find your niche on Amazon

How to find a niche product to sell on Amazon in 2021

How to find a niche product to sell on Amazon in 2021

How to find a niche product to sell on Amazon in 2021

By Manuel Becvar
By Manuel Becvar

Table of Contents

Introduction

So how do you find a niche product to sell on Amazon in 2021? I will seperate this post into 2 sections: 

A) Tools and actual ways to find a product

B) Mindset and product development 

Just a heads-up, this is a long post so take your time to fully digest 🙂 So let’s get right into the ultimate guide on how to find a niche product to sell on Amazon:

 

Disclaimer: Some of the products may contain an affiliate link and we may make a commission if you click on it at no additional costs to you.

A) Tools and actual ways to find a product

1) Follow your passion

Let’s say you love the outdoors, hiking, camping, and exercise in general (like me). There are so many products to choose from, but you have two advantages:

  1. You know what you like.

  2. You know what your product should be able to do.

So you already have an edge over many of your competitors.

Put your passion for this category into your product. For example, if you were disappointed about the quality of camping mats you purchased in the past, you already know what to tell your supplier to improve upon. Choose products you can talk about, improve and be passionate about selling.

Here’s a real-life example. A friend of mine was really into hiking and trail running but not satisfied with the products on the market. He started a outdoor gear company a few years back. Today he has a portfolio of 20 different outdoor gear products and making 6 figures every month. It wasn’t an easy journey and I followed along but it was well worth it.

2) Use your industry knowledge

Let’s imagine you have 17 years of experience selling electronics (like me). What was the first product I picked? It was an electronic item. Why? Because that’s where I had my experience.

I believe you should not just have passion about your product, but also experience. If I sell a product online I want to be able to answer customers’ questions and inquiries. So when I started my own brand I improved an existing item based on my industry knowledge and felt confident answering questions as well as re-presenting my brand.

What if you don’t have experience in an industry? Do you have a hobby? Or are you a parent? If you are a parent you’ll have lots of experience with your children and could perhaps start in that category.

3) Brainstorm and research

You shouldn’t worry if you don’t have a social media following, products you are passionate about or industry experience. Most people I know are in this scenario and there are still many success stories.

Here’s a brainstorming and research approach that I recommend:

  1. Take out a notebook and list your interests, hobbies or responsibilities. Yes, actually write it down. Call me old-fashioned, but I still find writing to be the best medium for generating ideas.

  2. Subscribe to newsletters from companies that talk about or sell products related to your interests. You’ll find some ideas for this in Part 2 below.

  3. Over time, gather a list of at least ten product ideas in that niche.

  4. Research existing products, consumer demand and selling prices using Amazon, eBay, Jet.com, local shops, tools like Jungle Scout etc. Is there space for one more seller (you)?

  5. If there is no demand, is it because the product is in its fledgling stages? If you can improve the product, create a to-do list of improvements based on reviews, feedback from friends and family etc. Then move onto finding a supplier.

  6. If there is no evidence of demand and you can’t improve the product, but still think it could sell, then follow your gut feeling and also ask around your friends. Move onto finding a supplier if you remain sure.

  7. Move onto the next product in your list of ideas.

Let’s say you have found your niche, category or general product idea. You are now ready to find your first private label product.

4) Lose yourself on Amazon

You can look for hours on Amazon in the different categories and niches, if you already have a product idea.

If you have no idea at all, I suggest you start with the best seller lists. Many categories are saturated on Amazon already so I recommend that you look into emerging and trending markets. This could be drone-racing, augmented reality or any other industry that’s just getting started. Be careful however not to choose a hype that’s going to fade in a few months. By that I mean a category like fidget spinners.

5) Blogs, gadget and trend sites

One of my favorite sites to find interesting blogs and trend websites is Kadaza. It’s a collection of the best sites in many different categories. Click on any of the categories and you will find websites in that niche.

For example, I found The Gadget Flow through Kadaza, and by subscribing to their newsletter I get weekly updates on trendy items that may not even be on Amazon yet.

They have a lot of products that are currently on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter. But you know what? If it’s only on Kickstarter now, it means it isn’t on Amazon yet. You can take the product idea and even improve on it.

The point I want to get across is not to copy these companies, but to find ideas on blog sites and see how quick it is to buy from Alibaba or Global Sources. Add an accessory, change colors or do whatever you feel could improve the product. The best thing about subscribing to these sites is that you get ideas delivered for free to your email address.

6) Research tools

You may have heard of Helium 10 already. Helium 10 is probably the most advanced tool when it comes to navigating Amazon and finding best-selling products. It integrates into the Google Chrome browser to streamline product research.

Helium 10 can extract sales rank, sales volume, FBA fees, categories and more. From the early days only available to Amazon.com it is now available to track sales in almost all countries where Amazon is present. Last time I checked it didn’t work in Australia but all other countries seemed to work.

Helium 10 has several tools at your disposal, but what I like most is the “Chrome Extension”. It is a paid tool but it has helped me many times to confirm a validity of a product that I wanted to sell. Personally I love their chrome extension that you can simply install and then scan the Amazon category pages. You get a lot of data from sales per month, potential profits and much more. My favourite has to be the “Opportunity Score” which can quickly tell you whether a product might be worth it to pursue. It ranges from 1-10 and while anything below 7 isn’t considered great with some of my following strategies you can still have an opportunity. The market might be saturated but I can still find gems with scores 7 or higher. Just the other day I found a product for one of my clients with a score of 10 (which is nearly impossible).

7) Get out in the world

There are hundreds of trade shows each year in many countries (I know, not right now due to COVID-19). You get to meet the supplier, see the products, and talk over details such as prices, models, and much more. On top of all of that I guarantee you that you will get inspired.

To find local trade shows just Google an exhibition center near you, then browse their upcoming events and apply for a ticket. You might need to provide a business card and contact details, but you can order cards online for a few dollars these days. Going to a show prepared and with a professional image gives suppliers a great impression of you.

Another way to find new products is simply when you are out in a shopping mall or a local store.

To start your own import business means that you also working when you are out shopping with friends or family! Keep your eyes open, and when you see something cool make a reminder for yourself on your smartphone to look the product up later.

Traveling is also a great way to find ideas. When you are out of your country or state you are likely to see items that you can’t find locally. There are many reasons why a product might not be available where you live, but it’s always worth checking an idea out.

I remember about ten years ago, a friend told me about Bubble Tea and Fancy Green Tea drinks sold in Hong Kong and Asia. She was from Germany and she had never seen these drinks back home. She didn’t pursue that idea but a few years later back in Germany these drinks started to pop up and were a smash hit!

Even an idea that at first seems like nothing could be worth millions! Share it with a few friends and brainstorm it.

8) Sourcing sites

When you sign up on Alibaba you generally need to say which product categories you are interested in. Based on this criteria, and your recent product searches on Alibaba, you’ll get automated emails with new product deals. Here’s a guide for you on how to safely use Alibaba as a buyer: Alibaba guide!

