How to Make Money Dropshipping Using AliExpress and Shopify

By Ian | eCommerce/Dropshipping

How to Make Money Dropshipping Featured Image

If you’re trying to crack how to make money dropshipping, you’re in the right place!

This lesson’s length is about to achieve EPIC proportions, and the last thing I want to do is prolong it unnecessarily with a “hypey” introduction. I think the content of this lesson speaks for itself.

BUT… I do want to preface it with one note:

I’m not trying to “sell” you any of these tools. There are a handful of affiliate links in the message below, but all of these are tools that I use everyday in my own eCommerce business to make money dropshipping.

You can “cut me out” by going directly to the source, if you prefer (you’ll pay the same price).

But I’m not going to waste any of your time pitching or “selling” to you — all of these tools/resources will pay for themselves 10x over if you stick with eCommerce and “crack” it using the training below.

I use them and they save me a ton of time. I think anyone entering this industry should do the same — that’s as “pitchy” as I’m going to get.

With that being said, here’s everything you need to know to crack eCom/dropshipping in step-by-step format:

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How to Make Money Dropshipping — Using this Guide

illustration of the eCommerce and dropshipping cycle

If you’ve never done most of this, just reading through this guide isn’t going to make any sense.

It’s going to come off as really abstract, overwhelming crap that your brain has no idea how to visualize or interpret.

So I strongly recommend following along with each step, taking action and interacting with the sites/resources as they’re discussed in this tutorial.

With this in mind, it could take you a few days to work your way through this whole guide — and that’s fine.

This should take some time. It’ll be the foundation of your entire eCommerce business.

Step 1: Pick a Niche

archer shooting an arrow

I learned the hard way that there are two main components to a good niche, particularly when you’re just dropshipping someone else’s products rather than building your own brand. These are essential to anyone’s success when trying to figure out how to make money dropshipping:

  • You want a niche with at least 10 million people internationally — even more is better (we’ll cover how to find this out in the next step).
  • Ideally, you also want your audience to be somewhat passion-charged. The lowest-hanging fruit in eCommerce/dropshipping is impulse buys, so the more excited they get over the items in your store, the better.

We’ll really sink our teeth into picking products later, but for now, let’s talk a little bit about audience research.

Step 2: Facebook Audience Research

dropshipping niche research using Facebook's Audience Insights tool

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If you’re struggling to come up with ideas for a niche that meets the two criteria above, just jump into this step and start playing around. If you keep the criteria from Step 1 in mind, a lot will start to “click”.

Hop into Facebook’s Audience Insights tool (this link is not broken; you’ll need to be signed into a Facebook account): https://www.facebook.com/ads/audience-insights/people

The best way to get a feel for this tool, just like anything else, is playing around with it for a few hours over the coming days. There’s A LOT of incredible data here — it’s actually kind of creepy…

I recommend narrowing the “region” down to a 1st-world country where most of its citizens can afford to shop online (no offense intended, but your store is going to flop without people that can afford your products).

Then I’d start typing in popular Facebook pages in my targeted niche, in the “interests” field on the left.

researching niches using Facebook's audience insights manager

Don’t have a niche yet? Just input one of YOUR favorite Facebook pages and start looking at the top categories, top “liked” pages, etc. You can even narrow it down further by adding other Facebook pages to the “interests” section, and likely begin finding some popular niche stores in the top 20-30 “Page Likes” section.

Having trouble picking a niche? Get step-by-step training for free here >>

These niche stores can be golden when you find them. They provide key insights like what’s selling, what price points you should aim for, etc.

That should get the niche ideas flowing. Remember — you want it to be able to combine enough of these interests around the world to reach an audience of AT LEAST 10,000,000 people.

Create a spreadsheet categorizing the Facebook interests and pages that you see popping up the most, and that you think would be most likely to buy products in your niche. Examples of interest groups you might use (the columns in your spreadsheet) are:

TV Shows
Music
Events
Magazines
Retail Websites
Boutique/Niche Websites
Humor
Celebrities
Etc…

I’d recommend building out a spreadsheet of at least 5-7 broad interest groups (like those listed above) each with 5-10 interests in the rows below.

