js

What’s new on ImportDojo?

Hey guys,

It’s been a few weeks since my last post and this is due to a holiday I took in Europe. Currently I am sitting in Budapest, Hungary writing this up. It’ll be another week until I am back in Hong Kong but I thought I’d give you a brief update on what I was up to.

Ecommercebutlers

I’ve launched a new page a few weeks ago called eCommercebutlers.com

The goal of this site is to help people build brands online. We’ll be regularly posting free content to help you build your eCommerce brand.

I’ve also moved the Sourcing Operation of ImportDojo to this site. So if you need help sourcing from professionals please check it out. As many of you know I’ve had a sourcing operation for quite a while now in Hong Kong which helps people find manufactures in China as well as handle the whole order follow up with factories for many eCommerce sellers.

Junglescout Million Dollar Case Study

Last week I was in a webinar with Greg Mercer & Kym from Junglescout to help with their Million Dollar Case Study. Currently they are in a supplier outreach phase and asked me for help and giving directions when sourcing in China. It was a little over an hour and we had a great chat.  If you are curios how I choose suppliers and what background checks I do before placing an order you can check out the whole webinar here:

The Million Dollar Case Study: Europe – Session #4: Find A Manufacturer In China

 

This also made me think of a few things in terms of supplier communications so I wanted to write up a few more notes and this brings me to today’s blog post:

Why Chinese suppliers never (or only partly) answer questions I asked? 

I’d like to give you a bit of an overview why Chinese suppliers don’t or might not reply to questions. 

1) Unprofessional inquiry

Since I am also a supplier based in Hong Kong I get inquiries from overseas clients on my products sometimes. You wouldn’t believe the level of un-professionalism I get sometimes.

Here’s an email from a inquriy I received a couple months back:

“Hi,

Please quote your products.

thank you”

And thats it. There is no name, no introduction, no details to which products are to be quoted, no quantity no final market etc. 

I usually delete these emails right away simply because I feel the buyer isn’t serious enough to buy from me. If he is, he would put in more time to send me a professional introduction what he does, what he intends to buy from me, what certification he might need, the market he is selling to and other details. Just as I, no supplier will take you serious with this kind of inquiry. 

Here’s how an email could look like:

Hi …,

My name is ….. and I am the ….(Manager/President/Buyer etc.) of …. Limited/Inc.

We are a (fill in your company’s business, e.g., Importer/Buying Office/Whole seller/Online shop) and are operating in (fill in your

country). You can also check out our website under: www. …..

I am writing to you today to inquire about the product I saw on your website/catalogue/exhibition.

The model number is….

Could you please give me the following information: (You can fill in the details in the attached quotation format or send me your quotation in the first step.)

Unit price based on …. Pieces

Minimum Order Quantity

Available certification (CE, RoHS, FCC, GS, etc.)

Production lead time

Available colors

Payment terms

I would then evaluate and get back to you as soon as possible.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thanks and best regards,

 In 95% of all cases you should get a more serious reply from a supplier. 

2) Unstructured inquiry

Some buyers don’t structure their initial inquiry well. Or they put important questions at the end of an email which can be easily overseen.

As an example looking at above email inquiry:

….Payment terms

I would then evaluate and get back to you as soon as possible.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thanks and best regards,

Oh, also we need to know what is the colors you can provide? 

The last sentence can be easily missed. So make sure that your inquiry has either bullet points, numbered paragraphs or other forms of structure. 

If you want you can also make important points BOLD. 

3) Too much work from other customers – ask again and again until you receive answers. 

Sometimes suppliers are simply overworked. I’m sure you’ve seen it, they even reply emails and work on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Usually 1 sales representative had 20 or more customers that he he/she needs to handle at the same time. And just like in any business they prioritize bigger customers first. 

Keep in mind that “we” Amazon/eCommerce sellers are mostly small fish if we order 500 or 1,000 units. Most retailers or wholesalers order 5,000 units upwards. 

You can imagine who gets priority. So suppliers tend to pay less attention to us smaller buyers and generally oversee some parts of your questions. 

4) Low potential client

supplier doesnt really care if you place an order and will treat your business with little seriousness. 

5) Supplier simply isn’t interested in your business – walk away

Chinese are very afraid of loosing face. So instead of telling you that they aren’t interested in your business they treat you with very little priority. 

Sometimes they don’t need any additional business at all. Maybe because they have too many clients or as previously mentioned don’t see your potential as compared to the workload.

Imagine you are a supplier and you have several clients who place orders every month more than 50,000USD. Easy work, setup processes with the existing clients and not much work. Then you have a client who has x amount of modifications, high standards and very little purchase order quantity. 

One could argue that you could become such a client if the supplier puts more effort in your first orders and your orders will grow in time. However these days factories have a lot of pressure filling production. Rising raw material prices, labour costs and expensive machinery to automate manufacturing. So obvioulsy you’ll go for clients who are easy, place larger orders, make you more profits and can fill your production capacity. 

Generally there’s to say that many new Amazon sellers have the impression that the factories are waiting for their orders and welcome every client with open arms. That is not the case. 

In our business to stay ahead of the competition you need to be unique, set yourself apart from the competition and most likely you don’t want to risk too much capital with new products. 

That also means that on top of our high requirements towards factories we don’t give them “big” business in the beginning. 

Key to a great supplier realtionship is to communicate your needs in the beginning and weed out those suppliers who aren’t really interested in your business or only reply half of your questions.

Imagine how difficult it will be down the road if you are having problems before even placing an order. Move on to the next supplier. 

Having said all that, there are great suppliers out there and even if I sometimes don’t get all my questions answered I can generally say most suppliers are willing to cooperate on many levels and ARE interested in my business. 

Don’t try to squeeze out every cent in your negotiation because what is it worth if you get a cheap price but poor quality and a supplier who’ll dissapear if you have problems. 

Treat your suppliers with respect – I’ve had great success with my strategy when building relationships with my suppliers. Live and let live. 

That’s it for today. Let me know if you have any questions. Simply comment below 

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

bench-accounting-49025

Why Amazon Germany is a desirable market and how your customer support becomes an idea machine

Hey folks,

This blog post is from a friend of mine who I met twice in Germany already. Her name is Nadine and last year she set out to create the only Amazon customer support based in Germany for your expanding eCommerce business. The site is called ENIDA – check it out!

Whether you are selling in the UK, IT, ES, FR, the US or in Germany, Enida takes care of your customers and has your best interest at heart. Their focus is on delivering stellar service so your customers will recommend your brand to other potential customers (friends & family).

And the best thing: Due to their internal “replacement” system you no longer have to worry about filling in for your staff on the weekend or during holidays. Enida has got you covered.

Onto today’s blog post: 

 

Why Amazon Germany is a desirable market and how your customer support becomes an idea machine

An ode to customer support

First off, let’s talk about customer support and its perceived image around the world. I admit it is not the sexiest job in the world but it can be very, very beneficial for your eCommerce business.

For most business owners customer support is the last thing they think about. It is solely something they have to do once customers notice the company. Funnily enough, most business owners hire customer support last. It’s a huge  pain. It only wastes money. Sadly though, the majority ignore the potential benefits you get when you focus on what your customers have to say.

Here’s a big welcome to the business owners who run eCommerce businesses and want to explore how customer support can open doors for new possibilities. 

In the following paragraphs, we are going to look at a general perspective on customer support and then move deeper into European and German customer support along the way. Let’s get started in finding out out what your customers want and what they would potentially buy.

Start to listen and build a customer FAQ

There has been no function more important for the growth of a company than its support. I know, you think that is a myth. But I can assure you it’s not. Working closely with customers pays off, especially when you empower your support staff allowing them to make decisions, set up an FAQ and thereby cut their customer interaction in half. When your support staff pays attention, you know what will sell and what won’t. And if you treat your customers right, you can send out a newsletter and even ask them, whether they would rather buy the new product in blue or orange – or purple?

If your product often requires an additional explanation, let your staff make a list with frequent problems and questions. You can then design a product inlay that will enable the customers to help themselves. After all, the best support is no support.

