Zero To Hero: Building a Brand Series – An Introduction To eCommerce

Zero To Hero: Building a Brand Series

An Introduction To E-commerce: How To Build Your Own Audience and Gain Control Over Your Brand

In last week’s blog post, Manuel explored in detail how to deal with overseas manufacturers and the best practices for Private Label. In today’s blog post we will focus about building your own E-commerce store. While selling on Amazon has numerous benefits, nothing beats the feeling of having your own store and having full control over your brand.

While the process is time consuming and requires some capital investment, in the long run it will pay off. Here at ImportDojo we always recommend to expand into new countries and to have more than one sales channel – nothing beats having your own sales channel!

The Importance of Having Your Own Store

1.      Have a Stronger Online Presence

A website is not only an additional sales channel, but also an asset. If you manage to build up enough sales volume, the valuation of the site can be added to your company’s overall valuation. It’s never wise to build a business solely on someone else’s platform(Amazon/Ebay), by having your own website you have an additional channel to drive traffic to.

2.      Control Pricing, Offers & Marketing

Marketplaces like Amazon and Ebay have a lot of sellers competing for the same customers. This causes price wars and more often than not, it’s a race to the bottom. By having your own website, you can control your pricing, make your own offers and be in control of what you charge.

3.      Better Branding

A website offers endless possibilities when it comes to customization. Marketplaces have guidelines which restrict the amount of customization you can make. With your own site, you have complete say on what goes into the design, colours and overall branding.

4.      Customer Relationship Building

Through email marketing and social media, you can truly connect with customers in a much more meaningful way than Amazon. Amazon limits sellers on having buyer’s information and restricts communication with them. When you have your own website, you can focus more on the customers and listen to their needs.

The Challenges

Capital Investment

Although building an online store requires minimum capital investment, marketing will require a significant amount of money. This can be difficult in the early stages as you also need to outsource website copywriting, blogs and design.

Getting Traffic

This is by far the biggest challenge of an online store. With Amazon, sellers don’t need to focus much on traffic(except Amazon PPC) as the marketplace gets enormous traffic. With your store, chances are you won’t have visitors on day 1 so you need to dedicate a lot of effort for driving traffic. These include:

  • Facebook Ads
  • PPC(Adwords/Bing)
  • Blogging and SEO
  • Social Media Marketing

Website Set Up 

Luckily many platforms have made this part easy. However, you still need a lot of time to make the design of your store ideal. Most platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce have a lot of integrations which helps you sync inventory across all marketplaces.

Besides the design, the most important parts of a website are:

  • Have an SEO friendly website.
  • Design fits your brand and audience.

This can be easily done with the use of integrations, plugins and premium themes.

Content

Between the blog, website copy and your email capture & sequence, you need to write a lot of content. If you’re not a good writer, you need to outsource all of the writing which requires a lot of capital initially.

When writing content, a good tip is to diversify content not just on your niche but the whole category or subcategory. Use different long tail keywords that cover different topics and once you monitor traffic and engagement for a few months, you will find out what your audience is interested in.

You can use the data to release new products based on what your audience wants.

Essential Pages & Content For Your Site

About US Page

The about us page allows you to tell your brand story, mission and goals behind your products. This page is very important as it gives a “face” to your brand that customers can identify themselves to.

Store/Shop

The store should be simple and easy to navigate. Like Amazon, include keyword focused descriptions and great images.

Blog

A blog not only give important updates and information about your niche, but it also helps drive traffic to your site and build up SEO.

Policies

The most important policies you should put on your website are: 

  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms&Conditions
  •  Shipping & Returns

Building an Audience & Getting Traffic To Your Website

The beauty of selling on Amazon is that you don’t have to worry about driving external traffic to your products. Aside from Amazon Sponsored Ads and Facebook Ads, Amazon generates enough traffic to their marketplace. What makes Amazon unique is that the traffic is mostly buyers.

When it comes to your own website, getting traffic will be the major challenge. However, there are a number of ways to drive traffic(and sales) to your E-commerce store.

Pay Per Click Advertising

Like Amazon Sponsored Ads, pay per click marketing is very powerful in driving traffic towards your products. The most popular pay per click networks are Google Adwords and Bing, when it comes to these two however, you will have higher competition on keywords so your strategy has to focus on long tail, less popular keywords.

Blogger Outreach

This is a similar technique to the one Manuel used for his French Press Case Study. When you’re a new brand, chances are that few people know about you. In this case you have 2 options:

  1. Build an audience yourself which requires time and money.
  2. Leverage someone’s existing audience to gain exposure.

Bloggers are perfect for gaining exposure! They are trusted by their audiences and gain consistent traffic to their blogs. When choosing bloggers to promote your brand or products, take into consideration the following:

  • Are they well known and trusted in my category/niche?
  • How much traffic does their blog get?(use Alexa to check this)
  • Are they active on social media?
  • Are they experienced in promoting products similar to my category/niche?
  • What is their target audience demographics?

One advice is to find someone that truly fits your brand, audiences can tell if someone is truly passionate about your product(s), so be very careful in who you pick. Once you filter down the blogger(s) of your choice, you need to contact them. You can do this either via their website(normally they have a specific Advertisers page) or via social media. Based on experience, these two incentives work best:

  1. Money offer with no commission involved(This can normally range from $50 to $1000 depending on the blogger).
  2. A free product sent to them and they get commission for each referral. They can use the Amazon Associates program or you can create your affiliate program on your website.

The second option normally works best as the blogger will be more incentivised to promote your brand. Bloggers are a great way to drive high amounts of traffic both to your Amazon listing and your website. If a blogger proves very successful, a good option would be for your brand to sponsor the blog as you get a permanent advertising presence.

Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing is the number one tool to drive traffic to your website and get exposure for your brand. Although building a following takes some time, you can drive huge amount of sales and traffic with targeted discounts or giveaways. The most popular social networks for E-commerce are:

  • Facebook – Great for all types of businesses and they have the best converting ads out of all social media networks.
  • Twitter – Although not very ideal for promotions and showing your products, it’s excellent for giving news, updates and connecting with influential people in your category.
  • Instagram – The most popular social network for E-commerce entrepreneurs, it’s design and features make it ideal to show your products. The only downside is that only the bio is clickable so you don’t have many options for driving traffic. However, it’s by far the number 1 tool for getting exposure.
  • Pinterest – Another great social media platform ideal to show your products and branding through images. It is the only social network that has a majority female following, so if your target audience is in this group, it is recommended to focus your efforts here.
  • Snapchat – This social media platfoorm is not ideal for every businesses, however, its popularity is growing and if you’re targeting millenials – you need to be on Snapchat.
  • YouTube – Out of all the social networks, YouTube has the most power to drive huge amounts of traffic and make your brand go viral. The only downside is that producing videos requires capital investment and a lo of time. A way to go around this is to send your products to YouTubers who target your niche, by doing this you leverage the audience of the YouTuber.

Conclusion

Building your own e-commerce store requires a lot of work and patience. However, the benefit of having your own platform and customers is very rewarding. While the Amazon platform will most likely always be the main source of revenue, having an additional sales channel that you fully control is the ultimate step towards having a strong brand.

We hope this blog post was helpful in clearing up some issues you may have when starting your own website and while e-commerce is a vast topic, this guide can surely point you in the right direction. In next week’s blog post will will dive into Social Media Marketing. Social Media has become a really powerful tool to drive traffic, sales and awareness of your brand – so having a social media marketing strategy is essential to quickly grow your customer base.

If you have any questions regarding this blog post, please leave a comment below. The aim of this series is to find out your concerns regarding importing & e-commerce, so we would really love to hear from you!

All the best & happy selling,

Duncan

Zero to Hero: Build a Brand series – Overseas manufacturing guide

I’ve probably written about this topic for as long as the blog is up (March 2015) but I’d like to give you a summary of the most important parts of manufacturing overseas in this blog series on how to build a brand.  

WARNING – LONG POST 🙂

So here goes: 

Guide on Manufacturing Overseas

There are a lot of statistics I could give you but I wouldn’t know where to begin. I want to break down China and its manufacturing in a few sentences.

Believe it or not, China is still the biggest production site by far. While there are several countries in the vicinity, such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Bangladesh, they simply do not have the infrastructure that China does. Imagine you need sanitary items, furniture, household appliances, insurance, and a smart phone. You walk into a Wal-Mart. You can find practically anything you need in there and that’s within 10,000 square feet. That pretty much sums up China’s infrastructure. 

Factory A provides plastic and tooling, Factory B provides packaging, Factory C provides raw material and components, and Factory D assembles everything. They are all within a stone’s throw away from each other. 

Most of the factory bosses are related to each other. They set up a perfect system within their “community.”

I’ll give you an example, and I am not kidding you, 95% of the world’s supply of electrical multi-sockets comes from a small town in Cixi near Ningbo/Shanghai. When I say “small” I actually mean small for China. 

There are over 1.4 million people in this town. When you step into “Ningbo Kaifeng” (World largest factory for electrical multisockets) you are overwhelmed. And when you step outside of the building you see five competitors across the street. All the factory bosses are related to each other. And down the street they can find everything they need – factories that make packaging, tooling, plastic, steel, and so on.

The Chinese are so effective in terms of production and infrastructure that some first world countries could really learn a lot.

The big retailers figured out a long time ago that nearly every large corporation, retailer, discounter, or online shop has a buying office somewhere in China/Hong Kong. I know this because I have been in the industry for over 17 years. When you walk into a factory and look at the production line you see cartons of goods with famous names on them. Whether it is a fan from Home Depot, an audio speaker from Target, or a ceramic pot from Bed, Bath, & Beyond, they were all made in China. Most products are made in specific areas.

Here are a few examples:

  • Guangdong province (South of China): Electronics of any kind, especially consumer and household, toys
  • Zhejiang province (Shanghai area): DIY products, tools, metal and fabrics, lighting
  • Hebei province (Beijing area): Textiles, coal, steel, iron, engineering, chemicals, power, ceramics and food

These are the main areas for production. However, nowadays production is also shifting inland to take advantage of lower labor and production costs.

Certification

First things first. You need to understand that certifications are based on directives and legislations. So for example the GPSD in Europe (General Product Safety Directive Legislation) or the CPSC for the US (Consumer Products Safety Commission) says that a product needs to meet certain standards and need to be safe in general to import or bring to the market. Simple right? Unfortunately not. The GPSD has tons of directives under its belt such as the CE, RoHS, REACH directive). Which means that for each product or category there are further sub-categories that have directives which tell you exactly what your product needs to meet. Wait a minute, what exactly are you saying? I can’t read all this technical jargon…. 

Ever went onto Google to look what your product needs to meet under which directive? Found a site and then there’s a 200 page PDF that tells you in technical mumbo jumbo what the directive is about and after reading that you still don’t know what to do? Well this is where a lot of people struggle (I am actually working on a course as of writing this that will take the guesswork out and make you understand what you need to know)

So which certificates do I need and do I need them all? 

