Private labeled products need to get to Amazon for FBA, but how? Today we look at the different ways Amazon sellers get their products into Amazon warehouses and the pros and cons of each method when it comes to your business. We’re not experts but here’s a hopefully helpful podcast to get you selling in Amazon faster without as many hurdles holding you up.
The 3 Shipping Methods to Get Your Product to Amazon
- Express: 3-5 days
- Pros: Fast, easy, often avoids customs fees
- Cons: Most expensive
- Air Freight: 5-10 days
- Pros: Relatively fast, a bit cheaper
- Cons: Need to use a freight forwarder, can have issues with customs
- Sea Freight: 20-35 days
- Pros: Incredibly cheap
- Cons: Super slow, need freight forwarder, (captain philips pirates…???)
Shipping To FBA Warehouse and What To Know
- What is a freight forwarder
- How do you decide which way to ship to Amazon
- Can you ship straight to Amazon or do you need inspection
- Why sourcing locally can be faster and easier
- How to avoid hassles with customs and freight forwarders
- Why some products almost HAVE to be shipped by sea
- What to do when issues arise
- Why it might make sense to have your supplier set things up
- Why you HAVE to take responsibility for your shipments success or ELSE!
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Rus: I am Rus.
Matt: And I’m Matt.
Rus: And we’re really annoying my housemate. He’s sitting next to me in a corner trying to work quietly.
Matt: That’s really funny. And you know what, guys? Today, we’re talking shipping because you’ve got something made. But how do you get it to FBA? That’s the question, Rus.
Matt: What can brown do for you? I know for…
Rus: Yeah. Everyone thinks…
Matt: Shoot! We did it again. It happens. That’s what happens when you go in a real-time and it’s unedited. But that’s what you want – The unedited FBA stuff, right?
Matt: So I know personally, I manufacture in China. You’re in the U.S. so let’s breakdown some of those advantages and disadvantages first before we get further into shipping.
Rus: For my first year on Amazon, I wanted the fast money with skewed barriers to enter as possible so I went to source all my products from the United States.
There are several benefits to that. You’re talking to a native English speaker normally so communication is really easy. Everything is written and you don’t need to translate or anything like that.
And then obviously, if you’re selling in America and buying from America, the other thing that’s fantastic is you can just get stuff delivered from your supplier straight to the Amazon warehouse in one stop. And that generally seems to take about two or three days for us. And that means the lead time on products can be within one or two weeks.
So you can get new products in stock really, really quickly with minimum hassle which makes trying out new products really simple because you can get it easily from the idea through to the inception into the Amazon store within four weeks or maybe two or three if you move fast. If you’re dealing with China, it can take a lot longer.
Then when it comes to restocking – Again, you’ve got much shorter lead times so it’s easier to restock when you’re running out of stock. So you never actually run out of inventory on Amazon.
Matt: And you never want to run out of inventory.
Matt: That restock thing is something I’m struggling with now. Sorry for cutting you off.
Rus: No, that’s cool. Also, the delivery fee is going to be a lot cheaper. You don’t have to post international shipping so that could affect your margins a little bit.
The products might be a bit more expensive which can kind of discount that because obviously, you’re paying Americans Western wages. Obviously, one of the benefits of China is its quite cheap out there. But just the fact that you can get it to the market a lot quicker and a lot easier is a great idea for someone getting their feet wet to begin with.
Diversely, it might be a bit harder to find a product as it’s a lot easier this way, less competition because it’s sort of way more competition because people are doing it.
One of the nice things about China is the barrier to entry – making the competition less. But for a first product, it’s not a bad way to go.
We’ve had six samples delivered this week from China. It’s been fun communicating with those guys and getting that sorted. But some of those samples just by ML’s still tick a week or so to get from China to the United Kingdom. So it can be slow whereas dealing with…
Matt: It can be tough and expensive.
Rus: Yup, exactly. So if you’re in America, then dealing with American suppliers can be a lot quicker. And the same if you’re in England. Dealing with UK suppliers can offer a lot of benefits.
Matt: Yeah. Go local where you can. And I want to weigh in a little bit on those advantages and disadvantages. So obviously, the US is more expensive, the quality might be a little bit higher and the lead times are awesome – apparently.
I know personally, my lead time is usually at least 30 days before the products are finished being manufactured. And then we get to ship in from China. And shipping from China is really what you guys are tuning in for because that’s Alibaba’s headquarters. That’s where most stuff is.
Personally, all of my suppliers are based out of China currently. And this presents a lot of hassles like you were saying, Rus. So communication can be really tough sometimes because half the time, you can tell your supplier is clearly using Google Translate and something is not quite going through.