You can also simply type “newest products” in the product search function and you’ll find a lot of the newest and trendiest items from their suppliers.

It’s pretty similar with Global Sources. After signing up you’ll get automated emails with great product deals.

They also have a section with the great product as well as an “Analyst’s section over HERE newest products in every product category: But my favorite part is their Sourcing Magazines that are updated on a monthly basis with the hottest and newest products on the site. Whenever the magazines are updated you get a free e-copy delivered to your email. It doesn’t get easier than this and I’ve found some gems in their magazines sometimes.

9) A combination of trends and existing markets

Sometimes I look at existing products and see if I can improve them with a design trend. Let’s say for example you Google for “design and interior trends 2021”. You then visit these sites that have reports on them and see what trends there are for the particular year.

The other day I combined an existing product with a design trend. So if for example floral patterns are in for 2021 perhaps I could sell bed sheets or pillow covers with floral patterns (just an example).

If the color “millennial pink” is in for 2021 I could think of a few products where I could apply that color.

If vintage is a trend for 2021 I could look into furnitures, lighting, or decorative items that exist and give them a vintage look or color. All you have to do is find an interesting and potential niche and see if you can implement a design trend into that particular product.

What also helps is Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner (It’s free if you have a Gmail account). Just head on over there and type in a keyword and look out for the monthly searches. Anything with a search volume greater than 1-10,000 is a good indication. Google trend also helps me because it also gives me keyword related keywords that I may not have thought of. So for example if I type in “vintage decor” I can see other suggestions or trending keywords in that niche below:

find your niche

I could now look into vintage bathroom decor or vintage suitcase decor on Amazon with Junglescout and see if I can find an opportunity. What’s also super helpful are sites like TRENDHUNTER.COM

B) Mindset and product development 

Innovation before Improvement

Now that we’ve discussed traditional methods I want to discuss what is in my opinion the most important part on having a successful product on Amazon – innovation before improvement. Meaning that you actually listen to what the market needs and wants, ideally develop your own product, instead of thinking what you think the market needs. This may be contrary to above methods but I suggest that at some point you develop your own products.

Here’s my step by step checklist on developing a successful product:

There’s a saying in the tech industry: you’ll succeed by setting the industry standard and not to improve existing standards. Just think about Apple or Nike. These companies are leading the way in their industries.

Let me explain how I go about developing products. The goal is to create 1 or more rockstar products that define your brand and guarantee the success of your company. Think about a seed that you plant for the future, everything takes time.

Ideally the first product is what defines your brand and you should also stick with these values. Just like Nike or Apple are famous for their expertise in their field, you should be known in your field. Same goes for every industry. For example if you think about the best Italian restaurant in town they are probably famous for their pasta or pizza and not for having a fusion of Italian and Mexican food. Stick to your assortment and branding strategy. I am not saying you shouldn’t sell underlying product groups or assortments but don’t sell Bluetooth speakers and shower heads. Focus on 1 core assortment.

That’s were many people make their first mistake, starting with a product without defining their niche. Yes, 5 years ago you could go onto Alibaba, select anything and it would sell on Amazon and later you’d think about other products that would fit. But those days are over. What you’ll need is a clear branding and marketing strategy as well as a “product to market fit”. This term is one of the most important factors in the commerce.

Find your niche

First, find your niche. I’ve already discussed a few ways above but I want to give you an actual example later. Many people start with the idea of a product first and then notice that the market entry level is too high (either dominated by brands or too much capital needed). So find your niche first and have at least somewhat of an interest in the niche. All my brands are selling things that I have either a passion for or that I have an interest in.

Amazing products connect with the target audience

If you have amazing products and a target audience then you have the recipe to success. Think of it this way, if you have a happy customer or fanbase how likely will it be that they buy from you again? Very likely. People already trust you because of your rockstar product and they’ll buy from you again.

Finding interesting and established markets

So the first thing to do is to find interesting markets. Obviously you can follow the news but that’s perhaps not the ideal way. Most people want to make easy money but if you don’t venture down the more challenging part now it will be more difficult later.

If it were so easy to make money online everyone would be doing it right? A lot of people fall for marketing gurus that sell you pipe dreams like “make 40,000$ in 1 month with little to no work”. I can promise you that business does not exist.

You need to finding existing markets that have reached a mature size otherwise you don’t have customers – this is the most crucial part- product to market fit. These markets/niches can also give you the best feedback. If you don’t have a mature market where you can collect feedback from it will be very difficult as you would have to establish a whole new market by yourself.

If you don’t have a product to market fit and you need to establish the awareness or market at first you’ll need a lot of capital for marketing.

Suggestions on finding your niche

Make a list of your areas of interest, split this list down into niches. Only list general interest at first and then research each one. This could be something that you identify yourself with, a hobby, an expertise, part of your profession or similar. Break down the niches and go into the smallest niches. For example if you are into outdoor sports go down into sub-niches:

There might be a core community on Facebook, forums or Reddit you may want to check out. You will want to solve a problem for these guys and really connect with them.

In an ideal world you’d find interests that you’d be totally enthused about. But don’t be an artist. Artists don’t survive on Amazon. Don’t try to invent trends that don’t have a future or demand. Don’t fixate yourself on one idea or industry because you personally are enthusiastic about it. Remember – product to market fit.

The right mindset

At this point it’s also important to leave your ego out of the business. I saw a few people in my time (including me) that were too attached to ideas and convinced that there idea is what the world needs. You need to see your business objectively and don’t let your personal emotions or preferences interfere too much. Only concentrate on what the market needs and not what YOU think the market needs.

Of course it is important to invent, develop and look into new markets but always keep the product to market fit in mind.

Do something that you aren’t comfortable with. That could even be items in a higher price range assortment. Most items that I release, cost more than 15$ in buying price.

Few people actually go into higher priced or difficult categories. But that’s where the air isn’t so thin as in low priced and common items. You could argue that you may not have the capital for it but on the other hand this is a business as any other and sometimes you need to take the risks. 15 years ago it was unimaginable to start a business that could generate 100,000$ within the first year with just a 5-10,000$ investment.

We have all the tools today that make it possible; social media, Junglescout and others. So it takes a bit of the following components: gut feeling, data analysis, community access and brand building to succeed.

I often hear that people don’t want to invest 200$ into a custom made sample for their idea. If you aren’t willing to invest 200$ into your business then maybe this is not for you anyway.

Research problems in the industry

During your research, find out what the problems of the industry are. Or what people ask for (a good example in a bit). Sometimes it’s simple things that make a product easier to handle or just more aesthetic in design. Can you do something about a product that makes people’s lives easier and make you a hero while doing it? Sometimes these communities are just waiting for the bigger brands to solve their problems or introduce the product that they so desperately want.

