Shipping from China to Amazon FBA can be confusing, especially if you are new to Amazon. Even experienced FBA sellers tend to be overwhelmed by the various options and regulations. Regardless of how intimidating this challenge becomes, it’s a necessary one.
This is even more relevant for importers, as they also have to handle the shipping part of it, clearances, procedures, etc. No matter how difficult it looks, this is an essential and mandatory process.
The fastest solution to get your product to the market.
However, air freight is way more expensive than sea freight.
Additionally, to compensate these costs it’s essential to pay Amazon to transfer all goods to a single location. (additional $0.30 per unit…).
You can gain more control by adding inspection in China at the beginning of the process, even though there are still some risks of damages.
However, you don’t need to label or inspect yourself your parcel, enabling you to save time, and thus money.
Hif-Logistics advice: Look out for the most efficient supplier to manage the process.
AIR FREIGHT TO DOOR
Most of first time importers use this option to transport their goods, mainly for its fast transit times.
This option gives you the possibility to inspect yourself your parcel. You have a control on the quality of the shipment to make sure it is in full compliance with FBA requirements.
You will have to handle the storage part at your facility, control the parcel and arrange labeling, pick-up/delivery.
AIR FREIGHT TO PREP CENTER
In case you’re wondering:
How can I ship my goods internationally and make sure my parcel is packed and labeled in full compliance to FBA standards?
The solution: Air Freight to a Prep Center
This is a prompt shipping solution. The main con when using a prep center is the price, obviously.
FBA inspection centers are expensive for two main reasons:
Amazon FBA benefits from a strong reputation now, and many centers charge based on the market demand.
Hif-Logistics advice: This kind of centers are built to prepare your goods for Amazon’s fulfillment warehouses. It’s their job to guarantee a hassle-free shipment, in complete compliance with all the requirements. By choosing this option, you choose the peace of mind.
SEA FREIGHT FROM THE SUPPLIER TO AMAZON FBA
Sea Freight: The slowest solution to ship goods from China to Amazon FBA.
This might be a slow option, but this is also the cheapest way to transport your goods.
WHICH INCOTERM SHOULD YOU CHOOSE? (LCL, FCL)
LCL (less than container load) is the cheapest option, as you share a container with other customers. This is the perfect solution if you don’t have enough goods to fill an entire container.
You have to use a freight forwarder’s services to benefit from this solution, for assistance in customs clearance and consolidation before departure of the shipment.
As mentioned before, you will lose control on quality if you ship directly to FBA.
Pros of choosing Sea Freight:
Less parties involved in the process
Low cost of factory-side controls.
Hif-Logistics advice:No physical effort will be implied for you. The goods are shipped directly from the supplier to FBA warehouses.
SEA FREIGHT TO WAREHOUSE
Contrary to FBA inspection centers, distribution centers are quite inexpensive.
They make money through warehousing and delivery services, especially by working with large companies, even though labor costs still have to be taken into consideration.
Hif-Logistics advice: you should seriously consider this option, and get Amazon partners to pick up your goods.
This kind of centers take care of:
Freight forwarding processes
Duty payable and Clearances
Consolidation when using LCL shipments
Hif-Logistics advice: Your transit time will be significantly reduced if the center is close to the supplier’s factory.
PROS OF CHOOSING THE APPROPRIATE DISTRIBUTION CENTER
As an example, if your activity is based in America, but you import the goods from China, a center based in California comes with a 16-day transit time, as opposed to 30-40 days when shipping to New York.
Shipping by sea is cheap. Additional costs are often compensated by the freight forwarder’s expertise in delivery services and quality control.
Distribution centers are a good way to ensure a decent quality control.
You can ask your freight forwarder to provide you with pictures, so that you can make sure of the proper handling of your goods.
The center will consolidate of load your goods directly at FBA.
Note that any damaged items won’t be accepted by FBA and returned to its origin.
These kinds of centers manage the whole process and make it easier for you.
By choosing this solution, you are choosing the peace of mind!
Hif-Logistics advice:The biggest advantage of shipping directly to Amazon FBA is to avoid additional costs caused by prep centers.
Hif-Logistics advice: Once you know how it works, hire some labor directly within your facilities to lower your costs.
Or: you can ship directly from the supplier’s facility to Amazon FBA (for air freight).
ESSENTIALS CHECKLISTS: THE SELLER AND THE SUPPLIER
Make sure you don’t forget anything important when transporting your goods to Amazon FBA.
In this way, you can use the two following checklists made both for the seller and the supplier.
SELLER'S CHECKLIST :
Check the incoterm, unit price and MOQ from supplier (e.g. EXW, FOB, DDP, etc)
Check the volume of the order (number of pieces, components, etc)?
Make sure you know the exact dimensions and weight. Check with your supplier how many cartons there are and their total volume.
WHICH SHIPPING METHOD SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
Divide the quotation you got by the number of units to figure out the shipping cost/unit.
Do you require storage services? (it will have an impact on your cost per unit)?
Build up your listings (no need to be optimized, just get it started) to be able to download your FNSKU and give it to your factory.
