Get your copy of the 2022 Gartner Hype CycleTM for Digital Commerce Report.
6 Mins read

The Dropship Dilemma: Why and How Retailers Need to Evolve Dropship Strategies

Kilka Seller Case Study_Nov 2022
Published on April 24, 2023
Kilka Seller Case Study_Nov 2022

Established retailers exploring how a marketplace model would best fit into their business strategy have a common question – what’s the difference between dropship and marketplace fulfillment that utilizes third-party sellers, and how can it benefit their business?

The answer is quite a lot.

Dropshipping means different things to different businesses. There are nuances based on type of retailer, existing ecommerce strategy, and whether the products are first-party only, or also include third-party fulfillment.

One customer we worked with had been managing over a hundred third-party fulfillment relationships following a traditional dropship approach. At that volume a marketplace model is the most efficient way to scale through use of technology. 

And the good news is dropshipping and a marketplace model are compatible, albeit requiring different approaches based on the needs of your business.     

When examining the step-by-step process of traditional dropshipping versus running it through a marketplace technology platform, stark differences start to emerge.

Product Ownership Flips: In a traditional dropship model, legal custody of product ownership transfer happens between the retailer (or operator) and the consumer. In the marketplace model it flips with the product transfer happening between the seller and the consumer.

Seller-controlled pricing: In the traditional dropship supply path there are several manual processes that become automated through direct seller access when sharing a marketplace platform.

For example, with dropship, retailer’s buyers must pre-negotiate pricing with third-party sellers for most products.  Doing this at scale can be cumbersome, especially when also having to manage the data entry on the brand’s site. In the marketplace model the pricing side is simplified.

Sellers are on boarded via a commission basis and the seller is responsible for determining product pricing and availability as it appears in the marketplace on the retailer’s website. For example, they can define a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) visibility for buyers or shoppers or to indicate to the operator that they don’t want the operator to sell above that limit.

ERP Efficiencies: With dropship, a retailer’s ERP has to be made aware of seller products, inventory and sales. They also must record the cost of goods sold, which affects topline profitability. In the marketplace model, because the platform becomes a data center, it creates less of a need to issue purchase orders through ERP. 

The ERP would no longer have to worry about issuing a purchase order and accounts payable wouldn’t have to worry about incoming invoices from suppliers since they no longer have to issue invoices now that operators control payouts via the commission, which is designated into the platform. Instead of supplier issued invoices, here the operator is telling the seller that I am paying you this amount.

Less burden on the retailer: The very nature of a marketplace platform caters to third-party sellers making it easy for them to onboard their products, content, pricing, promotion and discount parameters, and more. With traditional dropship the burden falls on the retailer’s merchandising team to manage product curation and dynamic information. In the marketplace model, third-party sellers take on more management of their inventory.

These are just a few compelling reasons we’ve seen for retailers to scale up third-party fulfillment partners through a marketplace model. Retailers often want to pick and choose which third-party products are being offered and how they are represented on their site, which gives them more control in protecting their brand name and increasing loyalty. It’s increasingly viewed to “test” a category with minimal effort and cost to do so.

Retailers who are exploring a marketplace model can expect a shift in automation and efficiency when connecting with sellers through a marketplace platform. It helps bring on price and inventory, with a faster turnaround that scales, all while delivering a customer experience your brand is proud of.

Published on: April 24, 2023

Was this article helpful?

Related posts


Curio: Delivering Premium Customer Experiences with Marketplacer's commercetools Connector


In the fast-paced world of online retail, delivering a premium customer experience is key to standing out from the competition. Curio, an online design destination, recognized the importance of connecting buyers with makers in an easier and faster way.

June 6, 2023


Unlock Your Potential: Accelerate Revenue Growth with Marketplacer


Accelerate revenue growth and unlock your potential with Marketplacer's Accelerator Program. Leverage our proven strategies, expertise, and rapid implementation to secure your organization's future success. Innovate without risk, expand without boundaries, and dominate your brand category. Join Marketplacer today and propel your business to new heights.

June 5, 2023


Unlock the Potential of Airline Loyalty Rewards Points with Marketplacer


In the highly competitive airline industry, loyalty programs have long been instrumental in attracting and retaining customers. However, with evolving consumer expectations, airlines are finding that offering points for flights and upgrades alone may no longer be sufficient to truly inspire loyalty. This is where Marketplacer comes into play.

May 29, 2023