Obviously you want to tap into mature markets but also into markets that are still growing. A bad example would be fidget spinners. Not kidding you, when the trend came out I got 20 people within 1 month asking me to source fidget spinners for them. Imagine how many people went to other sourcing companies or sourced on their own? This really confirms that the majority wants to make quick and easy money without too much work.

You have to be the one who doesn’t jump on these trends but bring innovation to the market. This does not mean that you redesign the fidget spinner or bring it in other colors. You have to convince customers from the beginning and not bring a great feature only on your second product. Customers want to be wooed.

Your 1st Rockstar product should also be something that you can sell over and over again for a long time. Basically a cash cow in the long run. Sure, competitors will come and copy you, but you’ll always be ahead and ideally work on your next product once the competition catches up. Thus the competition will always try to catch up.

Your focus should not be on your competition but developing new products and think one step ahead. If you have 1 or 2 cash cows that bring a constant amount of money in, you also act much more relaxed when developing new ideas.

Access to the market

Before you even get started with the product idea you should make sure that you can actually reach your target audience and customers. A good example where you’ll fail would be branded goods like women’s bags. Consumers trust or want to have branded things. No matter if your product is superior.

Let’s say you had the idea of a women’s tote bag, found a supplier, ordered the product, listed it on Amazon and now you come to realize that people are not buying your bags. Naturally; because women want to buy branded stuff like Gucci, Louis Vuitton etc. You’ll also have difficulties getting magazines or influencers to write about your bags because they usually promote the big brands

To tap into such a market you need connections, years of marketing and essentially a lot of money. This can quickly be the end of your ecommerce career. What’s more, on high competition items like women’s bags you also have high PPC costs that can quickly evaporate your profits.

So again, you need access to the marketplace & its customers. Access to market is critical and you should be thinking of that right from the start, otherwise you are constantly in survival mode and run after sales. If you are constantly in survival mode, you simply have no time for product development, long-term strategies, or other important things that will shape the future of your brand. So – cash cow products, audience and access to the market.

Once you’ve settled on a niche, you should think about product ideas. For example what is currently selling well in this niche? Are there any technical or groundbreaking trends coming in the future? For example when I heard rumors in November 2015 that Apple wants to remove the audio jack on the iPhone and only offer the earphone with lightning connector, I was thinking about what that means for the future and the iPhone 7.

So I spoke to some suppliers and developed earphones with lightning connection. Granted it was a big risk to develop a product based on rumors but then when the rumors became true in September 2016, I was the only provider of iPhone earphones with lightning connection (other than Apple). Obviously many sellers came after but for about 12 weeks I was the only seller of certified iPhone lightning connector earphones and I made nearly $30,000 on a $6,000 investment. The moral of the story is that you sometimes have to take a risk but more importantly listen to the community or solve an existing problem.

What does the community want?

Listen in on what communities are saying in your niche. What are people talking about right now? Is there a certain problem within a niche? Here the community work is really very important. You can be active in 1-2 communities and really listen in on what customers prefer, what brands are popular, what are those brands doing or not doing at the moment etc.

A great indication of whether a product is needed is when people say that they have to use other products in combination with the actual product to make it work more smoothly.

For example, when Bitcoin and all the other cryptocurrencies came out, you could download the wallets to your computer or save them online on exchanges. Many people worried what if the exchange goes belly up or if their computer dies on them?

Then Ledger came and developed a hardware wallet that would store your cryptocurrency. You could then put your Ledger hardware wallet in a locked up safe or store it somewhere safely. Ledger was sold out for months and couldn’t even cope with demand. Again, someone listened to a problem in a community and solved it by offering a solution.

All these things will define your product. The more you incorporate problems of the community and try to solve them with your product you’ll minimize the risk of failing with your self developed product.

You will always see the following attributes for successful products:

1) A great solution,

2) Quality that you can trust, easy to get and easy to handle

Are these all attributes of your article? If not, how can you apply these attributes to your product?

Imagine you are your own customer. Would you be satisfied with your product? Why would customers not buy your product? What does the product do for your customers? What doesn’t it do? At this point, you also have to come back to the point: Are you your own biggest fan or are you solving an actual problem with your product? Consider the product or idea objectively.

To further define your product, split your product into 3 categories:

1) The functional part (which problem does your product solve?).

2) The emotional part (how do people feel when they buy or use your product?)

3) The social part (is this product an icebreaker? Does it show a certain social status?)

Remember your product should solve a problem or be part of your costumer’s daily life. Why does someone need your product? Can your product solve complexities or frustration with other products that the customer experiences?

Entry barriers

At this point, it is important to take another step back and look if there are any other entry barriers. For example, sometimes industries are tied down and all suppliers are actively working for these brands or major customers. Like smart-phones. This industry is dominated by 4-5 big brands. Do you have a chance to even work with the suppliers of these brands? Are there any patents, license or royalty fees? Sometimes the costs, licenses or certifications required to succeed are simply too high.

Sometimes you also need to be honest with yourself and ask, “Do I have the technical know how” to develop such a product?

Ask your supplier which certifications; costs (including tooling) could arise. Or are there continuous product costs, royalty, licensing fees etc.

Another point would be your selling price. Can your target audience even afford your product? You could talk to your active communities and just ask what people would pay for a certain product.

Another option to validate a product or its price would be to simply start a PPC campaign on Facebook with a “buy now” button that leads to a listing where people can buy samples of your product at a certain price. Obviously there is no stock but this method makes it easier to show if people are interested at all. You can then look at the analytics and data and make better decisions for the price & product development.

Can you scale the business? Is there a point where you just cannot expand the business? (E.g. fidget spinner)

Conclusion

At this point, you are probably overwhelmed with all the theories and work ahead when developing a product and you are already thinking this will never happen.

Simply put, good things take time and you don’t need to rush. Imagine a long hike that you have to plan ahead of time. For example I always wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in the US. The whole hike lasts between 4-6 months and you just have to prepare yourself with good equipment, read about how to find water and food, get maps etc. So it’s a long process to get prepared.

There is no shortcut in any business. Sometimes you can be lucky and struck a gold mine quickly but you can’t rely on that.

There will also be days when you have to ask yourself unpredictable questions or face unpleasant situations. There will be days when you are super excited about your idea, going to bed unable to sleep because you love your idea. And then on the next day, a difficult situation will bring you down and make you feel depressed about your idea. At this point either continue and ignore your ego, make improvements & changes to your product or actually say – ok this is too much to handle.

Once you’ve answered all these questions for you, it’s time to start sourcing with suppliers, negotiate prices, ordering prototypes, and putting everything together. Also, don’t give up too soon just because the first suppliers don’t want to do what you ask or completely redesign their existing product. Just because you haven’t found a supplier after 7 days doesn’t mean you won’t find one.

For one of my own products, I looked for a supplier for 6 months and I finally found them that at a trade fair. Of course it also makes sense to go to China (or go to local trade shows in your country) when it comes to selecting suppliers.