Yes and No

The good news first. No you do not have to have all tests and certificates done by third party laboratories (both the US and Europe). What would suffice in (almost) all cases would be a declaration of conformity. Wow really? Yes, and here is the “however”. If you trust your suppliers blindly that all raw materials are free of hazardous chemicals, comply with electromagnetic compatibility (electronics for example) or meet certain other standards then that would be very foolish. If your supplier can’t provide any certification and claims that he complies with everything you ask for thats a huge red flag. I also understand that you don’t want to invest in any certification not knowing if it will sell. And this is the most important part where you as a entrepreneur and business person need to come to a decision. A) Is my product potentially dangerous (can it explode??). B) Is my product relatively simple and can’t harm anyone (e.g. leather wallet)? Once you’ve figured out what you need for your product you need to evaluate what should be invested. Lets take an example. For the sake of it lets look at a simple and a complicated product. 

Simple product:

Solar powered garden light for 1.2$. Comes with nothing but a few cables, some plastic and a solar cell. Simple right? Technically I have to meet the following: LVD (EMC), ROHS, REACH & CE in general for Europe. Now if I were to test all of these the costs would amount to roughly 2000USD with a very cheap Chinese laboratory. If it was TUV or SGS the costs would be triple that. Now what if I am going to order 1,000 pieces and my testing costs would already cost more? That doesn’t make sense. In this case I suggest to get self declaration of the above regulations and save yourself these costs. Obviously you’d still want your supplier to declare that he can fulfil those requirements so look for suppliers who already deal with customers in the country you want to import to and have a good reputation or can back up their claim that the item is compliant with raw material certificates for example (from the raw material supplier). 

Complicated product:

Small Electric fan heater 5.9$. Comes also with a few cables, some plastic, a plug and a PCB. Simple right? No. You see, I need to plug this product into the socket (230Volts plus) and the potential dangers are very high. If the unit tips over or a child puts a cover on top, the entire unit can burn up (and the house with it). Also here technically I have to meet the following: LVD (EMC), ROHS, REACH & CE in general for Europe. Ideally I will also want a GS mark for Germany because this is a product consumers want to have with GS. On top of that I want abnormal testing from TUV for example. Abnormal testing means they would test what happens if you cover the unit with a blanket or if it tips over that the unit switches off automatically. A good supplier knows that there needs to be a tip over switch installed and overheating fuse included. This abnormal test alone costs 4-5,000USD. A GS mark costs somewhere in the same vicinity (2-4000US$). The other tests (LVD, RoHS, REACH & CE) are roughly 2,000USD. Now we are looking at 10-12,000USD investment costs. Would I do all these testings before purchasing? Yes, 1000%. I do not want to risk my business or anyone else’s life because I wanted cheap. You may say ok but I don’t have that kind of money. Then you need to find a supplier who either has these certificates already or is willing to invest the money for you. If you can’t find one then its simple – the product is not for you and your budget. You can still go for it without all the testing and certifications but I think we are on the same page here that that would be a very foolish decision in case anything happens.  

Now I can’t go into hundreds of products or case studies here, that just isn’t possible. But I think you see my point. First I need to evaluate if the trouble is worth it and if I even want to deal with complicated products. 

If the answer is yes then the strategy is pretty clear I think – test and get certificates. If you don’t dare to sell these risky (but profitable) products go the easy way and pick simple products or walk away. 

Products & components to avoid when starting 

Some items really don’t make sense to import (together with the antidumping rate items). These items are usually license-required items, large items or items that are manufactured in a low-income country near you. 

China is getting some competition from a few countries, not only because of labor costs but also due to government import restrictions (antidumping fees for example).

Products that are difficult for importing:

  • Anything related to gas
  • Cars
  • Supplements
  • Foods, drinks
  • Animals
  • Guns, weaponry
  • Hazardous material
  • and more

For the above items you would need to obtain proper licenses first and this can be quite difficult. So the above might not be your first choice of import. 

Contracts & Tooling Guide 

A lot of people are concerned when they produce their own design in China that the supplier will copy it and sell to other sellers.

First I would like to point out that in my nearly 12 years in China I have had almost only good experiences with suppliers even with my own designs and exclusivity agreements.

Let’s look at your options and what it actually means to have NDA’s or Exclusivity Agreements in China and how likely it is to enforce it or hold up in a court.

Lets look at the terminology first and what they mean:

NDA’s

Whats an NDA and when do you use it?

An NDA or Non-Disclosure Agreement is used when you have your own product design and want that developed by a factory in China. You basically agree with the factory that they are not allowed to disclose, share or produce your design (or even ideas) with any other customer or supplier. Neither local or overseas. In most cases if you have your own design a tooling is likely need to be made. The first step you take before you send any designs to a factory is to ask them to sign the NDA.

Tooling

To produce your design it is very likely that the factory needs to make a mould or tooling for you. With this tooling – parts of your product will be manufactured and eventually assembled into the final product.

(Categories like Textile or Food do not need tooling). Toolings are often included in the price quoted to you when you hand over your design. However you can also opt to pay for the tooling if you want to own the tooling as well.

Toolings can go anywhere from 1,000-30,000+USD depending on the size of the product. Yes, things can get pretty expensive.

Can I move my own tooling to a secure location?

Toolings are usually very large and heavy as they are made out of die-cast in most cases. Moving them requires quite some logistics.

So if you are unsure that your supplier is going to use them for other customers you should move them to a secure location (e.g. a rented warehouse). This can easily cost a few hundred US$.

And every time you would place an order this tooling needs to be moved to the factory and after production back to the warehouse. An expensive enterprise.

So having said all that if you feel you need to have your tooling secure somewhere else you should not work with this factory in the first place.

So whats the best way to go about having your own designs & tooling?

Two scenarios:

  • You are just starting out and have no factory contacts whatsoever.

My tip is to work with a sourcing agent  that can help you find reliable and trustworthy factories.

Don’t go onto Alibaba and randomly look for factories that could make your product. You don’t know them, they don’t know you and are unlikely to help you anyway.

Even if they tell you: “no problem, we can make it for you” they are likely to copy your product or sell the idea to other sellers the minute you place an order.

Just the other day a reader of mine told me he found a trading company on Alibaba for his design and placed an order of 300 pieces.

When he got contacted by the actual factory about labels and other things they needed from him he found out that the trading company placed a total of 500 pieces with that factory.

They ordered an additional 200 pieces (without the knowledge of the client & even with the clients logo) for themselves probably to sell it on Aliexpress or even Amazon themselves.

  • You’ve been placing orders in China for a while.

Work with the factory of your trust. Even if the product you are now looking to manufacture doesn’t fit into their assortment. Factories have a large network and contacts with other factories.

Ask them to help you source a factory that can make your product whom they trust. I’d he happy to pay a few cents more for this type of help if it means I get connected to someone trustworthy.

Ideally your existing factory can help you manufacture your new design.

Mutual Exclusivity Agreement

Let say you find a product on Alibaba or at the shows and you want to buy this product exclusively to sell on Amazon. Suppliers are likely not to give you a Exclusivity Agreement if you don’t purchase high quantities from them or if you haven’t had any previous business with them. FBA sellers are in general very small customers for factories. The 1000 pieces (if even) you & I are going to want to place as a trial order cause more trouble to the factory than you could imagine. Setting up production and purchasing raw material for only a 1000 pieces is an expensive endeavour for factories. Most raw material suppliers have MOQ’s of 5000 pieces (per raw material) and up. So getting the material for 1000 pieces can be quite expensive. While some factories may have stock left of material or might agree to purchase the larger quantity from the raw material supplier in order to produce your order it is unlikely to happen in reality. Having said that you could approach things a little different to get your exclusivity:

You could ask the supplier to sign exclusivity agreements for 6 months. Meaning you could agree on a quantity that you will place within those 6 months and if you don’t reach the quantity the contract will be voided.

Which will give you the time to figure out if the product is selling and the supplier on the other hand isn’t forced to sign a deal for a long time.

After this period of 6 months the contract/agreement can be reviewed and extended for a longer period. Even if the supplier does not agree to an extension you have at least a head start of 6 months on other sellers.

Validity of agreements & contracts:

In the FB groups I often see question like: “How are those agreements going to hold up and what are your chances of winning an NDA dispute in China if you find out your supplier has betrayed you?”

Well to be honest the chances are slim. Does it help to have an agreement in Chinese? No. Even if you hire an expensive lawyer in China and win the case by the time you resolve the issue your expenses will have ballooned into thousands of $.

So unless you have a patent it isn’t even worth it pursuing a law suit.

You will also have difficulties finding out if your supplier actually used your tooling for another client. An un-trustworthy supplier will find many ways to wiggle himself out of the situation.

For example he could claim a disgruntled engineer of the company left the factory and took the designs to the next factory he started to work for. You won’t be able to proof him differently.

So whats the point of having an agreement at all and whats best approach?

To ask a supplier to sign an agreement or NDA shows that you mean serious business and they will take you and your project more seriously. If he doesn’t agree to it in the first place move on to the next supplier.

Work with a supplier whom you trust and have worked with for many months/years already. You will still need to have agreements in place with that supplier but the understanding is entirely different.

If you work with a supplier and you let him know he can grow his business with you over the years he will honour your agreement. The contract is more or less a formality.

Either place orders with a factory for ODM (products off the rack) in the beginning and eventually propose your ideas and designs after you worked with them for a while or hire a Sourcing Agent who can help you get you in touch with trustworthy factories.

For example in my case study I actually got exclusivity for my product (for an initial 1000 pieces order).

And the supplier honoured it. How do I know that? As you know my case study is public and people who join the course can see contacts of my supplier within the course.

After I launched my product and case study only a few days went by and my supplier contacted me to tell me that he had received quotation requests from 2 different US sellers already. Those 2 people wanted to copy my process (they even used my email templates and quotation forms that I offer in my course). The supplier refused to offer my product to those 2 guys. Thats not to say that they can’t go anywhere else but at least I know I have a reliable and trustworthy supplier.

So its all about finding the right supplier and develop a relationship with him. You will want to have agreements in place even after a long relationship but again, thats just really formality and if you found a trustworthy supplier they will honour agreements and in 95% of the cases help you if you have to claim money for example (defect or returned goods).

The point I want to get across to you is not to worry too much about getting copied in China if you approach things professionally.

Getting copied will happen eventually because either:

  • Another factory copies/modifies the designs because they have seen it on Amazon.
  • Your competitor copies your product or modifies it.
  • Your approach was unprofessional.

Take the head-start that you have with your product and move on. Thats how this business is.

And remember the above goes only for your own designs. It is a different story if you are buying products off the rack maybe with small modifications from a supplier that you found on Alibaba for example. In these cases it doesn’t make much sense to have NDA’s or Exclusivity Agreements because it is not your design in the first place. It belongs to the supplier. However if you make significant modifications and are able to place larger orders it makes sense to have agreements.

