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The Ultimate Showdown: Affiliate Marketing vs Dropshipping

Affiliate marketing and dropshipping are two of the most popular online business models today. Both offer the opportunity to make money without having to create your own products or hold inventory. However, each model has its own advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will compare affiliate marketing and dropshipping to help you decide which one is right for you.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing model where an affiliate (you) earns a commission for promoting another company’s products or services. You earn a commission when a customer clicks on your affiliate link and completes a purchase. Read here more about what affiliate marketing is.

How it Works

Here’s how affiliate marketing works:

  1. You join an affiliate program at an affiliate network. Check the list with available programs per network here.
  2. You choose which products or services you want to promote and receive a unique affiliate link.
  3. You promote the products or services to your audience through various channels like your website, social media, or email list.
  4. When a customer clicks on your affiliate link and makes a purchase, you earn a commission.

What is Dropshipping?

Dropshipping is a retail fulfillment method where a store doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a store sells a product, it purchases the item from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer.

How it Works

Here’s how dropshipping works:

  1. You set up an online store and add products to your inventory from a supplier or manufacturer.
  2. A customer places an order on your store and pays you for the product.
  3. You purchase the product from your supplier or manufacturer at a lower price and have it shipped directly to the customer.
  4. You keep the difference between the price you charged the customer and the price you paid your supplier.

Advantages of Dropshipping over Affiliate Marketing

  1. More Control: With dropshipping, you have more control over the products you sell and your brand image. You can choose which products to sell, how to price them, and how to market them.
  2. Higher Profit Margins: As a dropshipper, you have the ability to set your own prices. This can result in higher profit margins than affiliate marketing. With affiliate marketing, you only earn a percentage of the sale. Typically, this is lower than what you can earn with dropshipping. It is important to note that the profit margins depend on how well you are already established as a brand. If you have no authority you’re margins will typically be lower in order to stay competative.
  3. Customer Relationship: As a dropshipper, you have direct contact with your customers. This allows you to build a relationship with them. A good relationship can lead to repeat business and higher customer lifetime value.
  4. Ability to Customize: With dropshipping, you have the ability to customize your products and packaging. This can help you differentiate yourself from competitors and create a unique brand image.
  5. Lower Competition: While dropshipping is becoming more popular, it is still less competitive than affiliate marketing. This can make it easier to get noticed and build a profitable business.

Advantages of Affiliate Marketing over Dropshipping

  1. Lower Startup Costs: Affiliate marketing typically has lower startup costs than dropshipping. You don’t need to invest in inventory or handle shipping and logistics. This makes it a more accessible option for beginners who are just starting out.
  2. No Inventory Management: With affiliate marketing, you don’t need to worry about managing inventory or dealing with the logistics of shipping products. This means you can focus on promoting products and driving sales.
  3. Passive Income: With affiliate marketing, you can earn passive income by promoting products that generate recurring commissions. Once you set up your affiliate links and start driving traffic, you can continue to earn commissions without doing additional work.
  4. Access to a Wide Range of Products: As an affiliate marketer, you have access to a wide range of products across different niches and industries. This allows you to promote products that align with your interests and expertise.
  5. No Customer Service: With dropshipping, you are responsible for handling customer service inquiries and dealing with returns and exchanges. This can be a challenging and time-consuming aspect of the business. With affiliate marketing it is clear that the selling party is handling customer service.
  6. Less responsibilities: Since you’re only recommending a product from a seller. It is much less likely to held responsible if shipping or or quality issues arise. Whereas when dropshipping you are selling the product, just not executing all operations yourself. You’re relying on your suppliers to deliver products in a timely manner and with the quality you expect. This can be a risk of dropshipping. With affiliate marketing this risk is not present.
  7. Less Time-Consuming: Affiliate marketing is less time-consuming than dropshipping. This is because you don’t need to handle customer service, order fulfillment, or other operational tasks. This allows you to focus on marketing and driving traffic to your affiliate links.


In conclusion, both affiliate marketing and dropshipping have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. While dropshipping may provide the benefit of having control over your product and brand, affiliate marketing offers the advantage of being able to earn money without the hassle of inventory, shipping, and customer support.

If you are just starting out, have limited resources or time, and want to earn passive income, affiliate marketing is the best option. With affiliate marketing, you can focus on promoting products and earning commissions without the need for upfront investment, inventory management, or shipping.

Moreover, if you want to learn how to start an affiliate website, you can refer to our tutorial at https://all-affiliates.com/tutorial-how-to-start-an-affiliate-website.

However, if you have an established brand, have the resources to manage inventory and shipping, and want to have more control over your business, dropshipping may be a better option for you.

Ultimately, the decision between affiliate marketing and dropshipping depends on your personal situation, goals, and preferences. Take the time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of both options before making a decision.