But also be open for suggestions from the suppliers you talk to. Talk to suppliers about modifications or suggestions that could improve your design. Do not cling too much to your ego when 10 out of 10 suppliers say it doesn’t work that way.

Now that the community, trend & general research is done you should have a pretty good feeling with your product. Often you actually don’t have to go through all the above steps and sometimes results will come much quicker in a way you didn’t anticipate. My point is to be aware of these situations.

Once you’ve actually cleared all doubts and realized “yes the world needs my product and it will even sell very well” then there is actually no reason left, not to do it.

If a big investment of say $ 20,000 is your only problem, then entrepreneurship or this business is not for you. A certain risk will always exist but with this strategy and calculated risk, there is really nothing left to stop you.

Now you could say, yes but should I not start with something simple first? Sure, I’ve explained how and when in Steps 1-9. But considering that the competition is getting bigger and bigger and the strategy I just laid out for you worked on many of my products, you may want to ask yourself if you want to improve or set standards.

Because if you are always just making me-to products and just trying to improve other products with an add-on or other colors or more accessories, you are behind the market. But if you have several self-developed products on the market that bring you more money in the long and always put you ahead of the competition wouldn’t that be worth pursuing? To make simple products at first is totally OK but if you want to do this as a full-time job, you have to think innovatively over time and follow this process.

Remember, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel but just adding a different colour to an existing product in today’s market won’t be enough. Listen to what your customers want or need and take it from there.

With that being said, good to you!
All the best,
Manuel 

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Manuel

Is Alibaba safe?​

The most asked question I get are “how to avoid being scammed by a supplier” or “how do I make sure this supplier is legit”? Especially on platforms like Alibaba – the biggest of its kind. This begs the question, is Alibaba safe? 

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alibaba

Is Alibaba safe?​

Is Alibaba safe?

Is Alibaba safe?

By Manuel Becvar
By Manuel Becvar

Table of Contents

Introduction

The most asked question I get are “how to avoid being scammed by a supplier” or “how do I make sure this supplier is legit”? Especially on platforms like Alibaba – the biggest of its kind. This begs the question, is Alibaba safe? 

The short answer would be, YES, Alibaba is safe. Alibaba has been around for 2 decades and when i first used it back in 2004 things were very different from now and it was easy to get scammed. However, things have certainly changed since then and Alibaba itself has done many improvements to the site and is making sure, the consumer is safe. 

It is easy to get overwhelmed with the selection of suppliers on Alibaba and I can understand how you might have difficulties figuring out if it is safe to transfer your money to a supplier you’ve never met. 

To be honest with you the easiest way to make 100% sure if a supplier on Alibaba is safe is to go visit the factory but I realise that most of you won’t be able to do so.

The goods news is there are ways to figure out if a supplier is legit or not without going to China. The bad news is that some of these options will cost you some money.

Many people will tell you just to go for a “Gold-supplier”. But that means NOTHING. Anyone can buy that “badge” from Alibaba. The questions shouldn’t be “is Alibaba safe”. Because yes, Alibaba as a platform is safe. There’s escrow payments, third party inspections on site etc.

The real question should be: is the supplier you found on Alibaba safe / legitimate? So I’ve come up with a different approach over the years. 

Here are my four proven ways of researching a supplier on Alibaba. I will go into detail for each one of them and hopefully it will help you determine whether you can transact business with a chosen supplier. 

1) Alibaba research

2) Certificates & reports

3) Skype call

4) Factory audits

Alibaba
Alibaba platform

Disclaimer: Some of the products may contain an affiliate link and we may make a commission if you click on it at no additional costs to you.

1) Alibaba research

I’ve made a video for you below for easier explanation, but lets look at some of the main points. Alibaba research is free of charge and these days it is quite safe to manoeuvre on Alibaba. Alibaba itself works constantly on improving buyer’s safety and trust. So here are a few things you’ll want to look out for: 

How long have they been in business?

Have they been around for 2 years of 20 years? Would you buy something from someone who has specialised making hair dryers for 2 years or 20 years? 

What are their main markets?

Under the section company profile, you can look up what their main markets are. Are they mainly delivering to Egypt, Vietnam? Or is their main market the US or the Western European area? Make sure to choose someone who has experience with your market. You don’t want to have a supplier who you’ll have to explain all the quality requirements for your country. 

Does their assortment match up?

Meaning do they have many different categories that are suspicious or don’t make sense? Do they sell bathroom furniture, lawn mowers and kitchen appliances? Or are they specialised in 1 product assortment? Chose someone who makes 1 or maximum 2 product groups. You also won’t be going to the Greek restaurant around the corner and order Pizza from the just because they have it. 

Is the address a small office address or an actual road address?

If a factory prides themselves with a turnover of 10MilUSD and their address is for example: Room B, XYZ Office building, something is off. Also see if you can find a website outside of Alibaba – just Google the company name. Is the address you find on there different? Make sure they match. 

Third party assessment reports 

You can get copies of the reports that Alibaba saves on its database and you can look into the reports. These could be a ISO or a BSCI audit report. That means the factory has been audited at some point for manufacturing compliance. If the factory doesn’t have any, its not a good sign. 

Product certifications

Does the factory have product certifications such as FDA approvals, FCC, or for Europe things like GS, LFGB certification? Are they visible on the Alibaba profile? Does the product number or name match up with the product you are interested in? If a factory has no product certifications its a sign that they aren’t into safety and quality regulations. Hands off!

Gold suppliers/Pre-assesed suppliers/Onsite Check/ Trade assurance filters

While I initially said anyone can buy a Gold-supplier badge, these do help to make a decision. After all, a scamming factory wouldn’t spend money on getting a Gold supplier badge (it still happens however). Be weary of non or 1-year Gold suppliers. See if the supplier has been checked by Alibaba or if they offer Trade Assurance. If for example a factory does not have any of the above checks I would be very suspicious. Because why wouldn’t they want Alibaba or a Third-Party to inspect their facilities? Simple, they know they would be uncovered as either an expensive agent or a scammer.

Finally at the end of this blog post I’ve made a video for Alibaba hacks, tips and tricks, so keep on reading to make sure you find the best suppliers.

2) Certificates & Reports

Another free option is to look at certificates & reports from factories. If your factory is neither on Alibaba, Globalsources or any other supplier directory you can still check their reports.

Simply email the supplier to send you the following (or one of them) reports for your evaluation:

  • Their latest factory audit report from any other customer.

If they haven’t had an audit yet ask why. If they can provide you a report scan trough it and look for anything unusual or critical.

  • Certificates of the product itself. For example :

FDA approvals (kitchenware, supplements, etc.)

REACH certification is necessary for most European countries & the Americas. It prohibits certain hazardous material within the product.

CE is a certification for Europe to meet general standards. Its good if a supplier has this.

