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What is the need of pre shipment inspection? (Q & A Tuesday)

What is the need of pre shipment inspection?

Question from a Facebook Group member:

Hello! I would really appreciate some advice on Final Random Inspections [aka pre shipment inspection]

I’ve been quoted 299 USD for a one man-day inspection in China for 200 units of my product which cost around 6USD per unit. So this would add a significant cost per unit.

– What are the usual/acceptable costs for this service?
– Do you think it’s worth it? This is my first order of this product. [ie what is the need of pre shipment inspection?]
– Does anyone have any recommendations for good companies to use for product inspection?

Thank you!

Good questions. : 

“What are the usual/acceptable costs for this service?”

1. what exact kind of product is it? Obviously, you don’t have to reveal exact keywords but the more info, the better we can help you. 

2. The level of inspection expertise needs to be relative to the value and complexity of the product. If it’s pretty simple inspection, I’d expect to pay around $80-100 USD for a man day which should cover up to 500 units at AQL III (Highest quality level). 

I would only pay 299 USD for a very technical product. I generally avoid those personally, so I’ve only ever paid about $80-100 USD per man(person)-day. For a 6 USD product, I would *hope* that it’s not technically complex!

“Do you think it’s worth it? This is my first order of this product”

In other words “What is the need of pre shipment inspection?”

Let me say loud and clear:  a pre-shipment inspection  IS CRITICAL!!

NEVER send a product out of China without pre-shipment inspection. That goes double if it’s a new product line, and triple if it’s a new supplier. 

It’s 100% worth it. 

You are dealing with some of the world’s fussiest consumers at Amazon. Amazon themselves demand a sub 1% “defect” rate. The “defect rate” is an ORDER defect rate, not just about products, which can include negative feedback about the seller’s service even if the product itself is (and is seen to be) perfect. 

In this environment, you must not compromise on quality below a certain level. 

Your business model and unit economics (gross profit) must work with pre-shipment inspection included – otherwise, IMHO you shouldn’t be attempting to sell that product line on Amazon.


“Does anyone have any recommendations for good companies to use for product inspection?”

There are loads. I’ve personally used a couple of good companies and people. Happy to recommend one I’ve used if you can tell me what city and Province you’re talking about!

For lots more (free) info on sourcing, check out the sourcing category of the podcast. 

Too simple for you? For more interviews with Amazon experts for advanced sellers, go to 10kcollective.com and listen to our new 10K Collective Podcast.

326 Habit 3: First Things First – time management for ecommerce entrepreneurs (part 2)

Time Management for e-commerce is an absolutely critical skill area. Time management can be the single biggest block to even starting an e-commerce business. And for an established, busy e-commerce business owner,  managing time is just as critical.

In this episode, we focus on the learnings from the wonderful book (and also audiobook) –

“7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey

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325 New Trade Tariffs imposed by USA on Chinese Imports

New Trade Tariffs from USA imposed on China [Trade War News]

US Tariffs of 25% imposed on $234B worth of Chinese Imports

New Trade Tariffs have been imposed by the US government on imports from China.

President Donald Trump escalated the trade war with China on Friday, imposing new trade tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, now at 25%, up from the previous 10% rate.

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123 Are your products beautiful?

Are your products beautiful?

If you are selling on Amazon, you are likely private labeling products, probably from China. Although, if you are in America then you might be looking at other alternatives in light of Trump’s plan to raise tariffs. For now, let’s assume you are importing from China. China makes some of the world’s worst products. China makes some of the greatest, such as the Apple iPhone. It’s equally possible to create terrible products as it is to create amazing ones since 80% of the world’s manufacturing happens there.

Have you got a design that is interesting? If not unique, is it at least beautiful? Are you sure you are really checking the quality of your manufacturing?

From the consumer stance, simply put, is your product beautiful? Does it work beautifully? Is it reliable? Is it amazing?

Today, I was out in London and came across the amazing building. It was once a school for choir boys that is now a youth hostel. What makes it truly beautiful is the detail. They put so much care into the details that it is immediately striking. When you really look at the detail, it is magical as well.

Now my question, is your product doing that for your customers? If not, you need to get on that. I am, by no means, an expert in product design, but my business partner and I have some products on their way from China and we are very excited about them. We order samples from about six suppliers and got eight samples from some suppliers. We went through a lot of trouble. We reviewed 60 suppliers! Some were dodgy and their prices came tumbling down from $15/unit to $3; some didn’t have solid business credentials, and we rejected them.