Therefore: use your support team to better understand your customers problems, which features of the product could be improved upon and how the process could run more smoothly. Based on this information you can raise the customer experience to the next level.

So: the more customers have a great experience and don’t require a contacting support, the happier they will be.

Now let’s move on to the next question.

Is European customer support any different from the rest of the world?

The simple answer is yes. We are quite spoiled here in Europe – especially in Germany and the UK. And since I am running a German customer support agency, that also covers English speaking customers, I am going to focus on the German market now. 

Germans, as you may have already heard, are always on time. Therefore, we like things to be done quickly and precisely. Also we can find it rather rude if you don’t speak our language and try to get by with Google Translate. 

So, in a nutshell: we are picky. We want to be treated like VIPs. But Germans also love consuming: out of around 80.5 million Germans, 44 million own an Amazon account and use it on a regular basis! Over 50%! Therefore, the European (German) market is not something you should just ignore. Like one seller said during a recent podcast I was in: “If you are not selling in Germany yet, you’re an idiot.”

Exactly. 

Herewith I want to help you get a better understanding of the German customers – after all this is my area of expertise. So in the following section, I will answer some common questions that sellers ask me on a regular basis.

Can’t I just use google translate?

No and if you do: stop it immediately. I know you might think that it’s not a big deal, but if you don’t speak a second language, you have no idea how bad the translation actually is. If you are serious about selling in Germany, if you want to build up your brand and make a lasting impression: get a German native speaker and add it to your support team. Especially Germans are very picky about this. As I have pointed out, over 50% of the German population is using Amazon and they expect you to speak their language. This also includes your listings.

Can I just use any German freelancer?

In theory, you could. But I advise you to at least know one German person who can look over their work. Why? Because Germans also make silly mistakes and typos can happen as well. If you pay for it, you better get flawless German. Get what I am saying? At Enida we have regular quality checks to make sure everyone is doing their job properly.

Can my listings just be in English?

Don’t do that. Seriously, don’t. Grab some money and get a good German copywriter or a translator to take care of your listing. After all, 44 million Germans browse and they compare. If you look at a product on Amazon in Spanish (because the Mexican seller didn’t bother to translate it) or a listing in broken English, would you think the product is a high quality product? Go figure.

Obviously, there are several translation services out there. Go get one that will help you optimize the listing even AFTER you have paid money for your PPC campaigns. For this reason, Enida runs their own translation service to help you get the best out of your listing: Enida Translations

Reach out to us and we will help you asap!

In the meanwhile, these are the main questions I get asked by foreign sellers. If you have any more, just send us a message at hello@enida.de and we will answer them swiftly.

Now: are you ready to tackle the German market?

Germany, as the second largest Amazon marketplace after the US, is the heart of the European Amazon battlefield. It might all sound complicated to you now, but once you have set up your system, it will run as smoothly as your current Amazon business. Therefore, we suggest starting with Germany and the UK and then expanding to all other European marketplaces.

If you are unsure whether you are ready for the German market, head over to Enida, click on the “English” button and sign up for our “6 Must Knows before you get into the German market!” Or, just click here to sign up and download the PDF.

After all, half of Germany’s population is waiting for you and with good product listings and hands on native customer support, there is far less to worry about. Obviously, there are also European taxes to consider but I won’t get into that for now. Because we know the right people to help you out there too. 

In case you are interested in Enida or Enida Translations, please make sure to mention “importdojo” – this will get you a discount.

Bis bald! Cheers!

Nadine

Founder Enida

www.enida.de

sourcing company China

What is going on in China right now – Part 2

In November last year I shared a blog post from the sourcing and manufacturing side in China. There were shortages on packaging material and many price increases across all suppliers in China.

To read about this blog post check it out here: https://importdojo.com/what-is-going-on-in-china-right-now/

Today me and my partners in our Sourcing Company (https://importdojo.com/sourcing/) wanted to give you an update on the market situation in China.

The world is changing. In the past 6 months we have been through ups and downs of currency, raw material and labour cost fluctuation. Also the political landscape does not prove to be as stable and solid as it was considered to be in the end of 2016. With the US taking a turn away from China the economies in Asia are looking at a changed customer landscape and an insecure future.

This newsletter will help you gain a bit more insight in what is happening on this side of the world.

What is going on in Asia?

As we enter Q2 2017, global demand for goods produced in low cost sourcing destination looked positive, with growing exporters such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, India and Indonesia all seeing big growth in exports and foreign investment. Some shifting of exports and trade allegiance was evident due to the U.S./Trump policy. It is very important to note, that alternatives to China are quickly developing in countries like Vietnam, India, Bangladesh and Thailand. These countries are taking a fair share of what is rightfully theirs. Especially the economic growth and the growth in export from Vietnam is remarkable, with a 15% increase compared to the last years first quarter.

So the small countries are on the fast lane while good old China keeps doing, what they do best. And let us be realistic, there is still no feasible alternative to China in terms of infrastructure, automation and efficiency.

It is also remarkable to see that based on China National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data, the average monthly wage of migrant workers (who tend to work in China’s manufacturing sector) increased by 6.6% to 3,275 yuan in 2016, which is almost comparable to the average income of an eastern European worker in countries like Romania, Bulgaria or Hungary. 

What about the money?

Well, not much to say here. Since the USD/CNY exchange rate adjusted to its new level, the Euro zone is suffering whereas the USD zone is happily jumping around about their favourable purchasing prices.

The lush movement in the currency gave a bit of stability to the trading environment and is not expected to change unless the US politics dramatically change the course of the country.

Now what is going on with the raw materials? If production volume in China is going down then we probably have good cards to buy cheap raw material because the government wants to drive the economy.

Unfortunately the answer to that is a clear NO. Some analysts are predicting that oil prices will increase by up to 20% by late 2017, with ongoing conflict in the Middle-East and attempts by OPEC countries to limit supply. Natural fibers such as cotton and wool have trended up, reflecting stronger consumer demand and healthier global economic conditions.

Natural rubber prices increased through Q1, steadying off into Q2 as Asian buyers slowed down on purchasing. Prices are expected to increase, through 2017 based on expectations of a global economic recovery and a reduction in supply from rubber major producers. Metal prices will follow this trend. Cotton prices were strong through Q1 and into Q2, a trend which some analysts do not expect to continue through 2017. According to the International Cotton Advisory Council (ICAC), cotton stock-piles will reduce due to solid production, growth in global consumption and demand for exports.

Fine wool prices followed a similar trend to cotton, breaking a 29 year high in March, based on demand for better quality wool from Chinese mills. Unlike cotton or synthetic fibers, wool only comprises 1.5% of global fiber consumption and as a premium product, the price is really an indicator of consumer demand.

China is not a department store

On a last note I wanted to share some of our findings over the course of working with private label sellers. Many private label sellers believe that when they purchase something in China, the factories are just waiting for them to place a 500 pieces order with many changes, packaging requirements, additional features AND the lowest price.

Unfortunately this is not the case. China is not a department store where you can simply walk in and purchase something within a day and expect it to be delivered within 2 weeks. There is a lot to it. Supplier relationships, years of doing business together, production lead times, raw material purchase, packaging print and much more.

While some factories do adapt to the new eCommerce world with smaller quantities, many factories actually still have 90% of their turnover coming from large retailers, importers or wholesalers. We as Amazon/eCommerce sellers are small fish for most factories and while the trend is going into eCommerce rather than actual retail there is still a long way to go.

So you can’t expect to get the same price, priority handling or delivery time as a Walmart or HomeDepot. These guys buy hundreds of thousands of units per month, therefore they get the best price and are put in front of the production queue. Often you don’t have a chance against these retailers if they are also selling on Amazon. So the only way you can distinguish yourself is trough customer service, packaging and additional services.

