online presence, affiliate marketing can provide the flexibility and diverse product selection to achieve those objectives.

Assessing Your Skills, Interests

Evaluate your strengths and interests to determine which model aligns better with your expertise and passion. If, you enjoy marketing and content creation, affiliate marketing may be a better fit. If you have experience in e-commerce and enjoy managing a business operation, drop shipping may be a more suitable choice.

Assess your technical skills as well. If you have experience in setting up and managing an e-commerce store, drop shipping might be a better option. On the other hand, if you excel in content creation, social media marketing, and driving traffic, affiliate marketing could be a natural fit.

Evaluating Market Trends and Competition

Research and analyze the market trends and competition in both drop shipping and affiliate marketing. Look for niches or products that have high demand and potential profitability. Assess the level of competition and identify areas where you can differentiate yourself.

Considering Long-Term Sustainability

Consider the long-term sustainability of your chosen model. Evaluate factors such as market saturation, evolving consumer preferences, and the potential for growth and adaptation. Choose a model that has the potential to withstand changes in the industry and continue generating revenue in the future.

Consider Your Preferred Level of Involvement

Think about how much involvement you want in the day-to-day operations of your business. Drop shipping requires more hands-on management, such as order fulfillment, customer service, and inventory monitoring. If you enjoy being directly involved in product selection and customer interactions, drop shipping might be the preferred option.

Alternatively, if you prefer a more hands-off approach, where your primary focus is on marketing and driving traffic, affiliate marketing offers a more passive role, but you still have to produce content to generate traffic to your affiliate offers.

picture of someone working on their blog from their laptop computer

Combine Strategies

Remember that drop shipping and affiliate marketing are not mutually exclusive. You can combine both business models, but it will require more work and planning than doing either one alone. Many successful entrepreneurs combine these strategies to diversify their income streams. You can start with drop shipping to establish your brand and then incorporate affiliate marketing by promoting related products or complementary services. By combining both approaches, you can leverage the benefits of each and create a well-rounded online business.

Here are some possible ways to combine dropshipping and affiliate marketing:

  • You can promote products from your dropshipping store on affiliate marketing websites, such as blogs, social media, or email newsletters. This way, you can earn commissions from both the sales of your products and the referrals of your affiliate links.
  • You can also add affiliate links to your dropshipping website, such as banners, widgets, or product reviews. This way, you can earn commissions from the products that you don’t sell on your store, but are related to your niche or audience.
  • You can create a hybrid website that offers both dropshipping and affiliate products. For example, you can have a blog section where you post content and affiliate links, and a shop section where you sell your dropshipping products.

However, before you decide to combine dropshipping and affiliate marketing, you should also be aware of the potential challenges and disadvantages of doing so. Some of them are:

  • You will have to manage two different business models at the same time, which can be overwhelming and confusing. You will need to balance your time, resources, and strategies between dropshipping and affiliate marketing.
  • You will have to deal with more competition and saturation in both markets. Dropshipping and affiliate marketing are both very popular and profitable online businesses, but they also have many competitors who are trying to attract the same customers as you.
  • You will have to maintain a high level of trust and credibility with your customers and visitors. Dropshipping and affiliate marketing both rely on third-party suppliers and merchants who may not always deliver quality products or services. You will need to ensure that you only work with reliable and reputable partners who can meet your standards and expectations.

My Recommendation

Personally, I prefer the Affiliate Marketing business model. It has far less financial investment and the ability to generate passive income. Drop shipping requires considerably more time and monetary involvement as you must forward orders to suppliers, collect payment from the customer so you can pay the supplier. You also must handle all customer service like returns and complaints.

As an Affiliate Marketer, I simply create content and generate traffic to the product owners website or offer.

They take care of collecting payment, shipping, customer service and returns.

And, since I don’t have to worry about inventory costs, I can promote a much wider variety of products and services.

If you would like to learn more about affiliate marketing and how you can get started for FREE, just click the button below and get a free trial of my #1 recommended online business platform. Then you can judge for yourself if it is a good fit for you and your business needs and goals without having to spend money upfront.

If you think drop shipping is more to your liking, I recommend you check out Franklin Hatchett’s Ecom Elites course. While I am not affiliated with Ecom Elites, I am a member and can vouch for his course. It is simply the best drop shipping course available. You will get instruction from Franklin himself. Someone who has actually done it himself. The course is very detailed and step by step. If you follow the course, and don’t quit, you will build a successful drop shipping business.