We have a whole complicated system that we use to check out a supplier thoroughly, and I can go into that later if you are interested, but the big thing is to get a sample! Check through different photos on Alibaba, or wherever. Get out of Alibaba, do some Googling, go out and get some samples in real life. Whatever you need to do to get a vision of what would be your perfect vision of you product.

Keep in mind what your market wants. I’m not saying to create something in a vacuum. Never do that! Do research. Look at demand. Look at demand depth. If here a lot of sales in training shoes, but 90% is Nike, forget it. If you want a company that you can sell down the line for two or three times yearly revenue. If, you want a brand that people are willing and excited to buy. When people see your product in their search results, they should immediately be drawn to it and want to click. If you want a product where people will be amazed when they scroll through your photos and want to buy it. They you have to work and sweat and make your product beautiful.

Don’t stint on samples!

I hear complaining all the time about how suppliers want to charge for samples and whether it’s worth paying for. Let me tell you, it is. If you are going down the private label route, you’re going to be spending thousands of pounds, tens of thousands, don’t be cheap about the research. Don’t go too far and get 20 products when you know the 10th is really really good, but take the time to find that 10th products that is really really good. If you can’t afford to get the proper samples, can you really afford to get into private label?

The room is not mass producing cheap crap, it’s being the Apple iPhone of your category. China is the kings of cheap products, but there are still manufacturers where the designs are fantastic and the quality controls are rigorous. Even if you don’t design your own products,at least you can pick one that is still good.

You either have to do research designing your own product, or you have to do research in looking for a great design. Regardless, you have to do the work. Warren Buffett used to say, “You can either create value, or find value.”

#80 How to prep for Amazon UK with Greg Jones – Part 2

What are the major freight paperwork and how do we overcome those?

If you are using a courier or one of the freight professionals, they do all that for you. You don’t have to worry about the various paperwork, custom claims, etc. This is a skill these guys have been working on for years, they can do it better and more efficiently than you, so let them do it. UPS is around £11 per shipment for customs clearance. DHL is right around there as are most of the others. Since you’re importing the product, most of the paperwork is done by the exporter and you’ll end up with the VAT and the duty. Both of these are calculate off the commercial invoice.

One thing the Chinese like to do to be nice, is send the shipment as samples. If they are a sample, that’s fine. However, if you’re shipment is 500 units, that clearly isn’t a sample. At some point, the guys at HMRC are going to catch on and you may end up with penalties as well as your future shipments getting more scrutiny causing delays.

You have a proper business, so you want to make sure you do things by the book. It may cost you more in duties, but you want to build your business on solid ground.

Another they offer is to lower the cost of the invoice to stay under a certain value at which point things become more complicated. Is that something to avoid as well?

At the end of the day you’re evading taxes, which simply put, is wrong. Also, if you get caught you may end up getting put on a list which will further delay you in the future. If one of the customs officials gets to digging around and realizes your products are valued at more than what was declared, they will put you on a watchlist. Ongoing shipments will be inspected and paperwork will be scrutinized which will hold up your shipment.

Do you need to instruct your suppliers about commercial invoices or will that be checked by DHL or UPS?

A commercial invoice is just like any other invoice. It will detail the value of what your purchased, the goods you purchased, the delivery address, the importer on record’s address, and the commodity code. That is a global code that details what the product is classified as which you can find on the HMRC website. So when the shipment comes in they can charge import duties.

Is that something the Chinese supplier will automatically put on the invoice and get right?

Well… they’ll put it on the invoice. It may not always be right and there is no way of going back and saying this is wrong, so you’ll just have to double-check it and next time you order tell your supplier that they put the wrong commodity code on it. Which could save yourself some money since the import duties can vary depending on this code. It can range from 0-12% on top of VAT.

How is VAT calculated? Is it the value of the goods only? So if I have 500 units that cost $2 a piece, is VAT calculated on that $1000?

It is the commercial invoice value + freight + duty. VAT is calculated on the total of all three.

Is there anything else we need to get on the commercial invoice? Say I order a shipment, sent to your prep company, do I need to make sure all that is on the invoice and how do I communicate that to DHL or whoever?

