How to Find the Perfect Product to Import and Sell On Amazon

September 1, 2019 in Blog, Buying Products, Chinese Importing, Portal: Amazon, Portal: Products, Product Sourcing
How to Find the Perfect Product to Import from China and Sell On Amazon

Finding the best products to sell on Amazon

Updated in September 2019 with up-to-date information for finding products in 2019. 

Looking to start selling on Amazon? If so, then you first need to find a product to sell.

Finding great products to import and sell is the key factor in running a success FBA business. In this article, I’ll discuss strategies for finding great niches and even better products.

Related Podcast: Episode 129: How to Find the Perfect Product to Sell in Ecommerce

My Ecommerce Story

I’ve been selling online since 2008 when eBay and OSCommerce were the backbone of my company.

In 2016, I sold one of my previous brands in the boating niche for just under $1million. Since 2017 I’ve chronicled building another brand from $0 to $1million in just over a year.

I’m by no means an expert in ecommerce but I’ve discovered a formula that works for me to build multiple, relatively successful, ecommerce brands.

How to Find Niches (and then products)

This part is going to bore you as you probably just want the secret formula for finding profitable products that are going to make you billions of dollars. I’ll give you that part in a minute, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t first read this very important section about the importance of finding a niche.

Why Are Niches Important?

The biggest mistake people make when trying to find products to import from China and sell on Amazon is that they start importing a catalog of unrelated and disparate products.

In order to succeed, you need to have a catalog of closely related products in a niche. Over several years, we have built out several different brands in very tight niches including:

  • 4×4 products
  • Adult coloring books
  • Physical therapy products
  • Boating products
  • And more

We sell lots of products in hyper-focused niches.

When selling online, you are unlikely to have one product making you hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit a year. Instead, you will likely have many products making you thousands or tens-of-thousands of dollars in profit (see the example below from my boating brand). In other words, to be successful you need to have lots of products and it’s MUCH easier to have lots of products in one niche.

Here are some other reasons why you need to pick a niche first and products second:

  • You need to sell multiple products to make a reasonable full-time salary
  • It’s easier to become an expert in one niche than many
  • It’s easier to identify product opportunities
  • It’s easier to identify your customer
  • It’s easier to upsell
  • It’s easier to find manufacturers

Pick a niche and then find products within that niche. It’s much easier this way.

How to Find Niches

Ideally, you have a couple of ideas for a great niche to start selling into. Natural starting points are hobbies that you’re already interested in.

However, if you’re like most people starting to sell online, you probably have no idea where to start.

Here are a couple of good ways to find niches:

amazon category tree

An example of Amazon’s category tree. Use the Excel document above to get an easy to navigate list of all of Amazon’s categories

You want to find niches that are neither too wide nor too narrow. My rule of thumb is that I want to find a niche that can support at least fifty or more products in it. So, for example, long-distance running would be an example of a poor niche as the number of potential products is very limited. Hiking, on the other hand, would have a near-endless supply of potential products (sleeping bags, tents, hiking poles, etc).

Here are some real-world examples of niches that are too wide, too narrow, and just right:

Too Wide Too Narrow Just Right
Wedding Products Pink Wedding Handkerchiefs Special Event Linens
Fishing Products Salmon Flashers Trolling Motors
Medical Products Hot Water Bottles Hot and Cold Packs
Boating Products Bruce Anchors Anchoring and Docking Products

 

How to Find Products to Sell Online

Finding profitable products to sell online has drastically changed over the years.

When I first started selling online, I could find nearly any product on Alibaba, do nothing to change it, slap it on eBay, and start selling units. Today this doesn’t work. Today, you need to think about creating better products.

The good news is that over the last ten years or so, ecommerce has roughly tripled in size, logistics are infinitely easier, and there are far more resources to help sellers.

Here’s my super-secret formula for finding products:

  • Find a product with low to medium search volume
  • Make one or two perceivable differences to the product

I’ve used this formula for multiple million-dollar brands. There might be better ways, but this way has worked for me.

Identify Products with Low to Medium Search Volume

Most people start by trying to find a unicorn product that sells millions of dollars a month and that has very low competition. These don’t exist.

However, there are LOTS of potential products that you can sell $5,000-$20,000 of each month with very little competition.

For me, I consider anything around $5,000-$9,999 in monthly sales a good product. Anything above this I consider a home run product. A good rule of thumb is to assume you have to mark up your costs by 300% (i.e. you buy something for $10 and sell it for $30). However, after all your costs are taken into account you will probably have a profit margin of around 20-30%

Take for example this horse grooming product below which is priced at $39.95. Assuming the product cost is $13.33 and a total inbound shipping cost of $2, AMZ Scout (a good profit estimation tool) predicts the total profit to be $12.38 per unit or 30.98% after all Amazon fees are taken into accountprofit margins ecommerce

To find these products, generally, I am looking at search volume first NOT existing product sales. A lot of people will use a tool like Jungle Scout to find products already selling well. This means lots of competition. It’s better to look at search volume first to identify products with lots of demand but, potentially, not a lot of supply or competitors.