Choosing a supplier

Most people start out on Alibaba because they cannot come to China. While I do recommend to come to China it doesn’t make sense if you are just starting out. If you are starting out, head over here to my Alibaba screencast which helps on choosing a supplier:  https://importdojo.com/alibaba-hacks/

Ordering samples & how to test each sample effectively

I ll cover three topics about sample management:

  • Sample costs
  • Communication
  • Supervision

Sample costs

Once you have settled on a supplier for your new product it is time to purchase a sample. Most suppliers will charge you for sending a sample. There is usually no way around this unless you have worked with the supplier for a longer time.

Even for me, being here and dealing with suppliers on a daily basis I can’t guarantee that I don’t have to pay for a sample.

Here are some Insider tips to “try” to get a sample for free.

  • Introduce yourself as an assistant of a large company. Suppliers tend to smell money when a large company is interested and are more likely to give away samples for free.
  • State that if the sample is OK you will place a large order
  • State that you have especially chosen this supplier to be your exclusive supplier for this product and he has the chance now to do business with you.
  • Ask him to put the sample cost on top of the official order that may follow if the sample is what you are looking for.
  • State that it is company policy that you/your company don’t pay for samples and if he wishes to do business he should agree to your sample terms.
  • Split the costs. Offer to pay for either the samples or the freight costs.

If none of these work I recommend you to agree with the supplier to deduct the sample costs from the official (larger) order. At least this way you save the sample costs if you decide to order from this particular supplier.

Be wary of sample costs in general

On one occasion I was sourcing for a textile accessory. The item itself can be made for approx 2 USD.

I screened around 10 suppliers and eventually narrowed my selection down to 5 suppliers. They were all in a similar price range.

When it came down to ordering samples one of the suppliers (who was also the most expensive) asked me for a sample fee of 100 USD to be transferred to his bank account. That didn’t make sense. I immediately knew it must be a trading company with no factory background.

They probably outsource the work to a factory because they have no own facilities. Eliminate suppliers that have high sample costs right in the beginning.

Samples are usually 10-50% more expensive than the originally quoted price. It is a common practice to charge more for samples, as many of the samples need to be handmade for the customer, especially if you have some sort of modification request.

Another reason why samples are usually more expensive than the quoted price is that they want to see if you are serious & sincere about placing a larger order later.

I can tell you that from my own experience as a manufacturer. I get about 5 sample requests per week and all of them want it for free. If a buyer is not willing to pay for a sample I won’t send it to him because I will be thinking he just wants to get a sample and there will be no follow up order.

Sometimes suppliers have stock of their items. If you do not need to have any modifications done, or you just want to check the quality before asking for more, request a sample they have in stock. If they have stock, they usually charge the regular (MOQ) price.

Communication

In my 12 years living and working in China I have learned to communicate with Chinese suppliers in different ways compared to communicating with Western companies.

What is being said or promised on the phone/chat or email is not always being followed by the factory or the supplier. Often you will find that something you said or agreed on is being done completely different.

For example you ordered a sample of a certain product in a certain color & quantity but what you receive is completely different from what you asked/paid for.

Unfortunately the chain of command in factories is not always direct. So when your sales contact gives your sample order to his sample or engineering team there may be 2 or 3 people in between.

In between often some information gets lost. So eventually the person responsible for making your sample will receive different instructions that deviate from your original briefing. Often there will be no meetings held on projects from clients (like we are used to in the western world), but rather a quick email to another person that has not fully understood what you actually want or need.

Often there will be no message or notification that your project may be urgent or requires special attention. That might be a simple instruction, for example telling the sample team to make the sample with a US plug or adapter. No one has told the sample team and common sense is unfortunately not requested when being a worker in the factory.

Which brings us to:

Supervision

I can’t stress enough how important it is to supervise & monitor your order/samples or other projects that you have with your supplier. Westerners work differently. We are more detailed and we expect people to have the same common sense that most of us have. Information will get lost. You need to plan for it.

After each discussion on the phone/chat or email you should follow up with written and agreed on-points. Try to think of everything for the supplier and make it as easy as possible for him to follow up & complete your instructions. Give him a “goodie” at the end of the email to advise him of the potential to be working with you.

For example (content in BLUE are my notes for you):

Hi Tony,

Thanks for the talk just now. I would like to summarize the discussed points:

– Sample to be sent to ……. (your address)

– Sample needs to be in working mode. A non-working sample is not accepted, as the sample will undergo quality tests by my third party laboratory. (this part doesn’t need to be true but he will think twice before sending you a sample in poor condition)

– Sample needs to have a US plug (attach him a picture of a US plug-make it easy for him)

– Please make sure the sample is tested on your side before being sent out.

– Please attach your model number & supplier name-tag to the sample as I am getting many samples and would like to know who sent which sample. (this way you will not lose reference of which supplier made your sample if you order from more than one)

– Make sure you mention “samples of no commercial value” to the Sample Invoice (in order to avoid customs tax on samples at your destination).

– Etc.

Please give me a written confirmation of all discussed points and your understanding.

If the sample works out well and everything is as it is agreed on, expect an order of… pcs.

Best,

…..

Here a few more tips on communication & supervision with your supplier:

  • Give deadlines to suppliers that you both agreed on.
  • Set yourself reminders on your smart phone/computer that will help you to remind your supplier.
  • Make simple sketches & drawings of your requests if the supplier misunderstands you.
  • Have him confirm each step of your modification or request
  • Keep emails clear and with bullet points to make your requests stand out

Once you have a feeling on what you need to pay attention to it gets a lot easier and your sample orders in China will be a lot smoother.

Inspections

I’ve been saying this forever and I still see people shipping their products from China without inspecting their products by professionals but my recommendation is never ever ship without inspecting your goods. 

Especially not if you ship directly to Amazon. If there’s a problem it’s too late to re-work the goods (in most cases) or ship back to China. 

There are several third-party inspection companies in Asia. Some of the big names are: Buereau Veritas, TUV-SUD, TUV-RHEINLAND, and AsiaInspection  (which I personally use) to name a few. The first three are usually expensive but also very thorough. AsiaInspection is a simple and cost efficient service that should work in the beginning for you. Register on their website and simply create an order with them. You can fill out all the details or even better ask your supplier to send them a sample.

Simple steps: You ask your supplier for a date when you can send an inspector (usually around 70-80% of the finished production), you book the inspection online and the Inspector will go to the factory on the arranged date. 

Once the inspection is completed they will send you an inspection report. Based on this report you can either:

  • Release the shipment to the supplier
  • Ask the supplier to re-work the goods according to your agreed terms and fix problems found during the inspection

Only when you are entirely satisfied should you release the shipment. In most cases there will be minor findings, such as scratches, dents, or packaging issues. If this doesn’t bother you then release. If there are major problems like faulty wires or wrong colours, ask your supplier to re-work the goods.

Trust me, he will re-work, as he is still waiting to get the full payment. Remember, NEVER pay everything up front. Once everything is as it should be you can give your logistics provider the order to pick up the goods and send them to the port.

You are of course entitled to skip this process, but it is highly recommended, especially for first-timers and for order amounts above 1,000USD.

Pheeww that was a long post but I hope that this serves as a refreshment or reminder on what to pay attention to 🙂

Next week in our blog series we’ll talk about eCommerce, what channels exist, how to build an audience, social media following and more so stay tuned 🙂

If you enjoyed this post please comment or share on your social media 🙂

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

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

From Zero to Hero – Building a Brand – Introduction


My name is Duncan and I have been an Import Dojo Master Class member for the past 8 months. As mentioned in the previous blog post, I will be making a blog series on how to build a better brand and provide an in-depth guide on tools & strategies to help sellers expand beyond Amazon.

The Idea Behind The Series and Course

Over the last month, many established and new Amazon sellers have experienced several changes on the platform – both positive and negative. The biggest change was the update in Amazon’s review policy which made launching a new product much harder.

That’s when the idea of the Zero To Hero blog series came up. Both I and Manuel realized that to succeed on Amazon, you need to have: 

●      A good product

●      A strong brand

●      Multiple sales channels

Over the past few months, we have explored different strategies which will help you not only become a successful Amazon seller, but also gain exposure globally.

Aim For Long Term Success: Building a Strong Brand with Multiple & Global Sales Channels

The main aim of the blog series is to go from idea to a strong, recognizable brand in your niche. Unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs are focusing solely on the Amazon platform. While it may be the easiest and the lowest barrier to entry; there are many disadvantages:

●      No control over your brand since the customer belongs to Amazon       

●      Amazon has made several changes which affected sellers badly   

●      Building a business on one income stream is never good   

●      Higher competition & lower pricing   

●      Some markets are saturated

In Zero to Hero, we will go over other E-commerce platforms, both in the US and in other countries. The series will provide an in-depth guide on which channels work best, including marketing strategies for each, including:

1.     Which E-Commerce platform to use to build your own online store

2.     Expanding in the US beyond Amazon, this will include stores such as Walmart and also small retailers(How to find them & approach them)

3.     Selling in Japan & EU

4.     Product branding – How to custom packaging, handling customer service & inserts

5.     Social Media Marketing – A deep look into Adwords & Facebook advertising for e-commerce

6.     Outsourcing & Building a Team – Where to find Virtual Assistants and which tasks make sense to outsource.

This is only a fraction of what will be included in the full blog series. Below is a representation of what Zero to Hero will offer. In the next blog series, we will have an introduction on what makes a successful brand and how to apply it to your brand or product.

An Overview of Our Blog Series


 
 

Please feel free to share and comment if you have any questions or if you want something included in the series.

All the best and happy selling 🙂

Duncan

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

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/

NDA’s, agreements and having your own tooling in China

A lot of people are concerned when they produce their own design in China that the supplier will copy it and sell to other sellers.

First I would like to point out that in my nearly 12 years in China I have had almost only good experiences with suppliers even with my own designs and exclusivity agreements.
Today we are looking at your options and what it actually means to have NDA’s or Exclusivity Agreements in China and how likely it is to enforce it or hold up in a court.

Lets look at the terminology first and what they mean:

NDA’s

Whats an NDA and when do you use it?
An NDA or Non-Disclosure Agreement is used when you have your own product design and want that developed by a factory in China. You basically agree with the factory that they are not allowed to disclose, share or produce your design (or even ideas) with any other customer or supplier. Neither local or overseas. In most cases if you have your own design a tooling is likely need to be made. The first step you take before you send any designs to a factory is to ask them to sign the NDA.

Tooling

To produce your design it is very likely that the factory needs to make a mould or tooling for you. With this tooling – parts of your product will be manufactured and eventually assembled into the final product.
(Categories like Textile or Food do not need tooling). Toolings are often included in the price quoted to you when you hand over your design. However you can also opt to pay for the tooling if you want to own the tooling as well.
Toolings can go anywhere from 1,000-30,000+USD depending on the size of the product. Yes, things can get pretty expensive.

Can I move my own tooling to a secure location?