It does need to be on there, but in Greg’s experience if doesn’t matter. It seems to be a daily battle with FedEx, or DHL trying to get the person on the commercial invoice or airway bill. It doesn’t matte who the consignee is, Greg seems to always get the bill sent to FBA Pep UK at his address. If you look at the paperwork that comes with it, it clearly states the correct customer but they seem to ignore that.

How do you handle that, when you get the invoice in stead of your customer?

It depends on the customer. Some will just pay it which is fine. Even though it’s FBA Prep UK on the bill, they can’t sort it out. The customer has to contact them and tell them that they will accept that invoice.

The biggest takeaway seems to be that it’s best to just use a freight forwarder or use your courier and make sure that your name and the company name is on the paperwork.

Those guys are the professionals. They are doing this day in and day out. Sure you can learn it, but that’s time better spend on your company and sourcing more profitable products.

Another thing you have to worry about is your EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification scheme) number. Which is a number supplied by the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). You can’t apply for one unless you have a shipment coming, and you can’t get your shipment into Europe until you have it. It takes about 3 or 4 days to get it, so as soon as your supplier gives you all the detail on when the shipment is coming from, where it’s going to land, the size of it, the vessel number, take that information and you can apply for your EORI number online.

Small samples should be ok, your couriers can take care of it. Once you start getting bigger shipments coming in, you’ll want to get your own number. It simply for statistical purposes of what come in and goes out of Europe.

On a side not, outsourcing is vital! It’s a waste of time trying to do everything yourself. Some of the simpler tasks, or task that need expertise can be outsourced freeing you up to focus on growing your business. Here is just one example:

This is a 15×15 grid of everything that needs to be done with products. This is why you shouldn’t order 15 different things from AliExpress and why you need help with prep.

For more ambitious sellers what are the biggest challenges when trying to scale up?

What about people who want to import a lot of one product?

Factoring time scales. If your coming by air now, you’re looking at 7-10 days from China to yours or your prep company’s hands. As you scale up you’ll have to start coming by sea which is about 35 days from China to the UK. Then the ship has to be unpacked which is another 5 days. It’s about 40 days from the time the supplier delivers it to the time you take delivery. Obviously, this is something you have to consider. If you’re doing you analysis to determine when you will need more product, you’ll have to add another 30-40 days onto that or risk running out by the time the ship arrives.

If you’re used to doing your own prep, as you scale up the deliveries will get bigger. You’ll start getting them in pallets rather than loose boxes. If you plan on continuing to do it at home, you have to consider how you’re going to offload the truck. It’s no longer going to be a van or small truck, it’ll be coming in artics so access becomes an issue. Also, you have to request a truck with a taillift if you don’t have a forklift. That will cost another £40.

What about those who want to go from a few SKUs to say 10 or 20 but not a huge quantity of each one?

This is common with things like pencils. Where you have one type of product, but 5 or 10 variations. i.e. different colors which Amazon treats as completely different products. Having the product description on the boxes is a huge help. That way if there is a problem with a particular SKU, it’s easier to identify which ones they are without having to open every box.

Whether you’re ordering 500 unit of one product, or 50 units of 10, the challenges are the same. Where the challenges would come and the cost would rise, is if your importing products from different suppliers. Now, there are services that will consolidate for you. You can have four or five different suppliers send everything to these consolidation warehouses. They will consolidate those and export them as one shipment saving you money.

What do you see coming up in the Prep side of Amazon as a problem?

Amazon will start requesting detailed contents of boxes. You can do it now, as an option, and in the US they have started requiring it. Usually if it happens in the US it will happen in the UK. So you will have to communicate that with your supplies to be more clear about what’s in each box especially of you ship directly. They will also requiring packing notes, so when they open the box, they know what’s in it to speed things up on their end.

Brexit will likely have an impact on shipping in Europe.

Amazon announce recently that they will have an air fleet of about 40 planes to ship products themselves. It’s unknown if freight will change much since it’s a fairly stable and established system. However, Amazon will likely try to takeover that.

How can people get hold of you?

Facebook Group
Email: g[email protected]
FBAPrepUK.com

#63 Q & A Tuesday No. 9 – Amazon Inspection & Amazon Price Testing

Q. 1 Mounir

Hey guys,

I had a great news today: Top seller on my sub category after less than a month 🙂

In order to keep delivering good product, I now need to do inspection before products leave China. I already paid 30% of my new order which will be ready next week and I’m looking for inspection companies to insure the quality.