I am looking for keywords with existing search volume of 1,000 to 2,500 searches a month. In my experience, for a product with a $50 price point, this will normally translate to a $5,000-$15,000/month product if I manage to get a top-10 search result on Amazon.

My favorite tool to do keyword research is Helium 10. It has very accurate sales keyword volume estimates and the most robust set of tools. The link above is an affiliate link and there are other tools that do keyword estimates as well.

Let’s imagine I plan to sell horse riding accessories. Using Helium 10’s Magnet keyword tool, I type in one of the top product ideas that first comes to mind: horse saddles.

helium 10 keyword research

I can see from my search that horse saddle gets about 5,000 searches a month which is too many based on my criteria. However, under Word Frequency I can start to get some other good ideas for potential products such as horse grooming, horse bag, etc.  However, I am going to go and input my search criteria to have a minimum of 1000 searches and a maximum of 2,500.

helium 10 keyword research refinement

After I apply my search filter, I now have an excellent list of some great potential products:

helium 10 keyword results

Now with this keyword volume, a lot of excellent potential product ideas come up including horse brush, horse grooming kits, and western saddle.

Now with these product ideas, I can focus on the next important step of finding successful products to sell on Amazon: product differentiation.

More Keyword Research with Helium10

Check out the video below to see how we use this tool to find the top keywords from our competitors so we can target them. Use the discount code Helium50 to get 50% off your first month of Helium 10.

Want more Helium 10 training? Subscribe to our free three part video course.

Product Differentiation 101

There’s one reason why most people fail when trying to sell products online: their products have no competitive advantage.

To create a competitive advantage for your products, they need to have either perceived or real differences from the competition. In other words, product differentiation.

There are two ways to make your product better:

  • Making actual physical changes to a product
  • Giving the impression of perceived physical differences

In low competition niches and products, simply having better marketing for your products (specifically, better photos, videos, product descriptions, and packaging) is often enough to differentiate your products from the competition. You don’t really need to change your products. However, for most products and niches you will need to actually change your product a bit.

Giving the Impression of Perceived Physical Differences – The Case of Coke vs Pepsi

Giving perceived and not real differences is a tried, tested, and true marketing strategy that nearly everyone has fallen for.

One of the most famous examples of the perception of a product not reflecting reality is between Pepsi and Coca Cola. Pepsi, in almost every blind taste test done, is almost always overwhelmingly chosen by consumers as the better tasting drink yet Coke holds a 42% market share compared to 30% for Pepsi. There’s a number of reasons for this but there’s no denying that one of the main reasons is the marketing behind Coke. Coke has made consumers perceive it is the superior product.

Take for example this Kent Mountain Bike. It has two photos, terrible bullet points, and ungroomed reviews.

An example of a product poorly optimized for Amazon.

By selling the exact same bike but improving the photography and description you could give the impression you, in fact, have a different and better bike.

How to Easily Differentiate Your Products

There are some very easy ways to physically differentiate a product with incremental product improvements. These ways include:

  • Make it in different colors
  • Make it in different sizes
  • Bundle it with accessories (i.e. pumps, stands, etc.)
  • Sell it in a multi-pack item
  • Make it out of a different material (i.e. a thicker rubber)
  • Dramatically improve the packaging

For some products, nearly every one of these incremental improvements has been made. Yoga balls are an example where it is perfectly marketed and has near-perfect incremental product improvements.

An example of near-perfect marketing and product optimization on Amazon.

However, many product categories are not perfectly optimized. Take, for example, the case of horse grooming kits, one of the potential products our keyword search revealed above. Immediately when searching for horse grooming kits I can see one easy differentiation possibility: simply bundling horse grooming gloves and a brush kit together.

bundling products on amazon

Why could this potentially work? For two reasons:

  • The horse grooming gloves are almost certainly a low-cost item where shipping makes up a significant portion of the cost and bundling it with another item would nearly eliminate this shipping cost.
  • These gloves are likely to be of demand and use for anyone purchasing a brush grooming kit.

Bundling opportunities like this exist in a lot of low to medium demand product categories.

Other Good and Bad Qualities of Products

Here are some other qualities to look for when searching for products to import and sell on Amazon:

  • Larger & Heavier Products: Small/light products that can be easily air shipped have much more competition largely due to the complexity of shipping items via sea.
  • Products That Sell for $25+: Higher priced items generally have higher margins which also allows for more money to be spent on paid advertising.
  • Products That Are Low Risk: When you import products from China, you are responsible for any damage/harm it causes. Avoid inherently dangerous products (i.e. baby products, hoverboards, etc).
  • Products That Are Labor-Intensive: The biggest cost advantages in China come when a product requires a lot of manual labor and little machine labor. Anything that requires a lot of cutting, sewing, screwing, packaging, etc. are going to be comparatively cheap to source from China. Other items that require a lot of machine labor, electronics being the obvious example, normally do not have a significant cost advantage to being made in China.
  • Products That Aren’t IP-Protected: IP, intellectual property, generally refers to products with trademarks and/or patents. If your product violates someone’s IP the product may be suspended from Amazon and/or you may be sued.