FCC is a required certification on electrical products & also a standard for the US.

If they do not have any certification, approvals or even audit reports is its a VERY bad sign and you should stay away from this supplier.

Why?

1) Because they are not interested in developing any business with overseas clients and are only after quick and easy orders (most likely South East Asian customers who don’t care about certification).

2) Because paying for an audit or having your products certified costs time and money. Reliable & customer oriented factories do not shy away from making these investments. Scammers, un-reliable factories don’t even want to bother. They probably won’t even answer your email with your inquiry in the first place or they write something back that I received quite recently from a factory that i knew was up to no good: “We don’t do business with Hong Kong company”.

They realised I know my business, because I requested a couple of things in my first email to them. I am not saying overwhelm your supplier with questions and requests in your first email but find a fine line of what you want to have from your supplier in the beginning.

3) Skype/Zoom call

Still not convinced of your supplier? Something off in your conversations?

This research option is free if your supplier has Skype/Zoom and most suppliers usually do. Request a video call with your supplier and prepare yourself with a few questions.

  • Ask anything that would make you feel more comfortable in working with the supplier.

  • Ask about the factory, how many workers, etc.

Basically anything that gets the supplier answering your questions so that you can develop “a gut feeling”.

  • Ask them to show you the sample (of your interested product) in the video call.

If he doesn’t have a sample in hand, arrange another time for a Skype call. If he refuses or finds some excuses you will quickly see that something is off.

4) Factory audits

Finally, you could conduct a factory audit. A factory audit is where you hire a Third-Party Inspection Company to conduct an audit at the factory’s facilities. I wouldn’t recommend this in the early stages of your communication. Check all off the above first and if for some reason you want to stay with the supplier but want to have him audited anyway, you could arrange a factory audit. 

This way you can make 100% sure your supplier is legit.

Be aware that not all factories allow you to perform an audit at the location which is in turn already a huge red flag.

If they are willing to undergo an audit straight away it is a good sign already. You don’t necessarily need to perform an audit but announcing to a supplier before you order that you will conduct an audit already gives you some idea on what your supplier is up to.

There are many Third-Party Inspection companies out there and I mention them in a few posts (TUV, SGS, Bureau Veritas etc.) but I always use QIMA because they are efficient, cost effective and reliable. There are companies out there who charge half the price but you don’t have a convenient interface/dashboard online that lets you do the booking trough their system. Most of the cheaper Inspection Companies have only email/phone conversation bookings available. 

You can create a free account anytime and book online at your convenience. What’s more, QIMA has many other services that come in handy. Such as product inspections, product testing etc. I’ve written on product inspections previously here. I never ship from China without an inspection! This is how their interface looks like:

I admit the price (629US$) is pretty steep and it only makes sense to perform an audit if you have larger orders and continuous business with a factory. Another reason could be that the factory you are planning to order from is the ONLY factory producing the item you are looking for but for some reason you have a feeling you would rather have the factory audited or inspected before placing an order.

Based on the audit report a factory actually also can benefit. The audit points out things to be improved from the factory’s side and it will help the factory to get more customers if they are audited by a Third-Party. You could even ask your factory to share half of the costs and pointing out to them that they will benefit from this audit in any way.

Conclusion

Even with many years on my back in this industry I can’t always know for sure that a factory is legit or not trying to scam me. Unless of course I send an inspection or go to see the factory myself.

A member of our Master Class told me a story recently about an absurd encounter via Skype with a supplier in China and I hope she don’t mind me telling the story here 🙂

He looked like he was at a house rather than work. He looked like he had just woken up and recovering from a hangover. There was a child screaming and running around in the background…then a second guy came up to give him a cigarette, which he then proceeded to smoke during the Skype session….he then told me that the factory is “moving” so 100 pieces in a custom packaging would take about 2 months. It was a bit comical at times. 🙂 

Now I would think twice ordering from this factory but apparently everything went well (this time).

It’s like in poker. You have a certain amount of “tells” available on your opponent and depending on how he makes his moves, you call (place an order) or fold a hand (eliminate the supplier).

Even when you know you did all you can do to protect your money sometimes there is no guarantee you can win, but having the above tools and research options available you can at least make a decision knowing you did your best.

Now, I do hope the above gives you some idea and help to safely select a supplier in China on Alibaba (or other platforms). 

Last but not least, as promised – here’s the video I made a while ago on how to safely navigate Alibaba:

Happy sourcing!

Manuel

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Blog Updates
Manuel

Is Alibaba safe?​

The most asked question I get are “how to avoid being scammed by a supplier” or “how do I make sure this supplier is legit”? Especially on platforms like Alibaba – the biggest of its kind. This begs the question, is Alibaba safe? 

Read More »

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What is a private label packaging & differences

Private label & packaging differences

Private label & packaging differences

By Manuel Becvar
By Manuel Becvar

Table of Contents

Introduction

The obvious and most profitable way to create sales is a private label with a nice packaging. But what is a private label packaging?

In German we say “Eine gute Verpackung ist die halbe Miete” which literally translated means “ A nice packaging is half the rent” or in other words with a nice packaging you “win half the battle”.

Meaning that a nice packaging will convince your customers to buy your product by 50% already. That saying even goes when you are selling online and your customers won’t even see your packaging.

BUT say you sell online and your customer receives your item and he sees the nice packaging he sure will give a better review just because the packaging is nice already.

Note: Even if you sell online, you should put a picture (high resolution) or even a 3D-rendering picture amongst your product listing so that customers can see your packaging.

It is even easier if you sell offline (in retail stores). Just think about it, how often have you made a decision buying a product because the packaging was nice.

Look at Apple’s packaging.

Nice and clean, no fancy colors, UV coating (the logo and product), clear and to the point descriptions with high resolution photos. They got me, I buy their products also based on their packaging.

Now lets look at the different options in packaging’s.

 

private label packaging
A great example of a private label packaging. Clean and simple.

Disclaimer: Some of the products may contain an affiliate link and we may make a commission if you click on it at no additional costs to you.

Differences in Packaging

You basically have 3 options:

– Private label packaging (color box or white box with private label sticker)

– No name packaging

– White box

 

Private label packaging:

You have to differentiate between a white box private label packaging and a color box private label packaging.

Obviously a full color box would be the best way to go but the thing is you need a certain quantity to print color boxes.

Suppliers will usually request a minimum order of 500 or more. It’s not that the supplier doesn’t want you to have your own boxes on a low quantity but the prices they usually quote come with a private label box.

It is not the factory itself that requests a high quantity but it is the printing factory who needs a minimum of say a 1000 pieces to offset their printing costs. Of course sometimes high MOQ’s are set by the factory (unrelated to the packaging) because they need to purchase a certain amount of raw material but in most cases they give you high MOQ’s because of the packaging.

That’s the next thing, when a supplier quotes you a price based on private label he often is referring to a color box.

