Why Import from China?
If you plan to run your own ecommerce business then you need to be importing from China to succeed. The drop shipping model where you buy and resell somebody else’s products is more or less dead. Here are some other reasons to import from China:
High-profit margins (and much higher than drop-shipping) means you can make a lot of money
It’s easy to import into America (even for non-Americans)
Developing real, tangible products and selling them is exciting
No need to travel to China to find products
But if you do travel to China it’s fun and adventurous
What You Need to Get Started Importing
The most important thing you need to import from China is money to buy inventory. Generally, I recommend having at least $500 to buy inventory and ideally $2000-5000.
You will also need an Amazon Seller Central account if you plan to sell on Amazon. This will cost you $39.99 a month.
You do not need a U.S. business.
The United States makes importing products and selling them VERY easy for both Americans and non-Americans.
Needless to say, you do not need any Chinese language knowledge as well. Almost all Chinese suppliers who export have English language websites and sales catalogs and at least a couple of staff members with reasonable English.
How to Find Home Run Products to Import and Sell on Amazon
The big question you’re all probably asking now is: how do I find a GOOD product to import from China?
When you’re importing from China you’re basically looking at private labeling products. This means you’re taking an existing product, putting your brand on it, and possibly making some light product improvements.
When I’m looking for products to import I’m looking for three basic things:
Little or no “optimized competition” on Amazon
Products that can be profitable to sell
Products that I can easily improve
Good and Bad Products to Import from China
China is the factory of the world but there are certain products which are good for small importers and others which are bad. Identifying good and bad products basically comes down to understanding two critical differences between China and Western countries:
China is a developing country with different quality standards from the West
China has different norms around intellectual property and there are a lot of counterfeit products
Chinese factories make a lot of crappy products but also make a lot of excellent products. One of the ways to avoid crappy quality products is to import simple products. Example products would be mouse traps, garlic presses, and furniture. More complex products are more likely to have quality issues.
You should also avoid importing any inherently dangerous products. The importer (re: you) is responsible for any personal or property damage your products may cause. Products to avoid include any electrical devices, baby products, digestible products, etc.
Finally, China is home to a lot of knock-offs. You will find a wide variety of counterfeit products to import including products that violate trademarks, copyrights, and/or patents.
It’s a very bad idea to import counterfeit products – they may be seized at the border, Amazon may suspend your account, and even worse things can happen.
Don’t do it.
Alibaba & Beyond: How to Find Great Suppliers in China
Ordering Samples and Making Your First Order
When you place your order, submit an actual Purchase Order (aka an invoice) that consists of the following things:
Shipping terms, i.e FOB, CFR, EXW (More on this later)
Date the order will be completed
How to Negotiate Rock Bottom Prices and Low MOQs
The first thing you must do before trying to negotiate any pricing is to get multiple quotes, ideally from three or more suppliers. This will tell you what the normal cost of your desired products is.
In China, there is a golden rule: quality is directly related to price. Abnormally low priced items normally mean low quality. Another reason for a low price can be:
The quality is significantly lower than others
Different shipping terms (i.e. EXW instead of FOB)
Significantly higher minimum order quantity (MOQ)
How to Ensure You Receive High-Quality Products
Your biggest concerns when importing from China will be to ensure that you’re getting quality products.
Quality standards are the biggest difference between Chinese manufacturing and Western manufacturing. Western countries (re: Amazon buyers) have much higher quality standards than in China.
If you do not define what exactly a Western quality product is, your supplier will send you Chinese quality products.
There are three things you need to do to ensure quality products:
Define what a quality product looks like
Inspect your shipments to ensure they meet the above definition
Be continuously vigilant against quality fade
Define “Quality Product”: Define every important specification of your product.
Avoid Quality Fade: If you are not vigilant, the quality of your products will fade over time. You will not all of a sudden receive products that are awful. Instead, over time quality will start to be skimped here and there until at one point you receive awful products.
Show your supplier that quality is important to you. Inform your supplier of every defect you receive on an order and ensure they fix it on the next order.
Shipping and Logistics
After helping other first-time importers, having your goods shipped to you and receiving them is one of the most stressful and most challenging aspects of importing.
Three Ways to Ship Your Products: Air Courier, Air Freight, and Sea Freight
There are three ways to ship your items from China: air courier, air freight, and sea freight.
Air courier is simple for most people to understand. UPS, FedEx, and DHL are air courier services.
This is what they call a door-to-door service. Your supplier ships your products and they arrive wherever you want them to arrive, i.e. your home or Amazon warehouse.
The courier also has customs brokerage service so you don’t need to worry about getting a customs broker.
Air Freight and Sea Freight differ vastly from air courier (FYI there is no such thing as sea courier). These services are arranged through a freight forwarder and typically are quoted from China to some airport or sea port, i.e. to the sea port of Long Beach (near Los Angeles) or Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
You will either have to arrange to have your goods picked up or ask your freight forwarder to arrange to have them shipped to your final destination (which will involve a significant surcharge). They will not provide customs brokerage (at least not for free).
Air freight and sea freight are quite a bit more complicated than air courier the first time around. They are also much cheaper. Air freight is about half the cost of air courier and sea freight is about 10% the cost of air courier.
Sea freight is always quoted by volume whereas air shipments are quoted by weight.
Do you have any questions about sourcing products, importing, or shipping your products?