How to Keep Your Products Profitable

One of my favorite quotes is that revenues are vanity and profits are sanity.

Comparing revenue numbers in the world of ecommerce is an endemic problem. How many times do you hear someone proudly say they are a 7 figure seller? (I’m guilty of it myself!) The problem is that you can make lots of revenue and have no profit.

Generally, good net margins in an ecommerce business are 20-30% and can often hover closer to 10%, especially for larger businesses with more overhead. Check out our podcast where we broke down the exact numbers in our brands.

There are two ways to maximize your profit: maximize selling price and minimize costs. Differentiating your products is the best way to maximize the selling price. There are several components of minimizing costs but one of the best ways is to minimize your landed product cost. For lowering your landed costs, check out our Importing from China Mega Guide.

Conclusion

This article should give you a good starting point for finding a niche to build your ecommerce company around and then finding products to develop. This entire process can take an enormous amount of time. For my newest brand, I spent months just determining a niche and identifying product opportunities before beginning developing and marketing them. Ultimately, finding quality niches and products lay the foundation for a successful ecommerce business.

Do you have any questions regarding finding a niche or product? If so, feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.

  • About The Author: Dave Bryant

    Dave Bryant has been importing from China for over 10 years and has started numerous product brands. He sold his multi-million dollar ecommerce business in 2016 and create another 7-figure business within 18 months. He's also a former Amazon warehouse employee of one week.

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97 Comments

  • naomi bennett
    December 3, 2014 Reply

    Hi, your site is so helpful--thank you! My question is about product customization. I want to purchase a product that I see dozens of on alibaba, but I want it to have a different feature that I haven't seen anywhere. This is my selling point. How feasible/common/expensive is it to change specs on an existing product? Does this throw me into "inventor" world instead of importer, even if I'm not starting from scratch?

    • David Bryant
      December 3, 2014 Reply

      Hi Naomi,

      It depends on the level of customization that you are talking about. Of course any factory is happy to do it given the quantities are high enough but I suspect you would probably like to start with a smallish order. If the customization would require an entirely new mold and retooling the machinery that makes it, then you will be looking at quite high MOQs. If you want to add, for example, a third back pocket on a pair of pants that simply requires the seamstress to sew that extra pocket on, you should be able to find a factory happy to oblige.

      If your customization is a product improvement that the factory thinks will be an added selling feature, they may also be happy to build it so they can sell it to other clients. You might request they not sell it to your market, although these requests may or may not be honored.

      Feel free to give a vague description of the customization (you can make a close example to avoid revealing too much) and I can give you my thoughts.

  • Bryan
    March 1, 2015 Reply

    Hey David,

    Great article...especially insightful to pick niches the big boys aren't in.

    Two questions:
    1. How do you suggest a new seller such as myself approaches a manufacturer or agent on Alibaba? Should we have a signature with a fake title like "brand manager" or something similar to convey some sort of authority...or will they see through that kind of stuff?
    2. Once a potential product is chosen, what is your preferred method of market testing? (if any)

    • David Bryant
      March 4, 2015 Reply

      Hi Bryan,

      1) If you pretend to be a fortune 500 company, they'll read through you pretty quick :-) Plus, once you ask to import 10 widgets (instead of 10 containers) the act will be up. The truth of it is, even in medium sized businesses, the owner will often have a major role in importing products so there's no need to hide that you're the owner. You can even omit your title and put something as simple as Bryan, xyz company.

      2) It depends how you plan on selling the product. If you're selling it online, you can simply put it on your website, Amazon, ebay, etc. and trying selling a few. Asking customers for feedback after they've received the product is also extremely helpful. If selling brick and mortar, you should be more careful to ensure the product is completely up to snub. Retailers will often only give you once chance- so if you're selling a product with low quality standards (i.e. missing parts, instructions, etc) you likely won't get a second chance to improve it.

  • Ahmed
    May 4, 2015 Reply

    Hey David

    Great post here on dealing with a chinese product selection.
    I have been living in Guangzhou for the past 3 years,and all what you've written is amazingly to the point and true,but i think the best way to approach this as well is to modify or merge a current product adding a feature or two,even then a congested marketplace will note a product with a new or extra feature.

    • David Bryant
      May 6, 2015 Reply

      Yes- great point. Improving on a product is the logical evolution from importing a completely off the shelf product, but the latter is a great first step for the former :-)

  • Mae
    June 11, 2015 Reply

    I find when i'm on Alibaba or DHgate it's really difficult to tell the ranking of quality for their clothing. A lot of the pictures they use are from successful fashion companies. Are their ways to specifically find good quality clothing? My company is quite small so i'm also ordering small quantities which throws another problem into the mix. What would you suggest for a small business looking for small quantities of high quality women's clothing?

