Greetings from Yiwu, China! Finally, after almost 2 years since starting the Amazon business, I will be personally making a factory visit. While I have been in Yiwu over the years, it hasn’t been since my earlier e-commerce and sourcing days that I did a factory visit in Zhejiang province.
When we started the e-commerce venture with the Global From Asia community, which has now become the Sisitano coffee accessories brand, we had a team to help with the sourcing and product development. Yet over the years, those responsibilities have come upon my own shoulders – and like we will discuss today – knowing your product and having a quality relationship with your factory will make or break your business.
So I am taking that initiative, personally, and will be the expert of the product in the Sisitano business. This is the main job of the core person running an e-commerce business. Let’s dive in more.
You Are Running a Product Based Business – Know Your Product
By being an e-commerce seller, you are doing a product business.
So it means you need to make a good product – and know your product.
Many of us try to run everything 100% from behind our laptop. That can work if you’re doing blogs and podcasts (like here at Global From Asia). But, not so well if you are actually dealing with physical goods.
Sure – there are sourcing and QC agents, third party logistics, warehouses, Amazon FBA services all there for you so you don’t need to touch the product. But you need to know your product the best out of anyone.
Not Just At The Launch of Your Product – But Ongoing As Well
Of course it is important to get physical samples of your product – and take high quality photos, test your product, understand your product – do videos of your product. You need to do it to get started.
Yet we also need to keep that going on.
Lorenzo helped get the ball rolling – with our QC partner Ino from Insight Quality – sourcing the moka pot, getting the right factory in place, packing, photos – and more.
But we have hit some speed bumps (to say the least). The second production run, the packaging could have been done better and it created a broken handle issue (above 7% is a red flag in Amazon – we’ll have a dedicated blog post on that). Talking to the factory about the issue remotely will be very challenging. They of course, will not want to assume fault, and say that we, as the buyer, didn’t specify packaging or other specifications and it is our responsibility.
So ya, visiting the factory to resolve this issue is critical.
Plus we want to get different variations of the product, discuss other ways to grow the relationship.
And to top it off – our factory moved to a new location!
Visiting your factory just for the initial order isn’t enough, as you can see from the points above.
Working With Your Factory As a Partner – Solve Problems Together
Upon visiting the factory, we didn’t start blaming them about the packaging and broken handle issue.
We had a documented file, showing images of the handles being broken and the boxes being penetrated. Not to get angry with them, but to show them that it is a real problem that has to be solved.
Entering the product showroom, we setup the “office”. Ino opened up his laptop, mine as well. Got an extension cord, opened up notebooks, reports, previous order files, the whole nine yards.
Of course, a moka pot was used to prepare us some expressos.
The factory owner was there, as well as our sales representative. The brainstorming and discussion started. Dropping the packaging, crushing the packaging, throwing the packaging (as an angry UPS shipping agent may) – we tried to replicate the problem.
Really – it was hard – actually we couldn’t figure out it was really possible for the shipping agents to break those handles in shipment. The force needed seemed to be really strong. Possibly the stacking of many products on top of it and the long term pressure of the weight could have broken the handles?
Anyway, the point is, you need to work with your factory to solve the problem.
Plus, the showroom alone is a product developers best resource. Seeing the different products they have made, you can get an idea of new products to develop and sell.
One not as sexy tip is also to learn from the packaging designs. Packaging seems to be a critical way to differentiate yourself from others as well as have a good product listing image with unique design and images.
Maximize your time in the factory showroom. Get ideas of products and packaging. Ask how much things cost, what the MOQ (minimum order quantity) is, and more.
The Classic Factory Tour
Now, hopefully they are in production when you are visiting. Maybe not in production of your product, but of a similar product.
When we visited the moka pot factory, they were in production of, you guessed it, moka pots. Multiple floors of production, you could see the different stages your product goes through from raw material to work in progress to finished goods.
It is fascinating. To see the raw material being converted into a product.
What should you look for when doing a factory tour? Spot check the quality of the items. Look for cleanliness of the factory floor. Pray you don’t see any child labor.
A big thing to look for is their internal quality control procedures. Are they rejecting products that do not pass their own standards? This is a great sign, and will make your own third party QC process much less troublesome.
Our Own Factory Tour In Video
A Hidden Benefit – Showing Them You Care, A Face To a Name
While the internet is a very powerful tool to help us create and grow businesses, nothing has yet to beat the power of an in person meeting.
If you are serious about your product for the long term, you need to know your supplier. Shake hands with them, add them on Wechat, make eye contact. And let them know you are doing this for the long term, and want to invest in the relationship for the long term.
No one wants to change a factory. You want to align each other’s interests and get on the same page.
As you leave the factory, summarize the meeting. Give them feedback, and expectations for the next production order.
Once you have your supply from China in order and are confident on your product quality, then you can really start to scale up and double down on your marketing and PPC budgets. But you are shooting yourself in the foot if you are marketing a subpar product. You want to be top quality.
Go and Do Your Own Factory Visit
Here’s hoping you find this post enlightening. Through visits, not only will you get to see how your products are processed and packed, you actually get to build a partnership with the factory – a partnership that goes through every process from product development to packaging, warehousing and logistics. A partnership that can last throughout your business’ lifetime.
So, go ahead, visit that factory and tell us how it goes!