I’ve also noticed that buyers are expecting drastic price decreases like 30-40% if they increase the order quantity say from 1,000 to 2,000 units. This is very unlikely unless you increase from 1,000 to 40,000 or 50,000 units. Price decreases when doubling the quantity usually results in 3% to maximum 6%. Most factories are laid out to produce 10-30,000 units of a single product in a day. Yes, believe me 🙂 So when a buyer comes with a 500 unit order it is certainly appreciated but it means that they have to squeeze in your order somewhere, negotiate low raw material purchase with their sub supplier etc. which is more of a hassle than profit for them.

Don’t try to squeeze every little cent out of a product when you negotiate. Let them have their profits so that they can continue to run their factory. Because what is it worth if you get the lowest price but then the supplier goes bankrupt or doesn’t help you in case you are facing quality problems. Live and let live.

Having said all that, with the right approach towards a supplier you can get your way around things. There are many suppliers who specialise on small order quantities or eCommerce sellers in general. Speak to your supplier in your initial inquiry if he is willing to work on your MOQ, prices etc. If you have the feeling they are hesitant move on to the next supplier. There’s nothing worse than making a deposit of 30% on your order and the supplier afterwards struggles to keep the prices or delivery terms and eventually not really motivated to produce according to your requirements.

Update on Import Dojo Sourcing Service

If you need help sourcing you are in the right place. We have recently celebrated our 1,000th customer and are growing together with the demand for know how and for the need of „eyes on the ground“. Our placed orders have generated a turnover of around 1.4 Mio USD with a steady customer base of around 250 customers. Together with this growth we could see that there is the need to adjust our service and pricing structure slightly.

With our 6 person strong sourcing team based in Hong Kong we want to provide the best possible service to our customers and we believe that the adjustment of our conditions and how our service is put together will help our customers be more effective, more cost efficient and more successful.

With our new concept we have less variety and are more focused on your needs. We are introducing the quick and easy Basic Sourcing for 99 USD, which delivers a quick supplier offer for an item within 5 – 7 working days to evaluate if your project is workable. In addition to that we have decided to provide at least 3 offers and supplier contacts with the standard sourcing request.

We have also decreased our photography prices by 25% and we can deliver 2 reference sourcing results if you decided to do sourcing and development with us for your price comparison and back up.

What is actually changing?

  1. Introducing our BASIC sourcing request for 99 USD – Delivering one supplier offer and their contact in 5-7 working days for quick reference.
  2. Extending service of STANDARD sourcing request starting from 169 USD – Delivering three supplier offers and their contact in 7-9 working days to you for a well established project base. 

Our service starts at 169 USD for one item, 299 USD for two items and additional 100 USD for every additional item. We are reducing complexity and increasing efficiency.

Decreasing photography costs

Reducing white background shots from 69 USD per picture to 49 USD per picture since we want to provide this service as a roundup for our customers.

We also adjust our full service pricing and keep splitting it to reorders and new orders. All other services will remain the same as before.

For those who believe our previous pricing is a better fit for them, you can still come to us and place your orders until 31/7/2017 with the coupon code #lastcall. If you present this in your email or in the flat-rate submission, we will be happy to handle your order with our old price logic even if we believe our new one is more beneficial to you. Please remember that all coupon codes are only applicable on flat rates. 

As always, it is a pleasure serving you and we are looking forward to the second half of 2017!

All the best,

Manuel & ImportDojo Sourcing team

IMG_8388

2017 Seller Summit in Florida recap & trip report (got to meet the President of Nepal)

Hey folks,

So I just finished speaking at (and listen to other speakers) at the Sellerssummit in Florida, Fort Lauderdale. 

I was invited to speak about importing from China or to be more exact how to find the right supplier in China. 

Steve Chou, the host of the mywifequitherjob.com podcast and organizer of the event had invited me to speak and while it would be such a long trip I decided to go because I knew I’d learn a ton and meet amazing people. 

Before I get into the key takeaways from the Sellerssummit for me I wanted to share a few impressions with you from a personal side. 

This was a long trip for me – I took off on a Saturday morning and arrived on Sunday evening +12hours time difference so in total the trip was over 36 hours. 

That is also because I stopped in Sri Lanka to hang out in Colombo for a few hours before heading to Abu Dhabi, New York and finally Miami. 

Why was this such a long trip? Well to be honest with you I prefer laying flat and since I don’t want to pay for business class I used a lot of miles. 

Why do I fly business class? Not many people know this but I am extremely scared of flying and being in cramped spaces. 

When I mean extremely scared I mean the slightest turbulence or bump in flight would send my heart rate to 180bpm for half an hour. 

This “fear” all began in 2005 when I flew from Hong Kong to Germany and my plane had to land for an emergency landing in Kathmandu, Nepal because of severe turbulence. 

Since then I hate (or am scared) of flying and sitting in business class, having more space (I am also quite tall – 6’2) relaxes me and somewhat eases my fear. 

You would think that flying at least twice a month for the past 12 years would get me over that fear but it doesn’t. 

So anyway, I was prepared to take a long trip as long as I can relax. And some people might think flying business class is crazy expensive when it’s actually not. 

If you look long enough in advance, make use of mileage and credit card programs you spend less in business as in economy. I usually pay less or the same for my ticket than those in economy. 

So I ended up spending over 120,000 miles but only 260$ in taxes and fees for my return trip flight. Which also meant I had to hop onto 4 different planes to get to Miami. 

Call me crazy but I’d do that every time as opposed to a direct 14 hour flight in a cramped space. 

So anyway, I left Bangkok on Saturday morning on a 3 hour flight to Srilanka and was checking out a few sites in Colombo sine my stopover was 10 hours. 

I had quite a surprise at the start of the trip when I learned that the President of Nepal was sitting one row in front of me. There was tight security on the plane but I was able to shake the hand of the President of Nepal 🙂 

The president of Nepal

I just wasn’t allowed to take any photo with her so I snapped a few from my seat. 

I went to the Galle Face hotel in Colombo after I landed in Sri Lanka and was having lunch there, working a bit and enjoying the view from the terrace of the hotel. 

Arriving in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Tuk Tuk’s everywhere

The Galle Face hotel in Colombo

My flight was bound to leave at 10PM so I made my way to the airport around 7, worked a bit more and chilled before boarding the flight to Abu Dhabi. 

I boarded the 4 hour flight and slept the entire way. I then had a 4 hour layover and transit in Abu Dhabi before boarding for my flight to JFK. This was a 14 hour flight and I was really glad (& excited) because for this flight Etihad uses their A380 plane. 

I did meticioulus research before booking this flight and made sure that I get to try their “business class studio” again which is by far the best business class in the skies.

Lots of space for the 14 hour flight.

Their A380 even has a bar in the middle of the plane. 

The bar on the A380 to New York

So I took a few snaps, had some wine and slept for the next 7.5 hours. I think I’ve never slept that long on a plane. 

Looking “fresh” after 7.5 hours of sleep 😀 (not)

Arrived in New York JFK on Sunday early morning and made my way to the another terminal for my final flight to Miami. I didn’t do much in Miami for my days there as I was mostly working in the hotel and walking around in the area. 

I had a webinar with Augustas Klygys on how to build a brand (which you can find here: http://augustaskligys.com/how-to-build-a-true-brand/), podcast interview and lots of emails to conquer before the conference. 

On Wednesday I made my way to Fort Lauderdale which is about a 50 minute drive from Miami and checked into the hotel to chill for a day before the conference started. 

Arriving in Fort Lauderdale

The line up for the summit looked like this: 

As you can see these are some of the biggest guys in the industry. Among them: Steve Chou, Greg Mercer from Junglescout, Scott Voelker from the Amazing Seller, Jeff Cohen from Sellerlabs, Bernie Thompson, Michael Jackness, Brian Johnson from PPC Scope and yours truly 🙂

Collecting my badge for the conference.

And we are getting started!

Steve Chou talking about how he runs his eCommerce store.

Create give aways or games like Steve Chou does with this “wheel spin” to collect email addresses.

Super important – the 4 pillars of a successful online store.

I am off to a good start 🙂

Scott Voelker is talking about how to launch your product in 2017

Just finished my speech and answering some questions.

Heading for dinner with Franz from Sellics (Marketplace Analytics) & Mike

Last session (ask me anything) and it’s a wrap!

