Amazon FBA has opened up the doors for entrepreneurs who want to make a big splash with comparatively minimal effort. With clever research using online analytics tools such as Product SpyPro (http://productspypro.com/), one can identify which items will sell big and add these to their product offerings. By pairing with overseas manufacturers, one can find a source for specific goods, and often acquire them at reasonable rates. The challenge lies in importing goods from overseas as the process can be overwhelming and cumbersome.
While Amazon provides some measure of help on the topic, for anyone new to the game, it can be daunting at the first instance. The terms and concepts are difficult enough to grasp, but, beyond that, there are considerations like shipping cost, minimum order numbers, and satisfying US import custom regulation. For instance, what kind of payments will your wholesalers accept? What sort of risk will you open yourself up to by using payment methods like wire transfers (which some wholesalers use exclusively)? What about communication issues with your supplier? The list goes on, but these questions illustrate that the process isn’t as simple as placing an order and hoping for the best.
How should a budding entrepreneur tackle the tricky situation of importing products from overseas? The right approach will require familiarizing yourself with the process, communicating with foreign suppliers, understanding the process of getting quotes, and dealing with a host of possibly unfamiliar terms (and paperwork), but all of these can be handled by understanding and keeping abreast of the best practices.
Start With Some Research
The adage “knowledge is power” is just as applicable to learning about importing products as anything else. You can start by familiarizing yourself with the Small Business Administration’s introductory guide on the topic. In addition to extolling the benefits of imports, they give some insight into topics like import rejection laws and trade barriers, building a network in your export country, dealing with customs brokers, and permits/licenses. They also have resources for online workshops and training courses that can help simplify the ordeal of importing goods.
It might also help to get a high-level visual overview of the entire process. You should know that after establishing your connections and getting your quotes, you’ll need to import the goods from the source country to the USA. In addition, you’ll need to work with Amazon to ensure your product listings are up-to-date and filling out “Importer Of Record” (IOR) information without which Amazon will refuse shipments.
You’ll also have to engage a customs broker (we’ll touch on them in more detail later). These individuals have the authority to represent your business and clear imported goods through customs. Some services (for example, Fed Ex) will handle this for you; in other instances, you might have to choose another third-party to take care of the clearing process. Once your items are through customs, you’ll have to prepare them for sale or send them to a pre-fulfillment company that will handle that step for you. Finally, you’ll need to get your products to the right fulfillment center (Amazon will let you know the correct one once your product/customer shipment info is in their database) and you can get paid once your goods sell.
Hints On Finding A Good Supplier And Forming A Relationship
Finding a quality supplier and forming a strong business relationship with them is key to ease of importing goods. There are a few approaches you can take, but most agree that you want to connect with a factory that is reputable and prompt in communicating with you. When searching through for suppliers through sites like Alibaba, you can learn if they fulfill certain criteria such a experience in shipping to the USA, reviews from other entrepreneurs who have imported from such suppliers. Once you’ve found a supplier that looks good, you’ll need to strike up a conversation.
Gauge their level of customer service and how knowledgeable they are on the business. Learn about their pricing for different orders (and don’t be afraid to negotiate). To ensure that they are genuine, you’ll want to ask for sample products and evaluate their quality. A reputable dealer can send these without issue, while a less trustworthy one might balk at the prospect.
You’ll also want to make certain that they are aware of any applicable USA regulations concerning the products you’ll be importing in order to avoid future problems. A failure to comply with regulations could result in your products being refused entry into the country, and add up to wasted capital on your part. You should do your part to make sure that you understand all of the rules regulating the products you’re dealing with well-before you contact any suppliers or place any orders.
Lastly, don’t forget to use some common sense. If you’re conversing with a supplier and they make what sounds like a shady offer, are lowballing prices, or making claims about not needing to follow certain rules, you should do your due diligence before committing to an order. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and the responsibility for making sure the a shipment comes in smoothly is on you as an importer/entrepreneur, not your manufacturer.
Determining How To Ship Your Goods
Before you can place an order and get your quotes, you need to figure out how you’ll be getting your items from their country of origin. There are two main methods to choose from: Sea Freight and Air Freight. They differ in terms of price, speed, etc., so you’ll need to develop an understanding of these methods to make your decision.
There are plenty of articles you can consult for a deeper grasp on the differences between the two, but in general, here’s what you’ll need to keep in mind. Air freight is more convenient since it is a faster, more frequent, and more direct method of shipping goods. Flights go out daily, while sea freighters might be a weekly occurrence. You’ll be able to meet your business goals more reliably when you aren’t worried so much about when your shipments are going to arrive. On top of that, shipping by sea could expose your goods to adverse weather, or other less-than-ideal scenarios when they are languishing at some port.
Conversely, sea freight is less expensive than air freight, especially when shipping large or heavy quantities. If you’re solely motivated by reduced costs, sea freight will win out in most instances.
Placing Your Orders And Getting Your Quotes
You’ll place the order for your products with your supplier. They might have minimum order quantities, but these aren’t always set in stone. If you’ve taken the time to build a good relationship with your manufacturer, there’s a possibility you’ll have some wiggle room and can negotiate to better fit your current supply needs. This might also vary from item to item, therefore, it is beneficial to do the research beforehand to avoid surprises later.
When getting quotes for shipping, remember that details matter. Going with flat-rate quotes will often have you paying more than you need to, so be specific about where your goods are coming from, what you are shipping, the size and weight of items–the works. Thankfully, there are online services that can make finding the best shipping rates a more palatable experience. Using these, you’ll be able to compare rates from different companies and detail the minutiae of your shipment to get the most accurate prices possible.
Don’t Forget About Customs
Finally, you should bear in mind the joyous process of getting your items through Customs. As mentioned, Amazon will not act as the IOR for any orders, so it is incumbent upon you to take the appropriate steps. Customs brokers can assist with this task, and Amazon lists five agencies: FedEx, UPS, DHL, Expeditors International, and Samuel Shapiro that are knowledgeable. They can help you with navigating the tricky paperwork, knowing which fees you have to pay, etc.
Remember, though, that the ultimate responsibility is with you to ensure that shipments are in order and regulation compliant. Keep all of your information detailed and current, so you can supply Customs with whatever they need when they request it. You’ll be accountable for those fees and making sure that shipments are properly documented, and be prepared to have your shipments examined, especially if this is your first time moving items past the border.
Best of luck with your first shipping experience, and, as always, continue to arm yourself with knowledge by utilizing online analytics tools such as Product SpyPro (http://productspypro.com/) to start your product research before sourcing and importing the products.