March 1, 2021

7 Must-Do Steps to Avoid Mistakes When Sourcing Products From China

Sourcing products from China has been a trend for the past few decades. China has become one of the leading exporters because it has a broad supplier base, ranging from apparel, auto parts, textiles, toys, plastics to consumer electronics. But importing products from China is not as easy as you imagine. If you are a beginner, the risks of committing errors are high. Common mistakes to avoid are the failure to audit the supplier well, don't order product samples, or don't discuss the details.

Blog image

With the development of technology, China’s factories have improved in terms of customer service, manufacturing capabilities, management sophistication, and efficiency. 

But the cost is the most common reason for businesses from different niches to source products from the country. Yes, you read it right. With its low-cost labor force, the goods are available at the most competitive and reasonable rate. 

Of course, despite of your experience as a business owner, you want to make everything smooth, convenient, and seamless. What are you going to do to protect yourself from any mistakes when importing from China? Here are the top 7 must-do steps:

1. Develop an Accurate Product Specification.

You need to think through all the details before contacting a supplier. Many business owners overlook the utmost importance of visualizing the product specifications they want until something goes wrong. 

Without specific product specifications, it is not uncommon to lose your money and affect the quality of your services. 

It is understandable that business owners have a lot of responsibilities to fill in. But developing specifications is crucial to your success. For example, manufacturers will consider you as a serious buyer. So, they will exert effort to meet and exceed your unique requirements. Plus, they will not cut corners. 

Also, don't rely on a supplier to understand all the details just because he has previously released a product that is very similar to yours. Even if you just want to change the color, you must provide the exact specification of the item. This will ensure that you will get exactly what you expect.

Moreover, if you want to make changes to the design, construction, you must definitely explain to the supplier what exactly you want to do. Easier and more reliable to do this using the product specification.

2. Explore the Specifics of Interacting with Chinese Suppliers.

Another factor to consider is to examine the Chinese suppliers’ ability to communicate. 

Many businesses only focus on the price and quality of goods, which is one of the mistakes to avoid when sourcing products from China.

Effective communication between suppliers and customers is vital to avoid any trouble in the future.

How to determine whether potential suppliers are good communicators? Well, speak with them. If you have waited for a few weeks before the manufacturer responded to your queries and concerns, look for other alternatives. 

But if you have a friend or colleague who has imported products from the country, you can ask them for referrals to save your time.

You need to learn the specifics of doing business in China. А lot of attention is paid to building a trusting relationship between supplier and customer.

If you show interest, clearly describe your requirements for the product, talk about the expected volume of purchases and terms, you will be given more attention and will be answered faster.

Also, don't forget the cultural background of doing business in China. This will help you to understand better what to expect from local suppliers.

3. Explore the Specifics of Production in Different Regions.

Study the features of the regions where different groups of goods are produced in China. Try to find suppliers that specialize in the manufacturing of your product or goods similar to yours. 

When importing goods from China, don’t settle for a manufacturer right away. It is crucial to study and compare other suppliers from different regions. 

While it is daunting and overwhelming, all of your efforts will pay off. First, you can find the highest quality solution for your business. Second, you can locate good products that best suit your budget. Lastly, you can be sure that the goods are approved and certified by the government.

Another important point is the territorial location of production. The fact is that in China there is a fairly clear division of suppliers depending on the type of goods produced. In some provinces, manufacturers of textile products are concentrated, in others - factories for the production of electronics. If you need a certain type of product (for example, metal fasteners), then you should pay more attention for finding a supplier who is geographically located in the relevant province. 

4. Discuss the Details of the Packaging of the Goods.

Goods will be loaded or unloaded a couple of times before they reach your destination. 

Imagine your products are not packed well. So, the chance of getting damaged, scratched, and cracked is high. 

It is essential to discuss your packaging requirements with your suppliers ahead of time. It is all right if you need to spend an extra amount of cash for the packaging because your goods will be shipped straight to your location safely and without any potential damage. 

In addition, enough attention should be paid to the packaging of the goods also because the buyer evaluates the appearance of the products. Consider packaging that protects the product and remains presentable to the customer. Don't forget about labeling too. This should be discussed with your supplier to avoid future problems.

5. Check Product Certification.

Many buyers don't require proof of product quality from the supplier in the form of certificates. This is one of the most common mistakes you must avoid when importing from China.

Certain types of goods require certificates (for example, toys, cosmetics, etc.). If you plan to sell such products, check with the supplier for the required certifications.

This must be done for at least two reasons. Firstly, without such certificates, you will not be able to sell your products, for example, on Amazon. Secondly, the presence of such certificates will serve as a guarantee of the quality of the goods that the supplier produces.

Compliant suppliers, on the other hand, ensure their products are of the highest quality. Although following regulations could increase the cost, it is worth it. 

Before choosing a Chinese manufacturer, asks for their compliance certificates. Then, validate all the details for your peace of mind. 

6. Conduct Product Inspection.

One of the common China sourcing mistakes is when importers do not conduct a careful product inspection. 

Once you discuss your specifications with your chosen supplier, your job doesn't stop there. It is critical to check and inspect your product’s quality from the selection of raw materials, the actual production to packaging. 

Mistakes are inevitable. Even if your suppliers have chosen the finest materials, they may commit errors during production. So, it is ideal to follow up with the company over and over again. 

Many factories offer to carry out an inspection by their own employees or outsourced companies. But the best option for you is to find an inspector (or a company that provides such services) yourself. The fact is that you can never be sure that the inspection will be carried out as well as you want it. If you bring in third-party services or an agent (uninterested person), he will do his job well. If the check is carried out by factory employees, you run the risk of receiving goods with a large number of defects.

Once your standards are met during the manufacturing, conduct the final inspection. You can ask for improvement if needed.

7. Get 5-10 Samples of the Finished Product Instead of Just One.

Another step in sourcing from China is to ask for a minimum of 5 product samples to gauge if the supplier meets or exceeds your requirements. Don’t be ashamed to request product samples because for most suppliers it is a normal practice. 

Ask a supplier to send you at least 3-4 samples, and preferably 5-10 pieces. So, you can estimate the percentage of defects in production, look at the quality of a series of goods as a whole. After all, one sample, which many are accustomed to order, can be executed perfectly precisely because it is the first and it is one. But when a series of products is launched, scrap cannot be avoided. And 10 units will not be as perfect as one sample of the product.

Obtaining samples is a perfect opportunity for you to examine the specs, features, and other aspects of a particular product. You can conduct independent lab testing to measure the level of their quality. Plus, you can compare the results to other products. 

Sourcing products from China is the right decision you can make. But before you stick to a supplier, do some research. Don’t be tempted by options that are available at a low price. Be willing to spend more. Also, work with a professional. Although hiring a sourcing specialist requires an extra cost, you could at least have time to focus on other essential business operations or transactions.