This is a guest post from Leeline Sourcing.
China is a leading sourcing destination due to its booming manufacturing industry. Known as the world’s manufacturing hub, many eCommerce entrepreneurs flock to purchase their goods and start their own businesses. More 79 million results will pop up if you Google the phrase “source products from China.”
The well-timed and rapid change in China’s technology, advanced transportation systems, and global integration makes things much easier for you to source your ideal products from China. If you are thinking of starting your own business, the hardest part will be to first pick the right products to sell.
In this article, we discuss how to brainstorm a business plan, how to do market research, and how to select your perfect product from China.
How to Brainstorm a Business Idea
Creative ideas for small business often come out after a series of brainstorming sessions. It helps to think without any limitations or restraints, and works best when there are several people brainstorming together. Let’s dive into how to brainstorm a new idea and start your own business. Below you will find some pertinent step-by-step points that will help you in the process.
1) What is your primary motivation or personal goal for starting your business?
Create a new spreadsheet and name it with your goal in the bottom tab. It may seem pointless, but if you take a break from this project, you will still need it as a reference for when you pick it up again. As you go along with this step-by-step plan, be sure to keep adding in your information to your spreadsheet.
As an example, if you want to profit from selling imported goods on your local market, then type it into your spreadsheet. If you want to go into a fun or hobby based business, or if you want to have a large international business, such as B2B apparel business, type it in. Name it and give it life.
2) Think about the issues you are facing in your own life
Are there any problems that you are facing? Are you looking for an easier route to kick off with? Does your plan affect other people?
You are not the only one who has faced these issues. As in life, our decisions can and do impact a number of people closest to us.
Speak with your friends and family members. Ask them to share frustrations they experience on a daily basis. Great business ideas grow from these daily complaints or unmet needs in life. As an example, you may need olive pit removers, yet you can’t find any in your local market. This could be a great niche to fill.
3) Think about the business you support and admire the most in your daily life
Think about the commonalities they have. Why do you like them? Why do you keep supporting them? Jot down whatever comes to mind, whether it’s their good customer service, quality goods, or even their branding. You can also check out their international business model online. See how you can use these points in your own business.
4) Write down all your possible business ideas
Write down your ideas and discuss them with your friends and business people you know. Ask their thoughts, especially if they are in the target market for your business idea. They will be able to give you some insightful ideas about what they’d look for in a business serving their needs. Keep in mind that all those observers should try to be impartial. If possible, you can consult an impartial expert about these brainstorming ideas to develop them. In this way you will receive unbiased advice and honest input.
How to Research Your Ideal Niche Market
1) Research the market trends
If you want to launch your products into the market, you will have to know how the market is trending and what the best-selling products are. This is a must if you want to be profitable in your business. Your research will clearly show what the market is demanding. There are several ways to undertake your market research.
The best place to start looking is on Amazon Best Sellers and Movers and Shakers. This will help you to find the most popular products trending online. Remember to keep a close eye on the unique features of these products. Other B2B platforms to help you find trendy niches include eBay, Global Source and Etsy.
In addition to these B2B platforms, a variety of research tools are also available for you to find the current trends in your niche. Google trend is a great tool to check the trending tendency of your ideal product in different time zones and countries. All you need to do is input the name of the item you want to research, and it will tell you the popularity of the item in different locations.
Another great analysis tool is Terapeak, which identifies products on eBay and Amazon. Once you input your niches, it gives you some excellent analytics on sell through ratio, sales volume and the trend over 30, 60 and 90 days. However, they do charge a fee. We suggest you test out the 7-day trial option to do your research on their platform.
Camel Camel Camel is highly recommended as a free tool. It allows you to track pricing trends from Amazon over a specifically chosen time frame. This way it is easy for you to check the current trending niches. You will also know where to level your pricing within your niche to remain competitive.
Product Review Platforms
Product review platforms offer social proof on trending products. These insights will help you know which products are currently trending on the market. We highly recommend that you subscribe to one of these review sites listed below, in order to receive the reviews of your chosen items.
2) Check the Export Market in China – Find the most Profitable Products
If you decide to import from China, you will have to first check what is happening on the market. It will help give you a good overall idea of what you can source from China’s marketplace. It is an enjoyable exercise that you can Google from anywhere on your laptop. Take a look at these platforms online.
Alibaba, is the most comprehensive and best selling export site. It handles sales between importers and exporters from over 240 countries. On this platform, most suppliers require a minimum order quantity (MOQ). If your MOQ is small, it will be difficult for you to find a low-priced supplier. On Alibaba, the quality is not guaranteed with many of its suppliers.
For smaller volume orders, you may have better luck with DHgate, Made-in-China, and AliExpress. Minimum order quantities on these sites are on the lower side, and some suppliers even offer free shipping. The price, however, is going to be 20% – 30% higher per unit than what you would pay to a supplier on Alibaba.