    • David Bryant
      June 15, 2015 Reply

      Hi Mae,

      Alibaba and Dhgate won't tell you about the quality of a Supplier's products- for better or worse you have to order samples and/or build a relationship with your Supplier. You'll want to order a sample of the fabric the Supplier is using at the very least. I did an interview with Steve Chou recently who imports handkerchiefs and you might find some useful information in the interview there: http://www.chineseimporting.com/interview-steve-chou-from-mywifequitherjob-com/

  • Danny
    June 26, 2015 Reply

    Hi David,

    Do you have any experience in custom molds?
    I'm being quoted 3 to 5k for a simple enough mold if a rubber object that is 12cm X 4cm X 6cm. Does that sound right to you?

    I keep reading about customisation and changing spec, but do we really need to pak 3k for custom mold?

    Thanks

    Ps. Love your blog
    D

    • David Bryant
      June 29, 2015 Reply

      Hi,

      I'm by no means a molds expert, but IMO it doesn't sound entirely off. Here's an American plastics company's overview of mold costs: http://www.rexplastics.com/faq.php. I would try and get a competing quote from another Supplier though. It should be noted, things like mold costs often go hand in hand with MOQs- if you order enough, they may offer to subsidize that mold cost a bit.

      • Don Root
        June 30, 2015 Reply

        My two cents worth regarding Danny's question about having custom molds made for a new product. I had the same issue a couple years ago on a product that I eventually had patented, but needed some down and dirty cheap plastic parts made.
        I scoured the local Craigslist and business directories and found a little old guy who had an injection molding machine in his garage of all places! Albeit primitive, he also had the metal working tools he needed to make the mold set that I needed for just a few hundred dollars using a mold set from a previous project he just made some modifications to.
        Scour the local industrial complexes where there are tiny mom and pop sheet metal and machining companies... likely someone will know somebody who can get this done for you! Hope this helps, all.
        -Don

        • David Bryant
          July 3, 2015 Reply

          Totally agree Don- I think it's a sign of the world we live in that people think the only place to get something manufactured is China :)

        • David Bryant
          August 10, 2015 Reply

          Hi Don,

          I've heard of similar stories. Some cities even have 'open shops' where you can pay an hourly fee to produce your own items. Here's a great podcast episode to listen to regarding this: http://www.ecommercefuel.com/the-roost/

  • charlene simboo
    September 29, 2015 Reply

    hi! im looking for gilmour gardening tools and spray cans,

    • David Bryant
      September 30, 2015 Reply

      Hi charlene,

      This is a trademarked product and you would have to contact Gilmour directly.

  • John
    November 10, 2015 Reply

    I thought that finding good "wholesalers" on the Internet would serve me well, Well, not so fast. I went to local wholesalers, some who don't have websites, and their prices for goods are insanely cheaper than those on the web. A dozen pair of diabetic socks for FOUR DOLLARS less than web sellers, no shipping too, since they are local.

  • Terry Johnson
    February 9, 2016 Reply

    I was wondering how you decide on what is a great, profitable product ?

    • David Bryant
      February 9, 2016 Reply

      Now that is way too broad of a question! :)

  • Mel
    March 1, 2016 Reply

    Hi Dave,
    I have a niche in mind, but there are already a lot of on-line stores in the arena. My question is, how do you decide if your idea is viable? For example, why did you c your niche? Was there no, or little, competition when you started?

    • David Bryant
      March 1, 2016 Reply

      Hi Mel,

      I chose my niche because I had a fair bit of knowledge in it and I was passionate about it. I simply started ordering small and seeing if things stuck. In fact, this is what I do today. With a Supplier I'll try and order as few of items as possible, list them, and hope to get sales traction. In today's Alibaba day, there's competition for nearly any products, but hopefully you're able to give yourself a competitive advantage on either marketing it better (great pictures are an easy way) or slightly improving the product.

      With that being said, it's much more important to chose a good industry opposed to product IMO.

  • paul
    August 8, 2016 Reply

    Hi,dave, i wanted to know if its normal lose money on your trial order from alibaba as i am paying a lot of money for shipping. i understand that it is air freight, however will future orders shipping price be different. thank you

    • David Bryant
      August 10, 2016 Reply

      Hi,

      Personally I never expect to make money on a trial order - but I always import with the expectation that I would be able to make a profit on the order if it was a larger quantity on subsequently lower freight costs.

  • mohammed rafee
    August 21, 2016 Reply

    Doing bags business in india. Well I'm not going to import any branded bags . I'm a new guy going to Guangzhou on October end for Canton fair . So it might be useful for me ¿¿¿¿ . And I'm buying bags from a importer which they are a sourcing agent they doing lot of stuffs here so they are filling a container with bags machines furniture automobile&etc . So my question is if I can could be direct importer from china which my goods can be cheaper wen I import fr my self Bt a main thing is I hav a small quantity of customer here .

    • David Bryant
      August 26, 2016 Reply

      Hi, I'm not sure what the question is? Are you asking if you can import directly instead of using a sourcing agent?

  • Viswanath. P
    August 26, 2016 Reply

    Hi David,I want to know about the adult diapers importing business may I know how is that businesses please send me the details to my gmail

    • David Bryant
      August 26, 2016 Reply

      Yes, I will email you a white paper on the strengths and weaknesses of importing diapers along with the full details of exactly how to do so shortly.