Toolings are usually very large and heavy as they are made out of die-cast in most cases. Moving them requires quite some logistics.
So if you are unsure that your supplier is going to use them for other customers you should move them to a secure location (e.g. a rented warehouse). This can easily cost a few hundred US$.
And every time you would place an order this tooling needs to be moved to the factory and after production back to the warehouse. An expensive enterprise.
So having said all that if you feel you need to have your tooling secure somewhere else you should not work with this factory in the first place.

So whats the best way to go about having your own designs & tooling?

Two scenarios:

  1. You are just starting out and have no factory contacts whatsoever.
    My tip is to work with a sourcing agent  that can help you find reliable and trustworthy factories.
    Don’t go onto Alibaba and randomly look for factories that could make your product. You don’t know them, they don’t know you and are unlikely to help you anyway.
    Even if they tell you: “no problem, we can make it for you” they are likely to copy your product or sell the idea to other sellers the minute you place an order.
    Just the other day a reader of mine told me he found a trading company on Alibaba for his design and placed an order of 300 pieces.
    When he got contacted by the actual factory about labels and other things they needed from him he found out that the trading company placed a total of 500 pieces with that factory.
    They ordered an additional 200 pieces (without the knowledge of the client & even with the clients logo) for themselves probably to sell it on Aliexpress or even Amazon themselves.
  2.  You’ve been placing orders in China for a while.
    Work with the factory of your trust. Even if the product you are now looking to manufacture doesn’t fit into their assortment. Factories have a large network and contacts with other factories.
    Ask them to help you source a factory that can make your product whom they trust. I’d he happy to pay a few cents more for this type of help if it means I get connected to someone trustworthy.
    Ideally your existing factory can help you manufacture your new design.

Mutual Exclusivity Agreement

Let say you find a product on Alibaba or at the shows and you want to buy this product exclusively to sell on Amazon. Suppliers are likely not to give you a Exclusivity Agreement if you don’t purchase high quantities from them or if you haven’t had any previous business with them. FBA sellers are in general very small customers for factories. The 1000 pieces (if even) you & I are going to want to place as a trial order cause more trouble to the factory than you could imagine. Setting up production and purchasing raw material for only a 1000 pieces is an expensive endeavour for factories. Most raw material suppliers have MOQ’s of 5000 pieces (per raw material) and up. So getting the material for 1000 pieces can be quite expensive. While some factories may have stock left of material or might agree to purchase the larger quantity from the raw material supplier in order to produce your order it is unlikely to happen in reality. Having said that you could approach things a little different to get your exclusivity:

You could ask the supplier to sign exclusivity agreements for 6 months. Meaning you could agree on a quantity that you will place within those 6 months and if you don’t reach the quantity the contract will be voided.
Which will give you the time to figure out if the product is selling and the supplier on the other hand isn’t forced to sign a deal for a long time.
After this period of 6 months the contract/agreement can be reviewed and extended for a longer period. Even if the supplier does not agree to an extension you have at least a head start of 6 months on other sellers.

Validity of agreements & contracts:

In the FB groups I often see question like: “How are those agreements going to hold up and what are your chances of winning an NDA dispute in China if you find out your supplier has betrayed you?”
Well to be honest the chances are slim. Does it help to have an agreement in Chinese? No. Even if you hire an expensive lawyer in China and win the case by the time you resolve the issue your expenses will have ballooned into thousands of $.
So unless you have a patent it isn’t even worth it pursuing a law suit.

You will also have difficulties finding out if your supplier actually used your tooling for another client. An un-trustworthy supplier will find many ways to wiggle himself out of the situation.
For example he could claim a disgruntled engineer of the company left the factory and took the designs to the next factory he started to work for. You won’t be able to proof him differently.

So whats the point of having an agreement at all and whats best approach?

To ask a supplier to sign an agreement or NDA shows that you mean serious business and they will take you and your project more seriously. If he doesn’t agree to it in the first place move on to the next supplier.
Work with a supplier whom you trust and have worked with for many months/years already. You will still need to have agreements in place with that supplier but the understanding is entirely different.
If you work with a supplier and you let him know he can grow his business with you over the years he will honour your agreement. The contract is more or less a formality.
Either place orders with a factory for ODM (products off the rack) in the beginning and eventually propose your ideas and designs after you worked with them for a while or hire a Sourcing Agent who can help you get you in touch with trustworthy factories.

For example in my case study I actually got exclusivity for my product (for an initial 1000 pieces order).
And the supplier honoured it. How do I know that? As you know my case study is public and people who join the course can see contacts of my supplier within the course.
After I launched my product and case study only a few days went by and my supplier contacted me to tell me that he had received quotation requests from 2 different US sellers already. Those 2 people wanted to copy my process (they even used my email templates and quotation forms that I offer in my course). The supplier refused to offer my product to those 2 guys. Thats not to say that they can’t go anywhere else but at least I know I have a reliable and trustworthy supplier.
So its all about finding the right supplier and develop a relationship with him. You will want to have agreements in place even after a long relationship but again, thats just really formality and if you found a trustworthy supplier they will honour agreements and in 95% of the cases help you if you have to claim money for example (defect or returned goods).

It also has to do with your professionalism and how you or your sourcing agent approaches the factory.
Imagine you are a factory based in China and someone with a Gmail address contacts you like this:

“Hi, we are looking to get products manufactured with you. Please see attached drawing and design. Please give us a price”.

The above is an actual email I received from a “potential” client in the US. I simply ignored it. But some suppliers will take this opportunity and steal your design or show it to their customers.
It’s entirely different if I would have received an email with an introduction, detailed business proposal and more background information from the buyer.

The point I want to get across to you today is not to worry too much about getting copied in China if you approach things professionally.

Getting copied will happen eventually because either:

  • Another factory copies/modifies the designs because they have seen it on Amazon.
  • Your competitor copies your product or modifies it.
  • Your approach was unprofessional.

Take the head-start that you have with your product and move on. Thats how this business is.

And remember the above goes only for your own designs. It is a different story if you are buying products off the rack maybe with small modifications from a supplier that you found on Alibaba for example. In these cases it doesn’t make much sense to have NDA’s or Exclusivity Agreements because it is not your design in the first place. It belongs to the supplier. However if you make significant modifications and are able to place larger orders it makes sense to have agreements.

Update Case Study:

A lot of people have asked me about my case study project and asked me about an update.
As you know I’ve posted about being out of stock end of May: https://importdojo.com/7-weeks-case-study-update-i-am-out-of-stock/
My second small reorder of 208 pieces came into stock around 6th of June. However my BSR had dropped significantly to nearly 100,000 by that time.

In the last 4 weeks if seen a couple of sales a day but not much (hovering around 1-2 pieces) sometimes even none. The reason is mainly because I didn’t do anything in terms of promotions, PPC or give aways. But that doesn’t really bother me, the listing and the reviews are there anyway and I sold close to a 100 pieces within this month (doing nothing for it).
I didn’t want to run out of stock again before Prime Day (today) before my large shipment of 2500 pieces arrives around 15th of July. As of today my BSR is at around 20,000 and inventory is around 100 pieces and I’ve just lowered the price and started with PPC again to get back in the ranks. I should have enough stock to last me trough Prime Day until this second large shipment arrives. Then i will again go full steam on PPC, some give aways and promotions to get my ranking back to where it was. Stay tuned for more updates.

Hope this helps guys!
Happy sourcing,
Manuel

 

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

The ultimate guide on how to find a product

 

How to find a product?

This is the number 1 question I get asked on almost a daily basis. I have no definite answer for you today but I will try to break it down in two sections and a step by step guide on how I select products and hopefully you’ll get a few ideas 🙂

Lets look at your personal situation (scenario) first and then see how you can benefit from your scenario when picking the product.

1) How to pick your product niche:

Scenario 1: You’ve got money

Congratulations! While it is easier to get started the question of what product you are going to pick still remains open. More on that below.

Scenario 2: You don’t have money and you’re scraping together every little cent you have to reach 5,000$ because that’s the budget you heard of is the minimum (well its my minimum that I recommend to everyone).

While it is more difficult to get started you have the same starting point like everyone else out there. You probably want to make sure that the product you are going to pick is worth the investment. But even if your first product is not a killer don’t worry. You learn a lot in the process and in most cases you can at least get your investment back. Read on.

Scenario 3: You have a large follower-ship on social media

You are in a great spot. You already have a list of customers to get your launch and product going. It is imperative to pick a product that fits your social media.
In my recent case study (https://importdojo.com/case-study-how-i-went-from-zero-to-7000us-in-10-days-in-one-of-the-most-competitive-amazon-niches/) I reached out to bloggers and that boosted my launch immensely. Even nearly 3 months after my launch I still get sales from that site.

What does that mean if you have a large followership? Lets say I have an Instagram account with 50,000 followers that talks about eating healthy, fitness, the outdoors etc.. I could launch so many products to that followership, even competitive niches. For example:

  • Yoga mats
  • Accessories for the gym (tumblers, bags, sporting items etc.)
  • Backpacks, travelling gear, camping accessories
  • etc.

When you research your future niche and have decided on it build social media right away if possible. A client of mine built a social media follower-ship of 8,000 followers within 2 months (various social sites) and then launched her product. She sold nearly 100 pieces the first week only trough social media. That helped boost her organic sales and the rest is history.

So consider social media right from the beginning when choosing a product.
Ideally you will want to enlarge your assortment with similar products that all fit into your following. For example if your first product was a yoga mat and your followership is about exercising etc. it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense that your next product is a vacuum cleaner.

Scenario 4: You have passion about a certain product category

Let’s just say you love the outdoors, hiking, camping, and exercising in general (like me). So many products to choose from but you have one advantage. You know what you like and what your product should be able to do. You already have an advantage over many other competitors. Your passion for this category goes into your product. E.g. if you were to be upset about quality of camping mats you would already know what to tell your supplier where to improve. Look into categories you have passion for and then choose a product that you feel you can talk about, improve and passion in selling for.

For example if you like cooking you could look at developing a product that makes a certain cooking process easier. The exciting thing about this is that all your passion also goes into your product and listing and people just buy your stuff because you are so convinced of your product yourself.

For example I recently bought a travel bag from a German entrepreneur based in Thailand who loves travelling. Over the years he went trough so many of his traveling bags already because they were of poor quality (the straps broke, the leather peeled off etc.) and he decided to make his own bags. After 6 months of hard work he launched his site and product and it took off immediately. All his passion went into his product and site (https://www.travlmind.com/). You could tell by his story that he was really passionate about creating the best bags out there and not just copying the big brands. And only that convinced me to buy one of the bags even that it was at a higher price tag.

Scenario 5: You have vast experience in a certain industry

Lets imagine you have 17 years of experience in 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 in. I believe you should not just have passion about your product but also have experience. When I sell a product online I want to be able to answer customers questions and inquires. To be able to do that I need experience in that category. Your passion and experience goes into creating your product. So when I choose my first product I improved an existing item based on my experience in that industry: https://importdojo.com/how-i-started-my-own-private-label/

So if you have a lot of experience in a certain industry make that industry your first product category.