But what you can still do is to have a white box with a sticker or your logo on it.

The good news is you can ask your factory to print lower quantities of color boxes and just pay a little more. Most buyers just give up on their private label when the factory tells them that they need 1000 pieces for a private label box.

Simply ask your supplier to either adjust the cost so that he can cover the more expensive packaging or ask him to have a white box and put a sticker with your logo on it. A sticker typically costs less than 0.1USD per sticker. I will get into costs on packaging in a little bit.

A private label color packaging also allows you to change everything on the box. Pictures, descriptions, instruction manual etc. I will get to that in a little bit.

It's a great idea to ad a QR barcode to your packaging that customers can scan and get to your website faster.

No Name packaging:

When you start off importing you are probably selling items off the rack (no- name items) from the supplier bought through Aliexpress or Alibaba.

Usually these items have the manufacturer’s “brand” or even just a simple white box when they are shipped to you.

A manufacturer’s brand or no-name brands are not really brands. They are simply the manufacture’s name on the packaging with no or little meaning to your end-consumer.

This kind of packaging is only recommend if you are testing a product and say you don’t want to place an order of 500 pieces, changing the packaging and not even knowing if you will sell the product well.

no name
Typical "no-name" chinese supplier packaging.

White box: 

Whenever you can and especially if you are testing a product ask your supplier if he has white box available for your shipment.

In most cases the supplier won’t have a white box but sometimes they do.

A white box is ideal for you to put your logo on it and not having to change anything on the packaging, especially if you are just testing the waters with this product.

Instruction Manual & Description on the box

Having a proper instruction manual is essential. There are of course products that do not require an instruction manual but whenever you can, have an instruction manual. Usually (99% of the time) the supplier will have an instruction manual. Often these can be in a very poor English.

Before you place an order, check with your supplier on the instruction manual. Inspect the manual and look for grammar or vocabulary mistakes. If you are ordering small quantities (no name packaging) the supplier will probably not agree to have the instruction manual changed. BUT say you are a native English speaker you could suggest to proofread and revise his Instruction Manual for free in exchange for him printing new instruction manuals for your order. That will also benefit him because he now has a proof-read and proper manual for his future customers.

If you order larger quantities, the suppliers will usually agree to print new instruction manuals. In this case you ask the supplier for his current instruction manual and revise it the way you need it.

It’s a little more complicated when it comes to descriptions on the packaging itself. If it is a no-name packaging and you order small quantities the only thing you could do is to put stickers onto the packaging to cover certain wordings or pictures on the packaging. But this will obviously look cheap.

 

Different story again when you have your own packaging (private label).

To change a products packaging you need to ask the supplier for the “die-cut”. That’s usually an .ai file (sometimes a PDF file) that can be rendered and modified by your designer (trough photoshop or similar programs).

 

If you do not have a designer or layouting company on hand check out www.fiverr.com. There are a lot of guys on there doing amazing jobs on packaging. I recommend to pay a little more (hire more gigs on the fiverr job) and have a nicer packaging than if you pay 5US$ only.

 

Once you have the .ai file from the factory send it to your layouter and advise him of the changes you would like to have. Remember if you are selling on Amazon you will also want to have the UPC and FNSKU code embedded onto the packaging already.

Once your layout designer finishes the job, send the file to your factory and confirm the new packaging with him.

Thickness

There is no general thickness that you can apply to your packaging as it all depends on the weight and size of your product. If I would have to tell my supplier the thickness of the carton I would probably tell him more than 0.25mm (or 0.01inch) as anything below would be too thin and my product is likely to be damaged during transportation.

UV Coating

A nice but more expensive way to finish your color box is a UV coating that you apply to your packaging. You don’t coat the entire packaging but only highlight a few things like the product picture or your logo. If you look closely enough at my packaging you can see that the logo as well as the picture on each side of the packaging are elevated and UV coated. It gives the packaging a nice and high-end finish. UV coating usually costs an additional 0.2-0.3USD cents.

UV coating on the packaging

Photos

Ah the photos. Photos are so essential to your packaging and your sales.

If you don’t have high resolution or clear photos your customers won’t be able to see your product clearly and it will turn them off buying your product.

When you first ask for a quotation from a supplier you usually get an excel file with a small picture. That kind of picture won’t suffice for your listing (online) or your packaging. Ask your supplier for a high resolution photo of the product and don’t believe him when he says he doesn’t have one.

They always have high resolution photos because they probably have a packaging of their own (or from a different customer) where they had to take a high resolution photo. They needed to take a high resolution photo at some point because you can’t use a snapshot photo on a packaging. If you would use a snapshot photo on a packaging it would be highly pixilated.

The more photos you can collect from your supplier the better.

If the photos are good quality, great, if not try to enhance them with programs on your computer. There are several programs these days for free to enhance photos. If you would like to have it done professionally you can revert to fiverr.com again. There are a lot of guys on there offering photo enhancement for 5$.

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Costs of packaging

As previously mentioned, when a factory quotes you a price based on private label or color box the costs are included.

If the factory refuses to print your packaging because of the low quantity you may tell them that you will outsource the printing job. If they agree you need to follow the same direction as described above. Find a layouting company (service on fiverr.com) and send your newly made packaging to a secondary printing factory that will in turn deliver the empty boxes to your factory.

I often use a secondary factory for my packaging as some of my manufacturers have a very high MOQ for packaging’s (1000 or more).

To get an idea of how much a color packaging actually costs when outsourced I will list indicative prices here:

1000 pcs ~0.3US$ cents per packaging

500 pcs ~1US$ per packaging

300 pcs ~3US$ per packaging

100pcs ~7US$ per packaging

These prices are from my printing factory and are based on 4-color box with UV coating (contact me for details of the printing factory if you need someone). You can get it a little cheaper without UV coating.

You see that the prices go up the lower the qty but that’s normal as printing a low quantity of 100 pieces really is quite expensive.

Alibaba has a lot of sources for printing factories as well.

Use Alibaba just like sourcing any other product. However, below the search bar click on “Location” and find the area closest to your product factory.

That way the packaging can be quickly delivered locally to your factory and much cheaper. Many suppliers will deliver free to your factory if the distance is close enough.

I hope that the above gave you some overview of differences and options in packaging.

If you have any questions, comment here or shoot me an email at: mail@importdojo.com

Happy sourcing!

Manuel

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Manuel

Is Alibaba safe?​

The most asked question I get are “how to avoid being scammed by a supplier” or “how do I make sure this supplier is legit”? Especially on platforms like Alibaba – the biggest of its kind. This begs the question, is Alibaba safe? 

Read More »

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Sign up for ImporDojo and get our free eBook “The Import Bible” – the complete starter guide to importing from China. As well as updates on blog posts and news around the eCommerce world. We’ll never spam and you can unsubscribe any time – its FREE to subscribe! 

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Do you have what it takes to start your import business? 10 steps reality check

Do you have what it takes to start your import business?

