How to start an online store without inventory?

How to start an online store without inventory?

Have you thought about starting an e-commerce business? Surely you are wondering about the inconvenience of managing inventory. This is a genuine fact about running any type of buy and sells a business: you need a stock to sell, and managing stocks is not an easy job. Inventory is probably one of the main reasons why many brilliant entrepreneurial minds are skeptical about this business idea.

Running a retail business is a complicated job. Especially, the traditional online model for selling products is very complicated for small businesses. You need significant investment to set the stage for business, replenish inventory, and manage warehouses, logistics, shipping, and customer service. Fortunately, e-commerce has come a long way from traditional routes to enable us to sell items online without inventory.

How to start an e-commerce business without inventory?

Today, modern infrastructure and software solutions allow entrepreneurs to experiment with different business models. Some of them don’t even require action and allow you to start an online store with no inventory in a few hours. You can run a full e-commerce business and open an online store with no inventory or warehouses. Let’s discuss all of these ideas one by one.

1. Start a multi-vendor marketplace platform

The multi-vendor market The model is the oldest way to sell items online without inventory. Popular market companies like Alibaba, Amazon, and Etsy follow this model. They allow other retailers and sellers to create a store on their websites and sell their products from there. In exchange, merchants grant commissions for every sale they make from these platforms. Although Amazon and others also sell their products from internal inventories, their main source of income remains the sellers’ commissions.

You can start a similar marketplace like these and run an e-commerce business without internal inventory. Sellers in your market will be responsible for managing your stocks. Your business will act as an intermediary that will connect these sellers with their customers and earn money from commissions. In addition, you can adopt other sources of income to earn money. For example, fees for displaying featured products, sponsored products, featured sellers, etc. There are many ways to earn money on this model, in addition to commissions. You just need a good multi-vendor market solution to start this business.

2. Start multi-level marketing (MLM) platform

Multilevel marketing or the so-called MLM is not an easy business model. However, for those who can figure it out, it is a source of passive income without investing in inventory. Depending on how you recruit people to work with you to sell in your circles, the best way to start an e-commerce business is without inventory.

Create a website to sell without inventory and get terms with MLM that you can direct your customers too. You can also think about attracting new customers for yourself. If your MLM offers unique and exclusive products, you can take advantage of the situation to find new clients to sell them. You just have to focus on acquiring good traffic to your site using the best SEO strategies.

Most MLMS have common warehouses or collection centers to store inventory. You can collect orders from there and distribute them. Alternatively, you can also direct orders directly to MLM and send the products directly to your customer. The more you sell, the more you earn in the MLM model. The margins are not too much, but they are enough to manage a small e-commerce business without having to manage inventory.

3. Use Third-Party Compliance Options (3PL)

We also call this model 3PL, where a third-party logistics company handles most of the hassles for your business: warehousing, shipping, and customer service. This is not a model for selling items online without buying inventory, but it allows you to avoid the hassle.

You are responsible for purchasing the inventory you wish to sell. After that, you need to send all of your inventory to a 3PL company that will manage it on your behalf. It will list all the products in its inventory on its e-commerce website, and customers will order them. Your website will link to your 3PL’s CRM, which will share your requests with them. The 3PL company will send the orders directly to the customer with your company’s brand. For storage services, you will pay a monthly fee to the 3PL company. Additionally, they will also charge an order fulfillment fee on each sale to offset shipping costs.

Working with a 3PL company is a great way to avoid the hassles of managing inventory. They also handle shipping and returns for you. If you think you can invest in the supply chain but not in warehouses and shipping services, 3PL is for you. You can work with Amazon FBA, which is an excellent 3PL service for merchants and retailers.

4. Supplier dropshipping begins

Dropshipping is a more business-friendly adaptation of a multi-vendor market model for selling products online without inventory. The model requires that you find a reliable supplier to meet your supply chain requirements. The provider can be any: retail seller, distributor, wholesaler, or manufacturer. As a dropshipping store owner, you will be an intermediary between your supplier and your customers. The supplier will manage the shipping and inventory of its products.

You can create an online marketplace with dropshipping based multi-vendor marketplace software. The provider will provide you with the products that you can include on your site. This happens through the integration of an API from your supplier that synchronizes the inventory of your suppliers with their listings. Customers will place orders on your site and pay for them. The API will transfer orders to the supplier and send them directly to customers with your company’s brand. You will be responsible for managing customer service. Most of the profit in a dropshipping model comes from the margin between the wholesale price and the retail price of the products you get from suppliers.

Note: You must find reliable suppliers for your business. Since your business depends entirely on suppliers, it is also important that you can rely on them for product quality control. Be very careful when finding dropshipping providers for your business.

5. Build an affiliate store

This is the easiest method to sell items online without inventory. It is so simple that you can do it directly from your home without any help. To build an affiliate store, you must sign up for some good affiliate marketing programs in your target niche. For example, you can subscribe to the Amazon, Etsy, eBay, and Best Buy affiliate programs together. After completing the registration process, you will get unique affiliate links for each product listed in your stores. Select the ones you want to sell and list them on your site with the respective affiliate links.

You can create a simple blog or e-commerce site to list these products. Alternatively, you can also share affiliate links through social media. With some SEO and marketing, clients will find your listings. Once they click on the buy now links, they will go to the respective affiliate sites to complete the purchase. You will earn affiliate commissions for every sale you direct to your sites. The only problem with this method is the low-income margin. Affiliate commissions are very low. It is good for a secondary income, but it is not suitable for earning a living.


All these ideas have their difficulties. They are suitable for certain situations, although not as useful in many circumstances. It’s your job; Identify ideas that might work in your niche, location, and time. Take a look at them, find out the products that work on the respective models, how much you can save for website development, and how you’re going to manage the supply chain. In summary, with some research and good software solutions, it is possible to start an e-commerce business without adequate inventory. You just need to decide which model works best for your business idea.

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