Don’t have experience in a certain industry? What about a hobby? Or are you a parent? I am sure if you are a parent you have lots of experience with your kid/children and you could start in that category 🙂

Scenario 6: You have none of the above

Not to worry or be frustrated. Most of the people I know that get started start with Scenario 6 and there are still many success stories out there if you are within this scenario. Here’s an approach that you could use:

First: Take out a notebook and create a list of your interests and hobbies (or responsibilities as a parent for example) e.g. kitchen products, electronics, sports, your kids etc.. Yes actually write it down. Call me a bit old fashioned but I like to drop down ideas in written 🙂

Second: subscribe to newsletters of companies that talk about or sell products of your interests. See below on which sites for example (point 2)

Third: Gather a list of potential products from that niche. Collect at least 10 ideas.

Fourth: Research phase. Junglescout, Amazon, eBay, jet.com, local shop that sells the products etc.
See if there is any demand? Or is there space for one more seller (you)?

Fifth: If there is no demand is it because the product is in its fledging stages? Can you improve the product with your passion and interest in this product? Yes? Create a To-Do list of what you can improve based on customers reviews, what friends and family say etc. and move onto finding a supplier.

Sixth: No? Are you still convinced of the product? Follow your gut feeling and also ask around in friend circles. Move onto finding a supplier

Seven: No demand at all? Move onto product 2 of your list of ideas.

Lets say you found your niche, category or general product idea. Depending on above scenarios here are a few examples on how to find your product:

2) How to find your product ideas:

Choose your scenario and lets look at the following options:

  1. Amazon
  2. Blogs, Gadget or trendy sites
  3. Exhibitions
  4. Supermarkets, shopping malls
  5. Tools
  6. When travelling
  7. Alibaba & Globalsources

1) Amazon
You could look for hours on Amazon in the different categories and niches if you already have a certain product idea. But if you have no idea to start I suggest you start with the best seller list: http://amzn.to/1ZN3rY3

2) Blogs, gadget or trendy sites

Please don’t just look on Amazon! While there are great tools out there to scout Amazon for products (Junglescout, Cashcowpro etc.) I get many of my ideas outside Amazon.

One of my favorite site to find interesting blogs and trendy websites is Kadaza. It’s a collection of the best and most interesting sites on product ideas:

http://www.kadaza.com/

Click on any of the categories and you will find x amount of websites in that niche. For example if you look under the Tech category (http://www.kadaza.com/tech) you will find “The Gadget Flow”. By subscribing to their newsletter you get weekly updates on trendy items (that may not even be on Amazon yet). Lets take a look at an example:

Just a few days ago I received an email from The Gadget Flow. Its a site that I subscribe to among many others. I found the site by looking trough above Kadaza links.

So when I opened the email there were a lot of products that are currently on sites like Kickstarter or other similar sites. But you know what? If its only on Kickstarter now it means it isn’t on Amazon yet hence you can take the product idea and even improve on it. So I looked at the first product that caught my attention (lots of other good ideas too in that email):

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 11.56.33 AM

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 11.56.36 AM

 

After clicking on the link I found that the company is based in Denmark and funded their product “the Sitpack” successfully on Kickstarter.

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 11.56.51 AM

Just a quick search on Alibaba.com and I immediately find a supplier:

 

Untitled

 

 

As you can see the supplier either stole the pictures or he is the actual producer for this company. I think it is the first one but it could be that they are the sole manufacturer.

 

Untitled2

 

 

Now I go on Amazon and see that there is only one seller, the actual company “Sitpack” selling for 149$!!! Look at the listing. So much to improve!!

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 12.00.24 PM

Also I am pretty sure that this product does not cost more than 10$ to manufacture. Wow what a margin!

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 12.01.47 PM

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 12.08.48 PM

 

Either way, the point I want to get to you is not to copy these companies but find ideas on blog sites (subscribe to them) and see how quick and easy you can research suppliers on Alibaba or Globalsources for suppliers. Maybe add an accessory, change colors or 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.

3) Exhibitions
One of my favorite and most efficient way to find new products is at exhibitions. There are hundreds of exhibitions each year in many countries. 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 exhibitions near you just Google the exhibition center near you and get your entry ticket. Most times you will need to provide name cards and contact details for that. You can order business cards for $5 these days. Going to an exhibition prepared and with a professional image gives the supplier a great impression of you.

There are countless exhibitions around Asia throughout the year but mostly during April and October. Here is a list of exhibitions for October 2016: http://www.globalsources.com/NEWS/TRADE_SHOW_CALENDAR_OCTOBER2016_A.pdf

A great write up from one of webretailers earlier posts of Danny McMillan who I had the pleasure of meeting in Hong Kong in April: http://www.webretailer.com/lean-commerce/sourcing-trip-china/

4) Supermarkets, shopping malls
Another way to find new products is obviously when you are out in a shopping mall or a local shop. To start your own import business means that you also work when you are out with friends/family at a shopping mall. Keep your eyes open and when you see something cool make a reminder for yourself on your smart phone to look the product up later.

5) Tools

A) Junglescout
You have probably heard of Junglescout already. Junglescout is probably the most advanced tool when it comes to navigating Amazon and finding bestseller products. Jungle Scout integrates into your Google Chrome browser, streamlining your product research. Extract rank, sales volume, FBA fee’s, type and quantity and a lot more! From what I hear soon also available for the German market.

I had the chance to meeet Junglescout’s founder Greg Mercer twice. He is a really cool and down to earth guy who seems to work purely for the community. Check out his blog and site where you can get hundreds of product ideas itself if not using his tool.

B) Cashcowpro

In January this year I was contacted by Antoni Watts, the founder of CashCowPro. I looked up his tool and was amazed by how he has probably put together the most comprehensive tool that not only helps to boost sales but also provides accurate insightful metrics for selling on Amazon. From all the tools out there I think this is my favorite when it comes to keeping track of all my sales as well as testing features.

It also works also iPhone and Android APP. Within the tool there is a Top 100,000 NICHE selector… They actually scanned over 100 million products + ASINs on Amazon to create this list.
They automatically calculate the factory cost and Air + Sea freight to give you the Top 100,000 most profitable NICHES on Amazon. Not products, but actual NICHES, using the average of the TOP 5 ranking products for each Niche to calculate the overall performance. The tool has many more functions apart from the niche selector that you can see here:

 

6) Travelling

Travelling is also a great way to find ideas. When you are out of your country or state you will likely see items that your country/state does not have. There could be many reasons why they may not be available where you live, but it’s always worth it to check an idea out. I remember when my friend told me about 10 years ago about Bubble Tea & 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 go on any further with that idea but a few years later back in Germany these drinks started to pop up and were a smashing hit! So even when you think at first that idea might be nothing, it could be worth millions! Share the idea with a few friends and brainstorm about it.

7) Alibaba & Globalsources

A) Alibaba

First off when you sign up on Alibaba you generally need to fill in 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. Als you can subscribe look in their “selection site” where they post a lot of the newest and trendiest items from their suppliers:

http://selection.alibaba.com/?spm=a2700.7848340.0.0.tevCsV&tracelog=hd__cor_selection

B) Globalsources

Pretty much the same with Globalsources. You sign up and get automated emails with great product deals here. But not enough, they also have a section with the best deals and newest products out of every product category: Top Products. And my favourite part are their eMagazines that are updated on a monthly basis with the hottest and newest product alerts on their site.

Check out the links listed above and browse trough hundreds of products. Use the techniques and step by step scenario as described above depending on your situation.

Well that’s all I can think of today but there are literally so many other ways to find products. Even if you personally went trough some of the above ideas already I hope there’s still something for you that could help to find your next or first product. Some more ideas on how to find the “perfect” product also in one of my earlier guest blog posts from Thomas Albiez based in Switzerland: https://importdojo.com/how-to-find-the-perfect-product-2/

Once thing I can recommend everyone at some point is to come to Asia and visit some of the exhibitions. I feel it is just the most efficient way to find products. I know it may not be cheap to come here but I can guarantee its worth it. A plane ticket and a few nights at a cheap hotel can go from $1500. But you’ll see actual suppliers, products and samples in real. Saving you a lot of money and time in the process. Here are a few impressions from October last year and this year April’s exhibitions :

https://importdojo.com/news-and-trends-from-the-exhibitions-in-asia/

https://importdojo.com/news-and-trends-from-the-exhibition-april-2016/

I hope you enjoyed this post and that I could somehow inspire you a little bit to find your product ☺

All the best and happy sourcing,
Manuel

 

Ps.: some of the links are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase.  I have personally used and tested all of these products or companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something. The cost to you remains the same, sometimes even cheaper if I have negotiated a special deal for our readers. Please do not purchase these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

News and trends from the exhibition (April 2016)

So this post seems to be a recurring and I won’t break habits and therefore continue this series of giving you the news and trends from this April exhibition with the following sum up 🙂 I am also doing a Q&A at the end of this post, check it out. 

It has been a very busy 5 weeks for me as I’ve been to 12 different shows and I can see that more and more Amazon sellers are coming to Asia to visit the suppliers and shows. 

When I asked suppliers at exhibitions 2 years ago if they sell into Amazon they had no clue as to who Amazon is. When you ask them now if they sell to the US you get: “oh yes sure, we have many buyers on Amazon”. 

Not that I am afraid of competition but there is clearly a sign that sellers realize you need to go to the source to find the right products and suppliers. 

In recent months I have seen a gradual decline of my business to retailers (offline business) and more and more eCommerce sellers are starting to come to Asia to see the suppliers. 

This is a huge sign. Whether you plan selling on Amazon, your own eCommerce store or other online platforms (eBay, Spotify etc.) NOW is the time to get into importing and private labeling.

I see a lot of repetition at the shows but there are clear trends in several categories and I was able to find a few golden nuggets that I am thinking of launching as my next products:

Personal Transportation

The famous “hoover board” is almost outdated and I saw many new types of transportation devices. Personally I am not getting into this category as I believe it is too risky and their are no clear saftey standards. 

IMG_4345

Decorative items

Lots and lots of nice products at both the Houseware fair (HKTDC), Cantonfair (Phase 2) as well as the Home and Premium show (Globalsources). 

IMG_4499

My wife would have a difficult time choosing from the huge variety of products – there are lots of nice looking items 🙂

Interestingly but not surprisingly I met most of the Amazon sellers from overseas at the house ware/kitchen shows. A clear sign that this category is heavily competitive but also very popular AND still profitable. 

High quality and branded Chinese/Korean/Japan goods

Be it a mini projector screen from Korea, a “Lego” like learning tool for kids from Japan or high end bycicle helemts (with bluetooth) from China. Asian brands are starting to make waves and their quality is excellent. 

IMG_4307 IMG_4306

However in most cases these factories are only looking for distributors and are selling their products with their own brand on Amazon or other channels. Private Label is not really welcome and if it is very high MOQ’s are necessary. 

However it is a good sign and nice to know that the asian brands are catching up in terms of quality, innovation and development. 

