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Electrical Safety Standards For US Importers: By Joey Kwok of CMA Testing

electrical safety

Today, US ecommerce companies and Amazon sellers, import electronics directly from Chinese manufacturers – without even having a basic understanding of product safety requirements and liability.

Electronics are high risk products. Reports of unsafe lithium batteries and chargers are frequent.

A major reason for this is the lack of information on what US electronics importers must do to ensure compliance. Believe it or not, but for many electronic products, there are not even mandatory safety standards.

Hence, many believe that they don’t need to care about compliance when importing power banks, or any widget that comes with an AC adapter.

That is not the case.

If, or when, something goes wrong – you will be liable. If someone is injured, or if property is damaged, you might be looking at millions of dollars in losses. It’s game over.

Instead, Importers and Amazon sellers must rely on ‘voluntary standards’ from UL and ETL, that are ‘de facto’ mandatory. At least for anyone who want to sleep at night.

These things are complex, but absolutely essential.

Luckily, we have worked with Joey Kwok Deputy Manager of CMA Testing in Hong Kong, and a leading expert on US electronic product regulations.

Notice: Be sure to read this one at least two or three times, and feel free to ask questions in the comment section below.

Joey, please tell us a bit about what you do at CMA Testing in Hong Kong

CMA Testing, is a well-known third party assurance body with rapid global expansion, specializes in testing, inspection and certification services.

Our worldwide networks have been spreading out rapidly to Asia, Middle East, Europe and North America.

Our compliance services cover toys, consumer electronics and electrical products, textiles & garments, materials, chemicals, food & food contact articles, furniture, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, environmental and more. Continue Reading →

How to Write a User Manual When Importing Products to the EU: By Tom van de Wiel

tom manualise

Product manuals, or user guides, are not just ‘nice to have’. At least if you are importing and selling in the European Union.

They are absolutely essential to many product categories, as product manuals are mandatory.

I am aware of several cases, when the customs authorities have seized shipments, simply because the product was not bundled with a manual.

So, we decided to ask an expert, Tom van de Wiel, CEO of Manualise.

In this interview, with one of Europe’s leading experts in this area, you will learn the following:

  • What kind of products require a manual?
  • In which cases is a product manual not required?
  • What information must be included in the manual?
  • What can happen if I don’t have a manual?

Continue Reading →

How to Improve the Supplier Response Rate on Alibaba.com

wayne-qulito

If you’ve ever tried to reach out to suppliers on Alibaba.com, you know how hard it can be to make them respond to your request for quotation.

That said, Alibaba suppliers often have good reasons for not responding to inquiries.

In this interview, Wayne Zhang explains what you can do to improve your Alibaba supplier response rate, which communication apps to use and much more.

Wayne, please tell us about yourself and how you got into sourcing

Oh my, unfortunately, I do not think this will be a type of an answer that packs in a lot of “Hollywood” like action, but just a plain simple reality. I used to work for a company that provided similar services to foreign clients from around the globe.

And, truth be told I worked there for a while, right after I graduated from University.

I studied commerce, and one of my foreign languages was English, so it seemed like a great idea at the time, and it was. My responsibilities included finding clients, going through their requests, find products at a price they requested, place an order and make sure the final shipment was sent out. So, I did everything from door to door, sort of speak.

I considered this to be a great start of my career because already back then I saw myself working in this industry for a long time because, in my opinion, it had potential.

I was right.

I learned a lot while working for my first company and it equipped me with a very valuable set of skills that eventually proved to be very advantageous in building my own business. I knew that I want to have my own company one day, so I worked hard, saved money and just went for it. Continue Reading →

OEM Electronics Production in Shenzhen: From BoM to Prototype

Paul

Shenzhen is the epicenter for electronic manufacturing. Here, you can find suppliers for everything from power banks to VR headsets.

The ecosystem is also very open. Even the smallest startup will find suppliers that are interested in working with them. Yet, understanding how to practically go from a Bill of Materials (BoM), to a finished product, is a lot more complex than it might first seem.