Also, depending on where you’re located, it can be difficult with communication. Right now I’m in Thailand which is awesome in terms of communicating with Chinese suppliers because they’re on Skype when I’m on Skype.
So think about that. If you’re in the US, you’re going to need to be able to communicate with your suppliers regardless of where they’re at. But some of these little translation issues can become big.
So for example, (I’ve been talking about it a little bit) I’ve got a big new shipment coming in of two different products – A new one and one that I’m running out of inventory on and very worried about.
And that’s primarily because of the lead times, and because apparently, the Chinese government decided to shut down the electricity for a couple of days with some new regulations. But either way, the products are coming. They shipped today which means I’m absolutely stoked.
Rus: Sorry. Were you affected by the recent explosion in China at all?
Matt: I was not affected by the recent explosion. There was a factory that blew up in China, guys. And they’ve also devalued their currency a little bit again which means that it should be a little bit cheaper to buy your stuff because they want to stay competitive and piss off everybody else except the FBA sellers.
Rus: That’s always good.
Matt: It is always good.
Rus: Yeah. I’ve had similar translation problems with China. I remember, I was trying to order chalk pens that pubs use to draw on blackboards and things. I think I wanted the 5mm version. And I had the 5mm page up with 5mm pen in the title and 5mm all over the page.
And I’m showing this page to this Chinese girl on Skype and we’re having a back and forth. And she’s like –“No. That is 3mm pen.” And it’s like I’m looking at their listing that says 5mm on the link. You click through, there’s 5mm in the URL, 5mm in the title and 5mm all over the page.
And we spent two hours on Skype literally discussing over this listing. Was it for a 5mm pen or a 3mm pen? It turns out that the listing, the product SKU and everything was for a 5mm pen. The picture was for a 3mm pen.
Matt: So you were both right. Ha-ha! That is so funny.
Matt: I had a situation where I was trying to get… One thing I try to do and one thing you guys can definitely look into especially as you get more experienced is not necessarily working with your supplier or shipper. Because a lot of times, they’re going to want to take a little cut which isn’t a big problem because it makes it easier. But if you want to expedite the process to make it faster, make it cheaper, sometimes finding your own shipper or freight forwarder could be beneficial.
And I was reaching out to a couple of different places trying to get quotes, trying to get the prices down, trying to boost the margins because that’s what it’s all about.
And I had a bit of a conundrum when I was listing the size of my pallets and my cartons. And the supplier was telling me that that was too big and it wouldn’t fit on the airplane. Eventually, I realized they were missing the millimeters and assuming everything was in centimeters so they thought I wanted to ship a 22m pallet.
Matt: Like the obviousness. Some things that you assume about people will not be true of people from other countries and other cultures.
China (specifically) take things very literally and you need to make sure that you explain every single thing that you’re trying to do so that there’s no communication gaps because English isn’t their first language as a rule of thumb. So as frustrating as it can be for you, it’s frustrating as it can freaking was for me.
Remember that and try to stay calm and get everything down to the details where people can repeat it back to you. And don’t just ask – “So that’s okay, right?” or any kind of leading question. Because as a rule of thumb, factories are going to tell you what you want to hear.
- “Hey. This will be done in seven days, right?”
- “Hey. It’s been seven days. Is this almost done?”
- “Okay. In seven days.”
- “Oh, that was really wrong how I said that.”
But a lot of times, that’s how that will happen. Just no punches pulled. Make sure that you know what you’re focusing on. Have you found similar problems?
Rus: Yeah. Like when we’re getting samples on, we’ll just have these six samples delivered. I’ve got a template email and they are basically covering all my basis – trying to make it as easy as possible for me to get the information out. And sometimes, they just don’t reply or don’t answer the question.
Matt: Yeah, just skip the questions. You got to hit those questions again.
Rus: Yeah. Because whilst I’ve got like a… I’ve obviously got a template that I’m using to make requests. They have some kind of template themselves that they use to respond. So if my template doesn’t match their template, then we’re both out of luck. So we can go running circles quite a lot.
Matt: Yes. That’s why you want to try to get your suppliers on Skype if you can. Because those circles will happen much faster if you’re talking live or even just calling them up.
A lot of times, if you’ve got a big issue which is going to happen all the time or you want to expedite something, call them up and explain it. And it’s much easier to explain than trying to go back and forth on email or Skype.
Rus: Yup. One thing I’ve been doing when I’m sending the first contact email – Because normally, I want to get a sample of their products. I’m making sure to put the delivery address, the complete delivery address and my phone number in the email.