– What is the best practice: Should I pay for the 70% left before sending the product to inspection or after ?

– Are inspection companies fast enough to process the order or it will take them sometime ? days, weeks ..?

– According to your experience: Could a 250 items – 80g each take more than an inspection workday ? the product is very simple and has very few moving parts.

– Any experience with asiainspection, fbasourcingchina, topwininspection.. ?

Thanks in advance !

Normally an inspection company would visit your factory so you wouldn’t normally “send” your  z  products anywhere.

So normal process

1. Products inspected after completion and before packing for shipping (Pre shipment inspection) according to your inspection and or testing criteria.

2. Report sent to you by inspection company.

3. You either accept or reject the batch.

4. Then if you accept at that point you transfer the remaining 70% to supplier.

If you are struggling with details like this, chances are you need more than just a Facebook Group – you need a peer group and some input from others who have hit your problem and solved it. 

Best thing is a mastermind – there are many options, including the one I run ( more details here) – pick one and go for it, just be sure that you will get real input into your business though.

If mine is full (we have two places left at time of writing), find one to support you, but don’t suffer in isolation!

DEFECTS

Quality control revolves around the concept of 3 levels of defects:

  1. Critical defect – this would be something that endangers the user or others,e.g., product could cut someone or cause a fire.
  2. Major defect – this stops the product performing its main function, e.g., silicon spatula that does
  3. Minor defect – this includes all other defects, e.g., bumps on the surface that should be smooth; discolouration;

When you define tests or inspection points, you need to define whether any defects related are critical, major or minor.

Inspection Level – AQL  – Acceptable Quality Limit – see here for explanation

AQL basically defines the overall quality level of a batch of a product.i.e. the %age of critical, major and minor. There are 3 levels, AQL I (low severity) AQL II (normal severity), AQL III (high severity i.e. highest quality threshold).

AQL II is considered standard for most consumer products. However, I would consider AQL III, since Amazon customers are very fussy buyers and have a weapon in product reviews to instantly damage your reputation.

Inspection Criteria

I would use in order of importance

  1. Feedback from your actual consumers. Feedback in the sense of all info e.g. negative reviews, email or phone complaints etc.
  2. Negative reviews from related products on Amazon (or even eBay etc if needed)
  3. Your own use of your product sample(s) and/or your own experience using similar products.

You probably will have between about 10-20 points for a straightforward product.

I think 250 items if inspected at highest level would be less than one man day

If it is a simple product, I would use someone like www.trigo.com, which I haven’t used personally but some of our guests on the podcast have.

Q. 2

David

EBAY: Anybody use Ebay as a pricing model? For example, take the average selling prices people are using to re-sell your product on Ebay and test this as your selling price on Amazon. If I do this, I could likely dramatically increase my net profit. Just having re-sellers on Ebay tells me my price may be too low. Any thoughts?

My immediate thoughts: Just because someone has listed your product on eBay, doesn’t mean they have made any sales. And if they make sales, we don’t know if the sales volume is significant (and therefore overall profit per week/month etc.)

HOWEVER…the only way to really know is to TEST!

Use splitly.com (which I’ve used) or cashcowpro.com (which I intend to check out) or similar split testing software for Amazon (these are both only valid in the USA at the time of writing)  – you can probably test the price specifically with the criterion of which maximises your profit. Certain splitly can do this. Then you will have some objective data to give you a much more reliable answer.

If you do this, please let us all know, I’d be fascinated by the result!

#62 How to do The Canton Fair with Danny McMillan – Part 2 of 2

Danny’s recent article on the Canton Fair for www.webretailer is here

What are the 5 biggest mistakes people make attending the fair for the first time?

When people don’t plan at all and they get lost and lose their time. Once a phase is over, it’s over. So if you don’t plan out where you need to be you very well may end up missing out on what you went there for. By taking 10 minutes to plan out where you need to be at what time, you can save yourself hours.

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#61 The Canton Fair – Lessons Learned – with Danny McMillan – Part 1 of 2

Danny – remind us of your background in 2 minutes or fewer!

Danny first got his start in the music industry selling vinyls years ago. That where he first got to work with products and marketing and all that. In 2008 he began working online with different startups which led him to Amazon last year. He was able to consolidate the knowledge he gained from those two industries and put them to use with FBA.

