5 tips for buying products to sell online

Secrets from a sourcing agent

online shopping ecommerce
TK Wang
Founder & Director @ Epic Sourcing

2021 was a  HUGE year for the eCommerce entrepreneur. Everyone with a big idea launched an eCommerce store, and with a sizable chunk of the population confined to their homes*, online sales went through the roof. Those stores need products, and at Epic Sourcing we’ve seen a big increase in enquiries.

Unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs jump into product sourcing underprepared. They encounter sub-par suppliers, poor-quality products, logistical nightmares, blown-out budgets, and ultimately unhappy customers. It’s a story we hear time and time again from our clients.

At Epic Sourcing we help businesses source smarter from Asia so they can avoid these common pitfalls. So, here are 5 top tips for buying products to sell online. Fill that store and crush the competition!

*Respect to all of the people that worked through the pandemic and didn’t have the luxury of staying home. Thank you!

Tip #1

Work directly with suppliers and manufacturers

The dropshipping model has created a huge marketplace for generic, low-quality, low-profit margin products. It’s a fascinating evolution in product sourcing and fulfilment (and there’s plenty to learn from it), but it tends to lead you into a scrap for a few loose crumbs.

Whether you’re dropshipping or running an order fulfilment eCommerce business, skipping the wholesale marketplace and working directly with your manufacturer can help turn those crumbs into chunks, and maybe even the whole loaf. It will give you more control over product quality, open up possibilities for customisation (more on that later), and ultimately improve your profit margins as you start differentiating yourself from the competition.

Where do I start my search?

The most common places to start your search for a supplier are B2B marketplaces like Alibaba, industry expos like The Canton Fair, or through a sourcing agency (hey, we’re a Sourcing Agency!). Regardless of which path you go down, make sure you do your due diligence. Taking time to find the right supplier will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Looking for a supplier or manufacturer in Asia? Check out our Supplier Prospecting Program here.


Tip #2

Customise white label products - the secret source 


Now that you’ve heeded our advice in Tip #1, and you’ve decided to work directly with your manufacturer, let’s talk about customisation. In particular, customising white label products

Designing and manufacturing a product from scratch and bringing it to market might be the holy grail, but before you remortgage your house, there’s a lower investment market entry strategy to consider. To differentiate your product/s from those of the competition, take a ubiquitous product (a white label product), and customise it. You’ll minimise your investment in R&D, tap into a standardised manufacturing process, and still end up with a unique product.

One of our clients at Epic Sourcing imported a generic piece of gym equipment, made a simple addition to improve its functionality, and bingo, they had a customised product. Looking to import olympic weight plates for your online home gym equipment store? You could go with yellow, blue, red, green, and black like everyone else. Or, you could make your weight plates look like Viking shields? Or dinner plates?

Tip #3

Import quality products your customers will love

If you’re looking to build a successful eCommerce business, you need to build a reputable brand. And nothing kills a brand like poor quality products. You might not have the brand recognition early on, so carving out a niche selling high-quality products at a mid-range price point could be a strategy worth exploring. 

The evolution of the Chinese hifi audio industry has opened up huge opportunities for audio brands to use this strategy. Chinese Manufacturers like KZ-audio and xDuoo have developed in-house research and development teams and are making very high-quality audio equipment that doesn’t break the bank. We went deep on Chinese Hifi here btw.

Brands like KZ audio have helped develop the Chinese Hi-Fi market. High quality, affordable price.

Partnering New Zealand and Australian businesses with top manufacturers that produce high-quality products is at the heart of what we do at Epic Sourcing. And, it’s a strategy that your business can employ too. So forget about importing the world's cheapest, flimsiest toothbrush, and source a recyclable, ergonomic, sustainably sourced tooth-brush instead… just check there’s a market for it first.

Tip #4

Understand the sourcing process

We love the pedal-to-the-metal, gung-ho attitude of entrepreneurs, but slow down a minute! If you’re buying products to sell online, getting familiar with each stage of the sourcing process is key. It will help you make an effective plan, which will save you a lot of time, money, and hair loss in the long run.

The stages of the product sourcing process

How we do it at Epic Sourcing

Manufacturing and importing products from a low-cost region can seem like a daunting task. So, at Epic Sourcing we break down the process into 3 main stages for our clients:

Tip #5

Don’t forget about packaging

Packaging is the forgotten piece of the product puzzle. Using sustainable materials, adding additional functionality to your packaging, or playing around with shapes and colours, are just a few ways to get creative with your product wrap.

If your competitor’s razor comes in a boring plastic case, and yours comes in a snazzy travel kit, you might just discover a new slice of the market. For eco-friendly brands, your sustainability conscious customers don’t want layers of single-use plastic to throw out, so using 100% recycled materials could be a big brand boost.

Need packaging? Have a squizz over here.

Tip # 6 (the bonus tip)

Always. Order. Samples.

“A picture is worth a thousand words”

                 - Someone who has never sourced products from China before. 

If you’re sourcing products from B2B sites like Alibaba, the pictures rarely tell the full story. Having samples sent to you before starting production is the best way to assess product quality.

Another option is to engage the services of a sourcing agency. A top sourcing agency will have a team on the ground in the country you're sourcing from, and can assess product quality, take detailed photos, and conduct factory visits on your behalf.

Support with ordering samples was such a common request from our clients, that we created a special service just for that purpose. We call it The Product Wizard, and it’s the fastest way to get to the Golden Sample.

The last word

So there you have it, a few tips and tricks from a sourcing agent for buying products to sell online. Sourcing products for your eCommerce store doesn’t need to be a struggle, and with a bit of sourcing know-how your chances of success will skyrocket. 

2021 was a huge year for the eCommerce entrepreneur, and 2022 looks set to be even bigger, so start sourcing products and get that online store firing.

Better sourcing everybody!

TK