Drop Shipping Versus Affiliate Marketing FAQs

1. Is drop shipping or affiliate marketing more profitable?

Both drop shipping and affiliate marketing have the potential for significant earnings. However, the actual earning potential depends on various factors, including the niche, competition, marketing strategies, product selection, target audience and your ability to drive targeted traffic and conversions. While drop shipping allows for potentially higher profit margins, affiliate marketing offers the opportunity for passive income. Ultimately, the profitability will vary based on your efforts, market demand, and effective execution of your chosen strategy.

cartoon figure scratching his head with a giant red question mark behind him

2. Can I switch from drop shipping to affiliate marketing or vice versa?

Yes, it is possible to switch from drop shipping to affiliate marketing or vice versa. Many entrepreneurs explore different business models to adapt to changing market trends or personal preferences. Keep in mind that each transition may require learning new skills, adjusting your marketing approach, and building new partnerships. Assess your goals, market conditions, and resources periodically to determine if a switch would be beneficial for your business.

3. How do I find reliable suppliers for drop shipping?

To find reliable suppliers for drop shipping, you can start by researching reputable wholesalers and manufacturers in your niche. Attend industry trade shows, join online communities and forums, and reach out to other drop shippers for recommendations. It’s crucial to vet potential suppliers by checking their reputation, product quality, shipping policies, and customer reviews.

4. Do I need a website for affiliate marketing?

While having a website can enhance your affiliate marketing efforts, it is not a strict requirement. You can promote affiliate products through various channels, including social media, email marketing, and content platforms like blogs or YouTube. However, a dedicated website allows you to build a brand, create valuable content, and have more control over your marketing efforts.

5. Can I do both drop shipping and affiliate marketing simultaneously?

Yes, many entrepreneurs choose to combine drop shipping and affiliate marketing in their business strategies. By incorporating both models, you can diversify your revenue streams and reach a wider audience. For example, you can run a drop shipping store while also promoting affiliate products or services that complement your offerings. This way, you can benefit from the advantages of both approaches and maximize your earning potential.

Sitting across the desk from a lawyer going over documents

6. Are there any legal considerations in drop shipping or affiliate marketing?

Yes, it is important to comply with relevant laws and regulations, such as consumer protection laws, privacy regulations, and advertising guidelines. Familiarize yourself with the legal requirements in your target market and ensure your business practices adhere to them.

7. Which model has lower risks, drop shipping, or affiliate marketing?

Both drop shipping and affiliate marketing carry their own risks. In drop shipping, risks include potential issues with product quality, shipping delays, or unsatisfied customers. In affiliate marketing, risks can involve changes in commission rates, program policies, or relying on third-party programs that may shut down or change terms. It’s essential to thoroughly research and choose reliable suppliers or affiliate programs to mitigate risks and protect your business interests.

8. Do I need technical knowledge to start drop shipping or affiliate marketing?

While technical knowledge can be helpful, it is not a prerequisite for either model. There are user-friendly platforms and resources available that simplify the process of setting up and managing online stores or affiliate marketing campaigns.

Drop Shipping Versus Affiliate Marketing: Final Thoughts

In the realm of online business, drop shipping and affiliate marketing present distinct opportunities and challenges. Drop shipping allows for greater control over the entire customer experience and offers higher profit margins, but it involves managing payments, suppliers and customer support. On the other hand, affiliate marketing provides flexibility, minimal upfront costs, and the potential for passive income, but it relies on the reputation and reliability of affiliate programs.

When deciding between drop shipping and affiliate marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Each model has its own advantages and drawbacks, and the right choice depends on your resources, goals, and preferred level of involvement. Drop shipping offers the opportunity to have more control over the product and potentially higher profit margins, but it requires more investment and management. Affiliate marketing allows for passive income and flexibility but relies on the policies and stability of the affiliate programs you join.

Keep in mind that you can always combine both approaches or transition from one to another as your business evolves. In the end, what matters most is finding the business model that aligns with your strengths, goals, vision, and market conditions while offering long-term sustainability. Whether you choose drop shipping, affiliate marketing, or a combination of both, remember to stay adaptable, continuously learn, and adapt your strategies based on market trends and customer preferences.

free 10-day home business training

Remember that both models have the potential for success, but success ultimately depends on your commitment, strategy, and ability to adapt to the dynamic nature of online business. Hopefully, you now have a clearer understanding of the differences between drop shipping and affiliate marketing so you can make an informed decision and embark on your entrepreneurial journey with confidence.

I’m Looking forward to working with you,


P.S. Again, my #1 recommended business is COMPLETELY FREE to get started. No catch, no obligation, no bait and switch. I will personally be in touch with you upon joining to offer my support and guidance to help you get up and running online. If you have any questions or are unsure of anything, I am here and I promise I will get back to you on all of your questions and comments. Just leave them below in the comment section. Follow me on Twitter: @onlinebenjamin1, Instagram: dotcomdinero, and Facebook: Online Benjamins

P.P.S. Thanks so much for checking out our blog we really appreciate it. Just so you know, we may receive a commission if you click on some of the links that appear on our site. This helps us keep our content free and up-to-date for everyone. We appreciate your support!

Leave a Comment