7 Common mistakes to avoid when shipping from China to FBA

This is a guest post from Leeline Sourcing. Leeline Sourcing is a China shipping agent that can help with your sourcing and shipping to the US.

International shipping from China to FBA is a time-consuming process, least of all because of the distance your products have to travel. There’s a lot of space and steps in between getting your items manufactured at the source and successfully getting them into FBA. Unfortunately, that process is riddled with mistakes.

Avoiding them takes thorough planning, communication, and a good understanding of a number of regulations, from customs to FBA requirements.

To prevent losing time and money, we’ve compiled the most common mistakes we’ve seen when shipping from China to FBA and how to avoid them. This post should equip first-time and veteran sellers alike with a checklist to use whenever they want to send items into FBA from overseas.

9 Common mistakes we’ve seen when shipping from China into FBA (and how to avoid them)

1. Assuming everything will go according to schedule

You can plan everything out, from product research to the best manufacturers to partner with, and sometimes things just don’t work out. For example, you may underestimate the time it takes for items to reach the US, or you could run into a hiccup at customs.

You should always have contingency plans for when shipments are delayed. This could include working with more than one manufacturer, or finding a local backup supplier that is slightly more expensive than your manufacturing process, but can help you restock in a pinch. It can also mean reordering when you have plenty of inventory, and prepping and storing those items locally to provide some padding.

If your shipment is late, without a proper contingency plan, your listing could stock out before you’re able to replenish inventory, opening up your buyers (and any high search result positions you achieved) for competitors.

2. Not researching a new manufacturer or getting enough details

Sometimes it’s tempting to rush into a new deal and start selling right away. Or you may have found a great price from a new manufacturer and want to lock it in.

Before signing a contract or shifting your reliance onto that manufacturer, you should find out a few things:

  • The specific manufacturing process and requirements for your product.
  • China’s export requirements.
  • Your manufacturer’s expected shipping time.
  • Any holidays the manufacturer observes.

All of those things affect the production quality, shipping process, and delivery time of your goods. Without a good understanding of those basic details, you could find yourself with a sub-par product, late deliveries, or unexpected delays.

Tip: Most sellers already know about Chinese Lunar New Year. However, there’s also the Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn festival, and other holidays to keep an eye out for.

Read: TOP 20 China Manufacturing Cities and what they are known for.

3. Proceeding with an order even if the sample had a small defect

Sometimes sellers will get a sample from their manufacturer that has a small problem, or isn’t exactly what they wanted (different color, missing part, etc.). Then, a manufacturer might say, “Now that we know that’s the case, your full order will be made to specification.”

Don’t proceed with your order if this happens. Even if their price is right, this supplier is likely unreliable and irresponsible. If you must work with them, for example, if you’ve already put a down payment and have everything in place, use a sourcing agent in China who can inspect goods during production. If the larger batch still doesn’t meet expectations, have your sourcing agent refuse payment until the issues have been resolved.

4. Not knowing whether to choose Direct or Indirect Shipping into Amazon

Whether to use direct or indirect shipping to Amazon is one of the most important decisions you need to make before sourcing your goods.

Direct shipping

When shipping directly from China to Amazon FBA, you use your product supplier to ship your products from the main factory to Amazon FBA. This is considered one of the most straightforward ways to get items into FBA.

However, it assumes you trust your supplier, know they deliver uniformly high-quality items, and have an excellent prep process.

You can use this method if your stock runs out in the FBA inventory or if your budget is tight.

Indirect shipping

On the other hand, indirect shipping means you ask your supplier to ship your goods to an intermediary, who will then ship the products to FBA. This is a much safer option if you’ve received complaints about quality, it’s your first time testing out a new supplier, or if you use different manufacturers.

Indirect shipping makes the most sense for sellers who protect their supply chain by diversifying manufacturers, because you can use one local company to inspect, consolidate, and prep items before they go into FBA.

Tip: If non-compliant or damaged items land in FBA from your manufacturer, it’ll be expensive and time-consuming to fix.

As a bonus, indirect shipping also hides your supplier information from Amazon and prevents your suppliers from knowing that you sell on Amazon. This can protect your business from copycats.

Use MyFBAPrep to consolidate inventory

Amazon sellers can use MyFBAPrep to get all the protections of indirect shipping and the convenience of direct shipping. You can send items directly into the MyFBAPrep network, and they will take care of inspection, quality control, prep and compliance, and sending them into the FBA network.

This is also a great option if you’re a multi-channel seller, because MyFBAPrep can send items into both FBA as well as your other fulfillment centers for your DTC or other marketplace sales.

5. Manufacturing goods without calculating total costs

Before settling on a manufacturing company, it’s important to keep your finances organized to account for all expected costs — and consider any unexpected ones.

Ask about the cost of manufacturing, shipping, packaging, and any other services involved in creating and delivering your product. Poor planning and wrong expense forecasts could result in lost revenue.

Some of the costs we’ve noticed sellers overlook include:

Shipping to multiple Amazon warehouses

Once you have your shipping plan, Amazon will allocate FBA warehouses for your products. They can divide your shipments to three or more locations. This can affect your shipping costs, especially if you’re shipping directly from China to three US locations. Be prepared for this, or use a local prep service to mitigate those expenses.