In addition, if you want to deal with a specific category, we suggest that you visit B2B platforms mainly focused on the special items side; to ensure the quality of the product. For example, if you want to select electronics, Chinavasion is highly recommended. Take a look at Electronics wholesale in China to find out more about it.
If you are able to attend relevant trade exhibitions, it is recommended that you go, as this will give you a deeper understanding of how things work in China. If taking a trip to China sounds like something you would like to do, you can attend some of the largest trade shows available, such as China Import and Export Fair/Canton Fair and Hong Kong Fair. They are both held every spring and autumn. The shows are very comprehensive as almost every category can be found during the exhibition period.
The East China Fair is the largest regional trade fair in China and is held once a year in Shanghai. There are other regional trade fairs in China that are usually industry-specific. If you search China Sourcing Fairs you will be able to find your specific niche.
If you are in China and want to visit the relevant companies in person, we suggest doing your homework first and getting to know the industry clusters in the country.
Take a look at Chinese Industrial map of the Top 7 Most Imported Profitable Goods for your reference. After reading up, you should have a clearer understanding about how the industrial distribution of these 7 goods works.
If for whatever reason you cannot find trade shows to attend, yet you are still interested in purchasing goods; we suggest you take a tour of some well-known export cities, like Yiwu. It is a commodity city in the Zhejiang Province in China. The city is a paradise for shoppers. Covering everything from bags, crafts, furniture, jewelry, shoes, and almost every export market you can think of except machinery. You will be able to source products at any time of the year, except for over the Chinese Spring Festival.
3) Familiarize yourself with regulations related to your imports
Regulation compliance could give you a headache if you find that your sourced items are not allowed to market in your country because of different rules. Market access differs from country to country.
European and American countries are much stricter than that in China. As a result, you have to bear in mind Regulatory Compliance.
EU members implement EU directives, while the USA has CPSIA and other policies in place to regulate local markets and maintain a good social standard regarding their people’s health and safety.
If you want to get involved with International trade, you will have to familiarize yourself with these regulations in order to make the best use of them and boost your sales.
It is important to know both your local market access regulations, as well as the export regulations in China. Knowing the laws will ensure that you have an easy smooth process throughout your time exporting products and building your business.
Samples are the most important thing to remember when you visit trade shows, contact suppliers online or even personally visit them. Samples will show the quality of the product and its design. In asking for samples, you can verify the supplier as well as the product.
Market Research: How to Analyze Your Market
After you have gathered all the information on your possible suppliers as well as the products you are interested in, you will be left with a ton of information that you will then need to sort through.
With a ton of pamphlets and samples, how will you then be able to choose the perfect one for you and your business?
This is the biggest step in the process. You will need to record on your spreadsheet several key figures. Refer back to your quotes and gather all the necessary information as listed below:
- Unit Pricing or FOB Pricing
- Payment Terms
- Payment Options
- Product Quality
- FBA or Drop-shipping
- Delivery Terms and anything else relevant to the product
2) Sales and Revenue Estimation
To estimate your sales volume, you will need to use the existent sales data from your competitors. It is impossible to see their actual reports, so what you can do instead is to estimate from the open source data that you can find online. With the rough data from your competitors, you should be able to estimate your sales volume and revenue. You can access your competitors’ data with the below mentioned methods.
Make use of Amazon reviews to estimate their number of sales
The number of reviews will tell you how many people have bought their items. Not every buyer will leave a review and as a result, there could be a lot of variation and unpredictability using this method. However when combined with other revenue estimation methods, it works rather well.
eBay sales history
eBay has the “sold items” search feature that you can use. Using this feature will allow you to also see the recent sales history for each item. With the history date, you can get a rough estimation on the item.
This is where the power of focusing in on a niche comes into play. Once you have researched a niche enough, you will gain a bunch of accumulated knowledge that you can fall back on. This in turn will give you a sense of how well a product can sell.
Pitfalls to be Avoided When Choosing Products in China
1) Do not choose counterfeit products or patented items
Counterfeit products will ruin your business. This goes without saying. Remember to avoid such items, as this could cause countless problems for you in the future.
An even bigger danger for sellers is patented products. Patents are often very difficult and expensive to defend in court. If you sell them on Amazon, you risk losing your account according to its regulations.
2) Do not select fragile items
Fragile products risk getting broken during the transportation process. Do not choose these products to minimize your potential loss during delivery. By avoiding them, you can maximize on your profits.
3) Don’t go seasonal
Choose products that will have a consistent customer base. For example, you want to sell summer clothes. Yet, if your local season is winter, how do you think it will go? You are probably going to end up with a ton of temporary worthless inventory. It’s not wise to initiate a seasonal business.
Knowing now, step-by-step on how to select your products from China, the final choice is yours. Are you ready to take action on that business idea you’ve been playing with forever now? Have you just had a strike of inspiration like a lightning bolt?
Fortune favors the brave.
Make that choice. Make it soon. For there is no time like the present to leave your mark in the world.