The Seller Abroad

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

Tag: Using freight forwarders

Shipping Clarified

I’ve had a few questions come through about shipping and quality control. In this post I’ll clarify how the shipping part works and what quality control measures you can take.

One thing you have to get used to, when dealing with shipping, is playing the middle man. This can be quite a frustrating experience when emailing across language barriers and dealing with logistics related terms that are super confusing. Especially so when you are in a different time zone where every sent email takes a day to receive a response and calling is not a great option. So be prepared for a potentially emotional experience!

Shipping - Freight ForwarderShipping – Freight Forwarder

I’ve mentioned this before but first of all, to make things easy, I highly recommend using the one freight forwarder for the entire sea/air and land freight journey. This means you have one point of contact for all things freight. If you choose a competent freight forwarder, they will hold your hand through the process, making dealing with all the freight jargon that little bit easier. When getting a quote, ensure you get a quote from FOB at the port in China all the way through to delivery to the FBA warehouse/s. Also ensure you ask the freight forwarder to include customs brokerage in their quote.

Shipping – Manufacturer

Negotiate FOB (Free On Board) along with your manufactured price. This is usually offered for free but if it isn’t, make sure you play hardball to get it for free. FOB means the manufacturer covers all costs to get the freight loaded on the ship. This is usually cheaper to do with the manufacturer than the freight forwarder.

Shipping – Play Middle Man

You will have to play middle man as mentioned at the very top of this post. You will have to inform the freight forwarder when the product is ready for shipment and pass on the freight forwarder’s Chinese agent’s contact to the manufacturer. Likewise, inform the freight forwarder of the contact at the manufacturers. This will ensure smoothest coordination.

Shipping – Quality Control

This part is a bit tricky. In general, you can negotiate to pay 50% of cost to manufacture when production begins and 50% once goods are completed. There are also escrow options (offered via Alibaba), which is a third party that holds on to the money until goods are confirmed shipped. These are options to avoid being scammed. With regards to quality control, ensure your manufacturer provides photos and videos of the finished product. You should review images of both packed and unpacked product. Unfortunately that’s about as far as budget conscious quality control goes. You can go a step further and enlist the help of a third party pre-shipment inspection company such as China Inspection Services. This can get quite expensive though. Freight forwarders generally will not do quality inspections for you. I did not use a pre-shipment inspection services as it wasn’t in my budget to do so. Other steps you can take to mitigate quality control risk is to inspect samples and test how far the manufacturer wants your business by asking for additional features such as labelled packaging and so forth prior to placing an order. The way I figure, these manufacturers want repeat business and so will try to do the right thing by you. Another factor to take into account is that when selecting your final manufacturer, make sure they have a good selling history (3 years or more) on Alibaba or Aliexpress. At least this way you know they are somewhat reliable. It was way too expensive to ship product to the US via Australia, so inspecting the product myself was definitely not an option!

Post Highlights for shipping clarified

  • Be prepared to be the middle man for most communications
  • Use a single freight forwarder for the entire journey
  • Ensure your manufacturer provides FOB service as part of their package
  • Use manufacturers with a good track record to mitigate quality control risks

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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