Tip: If you want to save on shipping fees, focus on light and small items from China. A cell phone case, figurines, and chargers won’t cost much to ship. However, if you’re sourcing refrigerators, dumbbells, or life-size plush toys from China, be sure to calculate your shipping fees before placing an order.

Prep work and packing materials

Before you ship goods into FBA, you need to prep them to make sure they arrive in the right condition, and with the proper documentation. That could include breaking down larger shipments, labeling and packaging individual items, bundling different kits, and more.

You should include the cost of all the prep work and packing materials when calculating your expenses. You can work with a prep center that consolidates these costs per unit to make things easier on visibility.

Customs inspection fees

You also need to account for the custom inspection fees. Expect the United States Customs and Border Protection to inspect your shipment one way or another, so be sure to calculate and prepare for these charges.

Taxes and duties

You should know what category your goods fall into based on customs. This helps you avoid underestimating or overestimating how much you should pay when importing. Keep an eye on any other potential fees, like an anti-dumping fee or environmental fee based on what you’re selling.

6. Using a 3PL with complicated fees

Once their items reach the US, many sellers opt to work with a 3PL to prep and ship to different Amazon FBA warehouses or directly to consumers. However, 3PLs often come with complex pricing structures and hidden fees.

There are many 3PLs that charge for pickup, pick and pack, storage, labeling, and more. All of these can make it hard to know what your end price will be until you get the final bill.

Look for a logistics provider with transparent, per-unit pricing. This will help you avoid surprise expenses that cut into your profits.

7. Not choosing the right shipping mode

Selecting a shipping method should be the first decision you make when sending goods to Amazon FBA. It will help you estimate the transit time for your goods and the shipping costs. The most common shipping modes you can use include air freight, express shipping, and ocean freight.

Air freight

If you’re dealing with weighty cargo, this should be your go-to shipping option. The cargo can be more than 200kg and 2 CBM (cubic meter). When using air freight, your goods will arrive much faster than by sea, which is usually about five to nine days.

It may also cost you less if your cargo is small since the per-kilogram rate is usually less than air express. However, although it’s much cheaper than air express, there is a time cost, which can affect your inventory availability.

Express shipping

You can use this method when shipping products that weigh under 200kg and 1 CBM, and the charge is higher than gross weight and volume weight. Express is the fastest way to ship your goods to Amazon FBA, but the costs are fairly high, currently running about $8 to $12.

Ocean freight

Ocean freight is the best shipping option if your cargo is more than 400kg and 2 CBM. You can choose to use less than container load or full container load, and the price for each will vary. Ocean freight is usually less expensive relative to express shipping or air freight. It’s also ideal for transporting cargo you can’t send by air. However, it also takes much longer to deliver goods.

Tip: Work with a freight forwarder who can advise you on which method best suits your needs, based on your budget and timeline.

8. Ignoring Amazon’s guidelines for FBA inventory

Amazon has strict, but manageable guidelines when it comes to storing and fulfilling items with them. You must meet all the weight, labeling, size limits, and packaging requirements.

If you don’t follow those guidelines, you risk Amazon denying your inventory or charging expensive fees to fix any issues. This can get expensive and cost time, because you have to go through an additional process (or multiple ones) to have your items properly prepped and then approved.

Tip: Use MyFBAPrep to guarantee your products are in great condition before shipping them to FBA. They’ll inspect the products, follow the prepping guidelines from Amazon in detail, create a shipping plan, and deliver them to the FBA network.

9. Not appointing a product sourcing agent

A reliable sourcing agent is imperative when shipping items from China to FBA. A China-based sourcing agent will help you through the whole shipping process and ensure your products get to FBA on time.

Here are just a few things a sourcing agent can handle for sellers:

  • Identifying suppliers: China sourcing agents can connect you to the best manufacturers for your products. In addition, most of them have insight on the local markets, so they know where to find the best suppliers.
  • Quality control: Once your production is complete, they’ll inspect the products and check their quality. They’ll also follow up with the production process.
  • Preparing products for shipping: The sourcing agents will oversee labeling, packaging, and ensuring the product is in the right condition for shipping.
  • Shipping to the US: They’re also responsible for shipping your products to FBA. They identify the right methods to ship your goods and the right time.

Working with Leeline Sourcing

Leeline Sourcing is a China shipping agent that handle the necessary prepping of your goods before shipping, plan the right shipping mode, and give you an accurate estimate of what costs you’re likely to incur. All of these add up to the ultimate defense against unexpected expenses and losses.

Leeline Sourcing has 10+ years of experience in product shipping. We can help sellers find the right manufacturers, source items, and get goods shipped to the US affordably. To date, we have served close to 2,000 clients who reported 100% satisfaction with us. Our main focus is customer satisfaction, so we work hard to get your products to FBA with minimal hassle.

Final thoughts – Shipping from China to FBA

Shipping goods from China can rarely be accomplished alone. You can remove much of the burden and save money by engaging a product sourcing agent in China and a prep network in the US to handle your operations until your goods reach FBA.

To avoid costly mistakes when shipping from China to FBA, check your math, do your research, and work with reliable partners.