So in the end, you should have a total of 25-70 different interests and pages. Save this spreadsheet somewhere — you’ll use this for ad targeting later.

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Step 3: Create a Shopify Account

Shopify signup page

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There are a lot of ways to build an eCommerce store — WordPress, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Magento, and countless others.

None of them make it as quick and easy to make money dropshipping than Shopify.

Create a Shopify account (the first 14 days are free, so make the most of them) and, just like anything else, start playing around with it to learn the ropes.

Shopify also has a massive knowledgebase and awesome support team if you get stuck anywhere: https://help.shopify.com

Setup the general navigation and “feel” of your store — we’ll worry about the rest a couple of steps from now.

Step 4: Create a Shopified (or Oberlo) Account

This is the tool you’ll use to import products to your store from AliExpress (detailed later) AND fulfill your dropshipped orders with just a couple of clicks. These are apps that connect directly to your Shopify store.

Shopified app homepage

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I’ve noticed that a lot of people talking about how to make money dropshipping discuss Oberlo, but not Shopified. Shopified is a bit newer, which I think is part of the reason it’s not discussed as much, but I think it’s largely due to a lot of people in this industry regurgitating what others are saying instead of “cracking the code” and making money dropshipping themselves.

Everyone I know making money dropshipping is using Shopified these days. Although Oberlo was recently purchased by Shopify, so hopefully it will compete more in the coming weeks.

I’ve used them both. I started off using Oberlo and later transitioned to Shopified (it’s a pain to transition, but it was worth it). Shopified is a hell of a lot faster, more robust, and rolls out new features MUCH more often than Oberlo.

Every store I now launch, I setup with Shopified rather than Oberlo. Like I said, the transition isn’t easy. Both have free trials, so choose whichever one appeals to you most:

Signup for Shopified

-OR-

Signup for Oberlo

We’ll dig into using these during Step 6.

Step 5: Create an AliExpress Account

AliExpress homepage

This is where you’ll source your products from, at least to begin. Anything you find on AliExpress can be imported to your store and fulfilled with two clicks using the Shopified or Oberlo plugin.

It’s a massive collection of incredibly cheap products shipped directly from China.

If you play around with it for more than a few minutes, you’ll discover really quickly: we’re paying a hefty markup for almost everything we buy as consumers — almost everything is imported from China.

AliExpress gives us direct access to the same manufacturers that many multimillion-dollar retailers use.

Now you can benefit from the markup of really cheap Chinese goods, too. This is how most dropshipping are earning income and building their businesses.

These are NOT all crap quality — we’ll talk about how to ensure you’re sourcing high-quality goods in the next step.

Want to source the perfect products for your store? Learn how in our 100% free, step-by-step training >>

Step 6: Pick Your Products for Testing and Import Them to Your Store

Alright, we need to linger on this step for a bit because there’s a lot of important information to cover. Before you really dig into products, keep these things in mind:

  • You want items that aren’t easy to find at local stores
  • You want items that you can mark up at least $20 and still have great “perceived value” by the consumer — more on that later
  • You want items that have high-quality images; preferably demonstrating the product being used (or worn, in the case of accessories/apparel)

If you fail to satisfy ANY of the points above, you’re starting the race by shooting yourself in the foot. It’s going to be difficult making money dropshipping with products that don’t meet these criteria.

picking the right products to dropship using aliexpress

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Play around with all kinds of search terms — shirts, jewelry, bags, accessories, pants, dresses, shoes, sunglasses, gadgets, etc.

It’s as easy as “NICHE shirts”, “NICHE blouses”, “NICHE accessories”, etc… A small tweak to a search term can pop up TOTALLY different results on AliExpress.

It can take several hours to hunt down 4-5 REALLY good products. Take your time here — this will be one of the biggest factors that determines your success or failure.

As you search on AliExpress, always click the option at the top of the search results to sort by “Orders”. This will sort the most-frequently-ordered items to the top of the search results, which is helpful, but there’s more to ensuring your products are high quality.

