Here's how you get your product shipped from your supplier overseas to Amazon FBA.
Get Your Shipments From China To Amazon FBA
October 26, 2021
How to Get My Shipments From China to FBA
If you’re considering starting your own Amazon FBA business, one of the primary questions you will need to answer is how you are going to get your inventory from your overseas supplier to the Amazon warehouse. This is an essential aspect of using the “dropship” method that FBA sellers rely on. Let’s unpack how this happens.
Ship Direct or Use A Third Party Logistics Company
You typically have two options when shipping products from China (or India for that matter) to an Amazon FBA Warehouse. You can either have the supplier ship these products directly to an Amazon fulfillment center, or you can have your inventory shipped to a third-party logistics company. When shipping directly to Amazon, you are either relying on your supplier to take care of all quality checks, FBA prep, labelling, and packaging - or you are using Amazon’s FBA Prep and Label features to have them get things FBA ready for you.
Sending inventory directly to Amazon does cut down on cost and timing - but it also cuts down on your control over the quality of your product. There are things like express shipping and sea shipping that might come in handy. Using a third party takes longer and increases your costs, but will give you the assurance that someone is keeping your packages FBA compliant, labelled correctly, and will allow your shipment from China to be sent in a more consolidated manner.
When to Ship Directly to Amazon
Shipping directly to Amazon has its pros and cons. Generally, we recommend taking this course of action for those who:
- Need to move their product extremely quickly (i.e., you don’t have time for your product to move hands multiple times).
- You’re confident in your supplier. You’ve worked with them in the past, you know that they are going to provide you with FBA ready, quality packaging.
- Your shipment is on the smaller side and isn’t worth more than $700-800.
As you can see, the only real pros of shipping directly to Amazon are time and money. Since your inventory is going through fewer hands, that means you’re paying fewer people and it’s more efficient.
However, there are so many other risks that come with going this route. You don’t get the ability to see your inventory or get the quality check that you need. Additionally, most 3PL here in the U.S. offer more packaging and branding options than you’ll be able to find using a standard supplier overseas.
Additionally, many sellers are now encountering a problem where suppliers notice how many of their products are going to FBA sellers, and choose to forgo the process and sell on Amazon themselves - or upcharge clients so they can get a piece of the pie.
All in all, this is not the ideal option.
If you do choose to go this route, however, here’s how.
How to Ship Your Inventory to Amazon
Create a shipment.
This can be done within Seller Central. You’ll want to select an address in CA as the “Ship From” address since it’s closest to China.
Ensure your products are fully prepped and labelled.
All items need individual labels, all cartons require a label, and all pallets require a label on all 4 sides. Pallets must be ISPM-15.
Communicate with both the shipping service and the warehouse to ensure the warehouse is prepared to receive and both parties agree with the other’s requirements. This is not usually a problem.
Make sure you’ve paid duties/customs.
Amazon will require you to have paid all duties or customs before they receive your product. You will need to ship your products DDP (Duty Delivery Paid). If you ship via air, these charges are typically sent to the receiving party, so you will need to clarify they should be billed to the sender. Amazon won’t pay these.
When to Use a 3PL
Using a 3PL is the way we go most of the time. Honestly, it gives us more assurance that what we are sending to our customers is top quality and gets the best packaging and branding we can find. We recommend this course of action for those who:
- Have never used FBA before. Using a 3PL gives you a cushion to fall back on - you don’t want something to go wrong in the packing process and have your inventory sent all the way back to China because you shipped directly to Amazon.
- Are using a new supplier. You haven’t developed a relationship with this supplier yet and have no way of knowing if you can trust their packing/prep services.
- Want to save on the costs of shipping inventory that’s already prepared and packaged. Even though 3PL’s will cost you, it is also cheaper to ship products from China that are consolidated versus prepped for FBA.
The pros of using a 3PL far outweigh the cons. Many 3PL operations here in the U.S. have become so much more - offering customer support, branding, insert assistance, and more. They will help you control the quality of your product and make sure everything arrives at Amazon exactly as it should.
These companies will receive your product and have it prepared within 2-5 days. They will then ship it to your Amazon warehouse of choice. Typically this process adds a minimum of 1 week to your inventory processing time and a maximum of 2 weeks.
There are a lot of charges to consider when using a 3PL - speak to your 3PL directly upfront to determine what those may be. Something to consider when viewing these charges is that you are saving on the shipping cost from China since a Chinese supplier is able to ship more simply.
Hurdles to Avoid
As you handle your inventory, there are a few common issues you are going to want to avoid. Most of these are only problematic for those who are choosing to ship directly to Amazon from their supplier.
Don’t get stuck sending your products to multiple fulfillment centers.
Sometimes, when you are shipping directly to Amazon, your products will end up shipping to more than one fulfillment center. This is not ideal, and you want to avoid it at all costs. Many times this will happen if you are shipping oversize items. You may also run into this problem if part of your shipment requires prep work and another portion does not.
It’s easy to see if Amazon is requiring you to ship to more than one FC. You simply create an example shipment within Seller Central and see where your products are planned to be shipped to. Don’t approve this test shipment - it’s just to see what situation you’re in.
Inventory placement is the most surefire way to avoid this hurdle, but it will cost you. To use this service go into your account settings and find “Fulfillment By Amazon.” There, you can turn “on” the inventory placement option.
These are Amazon’s current Inventory Placement fees - although these change from time to time. Check here to verify prices.
Be sure to vet your supplier thoroughly.
You should be doing this regardless of what your strategy is to get products from overseas into the hands of your customers, but it becomes even more important when you’re considering shipping items directly from China to a fulfillment center.
You need to be sure that the supplier you’re working for can not only provide you with a quality product, but is capable of labelling, packaging, preparing, and potentially branding your products well. This is where intentional research comes into play. If you just choose the first, cheapest supplier who comes along, you won’t be offering the best quality item to your customers. And you won’t have confidence that they are taking every step necessary to ensure your product meets FBA specifications.
You can vet your supplier manually by scouring forums, chat rooms, and services that report on supplier reputation. However, you can also take the guesswork out of this by working with professionals who have been selling on Amazon for years. If you’re looking for help finding a perfect supplier who you can trust, our team of experts can help.
Should I Ever Ship To Myself?
If you’re brand new to FBA or being an Amazon seller, are ordering from a new supplier, or are testing a new product, it’s not a bad idea to have a small shipment sent directly to your home or business via sea freight or air freight. After all, you are responsible for your product. The 3PL is not going to suffer if your business fails because you didn’t vet your inventory, nor is the supplier. You are. At some point, you should have your hands on your own product to verify that it’s worth marketing and shipping to your customers.
Once you’re confident in your product, however, you want to avoid this at all costs. The more time that you personally spend preparing, labelling, and shipping your products, the less time you can spend working on your business. This is where the majority of your time needs to be spent, not on getting products out the door.
Shipping your products from your supplier overseas to an Amazon fulfillment center is not complicated, but it does require some foresight. Amazon sellers should take factors like customs clearance, freight forwarder, shipping costs, shipping methods, and freight insurance into consideration. It's not complicated but it does require some foresight.
Julia Grant is a copywriter specializing in e-commerce and small business, helping businesses expand their reach with copy that clearly communicates their message and converts. She is a certified translator and interpreter and prides herself on providing culturally relevant content in both English and Spanish.See more posts from this author