Sporting and camping products

A category that I personally love because I like the outdoors and love to work out. Seen a lot of suppliers offering things from kettle bells to yoga mats to roof tents. I found myself 2 products that I am thinking of launching soon. 

IMG_4664

IMG_4459

While it is getting more competitive I think that with the right marketing, packaging and photos on your listing this is still a very good niche. 

Two categories that I have seen everywhere no matter if it was a houseware or gardening show: 

1) Silicone kitchen products! 

You see them everywhere on nearly every booth. Either from a trading company who’s main manufacturing line are electronics or from the actual manufacturer. My advice – be creative and don’t try to private label the next silicone mat. 

IMG_4747

This category is too saturated 

2) Vaccum flask / Tumblers 

Same here. I don’t know what it is but it seems when factories hear that their neighbouring factory is selling stainless steel tumblers like hot cake, they have nothing better to do than adding them as well into their assortment thinking they will sell them too – even though 40 other factories in the area are selling them already as well. Nearly every booth at the house ware and gifts show had tumblers and flasks in their booths. So unless you have a buyer list of 50,000 people and can sell your next stainless steel tumbler – Please don’t go into that category – the competition is too big. 

20160422175913

The Global Sources Sourcing Summit:

https://smartchinasourcingsummit.instapage.com/

I had the honour of being the opening speaker at the Global Sources Sourcing Summit. There were about 65 (or becoming) Amazon sellers attending this event and I can say that it was truly a very exciting opportunity.

IMG_4469

During my speech

IMG_4468

Discussing strategies with a fellow Amazon seller

IMG_4471

Shall we go into Silicone products?

679fb925-21c3-4c07-b8db-42486f87ccc4

Impressions from and after the Sourcing Summit with attendees.

741f59dc-21cc-47da-ada2-ac7c8a8b9ec9

Q&A panel at the Sourcing Summit

cebdf64e-6c9c-4143-b474-bbd3e040370b

Will Tjernlund and fans 🙂

The line up of speakers was really impressive and to be honest I felt intimidated to be among such great speakers. We had Greg Mercer from Junglescout, Anthony Lee from Zonblast, Will Tjernlund (the Multi-Million $ Seller) Ash Monga from Imexsourcing, Mike Bellamy from Passage Maker …… among many other great speakers. The line up and summary is here: https://smartchinasourcingsummit.instapage.com/

But most of all it was great to meet so many Amazon sellers. I had some time in between to discuss strategies, procedures, importing and all that comes along being an Amazon seller myself. 

This was such a great event and I am happy to say that I will be at the next one in October 2016: 

https://smartchinasourcingsummit.eventgrid.com/

Factory trip to Shenzhen:

I had the opportunity to go with some ImportDojo members to their factory in Shenzhen to see the production and help negotiate prices:

IMG_4526

Arriving in Shenzhen

IMG_4529

At the factory with Omar who started less than a year ago and now working on several SKU’s.

IMG_4531

These guys seem happy with their product and factory choice 🙂

IMG_4536

Checking out the production.

UPDATE CASE STUDY: 

In the midst of everything I launched my newest product and case study item:

http://amzn.to/1TdzvFI

As of today my inventory down to 580 pieces (from 1008 pieces), 417 pieces sold in less than 6 weeks in a very competitive niche. I have nearly re-couped my entire investment (8000$) and I just put in a re-order with my factory for 2500 pieces (shipped by SEA this time) which should last me at least 4 months from date of arrival. 

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 1.59.08 PM

You can read on my previous update here and I will soon post another one: 

https://importdojo.com/case-study-how-i-went-from-zero-to-7000us-in-10-days-in-one-of-the-most-competitive-amazon-niches/

Impressions from the shows

CANTONFAIR 

IMG_4520

Breakfast for champions! A fellow Austrian brought me the famous Manner Schnitten from Austria and I had to have them for breakfast – thanks Stefan!

IMG_4561

As usual a crowded train on the day before the Canton Fair starts. Make sure to book your tickets in advance and pick them up at the train station in Hung Hom (HK) otherwise you end up waiting for a train hours later: http://www.it3.mtr.com.hk/B2C/frmFareGuangdong.asp?strLang=Eng

IMG_4563

walking to my hotel trough Guangzhou

IMG_4564

I usually don’t stay at fancy hotels as I see my business trips as a business trip, not a vacation. So I checked myself into the Lavande Hotel at an amazing rate of 60$/night. It’s right next to the Subway station so you can get to the Canton Fair very quickly. It’s not the greatest hotel and staff speaks poor English but you’ll get your room.

IMG_4566

IMG_4591

Another foggy day in Guangzhou.
IMG_4594

One of the halls at the Canton Fair Phase 2

IMG_4622

Walking the floors.

IMG_4652

Could already use a bath after a day at the show 🙂

IMG_4662

You can literally find everything here.

IMG_4665

This might be a good camping product?

IMG_4667

IMG_4669

Not sure if this prototype will make it into production 🙂

IMG_4671

Just one of the many many halls, full with suppliers…

IMG_4673

Baby products

IMG_4677

Heading back to the hotel

HKTDC 

IMG_4481

Beautiful covers and bags

IMG_4488

a nice kitchen gift set

IMG_4500

Is this my next coffee product? A drip – cold press coffee maker

IMG_4372

Heading to Hall 3

Globalsources 

CP001

Mugs, mugs and mugs

IMG_4307

A DIY learning tool for kids

IMG_4311

gaming headsets

IMG_4314

Interesting cable organizer

IMG_4327

checking out gaming hardware

IMG_4360

iPhone lenses and covers

IMG_4624

Getting myself some new ties. Even though I never wear them 🙂

IMG_4627

Accessories, accessories and accessories

IMG_4632

Looking to create your own brand of shoes? This supplier works for Li Ning (the big Chinese brand) as well as New Balance (NB). I just love flyknit (see my orange Nike sneakers :))

IMG_4312

Gaming headset

IMG_4333

Time to do some sight seeing with a colleague


IMG_4348

Meeting up with Peter Zapf from GlobalSources

IMG_4378

Interesting Solar camping lantern

IMG_4390

High end headphones

IMG_4442

Silicone cooking pods

IMG_4446

Decorative copper items from India

IMG_4447

Kids travel luggage

IMG_4459

This bike weighs less than 10KG and costs over 800$

IMG_4493

My next PL product? 🙂

IMG_4629

Having a coffee break with Will and colleagues (Pete & Laura) from Uganda who are looking for their first products.

Yiwu

One thing I should mention is the wholesale market in Yiwu. 

Where is that? It’s a “small city” near Ningbo (Zheijang province) that houses “The World’s Largest Wholesale Market.” 

Here is a report from Business Insider. 

http://www.businessinsider.com/yiwu-china-largest-wholesale-market-2011-10?op=1#ixzz3V5meL6e8

I personally didn’t go but I have heard of a few people that came to HK that they went there before the shows. Is it worth it? Yes and No. If you have no contacts and there is no exhibition going on at the moment then YES. But if you are looking for serious suppliers with good quality and buying from factories directly then NO. The thing is that these showrooms and “suppliers” in Yiwu are thousands of trading companies mostly selling stock (with Chinese packaging and NO quality control) to you in small quantities. Yes you can give it a try and not all suppliers are bad but I personally had bad experience with suppliers there. It’s worth to see and there are a few nuggets and you can buy small quantities, just make sure to check out the supplier in-depth and have agreements and if possible inspections in place. 

Planning on coming to the shows later this year? Here are the dates for October:

http://www.globalsources.com/NEWS/SIC-trade-shows-in-hong-kong-guangzhou-october-2016.HTM?source=GSOLHP_Product_Guide

Interested in last years reports? Check out these links: 

https://importdojo.com/news-and-trends-from-the-exhibitions-in-asia/

Recap and conclusion for myself:

While I have met many amazing people, fellow Amazon sellers and suppliers this has also been a fruitful trip for me. Apart from making new friends and business partners I have also placed order for 4 new items that I found during those weeks and after initial research I can say that there won’t be any or limited competition. I have invested a total of close to 20,000$ into new products and I am expecting to get a return of 6-10,000 on each product after the first order. Once again, I can’t stress enough how important it is of actually coming to Asia to source your products. 

I hope that this update gave you a bit of an overview of whats happening in China/HK and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

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

News and trends from the exhibitions in Asia (October 2015)

It’s been a while since my last post and it’s time to give you guys an update. 

October is the busiest time of the year for me. In October there are usually somewhere between 10-15 exhibitions that I need to attend or that my buyers attend. 

This month I had a total of 26 buyers from 14 countries visiting me and the exhibitions. Here are some of the major exhibitions that were going on in and around Hong Kong: 

  • Global Sources Electronics (11-14th of October) 
  • Global Sources Consumer Electronics (18-21st of October) 
  • Global Sources Gifts and Premium (18-21st of October) 
  • Global Sources Fashion, Accessories & Textiles (27-30th of October)
  • HKTDC Electronics Fair (13-16th of October) 
  • HKTDC Lighting Fair (27-30th of October) 
  • Megashow Toys, Kitchen & Dining  Phase 1 (20-23rd of October) 
  • Megashow Gifts, Houseware &  Premium Phase 2 (27-29th of October) 
  • Canton Fair Phase 1 (15-19th of October) 
  • Canton Fair Phase 2 (23-27th of October) 
  • Canton Fair Phase 3 (31 Oct – 4th of November) 

These were some of the exhibitions that I usually attend but there are a couple more. Feel free to check out schedules for next year here: 

http://m.cantonfair.org.cn/m/en/index.aspx

http://www.globalsources.com/TRADESHOW/TRADESHOW.HTM?source=GSOLHP_TopNav_TS

http://www.mega-show.com/

http://www.hktdc.com/en-buyer/

The biggest of them all is obviously the Canton Fair in Guangzhou spanning over 3 1/2 weeks and 3 phases attracting over 200,000 buyers within this time frame. For me these exhibitions are essential in finding new suppliers and products and meeting up with clients and buyers. It is also a great time to network with fellow Amazon sellers and importers. 

I was lucky to meet with a fellow ImportDojo member, a couple Million$ Amazon sellers (Will Tjernlund & Reed Thompson) as well as attending a meet-up organised by Junglescout’s creator Greg Mercer in Guangzhou.

Without further ado, here are some highlights and moments from my last 4 weeks:

IMG_6589

Beautiful day in Hong Kong, heading to the Gloabl Sources Electronics at the Asia World Expo. 

IMG_6591

Making my way to the expo hall at the Asia World Expo building at the Airport. GlobalSources offers a free Airport Express train ticket to and from the city (12$ value) on each day you attend so make sure to get your free ticket at the entrance of the Airport express.  

IMG_6593

Two different expos were held that day. Gifts & Home / Mobile Electronics.  Notice the “Free sourcing service for buyers”? If you feel lost and need a little help with finding products drop in and ask for help. 

IMG_6594

Making my way to the mobile electronics hall. All I see are smartphones and smartwatches in the first few booths. 

IMG_6595

Tablets and smartphones everywhere. 