Schedule a production date with the manufacturer. Sign a contract or an agreement that mentions additional fees in case of delay.
Arrange pre-carriage control with an inspection company. Sign a contract or an agreement that includes additional fees in case of failed control.
Provide your supplier with design samples for any desired customization of the product or its packaging. You might need to receive a template from the supplier before.
Provide your supplier with proper labeling for care labels, country of origin labels or any other required label that has to be included on the packaging.
Make sure you include carton markings. These are the writings present on the cartons, mentioning the country of origin, weight in lbs and kgs, carton dimensions in cm and inches, number of units and any safety information on one side. On the other side, the following information must appear: Company name, type of product, general information and destination.
Make sure you are using the correct HS code to avoid troubles with customs.
The size of the Carton cannot exceed 63.5cm.
6kg is the maximum weight.
The cartons can contain a maximum of 150 units (one unit: the item itself and all components in its final packaging).
FNSKU barcode has to be on white background.
Schedule a date with an inspection company a date of pre-carriage control. Failed controls might turn into penalties, as for example re-inspection charges at the cost of the factory.
Make sure any polybag comes with a suffocation warning.
Ensure that any kind of labeling is correctly spelled.
Please provide companies with accurate production completions date. Some penalties for late completion may apply.
As early as possible, a packing list and any commercial invoice has to be provided to the company.
HOW TO SAVE MONEY: GET LESS PARTIES INVOLVED – LET CHINA DO ALL THE LABOR
Do you recall that one of the task mentioned on the checklist was to download the FNSKU labels?
Let your supplier handle this part for you!
Hif-Logistics advice: Amazon will charge you an extra $0.20 per unit, threatening little by little your margin.
Usually, your supplier will do this for free, or sometimes will charge a nominal fee (a few cents per unit).
Amazon recommends using a sticker, but printing it on the carton is fine as long as there is a white background. In this way, you don’t need to pay an inspection company to label for you.
WHAT ABOUT GOODS IN A KIT? OR CUSTOM PACKAGING?
Your supplier can ship your goods to another one, in charge of the assembling, or bundling your goods for you.
If you are not satisfied with the packaging of your supplier, you have the opportunity to order another one from another supplier and let them pack your goods.
CHINA TO FBA DIRECT
They handle labelling of the cartons
They’ll shrink-wrap and handle labelling of the pallets
Any other task that a prep center is supposed to do
By doing so, shipments are shipped directly to FBA, or are ready for Amazon partnered carrier once it reaches a warehouse distribution center or staging warehouse.
HOW TO SET UP AIR TO FBA SHIPMENTS?
Using “air express” straight to FBA is an easier way to arrange your FBA shipment.
First, you should consider setting up an “inventory placement”.
Shipping two or three boxes individually to different facilities will likely be more expensive than just paying $0.30 a unit.
CREATING AN FBA SHIPPING PLAN
This enables you to provide your supplier with the proper labelling of the box.
When setting up the shipment on the website, make sure you select SPD (small parcel delivery) and OTHER.
Hif-Logistics advice: You cannot select Amazon partnered carrier, as UPS just accounts for the local country. If you are based outside of the country, this is not a solution for you.
Hif-Logistics advice: When you select OTHER, keep in mind you have to work with a main freight courier that appears on Amazon’s list: UPS, DHL, FedEx, USPS and TNT are some of the biggest carriers.
Once the shipment is ready, this will make you avoid creating the file with the shipping labels and ship them to your supplier to do so.
FAQ: HOW CAN I BE INFORMED TO WHICH FBA FACILITY MY GOODS WILL BE SHIPPED?
Answer: once the shipping plan is done you will receive a designated FBA address.
If you have a small volume to ship by air freight through your own name not so often, there is no need to set up your own shipping account.
You can ship it through your factory’s shipping account. Many suppliers in China already set up a DHL account.
Thanks to the volume they ship on a regular basis, they can provide pretty interesting rates.
Hif-Logistics advice: A good way to know if your supplier is providing you with a fair rate is to request your own personal quotation from a shipping company.
OTHER SOLUTION: USE ALIBABA TO FIND YOUR OWN FREIGHT FORWARDER
Look out for a third-party logistics company. These kinds of companies, just like Hif-Logistics Shipping, are shippers with strong agreements with most of the biggest couriers.
If you decide to find your logistics company through Alibaba you will have to vet the forwarder just as you would do for a regular vendor. By doing this, you may find a decent offer from a forwarder with whom you can settle a regular traffic afterwards.
HOW TO SET UP SEA TO DISTRIBUTION CENTER SHIPMENT
Choose sea freight for high volumes impossible to ship by air freights.
You have the choice between two options: LCL (Less Than Container Load), and FCL (Full Container Load) in containers that are either 20ft, 40ft or 40ft HQ.
Pros when transporting your goods to a distribution center:
You get the opportunity to set up a shipment using Amazon’s Partnered Carriers.
The rates are often significantly cheaper.
Manage your product mix as you like and palletize them individually.
A final control on your goods to make sure there is no damages prior to transportation.