That saves about three or four different emails that need to be sent out because their first thing will be like – “What is your delivery address please?” Then I give them my delivery address. The second email will be –“What is your phone number?” And I give them my phone number. Then the third email will be – “The name on the address is not your address.” I was like – “Well, yes. It’s my business partner’s address because I get stuff sent to him.”
So being as concise as possible and thinking about all the different angles can be hard work. If you’re getting one email reply a day, that’s four days just to give them my name, address and telephone number for shipping. So being as concise as possible won’t just remove a lot of frustration. It will save you time and get you to where you want to go quicker.
Matt: Frequently Asked Questions are incredibly powerful. No matter what you’re doing, people are going to have the same kind of questions because that’s how we’re wired.
Matt: And I realized I screwed up that story. So somehow I got distracted. I’m a little ADB.
Matt: So anyways, the products are coming in. They arrive to port in Shanghai. On Wednesday or Tuesday, the story seems to vary depending on who I ask.
Either way, they were set to be shipped out on Wednesday. That didn’t happen. They were set to be shipped out on Friday. On Friday, I got an email from the shipper saying – “We are sorry. We cannot ship out today because we didn’t put your products on the pallet.”
So just back and forth of very frustrating situations, primarily because I tried to set this up myself and not because I went with the factory. But finally, it shipped today, Tuesday so there is light at the end of the tunnel.
But one thing I think we should’ve gone into way before we started this tangent, Rus – was the different methods for shipping to the US. I totally missed that.
Rus: I was about to ask.
Matt: Oh, okay. Good. Well, that means at least one of us is thinking.
Matt: So there’s three primary ways. There’s “Sea,” there’s “Airfreight” and there’s “Express.” They all have advantages and disadvantages.
“Sea” means – you get on one of those nice little cargo ships like that movie that just came out about the hijacked pirates. And it comes over from China or wherever your factory is in a container. It arrives and you have a freight forwarder there – someone who is authorized to go to port, pick it up, clear customs and then get it delivered to Amazon.
So the advantage of this is it costs nothing. It is absolutely dirt cheap. You can do this. It’ll probably be a 5thto a 10th of the price of airfreight. The disadvantage of course, it takes forever. So depending on where you’re shipping from. Most of these in China are going to ship to LA.
The fastest I’ve ever got quoted was 17 days for sea shipping. Most of them are closer to 25 to 30. It can take up to a full month which if you’re launching a new private labeled product, that sucks because you just want to get it out there and start your launch. Launch on the review club and start getting the products moving. And that’s pretty frustrating.
Alternatively though, if you’re reordering – If you time it right, you can save yourself a boatload (pun intended) of money by going Sea. But it can be a little bit more challenging because you need a freight forwarder. So that’s some extra hassle on your end. It might not be the best idea in getting started.
Rus: Who are you using?
Matt: Who am I using? Oh, I am in between. I’m seeing different people to see how it goes.
Matt: Because it’s been a little bit of a challenge. But hopefully, I’ll be able to give some recommendations a little bit later on.
Matt: But the second method and what a lot of people use is Airfreight. So this is like Sea freight except it’s on a plane so it goes faster.
This flies into a port. Right now, mine’s being shipped into San Diego. Any big airport around the world is going to work. You have a freight forwarder there. Your shipper can set this up or you can set it up on your own. They clear it through customs and then they bring it right onto Amazon and you start selling hard.
That’s Airfreight. That typically takes from the time it leaves your supplier or the time it leaves port anywhere from 3 to 10 days to hit the U.S. and probably 5 to 10 to get to Amazon. And that’s the medium-priced option.
And then Express is the fastest, the most expensive and the easiest. And this is just like a DHL, a UPS, FedEx. They get the product. They deliver it to Amazon. They do everything in between. They clear it through customs. Typically, it doesn’t even need to go through customs. If your order size is below $1,000 or $2,000 in value, I’m not positive on this, but definitely worth looking into to avoid some fees.
But they’ll deliver direct to Amazon. And that’s typically like 2 to 5 days to get your product in FBA, have Amazon start checking it and then you’re off to the races.
Those are the three main ones. But personally, I use Airfreight. It’s a nice combination of speed and cost where it’s pretty fast, it’s cheaper than Express, there are a little bit more of a hassle and you might need to start weighing into that more. But it gets my products going.
I’m trying to get to the point where I can go “Sea” all the time. It also works better if you have multiple products coming in. So if you can order product 1, 2 and 3 or reordering at the same time, then it can be massively beneficial to try to pull those altogether, save the money (basically on the shipper fees, not on the imports) and to go via sea in your own container.