With Greg from Junglescout and Carla at the networking event.

I definitely wanted to hear some of the other speakers and tried to sit in on as many sessions as I could. After the 3 day event I wanted to sum up my key-takeaways for you:

1) It is not too late

I am sure you hear it’s overcrowded, difficult to launch a product and stand out from the crowd. But that’s not the case if you have the right strategy. The potential of the market is so huge that there’s space for everyone. 

And the best part is that all the tools that you need (that many of us sellers didn’t have years ago) are available on the market. If you are looking to find a product, exact ranking, sales volume of a product you want to sell then use JUNGLESCOUT. If you want in-depth profit analysis, inventory management, keyword ranking optimization use SELLICS. If you want to research trends go use GOOGLE TRENDS. If you want to find product ideas outside of tools use one of my favourite sites KADAZA.

If you’re unsure with the process in China check out my blog. If you need launch strategies check out Scott’s podcast and recent launch strategies (https://privatelabelclassroom.com/product-launch-list-building-replay) There’s so much more out there that helps you grow or start your business. 

2) There are tons of other product launch strategies out there

Whether you are just launching your first product or your 10th product. You don’t need to worry about “can’t use reviewers anymore”. There are lots of strategies that actually work better than anything else. 

Just 3 months ago I tested a new launch strategy which admittedly takes time and effort but now I don’t have any PPC costs anymore. All my traffic to my listings is organic. Most importantly build a mailing list. With a mailing list you can kick start the launch of your new product – every time. You can also run give aways on your Facebook, Instagram or own website. The strategies are endless.

3) eCommerce is only growing and growing

Jeff Bezos is now the second richest man in the world and I think that says it all. eCommerce’s share in all of the retail business is only 8% at this moment. Imagine the growth potential. 

If you are concerned that the market is overcrowded don’t worry. There’s space for everyone. Perhaps not the 50th French Press but if you have a unique product and service proposition you too can make it in this market. 

4) Finding a product is not as important as actually pulling the trigger

I’ve seen it over and over again. People find a product which in my opinion is pretty good and then just before placing the order to the supplier they find excuses after excuses why the product all of a sudden isn’t a winner anymore. 

Granted, you need to do your research into numbers, demographics and market demand but you can overanalyze everything. As Scott Voelker says – Just take action! 

5) Amazon is working hard on getting Chinese factories onto their marketplace

You need to up your game and customer service. More and more Chinese sellers are coming to the marketplaces and Amazon is helping them. See the video here at around 2.27minutes: https://importdojo.com/importdojo-brand-evolution-branching-out-into-other-sales-channels-part-four-of-the-puzzle/

Amazon wants to offer the best prices to their customers and they do so by bringing in the actual manufacturers. However we have one definite advantage – customer service and unique product or service proposition. Two years ago I said “dont’ worry for now” over here: https://importdojo.com/chinese-sellers-on-amazon-dont-worry-for-now/ But now is the time to really step up your game. Here’s a breakdown again on how you can compete with the manufacturers:

  • Improve your product quality based on reviews
  • Pay a little more for better quality and regulations-compliant products
  • Develop your own products and packagings and make them exclusive for you on Amazon
  • Build or grow your brand with cross product selling and larger assortments
  • Build or grow your audience (Facebook, mailing lists etc.) and be ahead of the Chinese competition
  • Build relationships with suppliers for the long term and become one of their largest customers so that they don’t have to sell on Amazon themselves

6) Building an eCommerce business and brand is not complicated. It just takes time

Many of the speakers at the conference started where you are today. Today they run 7-9 figures eCommerce businesses. When you asked them how they did it they all answer in the same way. 

Step by step and it just takes time. You just have to focus on building a brand and diversifying as much as possible. Not just sell products on Amazon but also branch out into other channels.  

7) Social Media & Influencer marketing will be the No.1 traffic source to come (already is in my opinion)

There were a couple of speeches on how powerful Social Media and Influencer Marketing is. PPC and general paid advertisement is great but expensive. 

If you start your social media platforms now or continue to grow them you’ll have a launch tool that works every time. 

8) Outsource & automate as much as possible. 

I sat in the talk of Bill D’Ambrossio and I was baffled by how much you can automate and focus on the one thing you should be doing – devise your companies future and strategies. 

A year ago I was doing pretty much all of my tasks myself. I just couldn’t let go of some tasks and I thought only I can do them. I was wrong. I now have several VA’s and permanent employees that handle my daily tasks. And I can focus on the most important part of the business – working on things that make money. 

9) Retargeting – don’t miss out on your customers

I realized I am missing out so much on customers that visit my store and listings. With Facebook or retargeting tools you can now easily retarget your customers. 85% of first time visitors don’t buy from you. The majority never returns. 

But with re-targeting you can catch a lot of customers. It’s not just Facebook retargeting with lookalike custom audiences but also catching emails of visiting customers to your own website. Have a pop up window with some give aways or a coupon code or anything that lets you catch the visitors emails. These are essential things you should be doing (including me). 

Wrapping up

The best part for me personally was the last day when all the speakers got together in a private room and discussed their wins & struggles. 

Everyone of us had 15 minutes to speak and share their tricks and strategies as well as ask for advice. 

I was sitting amongst people that do 8 to 9 figures a year (working on mine :)) and was getting advice from top level people in the industry! This was the best Mastermind I’ve ever been to. 

Obviously I had to share some of my secrets as well and I think people were surprised by a product launch strategy that I developed in the last 3 months (which I will soon reveal).  

Getting and sharing advice with the big guys 🙂

If you are interested in the speeches given at the Summit here’s a link to a virtual pass. The recordings will be up in a few days:

http://sellerssummit.com/members2017/virtual-pass/?ap_id=importdojo

I hope this gave you a bit of insight from my trip, what the trends in the Amazon world are and what’s to come 🙂 

I got back two days ago to Asia and I am currently fighting a massive jet lag. On top of that I am heading to a conference in Berlin, Germany tonight (http://amzcon.de/). If you are around say hi 🙂

Let me know what you think in the comment section. 

We got this! All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel 

Acounting VAT

Selling Online and Expanding into Europe – Here’s What You Need To Know About VAT

This is a guest post by Claire Taylor from SimplyVAT.com. I met her last month in Hong Kong & Shenzhen at conferences around selling online and AmazonFBA. When she told me that she works for SimplyVAT I knew I had to have her on as a guest on my blog with a piece about VAT in Europe and how to handle the VAT as an international (or local) seller.

So without further ado, here is Claire’s blog post:

With 71% of shoppers believing they will get a better deal online than in stores, it is no surprise that the global ecommerce industry has developed at a breakneck pace – worldwide B2C ecommerce sales amounted to more than £18 trillion in 2016.

Cross border sales are expected to account for 20% of these sales in 2017, giving online retailers a huge opportunity to increase profits by tapping into overseas markets. You no longer need to conquer your local market before you contemplate world domination; you can operate a successful global business straight away. This new global reach means many issues can catch out the unwary retailer – both new and the more established.

 

Your international VAT obligations

Online retailers need to understand which international VAT laws will be relevant to your business. Just because your business is online, normal societal rules of taxation still govern it. In this blog, we provide you with:

  • What do you need to think about?
  • What exactly are the different VAT rules and regulations?
  • What do you need to do to ensure you are VAT compliant?
  • And what happens if you don’t comply?

What is Value Added Tax (VAT)

Value Added Tax (VAT) is the preferred transactional tax model in the EU and is equivalent of the USA sales tax. It differs from sales tax though as it is applied every time value is added– from the raw material supplier, to the manufacturer to the wholesaler and retailer and finally to the end consumer.

Governments get revenue every step of the supply chain. It is not supposed to be a burden on businesses, who, once VAT registered, can offset any VAT collected on sales against any VAT incurred on expenditure – including import VAT. The burden rests with the final consumer, and it is for this reason, the EU tax authorities are focusing on catching non-compliant online retailers – the VAT charged on sales to private consumers is revenue the tax authority gets to keep.