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#54 Incoterms for Amazon Sellers, Amazon Inventory Forecasting and China Inspection – Q & A Tuesday No. 6

#54 Q & A Tuesday No. 6 Show Notes

Q1 : Gareth [INCOTERMS]

We are in the process of sourcing our first product and we are struggling with what we need to ask for in terms of delivery. Does the term FOB only refer to shipping (boat)? What is it we need to ask for to get air freight delivered to the door to FBAI (or equivalent) in the US? As we seem to be getting different responses from different suppliers?


Incoterms (“International commercial terms” in full) refer to the Freight deal you have with a supplier [aka Vendor=Seller].

There are 9 3-Letter codes denoting the 9 possible agreement types:

http://www.skywaysms.com/inco-terms-2016/


More precisely, it shows how much of the supply chain your supplier [the Seller] takes responsibility for, and at what precise point you as the Buyer take on responsibility for your consignment and any costs of transporting it/dealing with import/export etc.

The early in the Chain the Vendor passes responsibility on to the Buyer, the cheaper it is but the more work you as Buyer need to sort out yourself. Or of course hire someone to sort out.

FOB =Free On Board– strictly only for sea  shipping but Chinese suppliers use this for everything!

This is okay to use to compare quotes if most suppliers give you the price in that way.

However, that is all.

I prefer to get quotes EXW=Ex Works i.e. literally just manufacture with no Freight. However I would never place an order EXW unless using a Freight Forwarder. 

If your supplier will give you DDP=Delivered Duty Paid, this is the most expensive but simplest option. I would always start with this as a new seller unless you have expertise or experience or contacts in the freight/import area.

If you not you could go for the next best thing, Sometimes known as “DDU=Delivered Duty Unpaid”, [which really should be known as DAP=Delivered At Place in proper incoterms, but is known as DDU among some suppliers]

Note the difference between Air Freight and Air Courier. The latter is basically a well known courier like DHL, UPS, Fedex. They have their own channels for clearing customs in USA and are simplest for beginners or if you dislike freight issues!

You can always get a customs broker if shipping into USA – I’ve used Western Corporation Overseas for extra security around USA customs clearance. It will add to your costs but can provide peace of mind on first shipment.

Bear in mind that Chinese suppliers will know more than you (probably) when you’re first starting out but they are not experts in freight. Particularly bear in mind: They are speaking a foreign language! The nuances between “Freight” and “courier”, for example, may not be clear to your supplier – but they are nevertheless real when it comes to Freight. But they will be very used to using Air Express services like DHL.

If in doubt: 1. use your supplier’s courier account; stick to Air Courier; get DDP if possible or the closest you can.

OR use a Freight Forwarder if you want to do Sea Freight (a bit more involved for a first batch of first product in some ways but may be necessary for heavy items) or even Air Freight.

Q2. Chat [Inventory] Forecasting methods/techniques.

How do people project and plan for how much inventory they will need? What is important to consider when planning ahead for growth?

“Feels like you kind of have to guess a lot more in the beginning! Started off at 500 units and down to around 460. Most of those are giveaways though. only 3-4 are organic.”

3-4 units is almost no sales history so don’t try to make any predictions yet.

Get your reviews, start PPC and then after say 100 sales or two weeks or so you’ll have enough data to predict. Get some consistency if possible. If you’re buried on page 5, 10 etc, your sales will be low and also therefore will fluctuate a lot in relative terms.

The basic maths is simple:

weeks of inventory cover=Total units left of product÷weekly sales

e.g. in this case, if in say 4  weeks’ time you have 350 units left and are selling a steady 5 a day average=35 a week, that gives you:
weeks of inventory cover=350 units left÷35 units a week sales=10 weeks’ cover.

If your Lead time between placing an order and actually getting product live on Amazon is say 6 weeks, you will need to reorder at 6 weeks out the latest.  Better to add a couple of weeks for delays.

Bear in mind delays at Chinese ports, delays getting into American ports especially before Xmas, processing at FBA Inspection etc, esp. in 4th Quarter ,  time to ship to Amazon etc. 

  If you have a duff product, e.g., no sales, no profit, you may not even choose to restock it. But if you do have sales and it looks profitable or that it will be next order, then this all becomes relevant.

