Once you’ve decided on your product, the next step is to get some samples into your hands. The obvious reason is so that you can inspect the quality of the sample. But another reason is so that you can inspect the sample against your eventual production order to see if your supplier switched out for cheaper components, for example. Lastly, you’ll also be able to use these samples for your product photography, if you choose to take the photos yourself or if you choose to send them out professionally.
Alibaba is the main source for suppliers in China. Look for suppliers that have been around for a while, have a high response rate, high transaction level, etc. If you plan to modify the product (to hopefully make it better, and as a result make more sales), then you’ll want to verify if the supplier is a factory or trading company. Factories have the ability to work with you to modify existing products, or develop an entirely new product. Trading companies cannot. If you want to sell the product as is, then choosing a factory or trading company doesn’t matter as much. In fact, sometimes you might get a better price through a trading company rather than straight from the factory.
Per product, you’ll want to get samples from about 3-5 suppliers. If you’re planning on modifying the product (and hopefully you are) no supplier will make anything custom without you committing to a production order, so the point at this stage is to inspect general quality of materials, quality of craftsmanship, packaging options, etc. Make sure the supplier includes the packaging options along with the sample.
Arrange with each supplier to have the samples shipped to a sample consolidator within China. Using this method, the supplier should offer you the sample for free (there are exceptions) and will ship it for you for free as well (since shipping domestically within China is only a few dollars). The sample consolidator will package all the samples together with clear labels distinguishing which sample came from which supplier, and then ship by air to wherever you are, in just a few days.
Once you get your package of samples, start inspecting! Test everything and be rough with it, but also keep it clean and like-new for your product photos. Once you’ve narrowed down to the supplier you want to use, make sure check out our blog post on how to negotiate with suppliers and what to discuss in the negotiations!