How to begin Importing products for Ecommerce
How to begin Importing products for Ecommerce
I had a great idea for a website but did not have any decent products for it. I noticed that my competitors all had the same brand products and were pretty much beating each other to death with the "same old thing" So I thought that I might try to get some products that know one else had. I found a couple of companies that manufactured something different. The best part was that they were not being sold here in the USA. I think one of the reasons people carry the same old things is that it takes some effort and a willingness to step into an area that is not in your comfort zone. The reason everyone carried the same thing, was that it was easy to get those products. I would have to imagine that the margin was probably pretty thin as well. So I set out on my own journey to find my own suppliers and do things my own way.
The first thing I did was notice that are a couple of really good vendor sites out there that try to connect you with manufacturers from other countries. My favorite one is Global sources. Everything is broken down into topics and it is pretty easy to use. If you can use Ebay you can use this site.
Products or suppliers?
You can see that there are several choices and a drop down menu. You want to choose the drop down menu, and then choose either products or suppliers. I generally choose products for my search.
Search by catagory
You can also search by category, which is a very good idea. Down below you can see that they have the categories broken down to help you. This is helpful when you are trying to break down a search and don't want to look at items that are in an unrelated category.
Individual products with their vendor name
This takes you to the items specific pages. They generally list the items down the left side and have the contact information on the right.
Contact the vendor
You then can review product data and more importantly contact the vendor by clicking the "inquire now" button on the right. If you join (free) it will pre populate an email for you and send it right to the correct person. How excellent is that? No guess work if you are finding the right contact.
After Initial Contact
I was looking for something specific so I had to do a little digging and finally found some vendors that were willing to work with me. The experience was fairly easy. Send them an email and ask them how much the pricing is, and what the minimum quantity to order is. You need to know that so that you don't waste time with high quantity items. It was a simple as asking a lot of questions. I find that you do have to dig a bit to get more information about the products. These are questions I now ask in the second email after I have made the first inquiry.
- I would like to get specific details about the product. Can I have some content that lists all the details of this particular product.
- What does each unit weigh?
- How is the unit packaged? Individually or in case lot?
- Can I order individual parts to support the unit?
- What is the lead time for the product?
- Do you have more photos that I can use for marketing purposes?
- What are the materials made from? Is there any items that have materials that will have problems getting through customs?
- Are you willing to sign a quality control contract? ( if they are not, I move on)
- Can you give references to other companies that buy this product? (this is a sneaky move on my part to access competition and maybe see how they market the items)
- Do you have a picture of your factory?
These are great questions to ask. I have done most of my querries all through email. Once we settle on a price, I give them a firm order and they begin assembling the order.
Here are a couple of key notes to remember. If you order in a container sized quantitiy, you generally have 2 hours to unload it. Bring friends or hire grunts. Also think about having your items stacked on pallets in the container. Rent a forklift and save your back. You will also get it unloaded faster. Also rent a pallet jack so that you can maneauver the pallets if your forklift does not go all the way into the container. This also saves your back. Containers are also sealed with a bolt that customs puts on. You need a hack saw or bolt cutters to get it off. I always unload our containers onto the ground and move them where I want later after the trucker leaves. This keeps you in the time limit. Also bring some cash, you may need to tip your driver.
Use a freight forwarder
Do you want to drive down ten miles of bad road, or experience the luxury comfort of a finely tuned automobile on a brand new highway? If you chose the later, you will find a freight forwarder. Look in your local yellow pages or use the internet to find a local freight forwarder in your town. Get three quotes for your specific shipment and compare. Freight forwarders make your life easy. Once you have the order confirmed with your overseas vendor you hand it over to the forwarder and do something else. They make the arrangements for the shipping, the dock fees, the customs fees, the bond and all that stuff you do not want to get involved in. Basically they call you when it comes in. I make arrangements with mine to deliver the goods via truck right to where I want it to go in a specific time frame. These are well worth the money. Aggravation costs a lot and you do not want to deal with trying to save a dollar in a confusing area.