I personally only import items to my store that have at least 100 reviews/ratings and 4.3+ stars. That narrows down your options a lot, I know, but it also SIGNIFICANTLY decreases the customer service burden you’ll face once you start getting a lot of orders.

Once you sort by orders and see the “cream” rise to the top, it’s basically up to your judgement to pick ones that you think will sell.

Import the ones that you think will sell using Shopified or Oberlo (those are non-affiliate links to tutorials about how to do this step-by-step with each app).

collecting products for dropshipping using Shopified

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Remember that you need to mark each of these items up by at least $20 to make money dropshipping after your advertising expenses and item cost.

I’ve sold dresses, that I purchased for $20, for $40-$50 and they still seemed like a “steal” to the customer, so my impulse buys were through the roof (and so were my profits).

I’ve also tested shirts that I got for $5 and had to sell for at least $25, and as a result, they didn’t sell very well at all (low perceived value).

I prefer to stick to items that I can mark up $20 – $30 and they still have a “perceived value” by the consumer to be a total bargain.

You get a “feel” for this over time, but just keep it in mind as you’re picking products to import to your store.

Nobody knows what’s going to sell for sure when they enter a niche — it’s a guessing game for us all. Don’t be discouraged by this.

After you have 4-5 products that meet all of the above criteria, it’s time to launch some tests!

Step 7: Create a Facebook Business Account

Facebook Business account homepage

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This is really straightforward. You can launch your test campaigns from your personal Facebook account, but it’s best practice to open a business account first.

This will allow you to run ads to multiple niche stores over time in an organized way.

Again, not totally required, but it’s free and takes less than five minutes, so why not?

You can create yours at https://business.facebook.com

Step 8: Launch Your Test Ads

Here we go! This is where things can start to feel either:

Really intimidating…

Or totally thrilling.

(maybe both!)

This is where everything from the steps above starts coming together.

Create ad groups based on your interest groups from earlier.

Facebook ads manager

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I usually organize my Facebook ads with the product at the campaign level, interest groups at the ad group level, and different creatives (images/text) at the ad level.

So it would look something like this:

  • Dog Necklace (campaign) >
  • Dog Celebrities (ad group 1), Dog Events (ad group 2), dog rescue groups (ad group 3), dog food brands (ad group 4), etc. >
  • Ad 1, Ad 2, Ad 3 (all three ads would likely be in EACH ad group — testing to see which ad works the best, and Facebook will automatically present that ad above the rest)
Need more guidance setting up Facebook ads? Get step-by-step training in our free email course >>

If that doesn’t make sense in concept as you’re reading it, it will make more sense as you start building out your ad campaigns.

A lot of people advise launching ad sets at $5/day budgets each, and testing for 5-7 days.

I prefer to launch my ad sets at $10/day each, and test for 3 days. I get data faster this way, rather than having to wait for a week until my next move.

I typically only launch website conversion ads, optimized for purchase. This is personal preference and the “big guns” do A LOT more than that — but I’ve found this to be the best place to start.

After all, when launching ads to make sales, do you want Facebook to optimize for how many people “like” your ad, or how many people actually follow-through and purchase?

This is done at the campaign level when Facebook prompts you to select what your “goal” is with the advertising campaign.

You select “conversions”, and then towards the top of of the “ad set” settings, you select “purchase” as the conversion action you want to track.

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This will require you to setup your tracking pixel in Shopify. This can be done REALLY easily using an app like Trackify (the one I use personally) or you can look up how to do it manually — there are a lot of free tutorials in Shopify’s help section and videos on YouTube.

I personally launch 1200×1200 pixel photo ads for my initial tests, usually with text copy along the lines of:

“Do you <3 NICHE? Then you’re going to LOVE this ITEM.

Currently 43% OFF while supplies last! Get yours today at LINK TO WEBSITE

TAG a friend that **NEEDS** this ITEM!”

It’s not the best ad copy, but it’s good enough for testing. Tweak and play around with it however you’d like.

In total, when launching a new site, I usually run 15-25 ad sets at $10/day each. So about $150-$250/day during my initial tests. Then I wait.