IMG_6597

Smartwatches. Not sure these still sell well. I have first seen them in 2013 and sales has significantly decreased I reckon. My suppliers have sent updated offers for these watches every three weeks. From the highest price in 2013 of approx .49$, they now cost somewhere between 11$ – 15$. 

IMG_6598

These “hooverboards” were the most seen product at any exhibition. It seemed that every supplier offered them even if they sold completely unrelated products in their booth. My advice, stay away. Many of them have issues with the batteries and lifetime after a few weeks. 


IMG_6600

IP cameras & smartwatches again. Every booth had them. 

IMG_6603

Remember this Kickstarter that raised over 800,000US$? This is the supplier and they offered me a price 72-80$ depending on the quantity (Kickstarter price was 85-119$). The MOQ (1000) was pretty high but they are trying to find distributors for exclusive deals. I am pretty sure that they will soon be copied by suppliers who can offer half the price. The helmet itself is pretty cool, you can listen to music, flash left/right on the helmet and a lot more all via remote control/bluetooth and an app. 


IMG_6606

Built in speakers in the helmet. 

IMG_6607

Different functions displayed. 

IMG_6608

Remote control mounted on the bike. 

IMG_6609

IP cameras again.

IMG_6611

Remember I mentioned in April that I only saw one supplier for Virtual Reality headset and you should watch out for this category? I saw at least 10 suppliers this time and this category is getting really big. 

IMG_6617

IMG_6619

Here we go again, “Hooverboards”.

IMG_6620

Drones were still a big topic but only the professional suppliers have survived. 

IMG_6622

Remember the Indiegogo crowdfunding project for levitating bluetooth speakers? This is a poor copy. 

IMG_6627

Lucky to meet up with Reed Thompson & Will Tjernlund, the Multi Million Dollar FBA sellers. I had to listen to what they were up to that same night over a beer. 

IMG_6632

There were all kind of “segways and hooverboards” and they even had a “little park” to try them out. 

IMG_6633

I then went to the Gifts part and I found these neat Gentlemens sets. 

IMG_6636

Considering to private label this item. Thoughts?

IMG_6648

A bit of walking around in Central Hong Kong. 

IMG_6703

I was invited to a wedding which was pretty cool because it was hosted on one of Hong Kong’s famous Star Ferries that cruises trough Hong Kong harbour.

IMG_6764

It was time to head to China for the Canton Fair Phase 2 and I booked myself into the Landmark Canton. Prices are reasonable (120$/night) but the hotel has degraded over the years. 

IMG_6765

There are several ways to go the to the Canton Fair from HK, I prefer the trough train from HK to Guangzhou for around 30$. 

IMG_6768

Be sure to check if your hotel has free shuttle busses from the hotel to the exhibition grounds. I didn’t use them as I was a little late and would have to wait. These buses are usually in front of the hotel and they run every 30 mins or so (free of charge). 

IMG_6771

Arriving at the Canton Fair Phase 2. This phase featured several categories: Kitchen & Tableware, Gardening, Pet products, Food, Furnitures, Ceramics, Gifts & Premium, Decorative items, Toys, Personal Care, Toiletries, Household items and more. 

IMG_6773

Making my way into the first hall (furnitures) 

IMG_6778

In the back of the halls the booth’s get smaller and usually host small factories BUT they often have better prices than the big name companies. Make sure to ask around for prices. 

IMG_6780

Toiletries bags disguised as small suitcases as you would get them on some airlines in business class. Neat idea as a gift. 

IMG_6781

Car charging pods for smartphones and tablets. 

IMG_6782

Your car audio system doesn’t have Bluetooth? Never-mind, get these 12V cigarette plug bluetooth speakers. 

IMG_6783

Tablet and smartphone charging station.

IMG_6784

Home automation was a big thing again and many suppliers had well working systems this time including a ready to download application. 

IMG_6786

Seen these on your friends smartphone? Starting from 1.5$. 

IMG_6787

These were not new but are a great gift idea. Watch out for suppliers that have at least FDA certification (as in this case) 

IMG_6797

Decorative items at extremely low prices. 

IMG_6799

A variety of pet items at this supplier. A great category for starters. 

IMG_6800

Travel cases and gift boxes with very nice designs. 

IMG_6801

Tumblers and PET bottles. 

IMG_6802

Christmas/Festivity lighting and Halloween products. 

IMG_6803

Jewellery 

IMG_6804

Handicraft items

IMG_6807

A view at the halls. 

IMG_6810

The view from hall C to hall A. Hall A was built in 2005 and there are now 3 halls with the same size. They are all full with exhibitiors.

IMG_6819

Storage containers

IMG_6822

A view towards the city from the exhibition grounds. The pollution is clearly visible. 

IMG_6826

Time for Chinese seafood dinner 

IMG_6829

I teamed up with fellow ImportDojo member Omar on the second day of the exhibition. 

IMG_6831

Registering the Canton Fair badge for Omar. A pretty fast and simple process if you pre-register online. Be reminded to keep the badge. It is valid for all future Canton Fair shows. 

IMG_6833

Interesting travel pillow that keeps your neck straight when you sleep.

IMG_6836

This BBQ apron had all sorts of pockets and even a beer opener included. 

IMG_6842

“Dog-clothes”

IMG_6845

Pottery and garden fountains

IMG_6846

Artificial plants and garden decoration

IMG_6847

Omar keen on trying the “hooverboard” that was again at nearly every  booth here. 

IMG_6851

Tumblers and bottles

IMG_6857

When sourcing household & kitchen products look out for suppliers that have proper certification (FDA, CE or others) 

IMG_6859

Interesting coffee maker. Nothing new but a very nice design in copper. 

IMG_6868

Another Chinese dinner in Guangzhou with fellow German Amazon sellers. 

IMG_6897

I needed a day off after all the hectic weeks and decided to go for a stream hike in the jungles of Hong Kong. 

IMG_6937

IMG_6950

IMG_6970

Can you believe this is in Hong Kong?


IMG_6984

I couldn’t make it to the lighting fair in Hong Kong but a friend took a few impressions

IMG_6985

Contemporary lighting

IMG_6986

Modern lighting

IMG_6987

IMG_6988

IMG_6989

IMG_6990

IMG_6883

Time to head to the Canton Fair Phase 3. This phase hosts the following products: Sports and casual wear, mens & women’s clothing, kids wear, underwear, office supplies, sports/travel and recreation products, shoes, bags, health products, home textiles and much more. 

IMG_7102

Amazing Junglescout meetup in Guangzhou with fellow FBA/Amazon sellers!

IMG_7007

Ready for Phase 3, I opted for uncomfortable leather shoes as usual 🙂

^13FC98C299477E2D492D3D1A7717E2CF72A2DCBA51E4B22A0D^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr

IMG_7008

IMG_7009



IMG_7012

IMG_7013

No matter which hall, nearly every booth had function/active wear in the trendiest designs. MOQ’s ranged from 300-3000 pieces. 

IMG_7016

Swimwear

IMG_7018

Kids, diving and bicycle gear

IMG_7019

These knitting shoes look very familiar (ahem Nike?) 

IMG_7022

Gym time anyone? 

IMG_7023

The sports/travel & recreation products hall was the most interesting in my point of view. 

IMG_7024

 Foosball kickers

IMG_7025

Titanium camping gear

IMG_7032

This e-bike was not comfortable to sit on

IMG_7033

Blow-up whirlpool

IMG_7037

A view of the city

There were a lot more pictures and expos that I went to but it would be too much to post here.

If you are selling or planning on selling on Amazon within the next year I highly recommend that you make your way to China. ImportDojo offers you training and expertise preparing you for these exhibitions here: https://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

Also feel free to join Importdojo’s Facebook group and keep updated for next year’s exhibitions and meet ups. I am organising a buying trip in 3 groups during April 2016 with a maximum of 4 people per group and if you are interested to learn more feel free to message me.

I hope you got a bit of insight into the exhibitions in and around Hong Kong and I look forward to your comments 🙂

Happy sourcing everyone!

Manuel

The Cantonfair – All you need to know about the biggest expo in Asia

The Cantonfair is coming up and I thought I’d give you guys an insight on the exhibition, how you can prepare, what you can find there and who it isn’t for.

I first went to the Canton Fair in 2005 and things have certainly changed since then. There were literally not many places to eat, find an ATM or book hotels around the area.
China and the Cantonfair have seen the potential and improved the general experience a great deal since then. I can only imagine how it was 20 years ago.

Some general information first:

The Canton Fair is the holy grail of exhibitions. This event is so large that it is held twice a year and each time runs over a span of 3 weeks in three different phases. Each phase comes with different product categories.
As of 2014 there were over 22,000 exhibitors. This exhibition is a must for me and it should be for you too. You will find a lot of suppliers, big brands, small factories, or the product you have been looking for for so long.
Plan at least 2, or better 3, days for your product category/phase. Sign up once and get a badge that will be valid forever.

Insider tip: Don’t throw away your badge. You can use it for your next visit without paying 100 Yuan for a replacement card.

How to register?

Most exhibitions require you to pre-register if you want to get in for free. Registration on-site is also possible but usually there will be a fee of 10-20USD. You will need to provide a name card for your registration.
When you pre-register online, just fill in your company’s details and print out the confirmation. Bring that confirmation and you will be handed a badge for entry.
The Canton Fair has the same procedure, however you can keep your badge for years to come. If you lose your badge you will have to pay a fee of 200RMB for re-issuance.
There is a first time registration fee of 100RMB. If you have a supplier who can invite you, you don’t need to pay any fees. Also remember to bring along a passport photograph for the application (required).
You can register here, among many other useful tools for the Canton Fair:
http://invitation.cantonfair.org.cn/Home/Index
Remember to keep the badge for the Canton Fair, as it is valid for years to come.

Know your goals

Remember you don’t have all day. I usually try to finish an exhibition within 1 day (except the Canton Fair). But this is also because I know how to spot the good from the bad ones and know which questions to ask. As a first timer I recommend you take some more time but don’t try to spend more than 20 minutes per booth with each supplier.
If you spot some item that really catches your attention and you would like to discuss further steps with the supplier right away, take your time. It is likely you will have 2-3 meetings that can take an hour.

Price preparation

You will likely be looking for a category of a product so you should prepare yourself with some basic prices that you have received from suppliers beforehand. Knowing your prices is essential before going to an exhibition.
If you are looking at new products and are not aware of prices try my “rule of thumb” calculation of 30%, adding this to your margin and calculating your selling price. You will quickly figure out if the price the supplier gave you at the booth is realistic or not.

Prioritizing

The Cantonfair is enormous in size. Grab a map at the entrance or the information counter of the exhibition and take a moment to study the areas of interest. You can also look online prior to going to the exhibitions at which hall or category is where to save some time.
Once it is clear where your suppliers are situated, start there. Go through each hall in an organized way and prioritize the halls by importance.
Once you completed all the halls you wanted to see you could go to the halls that were initially of the least interest to your business. You may find some ideas on other products in less interesting halls too.

