The Curated Dropship Model: How Retailers Can Adapt to the Evolving Landscape of eCommerce

May 25, 2023

The way people shop online is fundamentally changing as the eCommerce landscape has started to undergo a paradigm shift. Online marketplaces like Amazon have grown exponentially and have become the standard way that many people find products to buy. The traditional eCommerce store that focuses on selling a single type of product may start to struggle unless they are able to tap into additional product categories.

This isn’t a trend that is likely to go away anytime soon and will only become more of an issue for retailers. It’s important to understand how these dropship marketplaces work and what you can do to make sure your store continues to thrive in the new landscape of eCommerce.

The Ways Consumers Now Buy Online

Customers now have a variety of options when it comes to finding products online and making purchasing decisions. From the traditional format of going to the website of their favorite product and making a purchase to just buying within their favorite social media application, it is safe to say that times have changed and customers have more options to choose from than ever before. Here is a quick summary of a few of the most popular ways people make purchases online. 

  • Dropship Marketplaces: A new model being embraced by retailers where they can embrace the product versatility aspect of a traditional marketplace, but with the added benefit of being able to selectively curate which suppliers and products are shown to their customers. Retailers are beginning to realize the benefits of not owning all of the inventory for the products they sell, allowing them to be more nimble and cost efficient.


  • Traditional Online Marketplaces: Over the past 15 years consumers have increasingly turned to large marketplaces where they believe they will be able to find just about anything they want. These platforms offer a wide range of products, competitive pricing, and plenty of user reviews. This makes it easy for consumers to compare products and to feel like they are making an informed decision. Similar to physical marketplaces, suppliers are generally free to sell what they want at the price point they find suitable.

  • Mobile Shopping: With the widespread use of smartphones, consumers are shopping online more frequently through mobile apps or optimized websites. It’s important to have a user-friendly mobile experience or risk losing out on the fastest-growing shopping method. This is also the best way for many people to access online marketplaces, which again makes it more convenient for the shopper.

  • Direct Purchases (Direct to Consumer or DTC): There are still plenty of direct purchases on eCommerce sites but most people are looking for the same products on a marketplace where it is easier for them to checkout. Although, the lack of product variation is likely to hurt these DTC sites as time goes on.

  • Social Commerce: More consumers than ever are buying products directly on social media apps, such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Some products are available for purchase right in the app, so it should come as no surprise that  social commerce is growing faster than traditional eCommerce.

  • Large Online Retailers: Many retailers aren’t true marketplaces, but have created trusted online stores to go along with their brick-and-mortar stores. Examples of these stores include Best Buy,  Sephora, and Bloomingdale’s. Many of these traditional multi-channel, and multi-brand retailers are looking to embrace the curated dropship model in an effort to reduce their reliance on large warehouses to manage increased inventory requirements.. 

The future looks bright for the curated dropship model as consumers prefer the ease of going to a single destination for the bulk of their buying. Retailers want to take a page out of Amazon’s marketplace playbook, but be able to better curate the selection they present to their customers. 

If you want to understand how you can best reach your customers over the next several years then it’s important to start with how this model works. 

How the Curated Dropshipping Model Works

The marketplace model refers to the online platform that connects buyers and sellers, allowing them to trade products and services. This model has gained significant popularity due to the convenience it offers, such as easy access to a wide range of products, price comparison, and user reviews. Some of the most successful marketplace platforms include Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba, which have disrupted traditional retail models and reshaped consumer expectations.

To better understand how online marketplaces work, let's explore some of their key features and components:

Platform Structure

Marketplaces like Amazon typically provide a platform that allows sellers to list their products or services in various categories. This leaves the door open for multiple suppliers to list the same or similar products. Curated Dropship Marketplaces, on the other hand, allow the retailers to have the final say of what products make it to their site. This makes it easy for buyers to browse through different products and find what they're looking for.

Seller Registration

To sell on an online marketplace, sellers need to register and create a profile. This often involves providing information about their business, contact details, and payment information. Some marketplaces may also require sellers to undergo a verification process to ensure the legitimacy of their business and maintain a secure platform for buyers. Before going live, suppliers and retailers must agree on specific commercial terms as well. These include specific margins, shipping windows, and any fulfillment specifics.

The beauty of a curated dropship model in this regard is that the consumer trusts the brand name of the retailer this saves a lot of time and comfort for that buyer and makes it easier to close a transaction. 

Payment Processing

Online marketplaces offer a secure and convenient payment processing system for buyers and sellers. This usually involves integrating with popular payment gateways, such as PayPal or Stripe, to facilitate transactions.

When a buyer purchases a product or service, the payment might be held in escrow by the marketplace until the transaction is completed, and the buyer confirms receipt of the goods. The marketplace then transfers the payment to the seller, minus any fees or commissions.

Marketplaces can, however, now handle all of the payment details directly inside the platform nearly instantaneously. This allows transactions to be smoother and gives consumers an opportunity to provide one company with their payment information (the marketplace) instead of a new company every time they make a purchase online. 

