Affiliate Marketing vs Dropshipping in 2023: Which is Better?

In today’s online business world, many aspiring entrepreneurs grapple with a significant decision. Which is the better path to choose between Affiliate Marketing vs Dropshipping? This question is at the heart of decision-making for those looking to make their mark in the digital marketplace.

In this guide, we will take a closer look at Affiliate Marketing and Dropshipping, dissecting their differences, strengths, and weaknesses. By the end of our discussion, you’ll have the knowledge needed to make an informed choice that aligns with your entrepreneurial dreams and resources. Whether you prefer a low-risk, commission-based model or a more hands-on, inventory-free retail approach, understanding these two strategies will be the key to reaching your digital business goals.

Affiliate Marketing vs Dropshipping

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is a way for individuals or entities to partner with established companies to promote their products or services and earn a commission for each sale or lead they generate.

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How does affiliate marketing work?

How does Affiliate Marketing work

First, look for an affiliate program in your niche and apply for that program considering their payment method, commission rate, conversion rate, and cookie duration.

Once accepted you will get a unique tracking link.

Create engaging and informative content by embedding affiliate links strategically.

Once a person clicks on your affiliate link that person will be redirected to the company website and for every purchase you will get a commission.

Key Players in Affiliate Marketing

There are three main players in affiliate marketing.


Merchants are the companies or individuals who own a product or services to sell. They are the ones who set up the affiliate program.


Affiliates are the ones who have applied for those programs and are promoting the merchant’s products or services for a commission. They act as a middleman between the product and customers.


They are the end users of affiliate marketing. Without them, the affiliates do not get a commission.

What is Dropshipping

Dropshipping involves creating an e-commerce store where products are sold directly to customers without keeping them in stock or having to own them.

When someone places an order on the dropshipping store the dropshipping store forwards the order to a 3rd party supplier and the supplier directly ships the product to the customer. This way the dropshipping store never sees or handles the product physically.

How does Dropshipping work?

How Does Dropshipping Work

First, Find a supplier, create an online store, and list the products you want to sell. You can create this store on Shopify.

Run ads to drive traffic to your dropshipping store.

Now when someone places an order on your website you will forward it to the supplier.

You will give the customer order and shipment details to the supplier.

The supplier will pick, pack, and ship the product to the customer without you owning or seeing the product physically.

Key Players in Dropshipping

Here are the three main players in Dropshipping.

Dropshipping Store Owner

It is the first key player in dropshipping it is the one who creates the dropshipping store. They act as an intermediate between customer and supplier.


Customers are those who search for the product, place an order, and receive the product. They are the core of the business and their satisfaction is a direct success for a dropshipping store.


They can be an individual, wholesale company, or manufacturer. They are the ones who own the product. Dropshipper partners with them to display their product on their website and they also ship products directly to customers on behalf of the dropshipping store.

Similarities in Affiliate Marketing and Dropshipping

Affiliate marketing and dropshipping are both different business models but there are some similarities between them. Let’s discuss them.

  1. Both affiliate marketing and dropshipping are online business models.
  2. low start-up costs compared to traditional retail businesses.
  3. Neither of the business needs a physical inventory to manage.
  4. Both offer a potential for passive income.
  5. The primary focus is marketing and sales.
  6. Both models a flexible in terms of working hours and location all you need is a laptop and internet connection.

Difference between Affiliate Marketing and Dropshipping

The beauty of these both business models is that they offer a passive income and are so flexible that it can be done from anywhere around the world. All you need is a laptop and an internet connection.

Here is the main difference between affiliate marketing and dropshipping.

  1. With affiliate marketing, you send traffic to the merchant website via an affiliate link to sell the product or service whereas in dropshipping you send traffic to your own website to sell products.
  2. In affiliate marketing you earn a commission for every sale or lead you generate whereas in dropshipping the prices are set determining the profit margins
  3. Affiliates are not responsible for customer service, refund, shipping, or any aspect of fulfillment, but in dropshipping you are responsible for product fulfillment, refund, shipping, or any other customer issue.
  4. With affiliate marketing, you have no control over the product pricing and branding, but in dropshipping you have maximum control over the product pricing and branding.

Who Benefits from Affiliate Marketing and Dropshipping?

Let’s take a more detailed exploration into who can derive benefits from both Affiliate Marketing and Dropshipping, shedding light on the diverse profiles that find value in these online business models:

Affiliate Marketing

Digital Novices and Aspiring Marketers

Affiliate marketing often serves as an entry point for those new to the world of digital entrepreneurship. It offers a way to gain practical experience in online marketing strategies without the complexities of managing physical products.

Content Creators and Influencers

Bloggers, vloggers, social media influencers, and content creators of all kinds can turn their passion into profit through affiliate marketing. They seamlessly integrate relevant product or service recommendations into their content, earning commissions when their audience makes purchases

Niche Website Owners

Owners of niche websites can turn their specialized knowledge into a revenue stream. By connecting their content with relevant affiliate products or services, they provide value to their audience while monetizing their expertise

Budding Entrepreneurs on a Budget

Affiliate marketing’s appeal lies in its minimal upfront costs, making it an attractive option for individuals with limited financial resources. It’s an excellent starting point for those cautious about investment.