Hotels during the exhibition:

Many hotels will provide a free shuttle bus to exhibitions. Check with the hotel staff to see if this service is provided.
Book hotels now if you haven’t booked them yet! Hotels during exhibitions can get very expensive. The sooner you book the better.
I usually won’t stay too far from the exhibition area, as I don’t want to waste time. Unfortunately that carries a price tag.
If your budget doesn’t allow this, find a hotel near a subway station (MTR).
Whatever you do, don’t take a taxi TO and FROM the exhibition. Take the subway or free shuttle buses provided by your hotel. At the Canton Fair, for example, it is impossible to get taxis at night. You can take a taxi in the morning TO the fair; that should be ok.

First things first. Here is what I bring to exhibitions:

• Name/Business cards (an absolute MUST)
• Trolley to carry all the catalogues that I collect
• My own (printed) company presentation
• Notebook & pens
• Passport photo (some exhibitions such as the Canton fair require a passport photo)
• Comfortable shoes (you will be walking all day)

At the exhibition:

Once you are at the exhibition, get a map; you should be able to get them anywhere at information counters.
Walk the aisles until you find something that interest you is definitely an approach but I prefer to prepare a little and do some research on my main interests.
You will want to work with manufacturers only at the exhibition and not with representatives. There are hundreds of representatives at the fair ground offering translation services, negotiation, insight etc. Do not go with them! They usually charge very high fees and aren’t totally honest with you. They are probably also no experts in every product category and that might end up in a disaster.
Never place orders right away. You should negotiate prices, ask questions and maybe show more than interest and tell the supplier that you may want to order when you are back. But don’t tell them to enthusiastically that you want to order right away. Why?

  • The prices you get at the fairs are usually not the best prices. Negotiate when you are back home.
  • You will want to clarify your terms first via email/phone calls before you place an order. Have him sign a purchase order agreement.
  • You will want to compare prices of more than one supplier for the same product

To determine if the person you are speaking to is a manufacturer or representative make sure to ask a lot of questions:

How to act and ask questions at exhibitions

I usually prepare a little speech before I go to the exhibition. It depends on my project or product that I am looking for but I like to introduce myself a little bit and give the supplier a professional image of me.
He is likely more interested in giving me answers, good prices or proper email feedback after the exhibition. Here is how it could look:

Hi, I am Manuel and I am the Managing Director of Mandarin-Gear Limited in Hong Kong.
I manage/own a sourcing and buying office for many large retailers worldwide.
My customers are looking for product “X” and I am interested in discussing more details or receiving a quotation based on my customer’s requirements.

Then I ask my questions and once I am satisfied I will ask him to provide me a quote based on my requirements. I will hand him my business card and I will MAKE SURE that he wrote down everything we discussed.

Could you please send me a quote of this item (from his booth) based on “X” quantity, including certification “XY”?

I will also take his name card and catalogue to study later.
Here are some questions that I ask the suppliers. You can adapt these to your product or requirements as necessary. You can also make yourself a checklist with these questions and print it out for each supplier meeting you have.
Obviously you can also memorize these questions and make notes on your notepad.
Clip the supplier’s name card to your notebook and write down answers to these questions:
• When was his factory established?
This is important as to figure out if he has been doing business for a long time or if he is newly established. If the factory is brand new I will be wary of dealing with them, while if they are older than 5 years I will probably go ahead with further questions.
• What is the total count of staff, workers, engineers and managers?
A well-organized factory has at least 200 employees. That could be 160 workers, 30 sales staff, 10 engineers and 10 managers.
• What certifications can he provide for product “X”?
Know the certifications that you need for your product. If a supplier has no idea about FCC, CE, RoHS, ERP, GS or other certifications of a chemical or other nature, you can probably leave the booth right away. If he is aware of the certifications and requirements but hasn’t applied them to all his products it’s not an eliminating criteria, but make sure to ask if he is willing to apply for the certifications after order-placement.
• Who are his main customers?
Do you know the customers he is talking about? Do they have a certain reputation in your country that would make you feel comfortable working with him? If he is working with customers that you know, it should be a good sign of his competence.

• Mention a few of your competitors or bigger clients
Drop a few names of the bigger competitors or clients of yours. If he knows them it’s a good sign. If not, it is very unlikely that they are doing overseas business and perhaps aren’t even interested in your business, knowing that your requirements are too high or “too much work” for him.
• What is his main market?
If he operates already within or near your country it is also likely that he can fulfill your requirements. It’s usually a good sign if he works for countries like the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, the United States, Canada and other first world countries. It means that his factory is able to pass audits, tests and certifications needed for these countries.

• What is the factory quality management standard?
Remember that good factories are also easy to spot if they have a certain quality management System (QMS) such as ISO 9001, BSCI and so on.
• What is the MOQ?
Can he actually provide the low or high MOQ that you need? Is he willing to produce a first order based on a very small quantity or does he have the capacity for large volumes?
• What is the rough price of this item based on X quantity?
Most suppliers will give you a very rough figure for the product they are exhibiting. These can be vague as often these are “blank” prices that do not include any certification, licenses, etc. But it is necessary to ask for prices (and write them down in your notebook) for your follow up. You can also use my “rule of thumb” to add on 20-30% on top of the supplier’s price to calculate if the price is competitive.
• What certification is included in his price?
Does the product currently fulfill your minimum requirements for certifications or standards? If not, is he willing to apply for certifications after order placement? Is he aware of the different certifications that you need or do you get the feeling he doesn’t know what you are talking about?
• Ask if he can provide samples after the exhibition
If you would like to have a sample after you come back home ask him if he is willing to send samples. Most likely he will agree but make sure you remind him once you are back home to send you the sample. Some suppliers will actually sell or give you a sample right on the booth if you ask for it. It is actually not allowed but if there is a sample I would need right away because it’s that good and I want to show it to customers back home, I will ask anyway.
• Ask for payment terms
Are his payment terms a K.O. criteria? Make sure he agrees to your payment terms and doesn’t insist on 100% payment upfront.
• Ask for his top-selling items and who his customers are
Sometimes you may not have time to look at all products so you might miss the best selling items. Ask him either to show you his best selling items or send you a quote later for his top-sellers. Make a note that you are expecting his prices and offers later.
If I get the feeling after 1 or 2 questions that a supplier has no idea what I am talking or asking about, I politely end the conversation and leave the booth. There is no use in screening a supplier with all questions when I already know he is not interested or can’t fulfill my requirements.
After all, I need to scan the entire exhibition and I can’t waste my time with suppliers that are ignorant or need a basic education on my market’s/customer’s requirements. You will develop a gut feeling pretty soon if it is worth it to speak to a supplier longer or if you should leave the booth right away.

Hall arrangement:

Once you arrive you need to pass trough the registration area which is pointed out through signs. Don’t forget to pre-register trough the link I gave you and bring 2 passport photos. At the registration area you will have to line up for “pre-registered buyers”. You will be guided trough the process by the staff there and then get your entry badge. You can then move to the main halls.
There are 3 main areas on each phase:
http://www.cantonfair.org.cn/hall/en/index.aspx?start=bn
Once you choose your phase you can hover over the hall and see what products you will find in these halls. Within the 3 main areas (A,B,C) you have numbered halls as for example 6.1. (ceramics). Within this hall you have over 200 suppliers!

Depending on your priority products I recommend you start with the most important halls first.
During the registration you will also get a printed guide with all hall details that helps you to navigate. But you can already write down the main halls now when you look at the link above.

At the Entrance of each hall:

Look at the main halls you want to see and prepare to walk them trough in order. It is your first time to visit the fair so I am guessing you have no appointments with suppliers. Therefore I recommend you just start walking until you see something of interest. That could either be a product that you have on your agenda or an item that really pops out.

In the halls/at the booth:

Suppliers will either be eager to give out brochures of their products or you simply walk into the booth of this supplier if there is anything of interest for you. Unlike in the US or at European exhibitions, the suppliers are very open and welcoming in receiving you in their booths. No appointments are required. Just walk in and introduce yourself and what you do or what you are looking for. You don’t need to hand out any business cards at this point since you don’t want to be spammed later from suppliers that do not interest you anyway.
If you see anything of interest within the booth point to these products and start asking the questions I mentioned above:

If you are happy with the discussed (make sure they also take notes) hand over your business card and tell them to email you all the details. Nice touch with the “thank you in Chinese” on the back by the way
Take a catalogue or a brochure from the supplier as well, have him staple his business card on it and note down what is important to you. Try to get catalogues from each supplier that you visit. They will be happy to give you a catalogue in exchange of your business card.
You will quickly see which booths you should walk in. The goal is to find manufactures or good trading companies.
For example avoid booths that have only a few products in the shelves (A) or booths that have too many different kind of product categories (B). Go for booths that have maybe 3-4 product categories but seem to be specialised on each category (C).

 

A: Few products only indicate a small trading company with high margins and no real expertise and little value
B: Say you see a booth that has all these products inside: towels, pet supplies, electronics, ceramics etc. It’s a clear sign that this supplier trades everything and anything. They may have expertise in certain areas but their prices are high.
C: A booth that has 3-4 product categories. For example a booth that has: bathroom accessories, shower cabinets & faucets. They all relate to each other and thats a good sign for a real manufacturer. Try to focus on these.

Miscellaneous:

Food: There are a few western restaurants and coffee shops on every corner
Money: There are a lot of ATM’s everywhere in case you need to withdraw money.
Printing services: Printers and business centres everywhere available.
WiFI: Is available for free. Just ask for the log-in at the info centres.
Hotels & ticketing: Travel agents are available on several main levels to book flights, train tickets or hotels
Bus: There are buses leaving to major hotels during peak hours (9am 5pm) for free. Major hotels also arrange buses TO the exhibition. Check with your hotel.
Taxis: Taxis are a nightmare to get. You can take a taxi to the exhibition in the morning from your hotel but in the late afternoon you can sometimes wait up to 2 hours to get a taxi. There are illegal taxis everywhere but they charge 10 times the price. I recommend to take the hotel bus or the Subway.
Subways: There are 2 subway stations at the exhibition grounds. One at the beginning & one at the end. I usually take the Subway as it is the most convenient way to get back to the hotel. When booking your hotel see to book one close by a subway station.
I hope this gave you a bit of an overview and I wish you all the success at your trip during the Cantonfair 🙂
Happy sourcing guys!

Global Sources – The oldest (and most professional) supplier directory in China

So I previously posted about Alibaba hacks and how to navigate on there. 

I thought I’ll give you guys also an overview of Global Sources which from my point of view is more professional and has stricter guidelines when it comes to verifying suppliers. 

 

They also have a ton of valuable resources and information on their website. Check out the video and let me know if you have any questions. Enjoy 🙂 

ImportDojo

Contact Info

18/F., Blk. B, Tung Luen Ind. Bldg. 1 Yip Shing St., Kwai Chung, Hong Kong

mail@importdojo.com

Copyright 2017 © All Rights Reserved