Step 9: Wait… Then Start Analyzing Data and Taking Action

After three days, dig deep into your Facebook analytics. You want to look at a handful of KPIs (key performance indicators):

  • Cost per link click (Labeled “CPC (Link)”; how many people clicked the link in your ad) – You likely want this to be <$0.50
  • Link click-through rate (Labeled “CTR (Link)”) — Anything higher than 1% is good; higher than 2% is great
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA — based on the conversion goal you set) — Depending on your profit margins, but likely less than $20 or $30

There are a lot of other helpful metrics in FB’s ad platform, like how many adds to cart each ad set received, how much your CPC for ALL actions were (clicked on your photo, reacted to your video, etc.), how many people watched more than 75% of a video ad, etc… But the ones above are the most critical.

Facebook ad manager campaigns summary screenshot

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Based on these metrics, you can get a pretty good idea of what combinations are working.

At its core, the key to making money in eCommerece is presenting the right product to the right audience at the right price.

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So if nothing is connecting, either something is wrong with:

  • Your niche
  • Your audience (interest targeting)
  • Your products (not enticing enough)
  • Your price (not compelling at the price you’ve set)

If have profitable ad sets after the first 2-3 days, it means you’ve gotten the right product to the right audience at the right price. Find more people like them to scale your profitable ad sets.

After three days, I cut all ad sets that aren’t at least breaking even (5-7 days if you’re only testing at $5 per ad set).

If I don’t have ANY profitable or break-even ad sets after my initial tests, I’ll pick 3-4 more products as well as new interest groups. Then I’ll run a combination of these new products/interests groups for three days.

If I go through all of that three times and STILL can’t find any profitable combinations, I personally move onto a new niche and start over from square 1. I’ve got a dud.

Don’t be one of those people that spends $30 or even $100 on ads and posts to groups, asking…

“What’s going wrong? I’ve spent $100 and only gotten 50 clicks with no sales.”

There’s no way to tell without having access to the data in YOUR ad account.

You’ve either not tested enough, or you’ve chosen a bad niche, non-enticing products, a bad price, or you’re delivering ads to the wrong audience. Simple as that — it’s on YOU to test until you figure out which it is.

Don’t worry if you don’t “nail it” the first time. You can’t learn how to make money dropshipping without “cracking a few eggs”!

Step 10: Join These Helpful Facebook Groups

If you find yourself saying, “C’mon… there HAS to be more to it than this.”

Well… yes and no. This is the “meat” of my eCommerce business, which profited more than the average American’s annual salary over the last six months.

Thinking another type of internet business might be better for you? Explore your options in our 100% free training course >>

There are a lot of small details like how to setup your Facebook pixel, all of the individual steps for importing products using Shopified, etc…

But all of that stuff can be found elsewhere online for free… You just have to search a little.

THIS is the “core”. Everything else you can find through Shopify’s help center, Shopified/Oberlo’s resources, simply using Google and YouTube, or by reading through a few really helpful eCommerce groups.

I’m a member of all the following groups (plus many others) and I find them incredibly helpful:

The best Facebook pages for making money dropshipping

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If you do some focused searching and keep up with those Facebook groups, there is A LOT of gold in each of them — some of it better than you’d find in any several-hundred-dollar training product.

It just requires the time and effort to sift through it all.

That’s EXACTLY How to Make Money Dropshipping!

There will always be more to learn in this industry, just like any other. You’re setting out on a several-month-long journey.

man holding a piggybank

If you find a profitable (or even break-even) niche, you’ll likely want to start learning more about look-alike audiences (abbreviated LAAs and LLAs, depending on the person), how to hire virtual assistants to help with your order fulfillment and customer service (that can eat up entire days QUICKLY if you’re doing any sort of volume), etc.

But this lesson was intended to give you a comprehensive start, and I can’t emphasize strongly enough (and I say this humbly) — it absolutely achieves that purpose.

This is everything that gave me initial success in eCommerce — the rest an be filled in along the way.

This is also, by far, the longest lesson that I’ve ever published on this site.