I’m not at that level yet, but we need to get someone on the podcast who is ASAP to share more on that. But that’s some of what I know and some of my thoughts on shipping.
Rus: That’s awesome. I keep seeing FOB around all the Chinese suppliers I’m speaking to. That’s shipping from the supplier to ports and then you have to handle…
Matt: Yeah, so that’s how the pricing space. So there’s different terminology for different levels of delivery. DDU means the product is going directly to your door. Door to door or something around there. FOB means that it’s being delivered to port.
So for instance, my product is FOB Shanghai. If my unit cost is a dollar FOB – that means for the cost of a dollar, I will get the unit, it will be created, private labeled, etcetera and my supplier will deliver it to the Shanghai port. They also can coordinate with the shipper and get it sent. But that’s just the initial cost.
So there’ll be the $1 per unit FOB. And then if I want to get it from Shanghai to the States, there’s going to be a shipping cost. And depending on which method you use, the cost is going to vary on that. But FOB – it means just a port.
Rus: Awesome. And they sought out all the shipping from the port to the United States or is that the freight forwarder?
Matt: That’s the freight forwarder and the shipper. So typically, the supplier that you work with is going to have people that they’ve worked with in the past.
I imagine it’s on some kind of referral commission basis so they both end up winning. But – “Hey. Let me send some business your way. I’ve got a client that needs this shipped. Can you get this where it needs to go?” They’ll organize that and give you a quote.
It’s not a bad idea to try to get the freight forwarder’s information and ask them for a quote because a lot of times, your supplier might actually add a couple of cents here and there to pad the pockets (if you know what I mean.)
So that’s how it works though. They will coordinate that stuff. Oh, but that’s where I fell apart. That coordination is just – oh!
Just make sure that you have all of this set ahead of time so that when your product is ready to ship, it’s ready to freaking ship and that it ships because you want to get this in the FBA ASAP.
Rus: That sounds like a lot of stages. But it also sounds like something you can break down and isn’t actually that complicated to get done.
Matt: Exactly. I’m kind of just winding right now. It’s getting much better now. But once you’ve got it down, it goes pretty darn smooth.
Matt: If you use an express company, they’re basically going to handle everything for you. And your shipper will coordinate with their Chinese contact with the supplier and they’ll make everything (as a rule of thumb) happen. And it will happen pretty darn easily without you having to know too much about it other than –“Hey. We took off. Hey. It landed. Hey. Your product is at FBA.”
Rus: Yeah. It’s definitely something that will come better with practice, but also takes due diligence.
I know a friend of mine was getting some stuff shipped from China to the U.S. and then from the ports to Amazon. And he was like – “It’s not there yet. It’s not there yet. Why isn’t it there yet?”
And it actually arrived in America, but no one had been informed. There weren’t any updates being sent. So his stock just sat there in a warehouse for three weeks. It’s actually forgotten because no one was told.
Rus: So you got to sit there and make sure you do know exactly where your product is to avoid little glitches like that.
Matt: Absolutely. That brings up something really important. This is your business and your brand. You are 100% responsible.
So while I get super frustrated with the product basically arriving and chilling for six days in Shanghai, Oh, God! But anyways, that’s my fault because I wasn’t on top of it and making sure that my shipper was coordinated with their U.S. contacts.
And you’ve got to take responsibility. If you just throw this off on your supplier for product quality, for shipment, for everything else, you’re going to fail. They’re not going to be super happy, but they’re really not going to be out anything. It’s your business. Take responsibility. I screwed up.
Rus: Well, you learn from your mistakes. That is the main thing. If only it will be easy to make it perfect all the time.
Matt: And to accept learning from those mistakes. It’s always so hard. But at the same time, you’re right, Rus. Absolutely 100%.
Matt: Learn from a couple of our stupid mistakes, make a couple of yours along the way and get your product into FBA. And yeah, that rhymed. Anything else?
Rus: Yeah. Just about mistakes. Don’t be afraid to make any. In action is the biggest mistake you can make. And if everything is perfect and you’ve waited too long, just do it and don’t be afraid and see what happens.
Matt: I like it. And let’s wrap up the episode here. Thanks for tuning in, guys.
Matt: If you’ve got any other questions on shipping, let us know and we’ll try to figure out the answers.
Rus: It’s been a pleasure as always. Thanks for listening. And ciao from Barcelona!
Matt: And ciao from Chiang Mai as well! Don’t forget to leave a review if this wasn’t totally terrible. Cheers!
Rus: Adios amigos!
Matt: Okay. Awesome!