The Seller Abroad

Using FBA to sell on Amazon from abroad… can't be that hard!

Logistics…. a learning experience

In this post I will cover dealing with the logistics side of importing product to a FBA warehouse.

Logistics

Logistics can be such a pain. If you are using the Amazon FBA service, you will need to create a product listing in order to find out which warehouse you need to ship your product to. At this stage, I wouldn’t waste too much time with the listing as you’ll have plenty of time to work on the marketing aspects of it while waiting for the product to be manufactured and shipped. That said, you will need to input product dimensions, weight, general information and a UPC code. If you do not have a UPC code, you can easily buy one on ebay or one of the several other websites offering it at a low price. I got mine from a site called Speedy Barcodes, which worked well for me. Once you’ve created a rough listing, you’ll have to create a FBA shipment that will provide you with the delivery warehouse information. The shipment can be created in your sellercentral account under the “Manage FBA Inventory” page. Now comes the process of vetting multiple quotes from several freight companies. Fun right…

Logistics – Picking the Freight Company

Logistics

In my case, I was transporting from China to America. In my extremely unclear state of mind, I decided to use three different companies for logistics for my first shipment. I had the manufacturer use their freight forwarder for the sea freight, I used a customs broker recommended by Amazon and used a land freight company I found online. It was a nightmare! I definitely do not recommend using multiple freight forwarders to get the job done. I strongly recommend using one of the Amazon recommended customs broker companies (found here) for the whole freight process first time around. It will likely cost you a bit more however it will save you a lot of trouble. The additional expense is usually not as bad as it seems when you spread the costs among the hundreds of products you are transporting.

The biggest help in using one of the recommended freight forwarders is that they know how to file the customs for someone that does not live in the USA. Most freight companies get confused with this and require a US address, which drove me up the wall…. Turns out you don’t need that.

Logistics may be a significant cost for your initial stock order, however if the product is a winner and you order larger quantities in the future, it will only get better. I am in the process of ordering 3 times the amount I did in my first order and the logistics costs per item has almost halved!

Post Highlights for logistics

  • Create a rough listing and FBA shipment to obtain destination FBA warehouse address
  • Stick to a single freight forwarder for the entire journey
  • Use an Amazon recommended customs broker for customs clearance
  • Be aware that freight cost can be high for initial small shipment. This will get better with the next bigger shipment

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Product Sourcing

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Optimising Your Product Listing

7 Comments

  1. Siobhan

    Hi,

    Thanks for the articles, I have been looking for information for non USA people who want to do FBA!

    I’m still in product research stage but also trying to figure out the logistics. I’m finding the idea of shipping the most difficult. Are you recommending to use one of the following for the shipping:
    FedEx: http://www.fedex.com

    UPS: http://www.ups.com

    DHL: http://www.dhl.com

    Expeditors International: http://www.expeditors.com

    Samuel Shapiro: http://www.shapiro.com

    So they pick it up from the factory in China and then take it all the way to the FBA warehouse? Is this all shipping by air or can it be sea too?

    I know some people in USA ship their product to them and then after quality control ship it to amazon but I’m assuming you wouldn’t consider this as the costs would be far too high? How did you deal with quality issues or have you just trusted the factory?

    Thanks for you help

    • thesellerabroad

      Hi Siobhan,

      Yes, I recommend using one of those shipping companies. They are experienced enough in the particulars required for delivering to a FBA warehouse and they can also do pick up from China all the way through to delivery to the FBA warehouse. They do both air and sea freight. Keep in mind that air freight is significantly more expensive, especially if the product you are moving is large. Most manufacturers in China will offer Free On Board (FOB) with products ordered. This saves a bit of money as they will load the product on the ship free of charge.

      Quality control is difficult. The manufacturer will send photos and video of finished products, which you should request, however that’s as far as it goes. The freight forwarder or Amazon will not do quality inspections for you. There is an element of risk, however you can mitigate this by inspecting samples and getting as much information as possible from the manufacturer before ordering product. I’d advise to not go for the cheapest manufacturer and go for one that has a few years experience dealing on Alibaba. It is way too expensive to ship product to USA via Australia, so I do account for 3% or 4% defective rate on the shipment when doing my profitability calculations.

  2. Siobhan

    Thanks for the reply.

    That all sounds good, thanks for the information 🙂

    With regard to the details of the shipping process, what do I need to actually do to get the products from the factory to the freight forwarder. Do I have to fill out forms, do I tell the supplier the details of the freight forwarder and then they contact them directly or do I have to manage all the communications?

    I guess what I’m saying is that I understand the concept of it but can’t find any details on what I will have to actually do to make it happen.

    On a different note, did you have all your tax details sorted before you started selling on Amazon?

    • thesellerabroad

      Hi, I’ve just published a post on “Shipping – Clarified” that should hopefully help with your questions. With regards to tax details, I did this on the fly once I started selling. Until I started selling consistently, I did not know if this would be a legitimate business or not. So I tried to keep admin tasks to a minimum at the very beginning.

  3. Jamie

    Hi

    Your blog is a godsend.

    I find logistics to be the most complicated aspect of doing FBA. Would like to clarify with you.

    Do the companies recommended on Amazon’s website (FedEx, UPS, DHL, Expeditors International, Samuel Shapiro) serve as both freight forwarders and custom brokers?

    In addition, will it complicate things if I plan to send to a Prep or Inspection company in US first before sending the products to Amazon?

    Thanks

    • Hi Jamie, appreciate your kind words!

      Yes, logistics was the scariest part for me going in. Luckily, the companies recommended on the Amazon website have their own customs brokers that they contract out to. That way you have a single point of contact for the entire freight. The company I used was Samuel Shapiro and my experience has been fairly smooth. They take care of customs brokerage and I’ve had the same point of contact for all my shipments which helps build a good working relationship. I haven’t had a separate company inspect goods on any of my shipments as yet. That said, given you have the one person to deal with, I am sure it is something that could be easily to negotiated.

      For more detailed information on handling the shipping, customs and relevant paperwork, I recommend reading the Shipping Cheat Sheet document I have published.

      • Jamie

        Thank you for the prompt reply. I’ll definitely have a look at the cheat sheet. Thanks a lot.

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