But I want you to have everything you need in a single place, so bookmark it/star it/print it out/whatever you need to do…

But if you TAKE ACTION on what’s in this lesson and combine it with an independent willingness to fill in the gaps…

You are officially taking your first steps toward running a successful eCommerce business.

I sincerely hope you’ve found this training as helpful as I intended, as I sit here typing it.

Request access to the Facebook groups above and most importantly TAKE ACTION — don’t let this become just another lesson that sits in your bookmarks folder collecting dust.

eCommerce can quite possibly change your life and be the path to achieving your dreams — you just need to bite the bullet and not be afraid of getting overwhelmed, making mistakes, and losing a bit of money along the way.

That’s just the price of admission.

Best of luck, and I’ll be seeing you around my favorite eCommerce Facebook groups soon!

P.S. I usually put together awesome bonuses for people that sign up for premium tools/training using my affiliate links.

This time, frankly — I’ve just laid it all out there from the very beginning. I didn’t hold anything back in this lesson. 

If you DO decide to pursue a business in this industry based on the information above, the kindest “thank you” you can send me is using my Shopify, Shopified, and Oberlo affiliate links from this lesson when you sign up.

You don’t have to, of course, but I would greatly appreciate if you supported me and my website by doing so!

About the Author

I've been in internet marketing for over 10 years, and I've purchased dozens of illegitimate products for the sole purpose of evaluating them and exposing the truth about these products to anyone who's thinking about purchasing it. I never let money influence my rating of a product and your success/safety is my absolute highest priority. Don't want to buy a product? Register for one of my 100% free internet marketing training courses>>

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(27) comments

Vlad June 7, 2017

I’ve actually wanted to ask you this ever since you mentioned dropshipping.

Here’s a question, how do you gain a competitive edge over other people withwho dropship? You all sell the same stuff from the same people, and there’s no such thing as geographical limitations when it comes to ecommerce.

Cheers!

Reply
    Ian June 7, 2017

    If you don’t have any intellectual property or white labeling, it can be tough. Essentially you’re still competing against them, you’re just looking for really “hot” products that people will impulse-buy, and showing that product to an audience that nobody else has “tapped out” yet. The earlier you find that product in its lifecycle, the better. Because once it’s “made its way around”, it can be very hard to find a target audience that will actually make a purchase when they see your ads.

    So dropshipping, when dealing with really mainstream audiences or products, comes down to product-to-audience fit and timing.

    Reply
Phil August 26, 2017

Great training Ian!

Even though it may have been longest training on your site to date, it was VERY succinct! I have been floating around so many Shopify videos on YouTube, Facebook groups, and many other places for months now. I wish I had ended up on your site first!

Thank you.

Reply
    Ian August 26, 2017

    I’m so glad you found it helpful, Phil! It definitely took some time to put together, but it’s always nice to know it’s out there helping people =)

    Reply
Arlyn September 14, 2017

Great advice! Is it possible to drop ship without having to buy the product and still make a profit? Or must you buy the product first?

Reply
    Ian September 16, 2017

    You have to buy the product to ship it to the customer. But you don’t need to buy it from the supplier until you’ve been paid by the customer — that’s one of the biggest advantages to dropshipping 🙂

    Reply
ibrahim September 27, 2017

well explained!

Reply
    Ian September 28, 2017

    Thanks Ibrahim! Glad you found it helpful!

    Reply
Brian October 1, 2017

Hey Ian,

Just came across this post and it definitely contains some value, but I think you’ve been a little misinformed on the whole niche store fallacy. I’d be happy to share with you how to make the big money as you seem like a genuine guy.

Best,
Brian

Reply
    Ian October 2, 2017

    I’d love to hear from you, Brian! Drop me a message at ian@stoppingscams.com when you get the chance!

    Reply
Dan October 2, 2017

Would like to know if we create a shopify website if we can still sell over our own products + products that we can outsource in dropshipping!

Reply
    Ian October 3, 2017

    Yes, you can absolutely sell both.

    Reply
Kevin October 29, 2017

Interesting read. What are your thoughts on having multiple stores versus having one store with multiple collections? Opening more stores for a unique niche costs more to run (monthly fees).