 

What Are the EU VAT Rules That Affect Online Retailers?

How you choose to distribute your goods to your customers will have VAT implications for you as the seller. Here we explain which issues affect you:

  1. Import VAT is applied at the first port of entry into the EU – local import VAT will be charged on the cost value of the goods you are importing, for example, in the UK the import VAT is at 20%.

 

If you are not VAT registered, your customer is usually left to pay the import charges before they can receive delivery of the goods. This is not really the best customer experience.

 

 

If you have an EU EORI (Economic Operator Registration Identification) number (issued by the EU customs authorities) and are VAT registered, you will account for the import VAT:

 

  • You charge the customer the VAT when they buy the goods from your online store so there are no unpleasant surprises for them on delivery. This is paid over to the tax authority on the VAT return.

 

  • The import VAT charged is refunded to you via the local VAT return.

 

  1. Using Fulfilment Centres in the European Union

 

  • Wherever your stock is held, whether it be an Amazon fulfilment centre or another third party warehouse – as a non-resident of that country – you now have an obligation to VAT register there. There are no thresholds to exceed.
  • If your stock is in fulfilment centres in several EU countries, you will require VAT registrations in each of the countries where your stock is held.

 

  1. The EU VAT Distance Selling Rules

 

Once you are VAT registered in one EU country, sales delivered from that country to local private customers or customers in other EU countries are governed by the EU VAT distance selling rules. These rules state that local VAT is charged on any sales to any consumers within Europe until the set distance selling thresholds are exceeded in any one country.

 

The Distance Selling rules do give you a chance to test the European markets without the heavy cost of compliance.

 

  1. Monitoring Your Sales

 

  • When calculating whether you have exceeded the threshold, make sure you add sales from EACH channel you sell on – all sales go towards the distance selling thresholds.

 

  1. Also include the shipping amount in the calculation.

If you are selling medium to high value goods, it won’t take much for you to breach the threshold in many of the EU countries.

  1. Other Reporting Obligations

 

  • EC Sales Lists

 

When stock is sold, or transferred between EU countries, there is additional reporting obligation to file an EC Sales List. For example, if stock is moved from the UK warehouse to a German warehouse, this will need to be reported on an EC Sales List as well as the UK VAT return. This is particularly relevant when using Amazon’s Pan-EU service as stock is moved, by Amazon, on your behalf between 7 different EU countries. (Also note using Amazon’s Pan-EU service triggers VAT registrations in those 7 countries – Germany, France, Italy, Spain, UK, Czech Republic and Poland).

 

  • Intrastat Declarations

 

Intrastat Declarations are statistical reports that are obligatory once set intrastate thresholds are exceeded in each EU country. There are thresholds for both ‘dispatches’ and ‘arrivals’. See below table:

Intrastat Reporting Thresholds

Country

Currency

Arrivals

Dispatches

Austria

EUR

750,000

750,000

Belgium

EUR

1,500,000

1,000,000

Bulgaria

BGN

410,000

240,000

Croatia

HRK

1,800,000

900,000

Cyprus

EUR

100,000

55,000

Czech Republic

CZK

8,000,000

8,000,000

Denmark

DKK

6,000,000

4,700,000

Estonia

EUR

200,000

130,000

Finland

EUR

550,000

500,000

France

EUR

460,000

More than 460,000: detailed Intrastat; Less than 460,000: simplified Intrastat

Germany

EUR

800,000

500,000

Greece

EUR

150,000

90,000

Hungary

HUF

100,000,000

100,000,000

Ireland

EUR

500,000

635,000

Italy

EUR

More than 50,000: monthly Intrastat (EC Purchase listing); Less than 50,000: quarterly Intrastat (EC Purchase listing)

More than 50,000: monthly Intrastat (EC Sales listing); Less than 50,000: quarterly Intrastat (EC Sales listing)

Latvia

EUR

180,000

130,000

Lithuania

EUR

280,000

200,000

Luxembourg

EUR

200,000

150,000

Malta

EUR

700

700

Netherlands

EUR

1,000,000

1,200,000

Poland

PLN

3,000,000

1,500,000

Portugal

EUR

350,000

250,000

Romania

RON

500,000

900,000

Slovak Republic

EUR

200,000

400,000

Slovenia

EUR

120,000

200,000

Spain

EUR

400,000

400,000

Sweden

SEK

9,000,000

4,500,000

UK

GBP

1,500,000

250,000

The information produced is for general guidelines only. More specific information, please contact info@simplyvat.com

The information is correct at the 1st January 2017

 

You will need to monitor sales (dispatches), for example, from the UK to any EU countries, once these ‘dispatches’ reach £250,000, intrastat declarations will need to be filed.

 

  1. Fiscal Representation – as non-EU company, some EU countries require a non-EU business to have Fiscal Representation. A Fiscal Representative is jointly and severely liable for the VAT owed, and because of this risk, there are additional fees associated which can include a bank guarantee. An option for non-EU companies, to avoid these costs, is to set up an EU company. If an EU company is established there will, however, be other reporting requirements such as a Confirmation Statement and Annual Accounts, however, it is a matter of doing the sums and calculating whether these costs will outweigh the cost of fiscal representation in the countries you will have VAT compliance exposure.

 

Countries such as France, Italy and Poland, amongst many others, require non-EU companies to have a Fiscal Representative in place.

 

  1. Penalties and Fines for Non-VAT Compliance

 

Ignorance of the VAT rules is no defence. Not accounting for VAT properly or not reporting it at all can cost you your business.

 

The tax authorities are becoming much more proactive in hunting down non-compliant online sellers as, I mentioned previously, the tax authorities get to keep the VAT revenue collected from online sales.

 

Recently, the marketplace – Amazon.de – was approached by the German tax authority to provide seller data, and they had to hand it over. At Amazon.fr, Amazon are now obliged to issue each seller with sales through Amazon.fr, with an Annual Summary detailing their sales and potential VAT exposure there; and in the UK, from committed lobbying by UK sellers to close the competition gap from non-compliant, non-EU sellers, the UK tax authority has issued new rules to make the marketplaces and fulfilment centres responsible for their client’s compliance. HMRC now has the power to make Amazon close your store down within 30 days if you are not VAT compliant.

 

Once caught, the tax authorities will issue penalties and interest charges for late or non-compliance. Is it worth the worry, not to comply?

 

Don’t let VAT be a barrier to your European expansion plans

Our advice is to plan ahead. Add the cost of VAT compliance to your cashflow along with other staples such as web-hosting or accountancy fees. Understanding the cost of entering a foreign market will ensure your international business will thrive!

It can sound daunting, we understand you don’t have the luxury of a tax department to make sure you are staying ahead of the game, but please don’t be put off by the VAT rules, we are here to help and at www.simplyvat.com we understand the struggles of an entrepreneur.

  • We provide an expert, friendly and customer focused service
  • We can ensure you are VAT compliant across Europe and elsewhere where local laws are applicable such as Canada.
  • We can give you the right country-specific VAT compliance information to make sure your invoices are correct.
  • We can make your VAT compliance experience as painless as possible through our new online VAT compliance platform.
  • We can get you VAT registered, obtain an EORI number for you; prepare and submit your VAT return, and, if necessary, file your EC Sales Lists and intrastat declarations on time.
  • We monitor your distance sales from your multi-channel locations to ensure you stay compliant.

At http://www.SimplyVAT.com We Are Here To Help…. You Sleep At Night..

 

If you want to know more, please email heretohelp@simplyvat.com or laura.vanstone@simplyvat.com to discuss how we can help you with your international expansion plans.

ZTH

Is Amazon FBA still feasible?

We are giving away our eBook on how to build a brand titled “From Zero to Hero” Building (over 123 pages). If you ask yourself why we do that please read until the end 🙂

Every so often I get an email from a reader if this business model (Amazon FBA) is still worth it. Or if you can honestly make money selling on Amazon on in eCommerce for that matter…. 

Well, it is very likely that I don’t know you and your capabilites and dedication to work. If a friend asks me that same question and I’ve known him for years I can tell right away if he is going to make it or not.

