You’ve got a problem.
You decided to use Amazon FBA but your supplier is in another country.
Now, you’re wondering if there’s a way that you can just have the items shipped directly to Amazon.
It’s perfectly possible to ship products from your supplier to Amazon FBA.
There are a lot of things that you need to know when you want to ship to Amazon directly from another country, usually China, the most likely location of your supplier.
We have listed some of the things that you should be aware of.
There are two options available to you when you need your products from China, shipped to Amazon. The first one is shipping directly to Amazon FBA and the second one is to have a middleman, who will get the items from the supplier and then prepare it for shipping to Amazon.
Direct to FBA
Your first option is to have your supplier ship your items directly to the Amazon FC. The actual shipping is not that complicated. The process has been streamlined for sellers and a lot of sellers are actually using it.
It is just a matter of making sure that all the documentation are done properly. It only becomes a bit tricky because your supplier will be the one doing it for you. It is a major advantage if your supplier is experienced in doing it.
Shipping to a Middleman
Your next option is to ship your product to a middleman or a third-party logistics company (3LP).
So, the middleman can be anyone who goes in between your supplier and Amazon FBA. In fact, it can even be you!
That means you can have your items shipped to your address and you will be the one to process it for sending to Amazon since there are very specific instructions for that.
Now, in regards to the 3PL or a third-party logistics company, that is actually a term that applies to any company that will receive, store, handle, and ship products. In other words, Amazon FBA can also be considered to be a 3PL, but to be clear, when we mention 3PL companies here, we’re talking about companies other than Amazon.
In this case, of course, the term would refer to a company that would receive the products on your behalf from your supplier in China and processes it for sending to Amazon.
How to Ship Directly from China to Amazon FBA
So, how do you ship directly from China to an Amazon FC?
Here are the simplified steps that you can follow:
- The first thing to do is to create your shipment in Seller Central.
- You need to make sure that you are shipping to a single FC if you choose to ship using sea freight.
- In the Ship from address, it is advised that you input a California address. This increases the likelihood that you will be asked to ship to an FC located in California. That would be the best option if you are shipping from China. (Don’t worry about using a CA address since it will not affect your shipment. This only matters if you are using a partnered carrier.)
- Each item should have a barcode, each carton a label, each pallet a label. This step will be done by your supplier, so you must provide detailed instructions to them.
- If your items are to be shipped on a pallet, the pallets should be ISPM-15, for which there might be an extra charge. Each of the four sides of the pallet should be marked with labels.
- Now, you must arrange with a freight forwarder for the shipment for door-to-door service from China to the Amazon FC. You must verify that your freight forwarder has done this in the past.
- Remember that Amazon will not pay the duties in order to accept your shipment, so it has to be shipped Delivery Duty Paid (DDP). This is not an issue if you aramazone shipping via sea because you will have a customs broker who can take care of that for you. It can be a problem if you are shipping through air freight.
Advantages of Shipping Direct to FBA
Like most other things, there are advantages and disadvantages to your two choices in getting your products from China to Amazon. First, here are the advantages of having your supplier ship your products directly to Amazon:
The main advantage of shipping directly to Amazon is that it is a lot more affordable. You do not have to worry about the cost of having a 3PL, which can be anywhere from several hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on the kind and cost of shipment.
For someone who is just starting out as an Amazon seller, any kind of saving will be a huge help.
Another major advantage of shipping directly from China is that it is a lot faster. By shipping directly from China, you can save as much as one to two weeks of transit time.
That can be a huge advantage, especially if you want your products to become available for selling immediately.
Because most, if not all, of the work, will be performed by others and not by you, shipping directly is obviously more convenient. With Amazon FBA handling the shipping of your products to buyers, it would seem like you are running a business with minimal trouble to yourself. Of course
Allows You to Focus on Other Tasks
Since you will not be handling the products yourself, that means you will have more time that you can use for other tasks as an Amazon seller. For example, you can spend more time researching for better products to sell.
You can also use that time to optimize the product descriptions of your items on Amazon to make sure that customers will see and buy them.
These are just some of the advantages that you can get when you ship directly from China to Amazon. Most sellers would actually prefer this option because of the convenience and the savings in cost and in time.