Q 3: Ben Leonard: Inspection.

OK, so I know inspection is important. However, is it always necessary [?] Here is my situation:

My supplier is experienced, appears professional, stocks a lot of FBA sellers, and is very helpful. They have agreed to send me photographs throughout the process of manufacture, pre-labelling, and during packing of the order ready for shipping. I plan to put in place a purchase order contract which covers all of these.

I have no reason to believe why they’d send me a poor standard of product (samples were excellent), and we have already both expressed desire for a long relationship.

In this situation, would anyone here risk not having inspection?

Perhaps inspect once, and then not again, or not for another 3-4 orders?

Michael: My answer is simple: yes inspection is necessary. Definitely on the first order. No question. The fact that your supplier is responsive and experienced is an excellent reason to work with them in the first place. But that is just good due diligence on your supplier. Inspection is a separate matter.

Listen to the 2nd half of the interview with Manuel Becvar and read notes -it has your name on it! www.amazingfba.com/53.

If it’s a simple product, a man-day (sorry ladies, that’s the standard term, sexist I know) will cost you just 100 USD with Trigo.

Either way there is no reason to skip it and every reason to do it.

If I were you, I would just get that set up and move on. 100 USD is peanuts to have peace of mind and avoid negative reviews.

As Sellers we sometimes don’t consider the sheer expense of one negative review.

If it’s early days and you have say 9 reviews with 5 stars from review giveaways and you get one 1 star review, that means average review drops from 5.0 to 4.6. That could easily halve your conversions. Assuming your Pay per click costs stay the same, that  could easily mean you go from profit to breakeven or even to loss.

You could lose your 100 USD within a week or less and then continue to lose money until you’ve either got rid of your one star review or buried it under new giveaways.

If this happens, just deal with it of course , it’s not the end of the world – but why not just take simple steps to avoid or minimise it in the first place?

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PODCAST

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For iPhone/iPad/iPod listeners – Grab your phone or device and go to the iTunes store and search “Amazing FBA”.

This will help you to download the free Podcasts App (produced by Apple) and then subscribe to the show from within that app.  Every time I produce a new episode, you’ll get it downloaded right away.

For podcast enthusiasts – If you already listen to podcasts and have a podcatcher that you prefer, the feed you’ll need to add is: http:// amazingfba.com/feed/podcast.

For those who don’t have a mobile device – You can always listen to the show by clicking the audio file at the top of this page.

If you have any queries, just go to www.amazingfba.com/ask

 

2

#53 China Sourcing for Amazon: Keep money safe, Quality Control and Freight – with Manuel Becvar of Import Dojo – Part 2 of 2

(Part 1 of this interview for more from Manuel)

#53 Manuel Becvar interview – part 2 of 2:

How do you keep your money safe?

When you place order, tell them you’ll send an inspection team when 80% of production is finished, you’ll have to redo the goods and pay for the reinspection, and you’re not getting the rest of the money until the inspection is passed.

So never do 100% upfront payments; always pay 30% upfront, 70% when the goods are passed. 

Even if you just order $1000, please get an inspection; there are companies that will do an inspection with a 20 page report for $100 for one man-day, eg Trigo  if it’s simple. They send someone to factory and send report. 

Others are more like $300 for one man day eg Asian inspection for difficult products like electronics. But no use for say a comb or a brush.

How do you approach Quality Control for electronics particularly? The advice famously is to avoid electronics from China. [I had about 10% defect rate]

Manuel has 17 years’ experience in electronics, knows what certificates are needed and which components to inspect. He doesn’t recommend it as 1st or 2nd product.
But just get certificates, experts in electronics inspection. There is a higher defect rate – Manuel’s is about 4%. Lots of customers just don’t know how to deal with electronics, so they often send it back even though it’s working perfectly.

Is there a way to reduce defect rates?
Take reviews and customer complaints – Speak to supplier – 5/10 of reviews have this issue, can you improve on this? Also speak to inspection company and have them focus on those issues in future inspections.  

But Manuel does all this and still has 4% defect rate. Anything below 5% is okay  in electronics. Above that, consider abandoning the product.

FREIGHT

Air freight vs air courier -what’s the difference?

Air courier means someone like DHL, UPS, Fedex etc. They have special customs clearance channel and they handle the whole process for you. So it’s more expensive. An “All in” solution – where to pick up, where to deliver.