Do you have what it takes to start your import? 10 steps reality check

By Manuel Becvar
By Manuel Becvar

Table of Contents

Do you have what it takes to start your import business? 10 steps reality check

Starting your business from the scratch is not as easy as you might think. Trust me, I have been there.

Even if a friend of yours has a successful importing company and he is making millions, at some point he was probably close to bankruptcy and did not know what to do next.

Everyone starts off the same way; there is no get-rich-quick scheme that works. Well, none that I know. Your expecations are often not what reality will have in store for you.

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Especially when you’ve been working on your project for months with no results.

For me, the less money I had the more creative I got.

I was thinking of ways to make money I had not thought of before but at a certain point it was suddenly so clear to me. Things started to roll and I wish I had a guide to tell me what to do.

With the IMPORT BIBLE and the following checklist you have a guide on what you need to consider and questions you should ask yourself.

 

Disclaimer: Some of the products may contain an affiliate link and we may make a commission if you click on it at no additional costs to you.

1) Do you have it in you?

  • Are you motivated enough?

  • Are you ready to work longer hours than ever before?

  • Do you have real passion about your project/business?

  • Do you have the financial means to pull this off?

If you answered any of the above questions with NO then it probably isn’t the right time to start your own business.

2) Reality Check

Don’t fool yourself; having your own company is the hardest work there is:

  • No guaranteed salary at the end of the month.

  • No one is there to push you or give you directions.

  • Are you organized enough?

I hope you realize that from now on you will work harder than ever to achieve financial success.

3) Experience & Resources

  • Are you experienced enough in your industry?

  • Do you have the technical and basic skills to succeed?

 

If you do not have the necessary skills and experience, do more research on the topics until you feel confident with the product.

4) Research & Competition

  • Have you done your research?

  • Do you have competition?

  • What advantages do you have over your competition?

  • Do you have a supplier or manufacturer for your product?

Research on your competition is vital to your success. It’s one of the first steps you need to take.

You may end up with a product that’s already in the market if your research is not thorough.

5) Business Plan

  • Create a business plan, even if you don’t need to present it to anyone for funding. It will help you to focus on your goals.

  • Share the business plan with an experienced professional and let him give you an honest opinion.

  • A business plan is a must have. Hang it somewhere you can see it every day to remind you of why you are doing this.

6) Finances

  • Do you have the necessary funds to invest in this project?

  • Have you considered the down payments you need to make to suppliers?

  • Do you have money saved to last you longer than 6-8 months? That is if you plan on making this your main source of income for the coming months.

Many business fail because they didn’t prepare for the dry spell that may come. Make sure you have enough money in savings.

7) Profits

  • Remember that your possible turnover does not equal profit.

  • Make yourself a turnover and profit calculation.

Be accurate and precise. Don’t fool yourself when you calculate your profits and loss.

8) Company type

  • Have you set up your legal company?

  • Do you have any investors or shareholders to back you up?

Check with your local government to see what type of company you need to set up for importing.

9) Marketing

  • Have you prepared and completed your marketing strategy?

  • Website in place?

  • Social media presence in place? (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc.)

You don’t necessarily have to have a Facebook page with 1000 followers in place but it makes sense to start early. A simple website with a “ landing” and “about page” should be in place before you start. If you are selling through Amazon make sure you pre-launch your product before arrival (e.g. build a email list on your website, Facebook promotions & give aways etc.)

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10) Import Checklist

Make sure you follow these steps and cross them off honestly. The Import Bible will help you along the way to complete tasks.

A) Your motivation to import

  • Are you motivated enough to go all the way?

  • Are you ready to work longer hours than ever before?

  • Do you have real passion about your project/business?

  • Do you have the financial means to pull this off?

B) Did you find the right product?

  • Does your product have a “product-to-market fit”?

  • Did you research your competition?

  • Is your product unique?

  • Any copyright issues associated with the product?

C) Are there any restrictions on importing in your country?

  • Does your product have any restrictions on import in your country?

  • Does your product have any anti-dumping tax rates?

  • Is there a limited amount of import on this item?

D) Have you found the right supplier?

  • Is your communication smooth or problematic?

  • Are the payment terms difficult or suspicious?

  • Is he willing to send samples?

  • Is he genuinely interested in working with you?

E) Have you calculated all possible costs into your products?

  • Item and detailed specifications are all clarified with the supplier?

  • All possible license costs are included? (e.g., Bluetooth, Mp3, etc.)

  • Taxes and duties to be paid are clear?

  • Inspection costs have been calculated?

  • Shipment and logistics costs for sea transport are calculated?

  • Distribution, warehousing, or fulfillment costs are calculated?

  • Sales commissions are calculated? (e.g., FBA or Ebay)

F) Logistics

  • Pre-arranged shipment details confirmed with a logistics company?

  • Costs, pick up, and drop off are defined and confirmed?

  • Labels and markings are discussed with the supplier?

  • Fulfillment center has been advised of the necessary labeling?

G) Invoice & Payment

  • Has the invoice (PI) been checked thoroughly and confirmed?

  • Prices and terms are as agreed?

  • Payment has been discussed and deposit (if applicable) arranged?

H) Supplier price negotiation

  • Price has been discussed and finalized based on your requirements?

  • Price from the factory includes all necessary documents and certificates?

  • Price includes all necessary licenses (if applicable)?

I) Order Monitoring

  • Order checklist in place?

  • Weekly reminder to make a call/email to the factory?

J) Inspection / Quality Control

K) Shipment release

  • Shipment is released based on the inspection report?

  • Logistics company will arrange the pick-up and documentation?

  • Payment to the supplier is released?

L) Shipment

  • Your warehouse/fulfillment center is prepared for the arriving goods?

  • Checked with logistics company on arrival and prepared to pay duties and taxes?

M) Arrival of goods

  • Goods have all been accounted for in the requested condition?

  • Fulfillment center is briefed and standing by?

N) Claims & compensation

  • Returned goods have been documented with photos and reports?

  • Internal report has been sent to the supplier for compensation?

O) Sales Channels

  • Is your sales strategy clear?

  • Promotions & Advertisement in place? (Amazon PPC for example)

Follow above guidelines and ask yourself these questions to make sure you are clear about your business strategy.

Happy importing!

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Manuel

Is Alibaba safe?​

The most asked question I get are “how to avoid being scammed by a supplier” or “how do I make sure this supplier is legit”? Especially on platforms like Alibaba – the biggest of its kind. This begs the question, is Alibaba safe? 

Read More »

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Sign up for ImporDojo and get our free eBook “The Import Bible” – the complete starter guide to importing from China. As well as updates on blog posts and news around the eCommerce world. We’ll never spam and you can unsubscribe any time – its FREE to subscribe! 