Part-Time Hustlers and Passive Income Seekers

The flexibility of affiliate marketing allows it to fit seamlessly into part-time schedules. Once your affiliate channels are established, you can earn income passively, making it a viable option for those looking to supplement their earnings with minimal ongoing effort.


Entrepreneurial Spirits

Dropshipping caters to individuals with a keen entrepreneurial spirit. It provides an opportunity to run a virtual store, make business decisions, and create a brand without the logistical challenges of managing physical inventory.

E-commerce Enthusiasts

Those who are captivated by the ever-evolving world of e-commerce and online retail will find dropshipping to be a practical and hands-on way to enter this dynamic marketplace.

Creative Brand Visionaries

For those who envision building a unique brand, dropshipping offers the flexibility to curate product selections that align with their vision and resonate with their target audience.

Scalability Enthusiasts

Dropshipping businesses have considerable growth potential. As your audience expands and sales increase, you can scale up operations by diversifying your product offerings and expanding your market reach.

Investment-Ready Individuals

Unlike affiliate marketing, dropshipping often demands a more significant upfront investment in setting up and marketing an e-commerce store. Those willing to invest both time and capital are well-suited for this model.

Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing and Dropshipping

Let’s take an in-depth look at the pros and cons of Affiliate Marketing and Dropshipping which are the two popular online business models.

Pros of Affiliate Marketing

  • Low Initial Investment: One of the most attractive aspects of affiliate marketing is its low barrier to entry. You don’t need to invest in product inventory or manufacturing, which significantly reduces upfront costs.
  • No Inventory Management: Unlike traditional retail or e-commerce, you don’t need to worry about storing or managing inventory. You promote the products or services and earn commissions.
  • Flexibility and Variety: Affiliate marketing offers the flexibility to promote a wide range of products and services across different niches. This diversity allows you to experiment with what resonates with your audience.
  • Passive Income Potential: Once your affiliate marketing channels are set up, you can earn commissions passively, as long as there’s a steady flow of traffic and conversions.

Cons of Affiliate Marketing

  • Limited Control: As an affiliate, you have limited control over the products or services you’re promoting. You’re dependent on the policies, pricing, and quality of the affiliate programs you join.
  • Intense Competition: The digital landscape is teeming with affiliate marketers, which can lead to cutthroat competition. Standing out and attracting an audience can be challenging.
  • Variable Commissions: Affiliate programs may offer varying commission rates, and the income can be inconsistent. Some programs may also have strict payment thresholds.
  • Dependency on Affiliate Programs: Your success is tied to the performance and policies of the affiliate programs you partner with. If they change their terms or cease operations, it can affect your income.

Pros of Dropshipping

  • E-commerce Opportunity: Dropshipping allows you to create and manage your e-commerce store, giving you control over branding, design, and customer experience
  • Higher Profit Margins: With careful product selection and marketing strategies, you can achieve higher profit margins compared to affiliate marketing
  • Product Variety: You have the freedom to offer a diverse range of products without the burden of maintaining a physical inventory
  • Scalability: Dropshipping businesses can be scaled up as your audience and sales grow, providing significant growth potential.

Cons of Dropshipping

  • Operational Challenges: Managing multiple suppliers, tracking inventory levels, and ensuring timely order fulfillment can be complex and time-consuming.
  • Customer Service: You’re responsible for addressing customer inquiries, handling returns, and managing any issues, which can be demanding and time-consuming.
  • Inventory Risks: Depending on third-party suppliers means that you’re exposed to the risk of stockouts, quality issues, or delivery delays, which can harm your business’s reputation
  • Upfront Costs: Setting up and marketing an e-commerce store can require a more substantial initial investment compared to affiliate marketing.

Affiliate Marketing vs Dropshipping: Which is more profitable

Both are profitable depending on various factors such as the product or niche you have chosen to promote or sell. Your marketing strategies, pricing, the effort invested in building and promoting the business, and overall business execution.

In dropshipping, you have the ability to set your own pricing. You have to set the profit margin up to 30% to make dropshipping profitable.

Whereas in affiliate marketing the commission rate is generally between 5% to 25% of the total amount of sales. However, SaaS companies have high commission rates such as Bigcommerce pays $1500 per enterprise customer but the competition in that is too high.

Affiliate Marketing vs Dropshipping: Which is Better

Both business models are good, offer passive income, and the start-up cost is also low. But which of them is better depends on you.

Honestly, I think affiliate marketing is better than dropshipping because of its simplicity. You don’t have to worry about order fulfillment and customer service. All you need to do is create engaging and informative content that will drive traffic to the merchant’s website.

Whereas in dropshipping you have to test multiple products before you find the product that will make you money but that is not the end after some time you have to change that product too and try other products. You also have to manage customer services, order fulfillment, and returns.

The good thing about dropshipping is that you have full control over the product pricing while in affiliate marketing you will have a fixed commission.


Both affiliate marketing and dropshipping are easy to start but to make yourself an authority in them you have to work consistently.

If you have decided to start affiliate marketing or dropshipping. You have to work consistently in both business models because consistency beats hard work.

In affiliate marketing, you have to rank your content using SEO because of the organic traffic. You can make a lot of money once your content starts to rank.

In dropshipping, you have to test multiple products before you get the golden ticket but after that, you also have to constantly look for new products in the market.

Affiliate marketing vs Dropshipping: Which business model do you want to choose? Tell us in the comments.

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