Air freight is same process but it’s usually a logistics company that works with big airlines e.g. China Airlines. There is more paperwork involved and you need to be involved. You need a customs bond, you are the ultimate consignee. You need to know the process.

Manuel has had rates for air courier of $4 /kg and for air freight of $2.30/kg so it can be a $2 difference.

Simplest solution is to ask the supplier about air courier or freight. Or ask their freight forwarder. Give them USA/UK address, tell them you need duties/import taxes upfront.
If supplier has no Freight Forwarder, just look on Alibaba or Google.

If you have to do DDU [Delivered Duty Unpaid], how do you avoid problems?

Suppliers usually have no idea how to deal with freight etc. – they are experts at manufacturing. Manuel works with a Freight Forwarding company DDP [Delivered Duty Paid]-it’s all in. They pick up at factory, they ship it direct to Amazon. He doesn’t get involved in customers clearance or amazon pickup appointments.

In the beginning he had to explain how to book appointments with Amazon.

So you ship direct to Amazon?

Yes. Always directly from China to Amazon warehouse.

What do you do about damage to packaging from Air Freight?

It’s a small %age. Always put a label saying “Fragile, handle with care” – this helps.

How did you train your Freight Forwarder?
They are based in Shenzhen head office. They knew how to deliver to USA -but they had never delivered to Amazon. Manuel chose based on price and helpfulness but had to train them in delivering to Amazon.  He gave them a clear workflow. After 2nd order, no more hiccups. 

So you don’t want someone who doesn’t know about exporting to USA?

True. If you can find someone with great price and knows about delivery to Amazon, even better.  Manuel recommends Dolphin Logistics, based in Shenzhen. Reach out to Manuel if you want more info.

How did you get $2.30/kg air freight price?

$6 for air courier is average. Manuel gets good prices because he ships 28 m3 a month!

To make it simple, give your air freight forwarders a clear business process. Tell them they need to deal with Customs brokers and make appointments with Amazon.

They can set up a Vendor Express account with Amazon to set up appointments (they can’t just turn up at an Amazon warehouse!)

How do you send inventory direct to Amazon from China? I guess you save money with intermediate steps but what are the risks and how to you mitigate them?
Manuel thinks  it can all be done cheaper in China. Get them to put FNSKU barcode on inner packaging, prepare cartons according Amazon requirements e.g. size, send them the shipping labels from Amazon seller central and you’re good to go.

If you have more than 20 cartons, the supplier needs to palletise the boxes in China, otherwise Amazon will give you a hard time!  If you have fewer, it’s okay for Floor Loading.

How else can you speed up your supply chain?

Don’t take care of the details yourself. If you have 10-15 products and have customer service, taking photos, etc etc – outsource everything you can to inexpensive VAs.

Focus on growing your business:  

  • New products
  • Optimising listings. 
  • New eCommerce Channels
  • Retail! Go to local store and ask if they want say 50 units.

Tell us more about expanding business – selling to retailers

Manuel actually started own business selling to retailers (through his time in HK) because he just thought Amazon was another eBay. It’s easier to start on Amazon, built a brand, built a reputation for products then reach out to retailers, DIY stores etc etc to sell wholesale.

Any other tips on the best way to approach retailers?

Start locally. Look into smaller importers that set to big brands at an exhibition & approach local distributors. If you can’t go physically go to exhibitions, go to exhibition websites and check then names of companies that exhibit, check them out and email them!

“My name is X, this is my brand, I’m importing direct from China, are you interested in buying?”
  

Are there other ways other than unique products and high quality to protect your brand against competition?

One thing is to have Amazon brand registry. Other than that, be better in terms of quality. Don’t give the competition grounds to attack you – quality, customer service – try to be an awesome company. Even if first few months not highly profitable, eventually it will pay off.

What is your prediction for competition in the next year or two? How do we protect ourselves?
Manuel had 6 enquiries last month in his sourcing company for a product that everyone is selling! Nobody has any imagination, it seems!

Be unique, have expertise in your product and be creative. Yes, competition is increasing but so is the market – Amazon has 51% of the (USA) online sales. There will always be a customer for [good] products. The USA population is about 300 million people!

CONTACT

How can listeners find out more about you or learn more from you?

Go to importdojo.com – there is a contact us page – or email [email protected].

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