You have to choose between palletizing your goods yourself or have your factory do it. There are pros and cons in any case.
You will save some labor costs if your factory handles it for you.
It lowers the full capacity of the container (due to the total volume of the pallets)
The pallet itself might be a problem. Amazon requires every pallet to be wooden.
If wooden pallets are not decently treated and fumigated, they might end up being broke or infested.
Hif-Logistics advice: Choosing to work with the distribution center for the palletization process may be more expensive, but you will be sure of the full compliance of your pallets. No matter which company you choose for the pallets, they will also have to store, shrink wrap and ensure proper labelling, in compliance with Amazon’s guidelines.
Here are a few common rules as regards pallets:
Have to be standard 40” x 48” wooden.
Must not exceed 1500lbs
Must not exceed 72” in height (except if this is a single oversized unit).
Have to be shrink-wrapped.
Must be properly labeled on the 4 sides.
First, handle this palletization process, and once you are sure about the number of pallets you have, their volume and weight, you are able to set up your shipment and provide labelling to the preppers.
If you use the services of distribution centers, you’ll have to select one that provides at the same time freight forwarding and customs services, as your goods will need to go through customs once arrived at the destination country.
When you set up your shipment, you will need to schedule a pickup date for Amazon’s partnered carrier.
A few days prior to the pickup, you must provide the distribution center with a Bill of Lading.
If you set up the shipment prior to delivery (which is the case when your goods are palletized outside of the country) you’ll have to take customs clearance into consideration when scheduling a pickup date. It takes around 48 hours, or sometimes even a few weeks.
If you decide to collaborate with a distribution center based on a coast across from your supplier, it allows you to lower transit time.
If the storage unit is close to a main port, the process is even faster.
Let’s be clear: when choosing freight, there are still various parties involved in the process. Nevertheless, by creating a system that mitigates delays and confusion, you won’t have to face any unexpected delay.
Shipping by sea from the manufacturer to Amazon FBA varies depending on the characteristics of your shipment (LCL or FCL).
Option 1: Palletization done outside of the country
First of all, you must keep in mind that you won’t be working with Amazon partnered carriers if you transport your goods directly from China to FBA.
Remark Hif-Logistics: It means you will have to schedule drop off yourself.
FAQ: WHAT IS A FLOOR LOAD SHIPMENT
Answer: Floor load shipment means that the way boxes are stacked up in a container still enable workforce to go inside on foot, lift the parcel and unload it.
Amazon FBA allows this kind of shipments, but only if the products are palletized, or at least stacked properly.
If the warehouse cannot provide any palletization service, request it from your supplier.
Option 2: Work with a forwarder that provides consolidation for a “direct to FBA”.
In any case, you have to work with a forwarder that provides logistics services and customs assistance, but they can also take care of the consolidation before departure.
In other words, thanks to their strong network of FBA sellers, they are capable of ensuring regular LCL shipments with several sellers sharing the same containers.
Even though the goods that are shipped on the container are not the same, it will be full when shipped to FBA warehouses.
The whole container is yours, make sure you stack it decently. Then arrange a direct FBA shipment to a location where it can be floor-loaded.
Your freight forwarder will handle the freight from your factory to the country of your choice, handle customs clearance when arrived, and will hire the services of a trucking or rail company to transport the goods to the agreed Amazon
When arranging things up like this, you’ll set up your shipment selecting “Less than truckload (LTL)” and then “Other carrier.”
Hif-Logistics advice: We invite you to check directly the official website to get further information. You’ll find an FBA Booking Form that has to be filled to arrange a drop off. You’ll also find a link to Transportation Central too, where your forwarder will have to create an account : Amazon fulfillment
Your factory has to make sure the container is loaded decently in order to guarantee that the floor-loaded container will be accepted by the FBA center. You’ll find all the requirements in Amazon.com help documents. Find below the most important ones:
Stack cartons into columns.
Keep a space of 3 inches between columns and container walls.
Make sure the columns are not higher than 72 inches except if they are in compliance with the slip sheet or clamp truck instructions.
Keep in mind the total height of the column must allow 3 inches of clearance from the top of the column to the roof of the container.
Every shipment has to be secured through load cars and straps.
Goods exceeding 48 inches in length have to be loaded along the length of the container.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Ultimately, you have to determine what is the best option for you and your business. Choosing which product, you should sell and that it is challenging enough.
When selling a physical product, supply chain management and logistics play a key role in the success of your business.
If you adopted a customer-based strategy, putting the emphasis on customer experience, you will be able to obtain great Amazon reviews and grow your business quite quickly.
At first, you may want to choose the easiest solution, but once you gain more experience, you will need to create more efficient and cost-effective systems.
Always remember some of the most important aspects when shipping this way:
You need to choose the shortest distance as much as you can.
Try to get the lowest number of middlemen involved.
Arrange things as soon as possible to lower the risks of delays and troubles.
Create a whole set of systems and processes in order to train others and apply to all imports you will handle.
Once you truly put these principles into practice, your supply chain is optimized and you end up saving time, money, and stress.
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