      • Marcus
        September 3, 2016 Reply

        :-)

  • Ash
    September 1, 2016 Reply

    Hi, I have limited experience in any aspect involving business but I have been thinking is importing a product a viable business. I have been thinking what product would be a good product. I have been thinking about storage cardboard boxes and other storage materials as I have come into problems with storage in my personal life and have trouble finding anything conviently. Do you think this type of product could be profitable?

  • Melissa
    September 29, 2016 Reply

    Hi Dave,
    I ordered something my children really wanted from China. There was only one U.S. Seller and they wanted thousands of dollars for the product. I was able to get it from China for 1/3 the cost. It took me a longtime to source a reputable manufacturer. Now I am inundated by people who also want one. I would like to start a business importing this new on the market product but where do I begin? I found the factory in China and my import customs agent to be outstanding and very legitimate. Now what do I do?
    Thanks,
    Melissa

    • David Bryant
      October 11, 2016 Reply

      Hi Melissa,

      Way too broad of a question but the Chinese Importing course is a good place to begin :)

  • John
    November 16, 2016 Reply

    Hi Dave, your blog is great. I want to refer to your articles/comments about finding a niche, and the one about starting with a product that retails for over $50. Referring to the articles about Model Railroading supplies and serving spoons ... great ideas! And I feel my ideas fit your comments regarding those niches; however, the expected retail for my first few items will only be $15-30. Am I destined to fail? ... or do I have a chance if they are niche products? (and certainly won't be available at the Big Box stores)

    • David Bryant
      November 22, 2016 Reply

      Hi John,

      There's plenty of people who do extremely well in that price range. For me personally it's not my target - especially with paid advertising costs per click often exceeding $0.5 for ANY product it doesn't leave a lot of room for error, but that's just my safety zone :)

  • Edward Francis
    May 11, 2017 Reply

    Hi Dave,
    Great blog, I wish I had read your article before I made some serious blunders.

    I am looking for some building products, for construction company's meeting green house agenda, what do you recommend.

    Kind regards,

    Edward Francis

    • David Bryant
      May 15, 2017 Reply

      Are you asking for what building products I recommend to import to make a bunch of money from?

      • Edward Francis
        May 18, 2017 Reply

        Yes, Dave.

  • Zack Gzouli
    May 28, 2017 Reply

    Hi David
    I want to import a product from China, maybe in hardware or kids toys, What do you think is the best product I could import from China to USA that has less risk and have consistent base of buyers please?
    Thank you

    • David Bryant
      June 1, 2017 Reply

      Hi Zack,
      If I knew those products I would be importing them myself :)

  • Rob
    June 18, 2017 Reply

    Dave-great info!
    I'm in the stage of targeting an item. Regarding marketing, Amazon & EBay, amongst others, are certainly viable avenues but would you not rule out, in addition, having your own website as well?

    • David Bryant
      June 19, 2017 Reply

      Hi Rob,

      Yes- for sure you should have your own website as well. See the latest blog post on eBay for a summary of the channels I suggest and the order I suggest in launching them.

  • Jason
    June 22, 2017 Reply

    Hi David,
    I'm going to be joining your Chinese Importing Course. Do you offer feedback as we go through the modules? I would like to run a product idea/niche by you for any obvious pitfalls. Thanks,

    Jason

    • David Bryant
      June 27, 2017 Reply

      Hi Jason - yes just send me an email (instructions from within the course to make sure I see it :))

      • Jason
        June 28, 2017 Reply

        Thanks, David. Will do. :)

  • Med
    August 22, 2017 Reply

    Hi dave, I'm planing to import from china to Australia. I want to go there myself and inspect the quality. My question is which city should I go ? Which city of china is the best for importing high quality products such as shoes, mobile accessories,

    • Dave Bryant
      August 24, 2017 Reply

      You should start by visiting a fair like the Canton Fair - see our guide for it on this site :)

  • wtf
    October 20, 2017 Reply

    step 3: dont choose a niche that competes with amaon
    step 4: use amazon category tree to find niche.

    ......................... lol

    • Dave Bryant
      October 22, 2017 Reply

      There's no contradiction - the Amazon category tree lists every category - it doesn't mean they're aggressive sellers in that category, especially with Amazon basics.

  • Celeste Premium
    January 11, 2018 Reply

    Do you know of any American manufacturers rather than manufacturers in China? Products just take so long to come in from China would love to get products from American manufactures.

    • Dave Bryant
      January 15, 2018 Reply

      There's tons (just ask Trump!). Check out this post here: https://www.ecomcrew.com/how-to-make-a-product-china-vs-the-usa-and-western-countries/

  • AJ
    January 31, 2018 Reply

    Hey Dave (or Mike),
    Mike mentioned on an earlier podcast that he uses his Credit card to pay suppliers, racking up rewards points.
    I'm guessing you guys aren't using Alibaba (2.8% cc fee) on these orders so how exactly do these factories in China accept credit card? Paypal fees are a killer so I'm guessing you're not using paypal.