It all depends on a person, his skills and his work ethic. But don’t be fooled by so many “gurus” out there telling you that you can make 10,000 within 4 weeks. That’s just lying to you to get to your hard earned cash.

So I can’t answer a complete stranger if he is going to make it . Yes of course you can make it but it takes time, efforts and money to build. 

The other day there was a newsletter on how many sellers after a year are still actively selling. The numbers were quite surprising. 

I don’t have the link anymore but I think only 30% are still in the game after a year. 10% of those actually make money. So it depends a lot on your dedication, product selection & general attitude towards “making it”. 

On top of that Amazon is constantly changing their TOS and making it more difficult for the “little guy” to suceed. 

Just a few days ago they have closed down the brand registry program. See the screenshot here:

From what I hear they will open the program again in early May and will then only accept sellers who have a trademark registered. 

Rumours are that if you have been accepted into brand registry before this change you will be “grandfathered” in. Meaning you should be ok. But this is just speculation, I couldn’t confirm this. 

More and more Chinese sellers are coming to Amazon and they most likely all have a trademark on their brand. 

So if you are just starting out and want to test a product and this business model it will be difficult to protect your “brand”.

We will have to wait and see what Amazon will do in May when they release the news on whats happening. 

Hence my constant appeal to my readers to build a brand.

But to answer your question in general, is Amazon FBA still feasible – YES absolutely. Even I was sceptical 3 years ago and you know what? It turns out, as long as you have a long term strategy, unique and innovative products or ONE rockstar product to carry your brand you will make money and stand out of the crowd.  

And building your brand does not stop on Amazon. What I really want to drive to you is that you need to branch out into as many sales channels as possible. Yes selling on Amazon will be essential but not the only thing you should do. It is a great way to kickstart your brand BUT and It has never been easier to build a brand.

Yes, it takes a very long time but building your brand is creating true and lasting value that you own. This independence is crucial and the best time to have started this would have been last year… the second best time is now.

Two weeks ago I released a new course on brand building which has been received very well and if you are just starting out and as a thank you for being my loyal reader I’d like to give you our Brand Building eBook (From Zero to Hero) which we just released for free!

If you aren’t registered on my site yet for a free membership please do so now: https://importdojo.com/pricing/  

Just click on the link and choose “Free Membership” – IT’s 100% free!

Go check it out and download it. I would also love to have your feedback on this eBook. 

Ps.: If you are an existing ImportDojo member, you will find this eBook in your Members Area 🙂 

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

save costs importing

Existenzangst or fearing for one’s existence

Totally off topic today but I feel like sharing this famous German paranoia. In German we have a saying which is called “Existenzangst” and literally means being afraid of loosing your livelihood. 

Meaning you are constantly afraid of loosing your job, income, running out of money and ending up on the street. It’s ridiculous but ever since I’ve become an Entrepreneur I have this almost every day.

I admit, I too am scared (or anxious) and worry all the time so I wanted to get to the bottom of this. Am I the only one feeling like this? Let me try to get this off my chest. 

What’s the worst that could happen to me today? I am really just typing as I go and put out my thoughts. 

I really want to evaluate my very own situation and if you also have these "existence fears” feel free to do the same :) 

Lets take a look:

  • Amazon business tanks (30% of my income) 
  • Sourcing & Retail business tanks (30% of my income) 
  • Online courses, workshops, ebooks (20% of my income) 
  • Coaching, consulting (10% of my income) 
  • My eCommerce store tanks (10% of my income - just started)
  • All podcast & other interviews magically disappear and no one ever hears of me from tomorrow on (no income but leads and subscribers to my blog) 

Lets look at it in more detail: 

  • I am live on 3 Amazon market places and even if one tanks I still have 2. And I am not even live on many other sites that have third party selling (Lazada, Jet, Sears etc.) 
  • All my satisfied customers and potential leads that I built in over 3 years disappear tomorrow. I have many repeat sourcing clients who are very happy, how likely is it that they all disappear? 
  • I am currently live in 5 retailers, some re-order every month or so. I am even working on more retail customers. 
  • I have courses live on 5 platforms. Some with coaching, some without. How likely is it that they all get removed? Especially on my own site…
  • No one ever thinks my opinion or expertise counts and doesn’t book coaching with me anymore. I have built a reputation (I hope :) ) for being an expert in my field and I rather provide value than sell something just for the money.  Those that really know me well know thats true. So I guess that is very unlikely to happen. 
  • Just started with 1 eCommerce store (Outdoor & Garden category) and it’s going well so far. eCommerce is the future so even if I loose this I can build another store quickly. 
  • I gave about 30 podcast interviews, 4 or 5 actual print magazine interviews, 10-15 online blog guest posts, I spoke publicly at conferences and videos are available on that. Even so, I could start all over again and build my reputation from the scratch. 
Even though some of the above may be possible to happen but it is very unlikely that they all happen at the same time right? So what am I really worried about? Guess I am just another human :) 

Lets say one of these 30% income streams tanks. I still have 70% of my income and need to find a new way to make up for the missing 30%. 

Since I will still have 70% of my income & I’ll  actually be in a comfortable situation. And I would just have to increase workload for a few months. 

Lets just say all of this happens at once. It is not the end of the world. I still have some savings and my health. While I don’t really like the idea of going back to a job I have over 3 years where I ran multiple business and built income streams from the scratch. 

I’ll likely go apply for a job at a retailer's buying office (Amazon, Walmart) here in Hong Kong and on top of my 17 years of retail experience I now have 3 years of running my own business, a best seller book about importing from China and a round of online courses, interviews, public speaking that I can add to my CV. So I am pretty sure that I will find a job again. And that’s really worst case scenario.

Then again lets take another scenario. Let’s just say I lost all my income streams but I still have saved up lets say 50,000US$ from all these ventures. Would I immediately look for a new job? Probably not. Reason being that I have yet to travel the world and see things. Not that I haven’t traveled yet but I haven’t really TRAVELED yet. I mean hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the US for 6 months, going to Machu Picchu in Peru, living on a beach hut in Brazil for a year and so much more to do. And the best thing is when you travel on a budget or do what’s called “Geo Arbitrage” you don’t need much. Don’t know what that is? Geo Arbitrage is when you live in Thailand (or anywhere else where you have low living costs) for 500$ a month on the beach eating seafood and drink coconut water all day. Obviously if I would have a child, a car, a mortgage etc. things would be different and I’d have to get a job pretty quickly. But again - it’’s not the end of the world.

Think of the time that you worked for yourself as a time out in where you enhanced your own skills, tested your leadership abilities and hopefully had a lot of fun doing it. And you’ve added things to your CV. You didn’t really take time off for 3 years doing nothing, you tried to build something. And that’s worth something when you sit at an interview. I am pretty sure that will get you the job. 

But lets not get ahead of myself, I work hard every day so that I can keep doing what I am doing. And I guess you are too :) 

My message today I guess is that we should all stop worrying so much. It isn’t as bad as it looks like. My second message today and I keep saying this to everyone - DIVERSIFY

Just by looking at what I wrote I again realized myself how important it is to have different income streams. AND it is another reminder to build even more income streams. 

An income stream that is bigger than 30% is actually worrying - unless you make millions anyway :) 

Back in the day when I worked for the lighting manufacturer one of our biggest clients (a very large DIY store) went belly up. Over 500 stores (thats big for Germany) closed over the next couple of months and suppliers (the company I worked for) weren’t going to see any money anytime soon. That customer made up over 70% of the companies turnover. Thankfully the management saw this coming and invested into hiring sales staff and building more clients. But it was still a big loss for the company. Anyway, just a small story but same principle. Build more income streams and you don’t have to worry all the time. 

If you have these fears once in a while sit down and look at what you’ve built already since you joined the entrepreneurial world. 

Copy my thought process above and see where you stand. Look at what you have already accomplished. Let me know in the comment section, I am really curios to know if I am the only one feeling this way :) 

Even if you are just at the beginning and scared of the path in front of you, if you never try you’ll never know and you’ll miss out - I promise :) 

All the best to us in 2017 and happy sourcing!

