Affiliate Sales versus Dropshipping

What’s the difference between affiliate sales and dropshipping?

A lot of people get confused between affiliate marketers and dropshippers.  But they are actually quite different.  Let’s take a look.

Affiliate Sales

Affiliate sales are sales that have been generated by affiliate marketers, who promote other people’s products and services and are rewarded with commissions.  For example, if you are an Amazon affiliate, you earn money when people click through from your website to make a purchase on Amazon.

Affiliate marketers do not directly sell anything, they simply send potential customers to the seller.


Dropshipping is more than promoting, it also involves actual selling.  A dropshipper has an online store or other online sales channel which they use to collect payments and shipping information from their customers.  They manage customer service, field enquiries and handle returns, complaints and refund processes. They pass orders and shipping information to their suppliers who ship product to their customers for them.  Dropshippers do not directly handle physical products, but they do handle payments and customer interactions.

Similarities and differences

Affiliate marketers and dropshippers both promote products that they don’t directly control.  In both cases, the product is controlled by its supplier and/or brand owner, who designs the product, controls its quality and cost and manages logistics.

Affiliate marketers promote products to earn a commission.  Dropshipping also (sometimes) involves commissions, but they work in a different way.  A dropship supplier may pay a commission to a dropshipping retailer to have their products listed on a marketplace.  For example, third-party sellers on Amazon’s marketplaces pay a commission to sell their products on Amazon.

The main difference is that dropshippers sell products, take payments and communicate with their customers.  Affiliate marketers send referrals, or potential customers to the business that does the selling.


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