Chinese suppliers are a cost-effective source for inexpensive products that Amazon FBA sellers can offer to customers in the United States. However, once you source your supplier and place your order, you need to ship the goods to your home or business, the Amazon warehouse, or a third party.
If you’ve decided to ship directly to Amazon, the process can be complex. Τo take advantage of low-cost suppliers located in the PRC, you need to know what shipping methods to use and how to navigate international restrictions on trade.
Your Chinese Supplier
Before instructing your Chinese supplier to ship directly to an Amazon warehouse in the United States, you need to ensure that supplier is trustworthy. Do you have an established relationship with the company? Has the supplier shipped samples or prototypes to you for inspection?
If you’re new to the business, you’ll need to source a reputable supplier in mainland China who can manufacture or provide you with the goods you need at a competitive price. This can be a time-consuming task for a startup company. By delegating this responsibility to Asiana USA, you save time and avoid potential pitfalls.
If you’ve only recently sourced your supplier, it’s important that you evaluate the company’s standards and capabilities before placing a bulk order. Are there communication difficulties, either due to lack of availability or language barriers? If so, you need to resolve these issues as soon as possible.
These questions can affect your product’s quality control, especially if you want a Chinese supplier to ship to Amazon FBA warehouses. In the beginning, it may be best to have your supplier ship products to your home, place of business, or a third party for inspection.
When you choose fulfillment by Amazon, you need to comply with a specific set of requirements, including correct labeling and packaging. If your supplier fails to adhere to these guidelines or ships damaged or defective products to an Amazon warehouse, this can adversely affect your seller account rating.
When you choose a supplier you trust with this responsibility, you can create a shipping plan, select the right shipping method for your goods and business, and address customs concerns.
Freight Forwarding Services
International shipping and trade are complex endeavors that can be confusing to navigate. Failing to understand and comply with the regulations governing imports, exports, documentation, and tariffs can have severe consequences, ranging from fines to confiscation of goods.
At Asiana USA, we can organize labeling and packaging, ensuring compliance with Amazon’s requirements. We can also recommend the most cost-effective shipping method and employ customs brokers and other experts to guide your goods through the customs process.
From third-party inspection of goods to warehousing and order fulfillment, Asiana USA provides a wide range of services to Amazon sellers who want to sell Chinese-made products to customers in the United States.
When you’re deciding which shipping method to use, you’ll have to consider cost, transit time, and the type of goods you’re shipping.
You also need to account for shortages and international supply-chain disruptions. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on global workforces are still adversely affecting shipping times, delaying transit times, or increasing the charges that shippers impose. Factor in additional shipping times and increased charges into your shipping plan.
Type of Goods
Some products, such as lithium batteries, cannot be shipped by air. You need to know for certain if what you’re shipping to the United States is either prohibited or restricted, whether by law or by Amazon policy. This affects the import process, potentially requiring special licensing.
Amazon sellers need to carefully consider the shipping methods they use to remain competitive — every unnecessary expense potentially reduces your profits. The shipping cost depends on your inventory’s gross or volumetric weight, how the cargo will be transported — e.g., air or sea — and what kind of transit times you require.
Transit and Lead Times
The transit time determines how quickly your goods arrive at a port of entry. How long it takes for your cargo to clear customs and arrive at an Amazon warehouse depends on other factors, such as whether your goods require a CBP (Customs and Border Protection) examination.
You’ll need to balance the required transit time against the demand for your products on Amazon and your need to replenish your stock. The shipping method isn’t the only factor that affects the arrival of your goods. The manufacturing or lead time also affects the interval between when you place your order and when your goods arrive in the U.S.
If you place an order for a product that is relatively complex to manufacture, requires assembly and testing, or involves the sourcing of special parts or materials, your lead and transit times may be extended accordingly.
It’s also important to be aware of material shortages that could affect manufacturing lead times. For example, the 2020–2021 shortage of integrated circuits has increased lead times for consumer electronics.
Customs clearance is a concern for every business that ships goods internationally. However, it may be more of a concern depending on your country of origin and the destination country. When your goods arrive at a U.S. airport or seaport, the CBP takes over.
The CBP ensures that dangerous and illegal goods do not enter the U.S. The CBP also assesses the value of imported goods to determine the import duty.
The CBP uses the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) Automated Targeting System (ATS) to assess the relative risk of cargo entering the United States. The ATS compares data regarding the cargo against law enforcement, intelligence, and other databases and assigns a rating to the cargo (or passenger). Depending on the score, the CBP may identify your cargo as high risk and decide to examine it to ensure compliance.
The physical examination of cargo isn’t always viable because this would cause significant disruptions to the flow of trade. So, the CBP may conduct less invasive exams such as X-ray screening.
If you’re a first-time importer, you are more likely to have your cargo examined. The buyer pays all applicable fees, including warehouse storage costs.