Reputation and Feedback System

Most online retailers feature a reputation and feedback system that allows buyers to rate and review products or services. This system helps build trust among users and incentivizes sellers to maintain high-quality standards. A product's rating and reviews can significantly impact their visibility and sales on the platform. The larger the product assortment, the bigger the community that offers more feedback on each individual product. 

Advertising and Promotions

One of the benefits of running a curated dropship marketplace is the ability to market and advertise new products. With new platforms available to retailers, they no longer need to spend precious capital on expensive product shoots and can instead rely on the images provided by the suppliers they’ve chosen to work with. 

For Suppliers this is also a great new sales channel and marketing funnel. They can rely on the added exposure of their products on the new dropship marketplace to attract new customers. 

Tips for Adapting Your Store to the New Landscape

If you’re an eCommerce retailer that is looking to get ahead or get your sales back on track, then it’s important to work at adapting to the changing landscape. It is very difficult for you to see success in a world of marketplaces if you refuse to find a way to embrace them. Here are some of the most important tips to consider as you think about your next eCommerce move. 

1. Embrace Digital Transformation

To adapt to the curated dropship marketplace model, retailers must first embrace digital transformation. This involves adopting new technologies and strategies to offer their products and services online. You can’t expect things to remain the same forever in a fast-paced digital environment. If you don’t try to adapt as the industry evolves then you may find it difficult to keep up with the competition or difficult to survive at all. 

2. Expand Your Product Catalog

To stay competitive, retailers must continuously expand their product range and diversify their offerings. This can be achieved through collaboration with various suppliers and manufacturers to offer a wider range of products. These can be additional product lines that you offer, private label products that can increase your profit margins, or adding products from third parties that your customers may be interested in. 

The important thing is that you improve your total revenue by increasing the number of products available to your customers. This not only encourages impulse spending but also provides customers with the opportunity and desire to come back to your store for repeat purchases as they will want to see what refreshed products you may be offering. Not offering new products can make your site look stale and prevent customers from caring about what you have to offer. 

3. Partner With Retailers to Expand Reach

Retailers can benefit from partnering with established online marketplaces that can drive sales and bring in customers that they wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise. This can help you expand your reach, increase your customer base, and gain access to valuable tools and resources. It’s important to not only register with key marketplaces where your products might drum up interest but also to utilize potential marketing tools to maximize your use of the platform. These marketplaces have a built-in community that can help take your products to the next level. 

4. Enhance the Overall Customer Experience

In the age of eCommerce, the customer experience is paramount. Retailers must focus on creating a seamless and enjoyable experience for their customers to build loyalty and trust. This can be achieved through:

  • Personalization: Use customer data to provide personalized recommendations, offers, and content
  • Responsive customer service: Offer timely and helpful customer support through various channels, such as email, chatbots, and social media
  • User-generated content: Encourage customers to post reviews, ratings, and feedback to help others make informed decisions
  • Easy returns and refunds: Implement a hassle-free returns and refunds policy to boost customer confidence and satisfaction

An Alternative Solution

Joining a curated dropship marketplace to benefit from the already established brand is a great way to grow your sales right now, for the products that you offer. However, if you aren’t able to manufacture new products then you’ll only receive revenue for your catalog. If you can tap into the potential of a growing marketplace and benefit from selling other people’s products then you can maximize your revenue potential exponentially. 

This is likely what the future of eCommerce looks like beyond the, now, traditional marketplace model. The new curated dropship marketplace enables you to tap into the resources of many different stores in order to get new product offerings without giving up the farm. This development takes away the centralized control of a marketplace like Amazon and puts it into the hands of each individual seller. This is decentralized commerce or the method of improving sales without the need for centralized control of physical products. 

Utilizing Cortina, you’re able to connect with suppliers anywhere in the world to complete a partnership in helping the consumer. You can expand your product catalog overnight or use the available tools to find out where your supply chain isn’t functioning appropriately. With Cortina, you’re able to make this transition overnight. It’s simple and straightforward and gives you all the data you need to better understand your customers. Cortina takes the pain out of integrating with suppliers across all of the most prevalent eCommerce platforms ensuring that your curated dropship storefront has up to date inventory, pricing, product descriptions and more.


Bottom Line

Consumers are now buying online through various channels and methods, taking advantage of technological advancements, personalized experiences, and diverse payment options. As consumer preferences continue to evolve, retailers must adapt and innovate to meet the growing demands of the modern online shopper. 

It’s never been more important to take part in the curated dropship model so that you can expand your reach and continue to grow your overall sales. However, you don’t need to give up your brand in order to do so. Get started today with Cortina to help your business grow online.

Cortina is the only platform built by retailers, for retailers

Your Business First — Cortina gives retailers total control over negotiations with their supplying partners and with options for merchandising products on their websites.
Platform Agnostic — Cortina connects with all critical elements of both you and your partners’ tech stacks.
Dead Simple — Cortina operates in the background keeping product images, descriptions, pricing, inventory, payments, and returns all in line. The easiest solution to setup and use for the fastest time to value.
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