Disadvantages of Shipping Direct to FBA
Now, it’s time to flip the coin and take a look at the disadvantages that you will face when you opt to ship directly from China.
The first problem when it comes to having your supplier ship your products directly to FBA is that you cannot inspect the items. At the end of the day, you are putting the reputation of your business in your suppliers.
There could be issues in the quality of the products being shipped and you would have no idea. Your customers might be receiving products and you cannot really pass the blame to the suppliers at the end of the day.
It’s not an acceptable excuse to say that your supplier did not handle it properly. Ensuring the quality of the items that your customers will be getting is your responsibility.
You Cannot Use Partnered Carriers
Another crucial disadvantage of shipping directly to Amazon is that you cannot use partnered carriers.
The partnered carriers offer discounts to shipments to Amazon. These are substantial discounts and the fees will then be charged to your Amazon account.
You cannot take advantage of this offer if you are shipping directly from China since these partnered carriers can only apply to the 48 contiguous states.
Shipping to Multiple FCs Can Be a Problem
Now, one of the biggest challenges that you may face when shipping directly from China to Amazon is that you may be required to ship to multiple FCs. This will depend on the kind of product and it normally happens with items that are oversized.
This can complicate things when you are giving instructions to your supplier on how to handle things.
Your Supplier Knows You’re an Amazon Seller
When you give your supplier instructions on how and where to ship your products, they know right away that you are an Amazon seller. They might decide then to just sell the products themselves. A lot of Amazon suppliers are actually doing this now.
Dealing with the Disadvantages of Shipping Direct to FBA
So, how can you deal with all of the disadvantages that we have enumerated?
When it comes to the problem of the lack of inspection of the products that are being shipped, there are two things that you can do. First of all, there are inspection services that deal with this. There are third-party companies that will inspect the packages for you before they are shipped.
Another thing that you can do is you can ask your supplier to send pictures of the packaging materials and the products to you before they are shipped.
Dealing with Shipping to Multiple FCs
So, how do you deal with the problem of being required to ship to multiple FCs?
Amazon normally requires the sellers to ship to multiple FCs if the items are oversized. Another reason is when the products that require preparation are mixed with those that do not require prep.
Here are the best means of avoiding being required to ship to multiple FCs:
- Do not mix items of different sizes.
- Do not mix products that require prep with those that do not.
- The Inventory Placement should be turned on in your account.
If your items are oversized, you will really be required to send to multiple FCs.
To turn on Inventory Placement you can go to Settings and Fulfillment by Amazon.
Before turning this on, you should be aware that Fulfillment by Amazon can be costly. They charge it per item. A good practice is to just turn it on for specific shipments that you would like to go to one FC and then turn it back off.
There are also other practices which are not recommended, such as ignoring the instruction to ship to multiple FCs and just ship to one. These are not recommended since you might get into trouble with Amazon.
There is also a way that you can determine if you will be asked to multiple FCs.
You can do that by creating a shipment within Amazon for testing. Just don’t approve it. That will show the FCs where you will be asked to ship.
Shipping from China to Amazon FBA Using a Middleman
If you are unsure about having your supplier process the shipment to Amazon, then you can choose to have your items shipped to a middleman. The middleman will then be the one to process the actual sending of your products to the Amazon Fulfillment Centers.
As mentioned earlier, a middleman is anyone who will be in between you and Amazon. That includes yourself.
It might seem simpler to have the items shipped to you but that would not be the most convenient option. You can go for 3PLs or third-party logistics companies who can take care of the process for you.
What can a 3PL do?
As mentioned before, they can store, pack, and ship your products. In other words, they can handle all of your fulfilling for you.
Some 3PLs can also handle mail, which means that you can use them as your mailing address. There are also some companies that offer coworking spaces, which you can use for other tasks in your business aside from the storage of your items.
Once you have chosen a 3PL, all you have to do is instruct your supplier to ship your items to your third-party logistics company.
Choosing a 3PL Company
The tricky part is choosing a 3PL that can provide you with the service you need. Larger companies will have no problem when it comes to handling your items. Most likely, they would have perfected the process. The problem is that no one would really be aware of your shipment. They handle so many shipments, that they could not concern themselves with your particular shipment.