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Global Sources review and personal experience

Global Sources review and personal experience

Global Sources review and personal experience

By Manuel Becvar
By Manuel Becvar

Table of Contents

In 2015 I personally exhibited with my private label brand (Mandarin-Gear) at the Global Sources Electronics show. In later years I was even asked to speak at their Amazon FBA conference 3 times (2016/2017). 

At the time my whole product assortment were consumer electronics (as this was my background). In time my assortment has changed but this review will focus on the show itself. I’ve also done a detailed review of Globalsources’s online platform in detail here.

But again, this review will focus on the physical show itself. I exhibited at the Global Sources Electronics show from 11-14th of April with my brand “Mandarin-Gear” and I went to source at the HKTDC Electronics show on 15th of April.

As of now (2021) there are no exhibitions in Hong Kong at the moment due to COVID-19. But I am sure these times will pass and there will be shows again in the future. Here is a re-cap and lessons learned from the shows both in terms of being a supplier and as a visitor. 

Disclaimer: Some of the links may contain an affiliate link and I may make a commission if you click on it at no additional costs to you.

Global Sources review
At my booth

Global Sources Electronics exhibition move-in day

Global Sources claims to be the largest Electronics Sourcing show of its kind. It was my first time exhibiting there so I was  really excited. I have been to many exhibitions over the years as a buyer and this was my first time as a supplier. Also I was hoping for a boost in sales, making new contacts and generally brining the word out on my brand. 

With 90% exclusive exhibitors, the show is Asia’s leading sourcing event for consumer electronics. Electronic components, and security products, and the platform of choice for a growing number of buyers, including big-name importers like Samsung, Hewlett-Packard and Panasonic.

My main goal for the show was to find new customers/wholesalers for my brand Mandarin-Gear. I was showcasing all of my products in my private label (see previous post) and I was certain that I will get some interest from buyers. There should be well over 5,000 buyers from different countries worldwide, so I was sure it will be worth it.

I went there early morning and my assistant helped me move in things:

I ordered a few packaging boxes & banners prior to the fair and was able to set up my booth pretty quickly:

The exhibition management is also extremely efficient. My key account executive showed up shortly after I arrived and was answering the few questions I still had. The whole booth cost me 35,000HKD (4,514USD) and I even get half of that back from the Hong Kong government’s SME fund as I am a registered HK company. How awesome is that?

This is how it eventually looked like after an hour:

The tradeshow itself is pretty huge. There are 11 halls and mine is one of the bigger ones. I am standing in the middle of the hall taking below photo, so you can imagine how large the whole hall is.

It was still pretty empty and people slowly started to move in when we left. Decoration of most booths have been completed yesterday. The bigger booths were still under construction:

Global Sources Electronics exhibition day

I was really busy the first 2 days with buyers from all over the world, so I didn’t have much time for sourcing myself.

I planned on doing that on the last day and I went to source to the other Electronics fair on 15th of April all day. 

Here are some of the key take aways as a supplier: 

  • When you exhibit, make sure you get a corner booth or a booth in the middle of the hall where people pass by.

  • Create some buzz on your booth and show enough of your products or just the packaging, play some music if the venue allows it and have some banners that quickly show what your booth is all about.

  • Make sure you have friendly and approachable people ready to explain what your product is all about at your booth.

  • Ask your friends to come visit you. It gives the booth a crowded feeling and people will want to know what’s going on.

  • Have enough marketing material ready (catalogues, business cards etc.)

  • Know your products and make sure any assistants or other people at your booth know everything as well. Be prepared for questions that are unusual. Study your products that you are displaying and make sure that you fully understand them.

  • Take notes and follow up immediately after the fair. Buyers tend to forget who they have visited.

  • Take photos with people that visit you at your booth and send it to them afterwards. Create a relationships. A fair is not just about sales it is more than anything else a networking event.

All in all I was pretty happy with the results. I met a lot of buyers in those 4 days exhibiting and I can now actually say 6 years later (2021) that it was well worth it. The whole investment were about 5,000$ and I must have generated well over 200,000$ with the clients I met at the exhibition. To this day I still work with some of these customers. 

Here are a few pictures from the last 2 days:

Discussing a potential order
Obviously upset with some supplier
This customer eventually turned out to be one of my main customers in 2019
Dim Sum during lunch time

Global Sources Electronics sourcing part

In general the show is pretty large as I’ve said already. So you need to be well prepared. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take long to prepare and to make it easier for you here are some tips on sourcing at an exhibtion: 

Prepare an introduction for yourself before you go sourcing at a trade fair.

This comes across as more professional and people will be more willing to invest time and resources into you if they feel they deal with someone professional who knows how to do business properly.

You are more likely to build a good relationship if you leave a good first impression. Here is an example how you could introduce yourself:

Hi, I am Manuel and I am the Managing Director of Mandarin-Gear Limited in Hong Kong. I run a Sourcing & Buying office for many large retailers worldwide such as COMPANY X, COMPANY Y. My customers are looking for product “X” and I am interested in discussing more details or to receive a quotation based on my customers requirements.

After the introduction ask questions and once you are satisfied ask him to provide a quotation based on your requirements. Hand him your business card and MAKE SURE that he wrote down everything you discussed.

  • Prepare an introduction of yourself and / or your company

  • Bring name cards, your own catalogue (in case you have one), comfortable shoes and a trolley to carry all the collected catalogues.

  • Pre-register online often saves you money and time

  • Look at freely available maps to find out where the products you are looking for are located before you start walking around. Plan your way through the fair systematically. This is especially important for bigger trade shows.

  • Take photos of products that you are interested in.

Prepare and ask the suppliers questions such as:

 

What is your MOQ (minimum order quantity)?

What certificates can you provide?

Who are your customers?

What are your top-selling items?

What is your factory standard?

Etc.

  • Make notes for yourself and follow up after the fair

  • Don’t waste your time with suppliers that: cant speak proper English, are not interested in discussing deals or have no idea about certifications & quality standards. Save yourself the trouble from the start.

Set yourself goals and targets when going to an exhibition. Remind yourself why you go there and be prepared with supporting material.

So is it worth it to go to the Global Sources exhibition?

Yes, absolutely! While things are mostly done online at the moment due to COVID-19, I personally can’t wait for the exhibitions to open again. Mostly because you meet suppliers in real, see products in real and can get a very good feeling of a supplier if he is trustworthy or not. 

And you’ll also find many other service providers such as inspection companies who are a must when you import from China. My personal favourite is QIMA who is my go to inspection company. Not just because they are affordable and trustworthy but they also have an easy to use online portal to book inspection. You can check them out here:

Plus, you’ll find hundreds of product ideas that you’ll immediately want to implement and buy. Obviously you’ll need to do your due diligence and research the supplier as well as the potential of all the products you found, but trust me, there will be at least 5 great products that you can take home and or sell online with your online shop or on Amazon. So it is a definite recommendation to visit the shows in Hong Kong. 

Happy sourcing & have a great week everyone,
Manuel

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