In this article, Paul W, the founder of Victure China, explains how startups can do exactly that.

Paul, please tell us a bit about yourself and the story behind Victure China

I’ve ‘been in the consumer electronics field since 2000. I have worked with major manufacturers such as OEM manufacturers Compaq and HP in quality control, project and sales management and international marketing.

I have helped develop digital cameras, card readers, smart phones, power banks and Bluetooth products. While in these positions I was fortunate to travel the world and interact with other cultures. This prompted me to branch out on my own in 2006 as Victure Inc.

For 2 years my business was flourishing, but the financial crisis of 2008 hit me hard. During the 2 years following 2008 I learned a lot about the good and bad of suppliers and manufacturers.

One experience that went bad was my trusting suppliers to give me the correct product. But no.

By missing an inspection this great customer now had become a hesitant customer, therefore resulting in lost business.

Don’t forget the financial crisis was just around the corner. To compound the problem suppliers would quote you one cost and the next day another.

How can an honest sourcing agent deal with these inaccuracies? There is only one way to fix this major problem, become a China supply chain company.

By starting my own supply chain business of sourcing I could avoid the past problems. With this experience I felt I could help international buyers who have had similar issues.

No more hoping manufacturers would get the product right. By offering buyers quality inspections and follow up throughout the process I could make sure the buyer gets what he actually wants.

In 2012 I hired my first employee, and developed my corporate philosophy of honesty, persistence, professionalism and innovation. This was not just a slogan, but a spirit embedded throughout my members and partners.

If you are up front and honest business will eventually come your way with hard work. With this type of business acumen I have experienced an 80% retention rate of my customers from beginning to end. Continue Reading →

How to Launch a Premium Leather Accessories Brand: By Helen Berg

Helen Berg

In manufacturing, you ‘get what you specify’. Even though ‘Made in China’ is generally not synonymous with the same quality as ‘Made in Italy’ or ‘Made in Japan, the country has an exceptional manufacturing base that, when utilized in the right way, can deliver consistently high quality products.

Helen Berg,  the founder Charleston Belt, explains how they manage everything from finding the right manufacturer – to getting the product specifications right.

In addition, Helen explains how they leverage multiple sales channels, including Amazon, Google Shopping and B2B sales, to get their product on the market.

Helen, please tell us a bit about yourself and what you did before starting your current business

Before starting Charleston Belt I was an executive in a company that provided data analytics services for healthcare claims. Over my career in “Corporate America” the majority of my former employers were large, multi-national corporations where I did extensive international travel and managed employees and contractors across Europe and Asia.

These experiences gave me exposure to global commerce, and the impact that the Internet-fueled digital transformation has had on global commerce. Some of the biggest impacts that I experienced were opportunities for small, entrepreneurial firms to participate in global commerce and the emergence of “micro-multinational” companies.

What made you choose importing leather accessories?

First, a bit about our product – our mission is to design and produce high quality accessories that capture the essence of outdoor living and the richness of our diverse cultural heritage. We are relentless in ensuring we produce quality, timeless styles that coordinate well with casual and dress fashions for men of all ages.

In addition to our own unique designs, we also produce custom products for specialty shops, country clubs, boating clubs etc.

We use a contract-manufacturing model for our product. Our design team does the creation internally, then we outsource the production.

We are based in the U.S., and actually looked extensively at U.S.-based firms in addition to companies outside the U.S. before making the decision to contract the majority of the work outside the U.S. The primary reasons were their ability to handle the entire process and the production cost.

To explain further, many of our products are hand-made. In particular, our needlepoint belts fall into this category. The firms we work with have hundreds of artisans and can produce the quantities we need in a relatively short time frame.

But a bigger advantage to us is their ability to vertically integrate the process, by doing all of the leather work as well.

The firms we evaluated in the U.S. could each do part of the process, but then we would need to ship the goods between the firms to complete the process. That would have extended the production time and the cost by a large margin.