With a smaller 3PL, there is a good chance that someone in the organization is aware as to where your products are, but they might have fewer resources.
Here are a few tips you can use when choosing a 3PL:
- It might be a good idea to pick a 3PL with a physical location that is close to you. While you may choose to have your items shipped to a middleman for the convenience, it would be a good idea to have physical access to your products too.
- Most 3PLs will charge anywhere from $1 to $3 per item. Pick a company that has a fixed formula for computing what they will charge and not one that comes up with it as you ask them.
- You must learn about a company’s handling time and the efficiency of its inventory management. Ask them if they have guaranteed handling times.
- Now, it is not expected that guaranteed handling times will be met all the time. What is important is that you know how often it happens to a 3PL and what they do when it does.
- Another thing to know is how often they lose things. This is always a possibility and you must expect it to happen at some point if you use a 3PL long enough. You just have to know how often it can happen and what they will do in case they lose items.
- Find a company that can integrate with your E-commerce system. If you are just starting out as a seller, you might not need this, since you can just send them an email for each shipment. But if you are handling a lot of products, this would be a crucial factor to consider.
These are just some ideas that you can use when trying to pick a 3PL that you can work with. You can boil all these tips into two factors; reliability and inventory management.
Advantages of Shipping to a Middleman
So, what are the advantages that you get when you ship from China to a middleman? Here are a few:
Amazon Partnered Carriers
Since your items can be now shipped from the United States to Amazon FCs, you can now use Amazon Partnered Carriers. That means you get discounted pricing for shipping your items.
This might not make sense since shipping from China to a 3PL would automatically cost more than if you just have your supplier process the shipping, but you have to look at it in light of the other advantages.
Ability to Inspect
If you have the items shipped to you directly, you will have the ability to inspect the items and make sure that everything is okay before sending them off to the FCs.
Even if you choose a 3PL, you can pick one that is near your location so you can check on your items to ensure their quality. It is highly recommended that you check on the products that you are selling, maybe not all the time but at least regularly.
Your Supplier Will Not Know That You’re Selling on Amazon
Okay, your supplier may already have some clue that you are selling the items on Amazon, but at least you’re not giving them all the details right away. The competition among sellers is very rough as it is and you don’t want your ideas stolen from you, would you?
Shipment to Multiple FCs Can Be Less Challenging
Should you be asked to multiple FCs, you would have less to worry about than if you were shipping directly from China. You can have more assurance that the shipment to multiple FCs will be done properly.
Disadvantages of Shipping to a Middleman
This is a two-sided coin. If there are advantages then there will be disadvantages to shipping to a middleman.
The main one is that it will take longer. The extra time of being shipped from an additional point can take up days or even weeks. If you are in a rush to have your products become available in your store, that can be a problem.
Also, shipping to a middleman is going to be more expensive, even if you can use Partnered Carriers once the items are in the United States.
When Should You Ship Direct
So, when should you ship directly from China to FBA?
If time is very critical and each day counts, then you really should ship directly to FBA.
Also, if your shipment is relatively small and is valued at less than $800, shipping directly makes more sense. Finally, if you have a long experience in dealing with your supplier and you have had no problems in the past with them handling the shipping to FBA then it should be okay.
When Should You Use a Middleman
When you are getting the first shipment from a supplier, it is best if you can inspect the products and see to it that they are what you ordered.
If you are a new seller and it will be your first shipment to FBA, you want to make sure that it does not get rejected. You might want to handle the shipment yourself or have an American company take care of it for you.
You can consolidate your shipment from China if you have a lot of products and multiple suppliers. That would actually be cheaper for you.
The ideas in this article should have addressed your main concerns when it comes to shipping directly from China to FBA and also from shipping to a middleman. There are more details for each step, but you should have a general idea now.
You can also use the services of a company like FBABEE, which is a full-service Prep and Ship, service provider. The company is based both in China and the USA, which means that they can handle both sides of shipping your items.
On the China end, they handle the preparation and the forwarding of the products. Once the items are received in the U.S. facilities, they can take care of the taxes, customs, and finally delivering the item to Amazon FCs.
They can handle all aspects of shipping your products from China directly to Amazon, giving you the freedom to handle other tasks of your business that require your attention.