When you’re in e-commerce, sourcing is half the game. You’ll absolutely find yourself looking to find a good sourcing partner at some point. Perhaps you are just starting out with a new idea or maybe your current sourcing partner is not working out for some reason or another. In any case, you’ll find that when it comes to how to source a product, more problems seem to arise than solutions.
Should your product be produced white-label or private-label? How do you deal with or, even better, avoid bad communication and lackluster customer service? How can you make sure you’re getting the best quality for the most reasonable price? How do you know whether to make the products domestic or overseas? Where do you even begin?
Issue #1: White-Label or Private-Label?
You have your product idea and you want to start manufacturing. Let’s say you’re making hats and backpacks. One of the first decisions you will run across is whether to make your products white-label or private-label. Your decision will be based on how you want them made and whether or not you want control over the packaging.
For white-label products, you select a product that the manufacturer is already producing. This cuts down on costs because the manufacturer doesn’t have to design and build a manufacturing process or system for your product and your product only.
If you chose the white-label path for your hats and backpacks, you would use designs already being produced, cutting down on cost and lead times. Then, per white-label standards, the manufacturer would package your products in their own way and then put your label on it.
If you want more control over the design and packaging of your product, go private-label. Say you have a backpack design you’ve been working on for years and it’s perfect. You aren’t going to settle for a kind-of-similar design that’s already being manufactured.
With a private-label product, you’ll have control over the exact design and materials that go into the backpack, as well as the packaging (we all know unboxing videos are all the rage) and the label. This will take a little longer and may be more expensive, but you’ll get the personalized product you’re looking for.
Now that you know how you’re going to manufacture, you need to know how to source the product. Look at what products the manufacturers are currently producing and choose one that is closest to your needs. This way you can use them for your white-label products and may only need minor adjustments for a private-label product.
Issue #2: Bad Communication and Customer Service
Partnering with a manufacturer is a big deal. It’s a type of relationship and, as we know, all healthy relationships require communication. If you’re not sure what some manufacturer is offering, if they are being opaque or shady about the deal, or if they just don’t have the time or manpower to communicate with you frequently and on a timely basis, that’s a red flag.
Everyone with stake in the product should have access to manufacturing updates–that’s customers, the global sourcing company, and the factory. Working with a company like Manufactured, you can be assured that you are being directed to companies that will communicate with you and offer exceptional customer service.
Issue #3: No Referrals
One of the best ways to find a sourcing partner is through word of mouth. How will this partner treat your company? Most likely, how it’s treated other companies like yours. If you’re feeling lost and you don’t know where to start in your search for a sourcing company, odds are you’re not talking to enough people about it.
Go to get-togethers, go to mixers, get on online forums populated by your peers (but make sure you’re not taking the word of a bot). Receiving referrals will save you time and effort and lead you to a better sourcing partner.
Issue #4: Product Quality
The reputation of your company lies with the quality of your products. If you’re selling camping gear and the customer ends up spending the night in a leaky tent, the online reviews will show it.
If an ineffective cooler ruins a tailgate, the people will know. You can design perfect products all you want, but if the manufacturing quality is bad, your company will not survive the competition (or the Amazon reviews section).
You may be tempted to go with the sourcing partner that offers the lowest quotes, but you can’t always let the money bags be king! If the low quotes are indicative of lower quality, your company needs to steer clear.
Find the sourcing partner with the lowest cost for the quality of product that you’re looking for. Again, word of mouth could be helpful for this. And of course Manufactured can help you find reliable, high-quality manufacturers.
Issue #5: Overseas or Domestic?
Another problem you may run into is whether or not to move your manufacturing overseas. Foreign and domestic manufacturing each have their pros and cons. With foreign, you may get lower prices but shipping will cost much more. With domestic, you may get the “Made in the USA” sticker but the factories will cost more to operate.
Something else to keep in mind is whether or not you will be using a dropshipping model. If so, it is typically better to go domestic, as the shipping time to the customer will be dramatically reduced.
The hiccups that occur when looking for a sourcing partner are many. Luckily, when you work with someone like Manufactured, things can be made easier. Once you know whether you want a white-label or private-label product, Manufactured steps in and helps you step-by-step until you have a manufactured product in hand.
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