So we developed a rigid supplier qualification process to find firms outside the U.S. that could perform the work to our high quality standards and also at a time frame and cost that met our needs. Continue Reading →

How to Launch Your First Custom Design Product on Kickstarter: By Ivelin Demirov

Kickstarter Journal

What do you do when you’ve spent months, or even years, developing a new product – only to see it fail? Ask Ivelin Demirov, a Bulgarian-Canadian Industrial Designer, with more than 240 (!) products launches under this belt.

And, he designed them all, including these:

  • Learn Javascript Visually Book
  • Enigmaze Secure Password Journal
  • Clever Kebab
  • Radiance Planner

Ivelin is one of our readers, and in this article, he explains his framework for finding the right product idea, and how you can test it out on Kickstarter – before spending too much time and money on a product concept that will not sit well with the marketplace.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you did before starting your current business

Ivelin DIn 2001 I was working as a graphic and web designer while doing my master’s degree in Industrial Design Engineering. I was very interested in marketing and online sales at the same time. It felt naturally to combine both worlds and my first product was born “10 fingers typing system”.

It did well enough to spark my interest in developing custom designed products and sell them through different channels.

16 years later, I designed, developed and manufactured over 240 products, successfully funded and delivered 9 Kickstarter projects and was an “American Dreams” guest on HSN TV.

How did you decide which products to launch?

Most of my early products failed because i was going after my gut feeling about the ideas i had. Some did okay. I wanted to know why some product sell well some don’t.

They were all brilliant to me. This first thing i learned is that I need to understand the market very well and the product should Solve a problem.

I came up with a S.E.X. formula which i use to this day.

Every product should: Solve a problem. Elevate status. eXcite.

The Solving a problem criteria is the most important but not always enough. If i had the 3 in a product that i was sourcing or developing, i had a winner.

Now, every time i go for a new product, I follow a passion of mine (guarantees that i know the market) and I check for my S.E.X. formula. Continue Reading →

How to Deal with Post-Sales Quality Issues: By Renaud Anjoran

after sales quality issues

When quality issues are found during a pre-shipment inspection, there’s still time to correct them before the product enters the market. However, some quality issues only appear after the product’s been used for a few weeks, or even months, by the consumer.

At this stage, your product may still be covered by a warranty – but don’t expect any replacement units or refunds from your supplier.

For example, chargers explode, and glued parts may start falling off. Or the batteries die out long before they’re supposed to.

Such quality issues are not only hard to prevent, but can also ruin your business – especially if you’re selling on Amazon.com.

In this post, Renaud Anjoran at Sofeast in Shenzhen, explains how you can identify and prevent potential after sales quality issues – using a tried and tested framework for Importers.

Can you give us a few examples of typical quality issues that may show weeks or even months after a product is sold?

Let’s first look at electronic product Failures.

Anything electronics-related inherently has a percentage of failure at some point, and this percentage probability depends on the complexity of the product. A simple switching mechanism driven by some logic control would be more robust than something with a printed circuit board involving thousands of components.

Another major factor is the environment in which the product is used. If the product is submersed in water, used in a harsh environment, or under constant vibration, it might stop working much earlier.

One product comes to mind immediately. A time-delayed fault caused worldwide news headlines, for the wrong reasons. I bet you remember the hoverboards whose lithium-ion battery packs overheated and caught fire. Continue Reading →

How to use Hong Kong as a Fulfillment Center: By FloShip

floship interview

These days it’s common that Ecommerce companies don’t start with one target market in mind. Instead, European importers start selling in the US and EU on day one, and vice versa.

For Startups, it’s expensive to ship stock from the manufacturer to several countries – not to mention how complicated it can be to get a grip of taxes and customs procedures in all those countries.

This is why more companies are using Hong Kong as their main fulfillment center. From Hong Kong, a freeport in southern China with no import duties, you can ship products directly to customers in the US, Europe and the Asia Pacific Region.

In this interview with Steve Suh at Floship in Hong Kong, you will learn how your business can save time and money using Hong Kong as a fulfillment center.