Import duties contribute to the overall cost of your shipment once it arrives at a port of entry. An import duty is a tax or tariff that the country of destination imposes on the importation of goods, depending on their country of origin, monetary value, and other factors. While the commercial invoice provides the CBP with guidance regarding what import duty to charge, the CBP makes the final decision.
The type of product and its market value affects the import duty, but you’ll also need to consider whether there are specific materials that command a higher duty.
Depending on the shipping method, the shipper will need several types of documentation to show CBP on arrival. These are:
Bill of Lading (BoL)
A bill of lading is a legally binding document between a carrier and a shipper that acts as a receipt of goods, proof of purchase and title, and a shipping contract. For the bill of lading to be valid, it must be signed by an authorized representative of the shipper, the carrier, and the consignee.
Airway Bill (AWB)
If the goods are shipped by air, you will need an airway bill (AWB). The AWB contains information regarding the shipper and consignee, the three-digit code for the airport of origin, the three-letter code for the destination airport, a description of the shipment’s contents, the number of items, the gross weight, and the declared value for customs.
The primary difference between a BoL and an AWB is that the latter is non-negotiable, offering you less legal protection in the event of a dispute.
The packing list contains information regarding the shipment, including the contents, dimensions, weight, and how the shipper or supplier packed it. If you ship palletized cargo consisting of multiple packages, the packing list details each parcel’s information. In some cases, you may need a packing list to obtain a bill of lading.
The commercial invoice is a signed customs declaration indicating the approximate monetary value of the goods shipped that the CBP will use to determine the import duty. The airway bill or bill of lading can also serve this purpose.
Always Insure Your Freight
Purchasing freight insurance when shipping goods internationally is always advisable, regardless of the method you choose. You can never predict what will happen to your cargo en route, so it pays to be prepared. An insurance policy protects your goods against theft, damage, or loss. If you’ve ordered thousands of dollars worth of goods, you can’t afford to lose that inventory.
To minimize the unpredictability regarding customs duties and taxes, hire a customs broker. Customs brokers are licensed companies or individuals who provide guidance regarding customs clearance and can obtain binding rulings, ensuring you know the customs duty you’ll be charged in advance.
While you can hire a customs broker independently, freight forwarding services, like Asiana USA, employ customs brokers to simplify the process.
Obtaining a binding ruling can be a cost-effective solution to the unpredictability of import duties if you’re shipping high-value goods in low volumes or low-volume goods in high volumes. However, if you’re shipping low-value goods in low volumes, or a variety of products, this may prove more expensive than necessary.
When you’re organizing the shipment of your goods from China to an Amazon FBA warehouse, you have several options depending on your budget, when you need your goods to arrive, and what kinds of goods you want to import. Asiana USA can find the most cost-effective shipping option for your goods, saving you time and money.
You’ll also need to take into account how the shipping company calculates weight for the purpose of charging you. There are two ways of doing this: Gross weight or dimensional weight.
Gross weight is the total weight of the goods, including packaging, in kilograms. Dimensional weight is the estimated weight of the goods based on volume. If a shipping company calculates both, it will typically charge you according to whichever value is higher.
Air freight provides a balanced shipping option regarding both cost and expected transit time for goods weighing more than 200 kilograms and having a volume of more than two cubic meters. The time it takes for goods to be shipped via air freight from China to the U.S. is approximately one week. While air freight takes less time than sea freight, it’s also less expensive than LCL sea freight for low-volume shipments.
Sea or ocean freight is the shipping of goods via cargo ship along ocean routes. If your goods weigh 400 kilograms or more or have a minimum volume of 2m³, sea freight is the most cost-effective shipping method; however, it’s also the slowest.
You can expect sea/ocean freight to take up to three weeks to arrive at a U.S. seaport. Sea freight is divided into less than container load (LCL) and full container load (FCL), according to the volume of your goods.
If your goods have a volume of less than 14m³, LCL is the best option. In LCL, your goods will share a container with consignments from multiple shippers. In FCL, you’ll pay a flat rate for the exclusive use of a single shipping container.
FCL is ideal for high-volume shipments. While it’s not strictly necessary for you to load the container to capacity, you will be paying for unused space. However, by hiring a shipping container exclusively for your cargo, tracking is simpler.
When you’re shipping to FBA warehouses in the U.S. from China, express shipping is also an available option, using carriers like DHL and UPS. If your shipment has a gross weight of less than 200 kilograms or a volume of less than 1m³, you may consider express shipping. The chargeable weight is whichever is higher: The gross weight or the dimensional weight.
Air express reduces transit times significantly when compared with other shipping options. However, the faster shipping times associated with air express are not cheap.
Contact Asiana USA for All Your Freight-Forwarding Needs
At Asiana USA, we understand that shipping goods from China to the U.S. can be challenging. Shipping methods, legal complexities, and other obstacles can be difficult to navigate for those new to the business.
We provide various freight forwarding and customs clearance services to simplify the shipping and importation process. If you’d like guidance or to request a free quote on shipping from China to Amazon warehouses in the United States, give us a call at (855) 500-1808.