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.
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.
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.
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:
Enigmaze Secure Password Journal
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
In 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”.
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.
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.
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 Barcodes for Amazon Sellers & Ecommerce: By Ricky Jones of GS1UK
Importing medical devices from China requires full compliance with all applicable safety standards and regulations in the destination market. For many Startups looking to import medical devices, it can hard to even know where to look for information.
So, we decided to ask an expert.
In this Interview, Jason Lim, co-founder of Stendard, explains everything that you must know before importing and selling any product that may be classified as a medical device.
Jason, please introduce yourself and Stendard
I’m Jason Lim, CEO and co-founder of Stendard, a cloud-based platform that help companies generate documents to meet international regulations, such as ISO 13485 and US FDA 21 CFR of the medical device industry.
Having experience working with the local government, technology incubators and innovative companies here, I personally feel there are still a lot of improvements to be done when it comes to the entire compliance ecosystem (both from the industries’ and authorities’ standpoint).
That’s why I started the company together with Vincent Lim, COO of Stendard.
Our aim is to make compliance easily understood for businesses so to encourage standards adoption. This includes the usage of technology to accelerate the speed of document creation and management.
You can find a supplier for anything on Alibaba.com. There are often too many supplier, rather than too few. As such, you might find yourself trying to navigate between hundreds of different suppliers in the same product category – all with varying levels of expertise (or lack thereof).
Rather than flying to China and visit 200 suppliers, you need to use information available on Alibaba.com, to identify the supplier that is the right choice for your business.
And that is exactly what this interview with Gary Huang, founder of 80/20 Sourcing in Shanghai, is about.
Gary, tell us a bit about yourself and how you started 80/20 sourcing
I’m originally from the US and born and raised in Los Angeles. I’ve been working and living in Shanghai since 2008. Some people say the sourcing is like a black box.
Since I am a 2nd generation Chinese American and being culturally and linguistically fluent in both cultures and countries – I have an unfair advantage in being able to do better business between China and the US.
I started 80/20 Sourcing because I saw that a lot of online Sellers and small business owners were struggling with sourcing products from China.
Global Sources started as a media company more than four decades ago, and has now evolved into both a leading supplier directory (2nd largest after Alibaba) and trade show.
This combination makes Global Sources unique, as it acts a hub for both buyers and suppliers – both offline and online.
In this interview, with Meghla Bhardwaj, head of content marketing at Global Sources in Singapore, explains why startups and e-commerce businesses should use their directory – and attend the upcoming trade shows and conferences in Hong Kong.
1. Meghla, please tell us a bit about yourself and how you started working at Global Sources
I’ve been working at Global Sources for about 17 years. I started in the India office where I wrote sourcing-related articles for our magazines, and managed the freelancer network there.
Then I moved to the Philippines office in 2003, where I led a team in Manila and China producing the company’s research reports, China Sourcing Reports. This is when I started traveling to China, touring factories and meeting with suppliers there.
In 2006, I moved to China where all the action was. I lived in Shenzhen for 9 years, where I visited hundreds of factories, worked with suppliers and buyers, and got a good understanding of how the supply chain works, and the issues buyers face when sourcing from China.
More recently, I’ve been working with Amazon and online sellers, trying to understand their pain points, and helping determine how Global Sources can meet their specific needs.
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