Reply
    Ian October 29, 2017

    It depends on your preference. More sites = more logistics and more headaches. I’ve always preferred fewer sites making larger amounts of money than more sites making less money. Both have their headaches, but I’ll take the “fewer websites” headaches any day over constantly feeling like I’m running from project-to-project.

    Reply
Brad November 2, 2017

Correct link to people research is facebook/is would not let me add url. Apparently looked bad to your system

Reply
    Ian November 2, 2017

    I’m sorry Brad, could you rephrase that? I don’t understand the comment.

    Reply
Byron November 17, 2017

Your Facebook Audiance Research link does not work – doesnt make site look credible
Byron

Reply
    Ian November 18, 2017

    You need to be signed into your Facebook account for it to work. Facebook makes it impossible to navigate to this page if you’re not logged in. That’s not on my side and shouldn’t reflect on my credibility — that’s something Facebook controls.

    Reply
Zane November 29, 2017

Hello I’m thinking of starting a smart watch niche dropship company and just don’t know where to start and don’t want to lose hundreds of dollars due to uneducated decisions do you think this niche could be profitable and using aliexpress Can I find smart watches that don’t look like complete junk?

Reply
    Ian November 29, 2017

    I’m not sure. All of my exposure to complex technology like that on AliX has been that the software within the hardware is TERRIBLE. There may be better options out there than I’m aware of — you’ll just have to purchase them and find out for yourself!

    Reply
Allan December 6, 2017

This guide is awesome Ian, thank you very much for putting it together!

I have a question regarding Facebook ads:

I’m planning to go into Dropshipping and want an edge over my competitors.

Since I own a video creation company, I’m planning to create well written and produced video ads for all the products I sell.

Do you think this would give me an edge?

Thanks again!
Allan

Reply
    Ian December 7, 2017

    ABSOLUTELY!! This is a HUGE advantage that many of the most successful eCom business owners leverage. It’s well-known in the industry that video, when done correctly, is VERY effective on Facebook.

    Reply
Siobhan Blaney December 14, 2017

Great article, thank you.

Reply
Rosie December 29, 2017

Thank you for the great article! I just started dropshipping using Shopify, but how do you overcome the time it takes to ship the items from AliX? I feel that the long shipping times may keep my customers from purchasing through my website.

Reply
    Ian December 29, 2017

    I just fully disclose it multiple times throughout the purchase process (in the product description, listed as part of the shipping description at checkout, in the website’s Shipping Policies, etc.). It can definitely discourage purchasing and cause some customer service issues, but if you have a very compelling product and a well-trained customer service VA, the inconveniences can be minimized while still moving a lot of inventory.

    Reply
Marianne January 9, 2018

Thank you for the guide. I’m kinda interested in doing this too, but I’m still feeling things up for now.

I’m thinking of specializing in pet supplies, which is already a busy industry, but to target the retiree in the 60s+ as they would have more money to spend and an inclination to spend it on their pets as they mostly got no more kids to pamper.

FB Audience Insight of this demographic in US, Canada, and several European countries said there is 20m new audience interested in pets and Purchase tab said about 58% focused on pet supplies. Do you think this is viable?

Btw before starting, I do have to ask, how pretty do we have to make the shop and the FB ad? I’ve been reading up on Aliexpress Dropshipping and this doesn’t seem to a topic that was wildly talked about. For now I can probably do minimalistic with an about us and faq and probably a simple paint-editted ad page but if people only shop at super decorated shop I’m basically screwed

Reply
    Ian January 9, 2018

    The only way to know for sure is to test. I’d be interested to know how that goes, as I don’t think older target audiences are as likely to purchase online. But again, there’s no way to know for sure without testing — it could definitely be viable, or it might not be!

    It’s not so much about “pretty” as it’s about “effective”. I’ve seen very minimalistic (but clean and easy to navigate) stores that do six figures revenue per month. What works in some target audiences/niches won’t work at all in others.

    Again, it comes down to testing. I’ve had very simple product image ads do very well, and I’ve had gorgeous graphics fall totally flat and not convert at all. Let the data do the talking.

    Reply
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