    Thanks

    • Dave Bryant
      January 31, 2018 Reply

      I think Mike is paying mostly domestic suppliers and vendors, not overseas suppliers.

  • A
    February 3, 2018 Reply

    Hey guys,
    Wondering if you could answer this question for me. Sorry there's a lot of background to read first..

    This is my first order, and
    I have a few different pieces to my final product (bag, boxes, inserts) coming from different suppliers.
    I planned to have all the boxes put together and shipped together ocean to save me on air shipping the smaller supplier's orders separately, some of which are only 2 or 3 boxes.

    Well, the timing got really squeezed, and now I realize I may have screwed up the logistics despite my best efforts (and hiring a freight forwarding company).

    My shipping agent is telling me that I need to ask these suppliers for FOB terms. The suppliers are coming back and saying they don't want to do FOB, it's too expensive, as it seems there are base fees no matter how large the order that they must pay. I'm not sure if my agent realized that some of these orders are really really small, as in the 1-2 boxes range and less than 0.5 gross CBM, but he isn't exactly inspiring me with confidence with the way they're handling this or answering my questions.

    So my questions are two part.

    1. How do I handle this order? It's possible to get all the boxes to an ocean port together, but each supplier has to pay FOB? Meaning I'm gonna get hit with a big bill.

    2. How do I handle this in the future? Ideally , I'll have the suppliers ship everything to the main factory, where they will put the finishing touches on the boxing so that everything is together and there are no more assembling steps... Do I just have EXW terms with those smaller suppliers and have the bigger supplier put this on onto their invoice, pretending that the extra supplies came from them? Also, done this way, I think i can't use alibaba, because Baba orders need separate shipping confirmation details entered...

    thanks for your help, as always.

    • Dave Bryant
      February 3, 2018 Reply

      1. You need to either ask your Supplier for FOB terms (and tell them you'll pay extra) or tell your agent youll pay the extra fees for EXW. The biggest cost for your Suppliers with FOB is getting the goods from their warehouse to the port. Depending on the size of the order it will probably be $200-300 extra each.
      2. Yes have everyone send it to the main suppliers. As for Alibaba, I never use their trade assurance program (or whatever they call it) but if it's a problem just don't use it :) Most people for larger orders just use alibaba as a directory, not as an actual ordering platform.

    • Dave Bryant
      February 3, 2018 Reply

      1. Your supplier likely will have no problem shipping fob but you'll have to pay for it. The freight cost from your suppliers factory to the port will be the most expensive component- some suppliers can be hundreds of miles from the port. Expect to pay $200-300~ for each shipment. If your supplier insists on EXW let your forwarder know the terms are EXW and to charge you accordingly.
      2. Yes have them all ship to the main supplier and consolidated there. I'm not familiar with alibaba's trade assurance program (I never use it) but on larger orders you can't use it anyways so if it's a problem, just don't use it :) Just pay your suppliers directly.
      Please follow up with how you make out. It's valuable insight for other readers :)

      • A
        February 3, 2018 Reply

        Dave thanks for the reply. here's my update as promised.

        My confusion mainly stemmed from my desire to combine several orders and my FF being unaware of this.
        I think both of us share responsibility for the misunderstanding, them for not paying the attention they should have and me being the inexperienced first-time buyer.

        My FF and suppliers then were telling me that separate FOB costs for these small orders was cost prohibitive, and I might as well ship it by air. They did not know I wanted to combine orders, as that is not something they are supposed to get involved in.

        Because I didn't plan well enough combining is not possible this order and i will need to pay extra $1500 or more.

        My lesson from this is that now I know how the process works, next order I will plan so that my orders are consolidated into my main supplier's warehouse where they will assemble the different suppliers' orders together for me. The smaller suppliers' terms will be EXW and this will be outside Alibaba now that I have a relationship with them. I guess they will function as a local supplier that provides goods domestically to my main supplier, who will then list everything together on one packing invoice and packing list.
        This gets into a gray area that my FF couldn't admit to having knowledge of; they are supposed to just ship what's on the PL/PI and that's where their involvement ends.

        Going forward I think this is just one of those lessons you need to learn as you go through it. Next order I will be more prepared for sure.

        Thanks again for this awesome resource.

        • Dave Bryant
          February 3, 2018 Reply

          First orders always have a bunch of 'gotchyas'. It happens to everyone - I just paid $1000 in a poor estimate of ground shipping costs in China around Chinese New Year. By the second and third order though you should have all those wrinkles ironed out and you'll hopefully make a bunch more money :)

  • Usman
    May 10, 2018 Reply

    Hi David,
    hope you will be fine.

    i want to start a new small import business could you please advise me the list of products which will helpful to make profit in Pakistan.