Manuel 

C C12

What is going on in China right now?

This is a guest post by my partner in crime over at our sourcing operation of ImportDojo :) 

What is going on in China?

I am happy to provide you a bit of insight into the struggles of the worlds factories so for you to understand the background when you get emails like “shortage of packaging, long delivery times, factories shut down, massive price increases” etc.. 

Probably most of you have encountered rising prices and stubborn suppliers in the past few weeks. While some of this is the daily business of all of us, the degree of disturbance has taken dimensions unheard of in the past years and it is important and interesting to go deeper to find out what is happening and what causes the problem.

The US Dollar and its Chinese brother CNY

When Donald Trump won the election the USD fell into a short depression, recovering within hours to a strengths it had not had for almost 20 years. The USD compared to the EUR surged two days after the election to a surprising 1,078 conversion rate and continued to drop to a stunning 1,044 conversion rate in last week. As a reference point, the EUR was recovering and compared to the USD before the election results it had strengthened up to 1,150. This meant, that items purchased for the EURO zone in USD from China suddenly increased by about 9% in their landed price. 

Since we all compare profitability of products with the current possible sales price on the market, that meant margins were melting by 9% and a lot of projects, which looked fabulous before, were doomed. We heard it many times from our customers, that they were expecting a different price calculating back from the sales price on the market to the buying price. The point is, that it takes between 3-5 months for this exchange rate fluctuation to take effect in the market.

Of course the financial professionals will argue about the validity of the above numbers and I have to say they are correct. The strengthening USD forced the CNY to depreciate, which meant that compared to the USD the CNY became a bit weaker and everything coming from scratch from the chinese market in terms of raw materials could become a bit cheaper eventually. However the depreciation of the CNY towards the USD is limited to around 2-3%, while the currency strengthened by 9%, so for the European market it is a loss of around 6% just because of the USD. For the US market on the other side it definitely is a chance, since the depreciation of the Renminbi takes effect and in theory all items should become 2-3% cheaper. Now this is where the second problem kicks in.

The environment

At 4:20 PM on Friday, 16th of December 2016, Chinas environmental control agencies issued a five day “red alert” about a hazardous, choking smog spreading across the northern part of China and Beijing. Skies went black, the public was advised to stay indoors and switch on the television and the whole thing had a little bit the feeling of a catastrophe approaching. The AQI (air quality index) surged from average 150 (which is already unhealthy) to 500-700 in certain areas. Schools and nurseries were shut down, cars older than a certain age were banned from the streets and life almost stopped.

Beijing is just one of 21 cities in China declaring red alert throughout the last 20 days. A couple of days after Beijing, Shanghai followed and around 200 million people were effected by the exhaust fumes of the factories producing for the whole world. The government did the only thing that was right and targeted high polluters like steel mills, coal plants, painting and packaging factories, oil processing plants and all factories not fulfilling the environmental criteria set out by the government at the beginning of the year. As a result, by the end of last week more than 2.500 factories all over China have been shut down. Some of these manufacturers will get the chance to reopen after the red alert passes, many of them will have to either improve and get up to the standard required or file bankruptcy.

We may say “Lucky our factories are not affected”, but it would be a lie. The truth is that only very few of the 1.500 factories we work with have had to completely shut down. However this does not change the fact that their raw material suppliers for steel, aluminum, copper, plastic (oil related) as well as packaging are not there anymore. Yes, China is out of stock on raw material and packaging material. The result of this government policy is, that in the past 3 weeks cold rolled steel prices have gone up by 40%, hot rolled steel prices by 30%, plastic by 25% and packaging - if you are lucky and you can get it - by 35%. Aluminum and Copper follow the main steel indexes.

We have hit rock bottom on this and probably this is as bad as it gets. Suppliers are postponing orders without any guaranteed new shipment date where they purchased the raw material but did not purchase the packaging yet. In some cases if the material is not yet purchased, suppliers even cancel orders with their customers because the price increase they have to ask for would be in a range of 20-30%, which will make them lose their reputation. 

Chinese New Year

The cataclysm is the 28th of January 2017, when all factories put down the work 12% of the worlds population starts their 2 week holiday with a journey to their hometown. This is also the point in time where the environmental “red alert” will probably be lifted again and everything can go back to normal. However nobody can foresee the effect of China standing still 1 month earlier than anticipated because of these environmental issues and we are working hard to find a solution for each and every customer who encounters this problem along their way.

The potential chances in this situation

Concluding this newsletter the situation does not look good at the moment but it is an amazing chance to get some sourcing and product development work done. Offices remain open and concepts can be drafted, samples can be inspected and quotations can be handed out. Even though production is not at its peak, the factories can focus on selling their assortments and capacities for the coming year, for orders after Chinese New Year.

We are prepared to take on your new ideas and requests before Chinese new year and offer a discount to existing customers of 10% with the coupon code #christmas, sent to any of our employees at ImportDojo. Here in Hong Kong our merchandisers work over the christmas holidays and will be happy to grant this lower price to any service from our services overview except for photography and virtual address services here: https://importdojo.com/sourcing/

Finally, there is nothing left to say except for thank you once again for the trust you put in us in 2016. We are looking forward to an exciting 2017 together with you and we wish you a merry christmas, happy holidays and all the best for 2017.

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

IMG_6458-845x684

News and trends from the October 2016 exhibitions in China

I have made it a habit to give you an update on trends after every exhibition season in April & October within Hong Kong and China so I won’t break that habit this time 🙂

It has been a hectic 8 weeks for me. When I returned from Europe in September I flew straight to Hong Kong and had an extensive amount of work waiting for me. 

While the first few weeks were all about catching up with work after my holiday I was excited to go to the exhibitions in Hong Kong and China. Here are some of the exhibitions that I went to in October/November over the course of 4 weeks: 

Global Sources Electronics (phase 1)

HKTDC Electronics Fair

Global Sources Smart China Sourcing Summit – for Amazon and online sellers

Global Sources Electronics (phase 2, Mobile Electronics)

Global Sources Gifts & Home

Mega Show (Part 1)

Canton Fair Phase 2

HKTDC International Building and Hardware Fair

Mega Show (Part 2)

Canton Fair Phase 3

Without further ado here are some impressions from the last 8 weeks. 

Hong Kong is constantly at the Top 3 most expensive places to live in the world. Wonder how my apartment looks like in Hong Kong? 

img_6242

Yep, thats 8 square meter of pure space  

 

 

img_6248

At least there’s a rooftop with a view


img_6279

And not so bad to work with this view  🙂

img_6288

 

There’s also a co-working space downstairs. 

img_6295

Back at the office with one of my newest products.  Check it out if you are in need of a portable photo studio. 

img_6313

End of September I head to an Amazon seller and eCommerce meet up in Shenzhen, China, organized by my friends over at EnterChina

img_6316

Rico Ngoma serial Entrepreneur and partner of EnterChina drops knowledge

img_6345

working on new projects for ImportDojo on the rooftop

img_6351

back at the office with the team 

img_6372

another hike at the end of September. Remember to work out whenever you can 

img_6456

The exhibitions start! I head to the Global Sources Electronics show Phase 1. Make sure to get your free train ticket ticket with your buyers badge. 

img_6457

 

img_6458

Global Sources hosts two electronic phases with different categories from 11-14th and 18th-21st. 

img_6459

Walking the aisles at the shows. Predominantly Smart Phone accessories on nearly every booth. 

img_6460

img_6461

Sport & Action camera’s are evolving and it’s amazing what you get these days. 

img_6462

Video & WiFi glasses/camera’s seem to be the newest thing. Maybe not the newest but a lot of suppliers exhibit those. 

img_6463

Smartphone cases. 

img_6465

I found this product to be quite interesting 🙂 

img_6467

An actual AI (Artificial Intelligence) 

img_6470

This automatic car cover peeked my interest. 


img_6472

Gaming & video backpacks seem to be popular as well. 

img_6473

img_6475

Virtual Reality getting bigger and more interesting in terms of developments. 