Steve Suh, please tell us a bit more about yourself and your work at Floship in Hong Kong

I am Korean-American from Philadelphia. I Embarked on my start-up career in Shanghai, where I got involved with a Sequoia Capital backed start-up called MyLuxBox, a cosmetics subscription box start-up that later got acquired by jumei.com.

After that exit, I joined China’s largest cross-border e-commerce logistics company 4PX, where I gained knowledge on the industry and led me to kick-start Floship, a platform catered to international merchants – whereas 4PX was China merchant focused.

Regarding work at Floship Hong Kong, started in February 2015, went though a couple rounds of funding led by prominent Asia VC’s and angel investors.

To date we’ve raised more than USD 7 million and, as we continue growing and adding new products, for example, we are soon launching a FBA prep service, a China ecommerce B2C inbound channel, global warehouses and a few other projects we are excited about but aren’t ready to disclose yet that will continue to make it easier for online sellers of all sizes to take advantage of marketplaces globally and participate in the world economy in ways never before possible.

Many of our readers want to know if it’s possible to deliver products, one piece at a time, directly from Mainland China or Hong Kong – to their customers all over the world. Is this possible today?

Yes. This is one of Floship’s most popular offerings.

As far as whether or not this model is possible – it is now at a mature state: it has been going on for over 10 years .

Due to the high volume of e-commerce cross border shipments from China and Hong Kong, there are now cost effective and fast shipping options that have opened up to facilitate cross border trade. Continue Reading →

Barcodes for Amazon Sellers & Ecommerce: By Ricky Jones of GS1UK

Ricky Jones GS1UK

Do Amazon sellers and Ecommerce companies really need barcodes, or is it a mere relic that is about to be swept aside? And, if you really need a barcode, how do you get them? These, and many other questions, are answered by Ricky Jones at GS1UK.

In this Q&A, you will learn how Amazon sellers and Ecommerce companies can use barcodes to track and protect their brands, save on logistics costs and cut delivery times.

Ricky, please tell us a bit about yourself and your work at GS1UK

I work in the marketplaces team at GS1 UK. We focus ourselves on our SME members and helping them to trade online.

Before joining the marketplaces team I’ve worked in quite a broad range of marketing roles. I’ve always had more of a digital focus with expertise particularly around SEO and launching websites for international markets. Although, have had the chance to lead much wider marketing projects also – brand development as well as content and communications. Continue Reading →

VAT for Ecommerce and Amazon Sellers in the EU: By SimplyVAT

Alex Wyatt

In the European Union, you must pay VAT on both the imported products, and add VAT when selling to customers in various EU member states. Given that there are 28 EU member states, all with their own VAT rates and registration procedures, it can be mind numbing to get a grip on how VAT actually works when importing products from Asia – and selling them in the EU.

So, why not just ask an expert, such as Alex Wyatt at SimplyVAT?

Said and done, we wrote a list of questions that cover all major VAT scenarios:

a. Importing to Country A and selling in Country A

b. Importing to Country A and selling in Country B

c. Company in Country A, importing to Country B and selling to Country C

d. Non-EU companies importing to, and selling in, an EU member state

Alex, please tell us a bit about what you do at SimplyVAT

After starting at SimplyVAT just over a year ago, I now lead the business development team in the UK and China.

SimplyVAT helps e-commerce sellers VAT register and comply in all 28 EU countries and Canada. We provide our clients with a proactive approach to their VAT needs to help their businesses grow internationally, and sustainably.

Say that I am based in the UK, and importing products to the UK. How and when do I pay VAT?

If your company is based in the UK, and you are importing stock and holding products within the UK, there are a few things to take note.

As a UK registered company, you do not have to VAT register until you have reached £85,000 turnover within a 12 month period. During this time, you do not charge VAT on your products nor can you reclaim import VAT. As a UK company, you will still be required to include corporation tax on profits in your margins.

You can also voluntarily VAT register before you have reached £85,000. Once VAT registered, there are two types of VAT you should be aware about:

1. Sales VAT
2. Import VAT Continue Reading →