    • Dave Bryant
      May 17, 2018 Reply

      nope- it varies from person to person. I can only give you general tips, not specific products :)

  • Helen Tana
    July 14, 2018 Reply

    Hi Dave

    I found a niche here in Australia can I email you

    • Dave Bryant
      July 16, 2018 Reply

      We limit our private 1 on 1 support to premium members but you can ask anything here :)

  • Gary
    September 12, 2018 Reply

    Hi, Thankyou for the information. I want to ask If Im not selling to US and not selling on amazon. (I sell products on my country). Still i get values from joining ecomcrew premium ? Thankyou

    • Dave Bryant
      September 15, 2018 Reply

      Hi Gary,

      We cover a lot about product development and sourcing so I suspect you would still find plenty of value.

  • Sean
    October 27, 2018 Reply

    Hey mister man - thanks for the lovely knowledge - just a quick typo for you: (shipping items via air from China has a lot lower investment cost than shipping via air) ... should end with *sea, I assume. =)

    • Dave Bryant
      November 7, 2018 Reply

      Thank you!

  • Cristian
    December 4, 2018 Reply

    Great info, as always! Best podcast out there also.

    Keep it up!

    • Dave Bryant
      December 5, 2018 Reply

      Thank you!

  • Gourav Jain
    December 6, 2018 Reply

    Thanks for the detailed guide. Will try to implement the suggested techniques and see how it goes.

  • Libi Vee
    December 6, 2018 Reply

    Great knowledge. Thank you!

  • Jason Massey
    December 7, 2018 Reply

    Several things in here that I had no idea of. Thanks

  • Diana
    December 10, 2018 Reply

    Thank you guys! Very useful information

  • moshe
    December 10, 2018 Reply

    Thanks for the detailed guide. Love listening to your podcast as well as reading the blog.

  • Kassandra
    December 11, 2018 Reply

    Thank you for sharing such a great guide!
    You're absolutely right, 98% of the sellers first find the product and don't even think about the niche, they just jump right to making it. I always like to think of the brand first and what it has to offer rather then BINGO! I found my product.

    Another issue that I've seen over and over again is supposedly finding a product, taking 2-3 month to develop and send it to Amazon and by then the niche is flooded by Chinese sellers with a very similar product and a ridiculously low price.

    Personally, I'm all for real differences that can be found in:
    - ordering competing products and looking at what they lack
    - Amazon Q&A
    - the competitor reviews
    & even keyword research
    They should all be able to give you very good ideas on exactly what you can improve.
    Don't get me wrong, bundles are great BUT they're very difficult to capture in a photoshoot or emphasize in a listing. Besides, the accessories are usually of lower quality which, to me, is no differentiator.

    I'm a BIG fan of oversize products simply because most courses advise sellers to invest in like 1000 pcs of small & list inventory whereas those products are just too competitive and finding and advantage is very difficult for someone who's just starting out.

    Quick tip: open a company outside of the US to steer clear of any legal issues. It's quick, it's cheap and it could really save your business.

    There's a pretty good course on Lynda about how to search for and read a patent. That has come in handy quite a few times over the years. Amazon does not take these things lightly and the patent holder either wants Amazon monopoly or will make you pay royalties.

    Thanks again for all the great info!

    • Dave Bryant
      December 20, 2018 Reply

      Awesome tips Kassandra! Never even really thought about the benefits of opening an overseas company that's far away from the grasps of the American legal system.

      I believe this is the course for anyone us reading this: https://www.lynda.com/Business-Communication-tutorials/How-search-existing-patents/365278/441558-4.html

  • Ernesto
    December 12, 2018 Reply

    I had no idea about the deal between China and USPS, that's unbelievable!!! I would think that the US Government would want US sellers to profit and have successful businesses since the money will be spent here...... My question is, do we as US based sellers have any type of deal like this with another country? So we could target shipping to that country. :)

    • Dave Bryant
      December 20, 2018 Reply

      Hehe, unfortunately it's setup where developing countries get a discount and higher income countries pay more.

  • Jwy
    December 28, 2018 Reply

    Hey Dave let me get this straight all I do is go online amazon ect.....and find products that I can make improvements on or sell cheaper online on your own website??? Not sure how it works but to find out thanks really I interesting please lmk how

    • Dave Bryant
      January 8, 2019 Reply

      Yes, "all" you do is build awesome products like the instant pot and checks roll in :)

  • Jason Massey
    January 15, 2019 Reply

    Very helpful , especially the spreadsheet of the 5th level categories. Thanks

    • Dave Bryant
      January 17, 2019 Reply

      Thank you.

  • Ben
    January 17, 2019 Reply

    Hi and thank you for the quality of the information you give.
    As Gary said above, I would like to create a online business but not selling in the US and maybe not by Amazon. In addition I do not want to import from China, so I don’t think your site is good for me. What’s your point of view on that ?
    Is there still a value that I joint ecomcrew premium ? If not could you suggest me another good site that could help me doing what I want ? Any suggestion ?
    Thank you very much in advance.