img_6479img_6480img_6481img_6483

Drone’s are definitely still popular but less than half the amount of booth’s than in April this year. 

img_6484

Global Sources held the first Drone Racing Championship this year at the event. I wasn’t there to witness but it looked pretty cool.


img_6494

I head to the HKTDC Electronics show. Make sure to pre-register (its free)

img_6495

Quite a lot of buyers on the first day. 

img_6496

You’ve got big brands from overseas

img_6497

and big local brands from China. 

img_6498

The HKTDC doesn’t focus on Smart Phone Accessories only but has regular household electronics as well. 

img_6500

img_6507

Smart Home Automation has made big leaps and improvements in terms of apps and technology

img_6508img_6515

Not sure what these guys do. 

img_6516

It’s a beautiful day in Hong Kong and I am stuck at the expo 🙁


img_6563

It’s my birthday and I hike to the beach with a couple of people

img_6564

img_6565

I am invited to speak at the Global Sources Amazon sellers summit again. I got to present my case study there as well in April. This time I talk about how to select the right supplier.

img_6566

I meet a few fellow ImportDojo members and familiar faces from online 🙂 This is Taye from Hong Kong.


img_6568

Chris McCabe delivers amazing value in regards to Amazon account suspension and prevention. 

img_6572

Chris Davey & Danny McMillan arrange a meet up that evening in central Hong Kong. Over 40 Amazon and eCommerce sellers come. 

img_6574

Discussing with Mike Michellini from Globalfromasia some strategies for our business. 

img_6575

I talk about supplier selection and how to verify suppliers in China when at exhibitions but also online. img_6586

In case you are wondering what some of the testing companies charge. 

img_6591

I walk the halls of the Global Sources home and gifts. 

img_6592img_6593img_6595

Lots of packaging suppliers there as well. 



img_6602

The first suppliers with Lightning earphones for the iPhone 7. I test them and they are horrible in quality 🙂

img_6604

Interesting design for a power bank. 



img_6610

Flexport talks about the recent Hanjin collapse and the forecast of the freight forwarding industry at the Sellers Summit

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-7-25-02-am

In between all of this I become the Number 1 bestseller on Amazon with my French Press case study. Even if only for a few days I am happy because I sell between 100-200 pieces per day 🙂


img_6628

Danny McMillan and Currencies Direct organise a meet up in Central with Will Tjernlund at a “fireside” chat. Will talks about Wholesale strategies and amazes the crowd as usual 🙂

img_6633

The next day a Typhoon with a signal T8 (the second strongest) hits Hong Kong and everything closes. I plan on heading to the Megashow part 1 but have to delay that until the next day as public transport closes all together. 

img_6634

img_6640

I eventually make it to the Megashow for a few hours before heading to Guangzhou for Canton Fair Phase 2

img_6654

Remember to book train tickets in advance as they are sold out days in advance. 
img_6663

I walk around Canton Fair for the day and take catalogues and snapshots of interesting items

img_6672

img_6675

img_6676
img_6683

img_6685

img_6687

img_6692

On the next day I head to Shenzhen to visit one of my suppliers. Some of them go the extra mile!


img_6700

I check the production and facilities. 

img_6701

img_6706

img_6707

Testing equipment within the factory. 

img_6721

My wife gets me a birthday gift 🙂

img_6734

back in Hong Kong I check out the “OBEY” exhibition thats running for a month. Very cool art!


img_6739


img_6744

img_6745

img_6751

My friend organises a “junk boat trip”. You basically rent a boat that caters food and drinks all day and you drive out to some island 

img_6754


img_6760

Ignore the couple that is making out 🙂

img_6764

I head to Canton Fair Phase 3 and check in at the Aloft. The value you get for 60US$ is amazing. 

img_6768

img_6770

img_6771

I walk around Phase 3 for a couple of hours and meet existing suppliers and try to find interesting products for my outdoor brand. 

img_6772

Office and stationery is also very present. 


img_6778

img_6780

 

img_6807

img_6810


img_6823

Chris Davey from FBA4U organises his 4th Amazon Seller meet up in Guangzhou. The crowd is huge. Make sure to join his Facebook group if you are looking to meet up during your trip. 

img_6829

I meet familiar faces and friends from all over the world 🙂

img_6863

 

On 7th November I head to Bangkok for a couple of weeks. I hear a lot about UBER Hong Kong has Tesla drivers. I give it a try and I actually find a Tesla for my airport ride. I had to try it 🙂 

Pheew! Lots of photos and stories to share. All in all I’d say I’ve met a lot of great people, made new friends, found new products and definitely had a good time the last weeks.

If you are planning on coming to China I highly recommend you do.

In the coming weeks I’ve got a lot of news and amazing content coming for you. I am starting a new blog-series here on ImportDojo focusing on building a brand and how to drive traffic to your Amazon listing.

Furthermore we are going to show you how you can build a business outside Amazon, so stay tuned!

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

https://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

document-agreement-documents-sign-48148

Product Liability Insurance

Do you need Product Liability Insurance (PLI)?

Yes, I do recommend you have it but I’d say you don’t need to have it before you list and launch your first or second product.

You are unlikely to get any insurance anyway if your business is very new, have no track record, never filed an annual return or have no experience working with factories in China.

How does Product Liability Insurance work?

Basically you can cover any product in a group of products or by product only under an insurance. Meaning if there is any issue with your end consumers the insurance will cover the damage. That is if you have done everything by the book. Meaning you have certifications, had an inspection, a letter of guarantee from your supplier of conform goods and everything went well during production. Thankfully I’ve never had to make use of my insurance so far and I pray I will never have to but just in case its good to have it. Especially if you sell in the US.

Who needs it?

I’d say anyone importing to the US needs it at some point. Be it low risk items or high risk items, it just is better to have as you never know what your customers may do with your product or if there’s any fault in manufacturing that you didn’t find out during inspection.

Who can apply for a Product Liability Insurance?

Basically anyone can apply for an insurance. After all the insurance companies want your money. BUT not everyone gets it. It really depends a lot on how long you have been in business, who are your suppliers (are they a 20 man factory or do they produce for Walmart), do they have certifications, do you yourself have experience buying from China etc. There are many factors that go into the insurers consideration to issue you a policy or not. Please note you need a company to apply for Product Liability Insurance. You cannot apply as a private individual.

Where can I get a Product Liability Insurance?

Here are some sites that broker insurances from the big Insurers (AXA, MSIG, BUPA,Generali, Globality etc.)
Send them an email with your introduction about your business and they’ll get back to you if they can help you. Mind you these companies are based in Hong Kong so you need to have a HK Ltd. company to apply.
To find insurers in your country you’ll need to check with your local insuring companies.

http://www.lfsinsurance.com/business-insurance/
http://www.hkpli.com/
http://www.business.hsbc.com.hk/en-gb/protection-and-investment/general-insurance?DCSext.nav=foot-mat

(Note: HSBC does not cover US businesses)

Miscellaneous:

You need to understand while almost every insurance company will receive you with arms wide open for a life or health insurance it is actually NOT easy at all to get a product liability insurance.
You will be audited by either the insurance company or the broker and there will be extensive background research on you, your company, your products before you can actually get the insurance.

Like I say in nearly all of my posts, always work with reliable and experienced factories – always have certification available to meet country specific requirements (CE, ROHS, FDA etc).

When you apply for a PLI It is a minimum requirement that you have avilable certification.
I mean it’s only obvious that a insurer will only insure you if you have a quality product and not a product that falls apart or lights up in flames the moment you use it.

So you need to provide a lot of documents. Here are just some of the main documents needed:

  1. High Quality Product Photo of at least one item on each category
  2. Test report on at least one item on each category
  3. User Manual on at least one item on each category
  4. Warning Labels on at least one item on each category
  5. Completed and signed PLI application.
  6. Quality website with detailed information on your products
  7. Ideally you have a background in sourcing. If not, provide an action plan on how you source sustainable and quality items in China

 

I hope this helps as a general guideline. Please feel free to share or comment if you have any questions 🙂

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

https://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/