    • Dave Bryant
      January 19, 2019 Reply

      Hi Ben - about half of our audience is non-american so that part isn't an issue. However, if you're not building a private label brand importing from China or selling on Amazon then that probably leaves dropshipping. Nothing wrong with this, but, for better or worse, that's not the focus of Premium

  • Peter Aikins
    January 28, 2019 Reply

    Great article. Thanks for the categories spreadsheet. Can you explain, how we can go about refreshing that spreadsheet as Amazon does make changes to the tree from time to time. Many thanks.

    • Dave Bryant
      February 1, 2019 Reply

      The spreadsheet is for niche idea generation - the actual structure might change but the number/types of categories should be relatively stable.

  • john Mwenda rimbere
    February 7, 2019 Reply

    Kindly am asking if i can import African ornaments from Kenya and sell via amazon?

    • Dave Bryant
      February 8, 2019 Reply

      You'd need to check with a customs broker but I can't imagine any problems assuming they don't have any restricted materials in them.

  • Hans Witthoeft
    February 24, 2019 Reply

    Hey Dave,
    You guys have great content! I'm just getting into Amazon FBA. Living on Vancouver Island and selling in the US. I'm very tempted to join the Ecomcrew Premium class.

    • Dave Bryant
      February 27, 2019 Reply

      Hi Hans - we'd love to see you there.There's several Canadians with us. We try and make Premium very hands on, so I don't think you'd be disappointed :)

  • moshe cohen
    April 4, 2019 Reply

    Hi Dave and Mike
    Great work on the blog and podcast!! I am really enjoying listening to you guys. Just starting out so not ready yet for premium but learning a TON from all the free stuff you guys put out. I have a quick question about your statement "A good rule of thumb is to assume you have to mark up your costs by 300%" (or buy for x, sell for 3, 4, or 5x - I have heard Mike talk about moving into the sell for 4 or 5x range). My question is when you say this - are you referring to manufacturer's (FOB) cost or your landed costs? So does the 300% markup cover the shipping, as well as advertising and other expenses (and profit of course) or are you talking about 300% mark up of the landed cost?
    Thanks

    • Dave Bryant
      April 5, 2019 Reply

      Hi Moshe - normally we're assuming a 300-400% markup on the FOB cost (so not taking into account shipping and other costs). That's why the 3-4x cost markup is needed :)

  • Garry
    May 18, 2019 Reply

    superlove this, really like your content Mike and Dave. This blog post strategy can be used instantly in any e-commerce business and I found. Thanks!

  • yupoo shoes
    June 18, 2019 Reply

    Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage?
    My blog site is in the exact same area of interest as yours and my users would
    definitely benefit from some of the information you provide here.
    Please let me know if this okay with you. Appreciate
    it!

    • Dave Bryant
      June 20, 2019 Reply

      As long as it is under 100 words that you're quoting :)

  • Ann
    September 30, 2019 Reply

    Hi Dave,

    i've a couple of questions.

    You mentioned about starting off small when first getting started.

    1) What's the qty of the product would you consider to be a good start to buy to do a test-run?
    2) If we were to start with a small qty, would it be better to buy from sites like aliexpress or 1688 rather than going direct to alibaba as most suppliers from alibaba would likely quote for 100's if not 1000's.
    3) Do you source all on you own or do you use a sourcing agent?

    Lastly, do have an article or podcast where you cover the launching of a new product using only PPC ? for the first test run, I suppose because of the small qty that we will be buying, not likely to be able to do give-away and as such PPC would the only option.

    Ann

    • Dave Bryant
      October 3, 2019 Reply

      1) 25-100 units.
      2) Aliexpress maybe. 1688 is even less likely to give you low MOQs than Alibaba.com
      3) On my own.

      Check out https://www.ecomcrew.com/amazon-product-launch-strategy-focusing-on-off-amazon-traffic/

  • Maadhav
    October 20, 2019 Reply

    Great info, Thanks, Dave.
    Question on Differentiation: if we make changes to the product like design, functionality, bundle, material, size.. etc.. How to validate the changes we made to the product..?
    How to make sure changes are actually required to customers and have demand for those changes.
    Thanks.

    • Dave Bryant
      October 30, 2019 Reply

      Best way is to launch small and see if it sells :)

  • Ann
    October 24, 2019 Reply

    Hi Dave,

    You mentioned you use low search volume keywords to start off your search for potential products. What other criteria are you using beside just search volume?

    If we are looking for products that can potentially bring us a revenue of $5000 to$10,000, many a times, products with such low search volume is also an indication of the low demand and hence unlikely to give us the desired revenue.

    Also, in using such a low search volume keywords as the main keyword, how do you decide the use of more relevant keywords? The search volume of other relevant keywords would likely be even lower. In totality, what amount of search volume would you consider, when adding up all keywords search volume, to be sufficient in deciding on a product?

    Ann

    • Dave Bryant
      October 30, 2019 Reply

      Ultimately I'm looking at products that can bring in somewhere around $10,000/month. There's two parts of the equation: search volume and then conversion rate. Search volume is easy to estimate; conversion rate not so much as there's a lot of factors that can impact it, i.e. i.e.how differentiated am I making the product (if it's more it'll lean towards higher conversion rates), the number of competitors, etc.

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