Today anyone can go online and buy goods direct from China from multiple outlets including; Alibaba, Amazon and eBay. Long gone are the days when a Chinese factory had little contact with consumers or smaller size businesses. Anybody can go on these sites and purchase goods that were traditionally imported in large volume and resold by American companies. The factories are competing directly with their own customers. I have some personal experience to share on how to compete against china and maintain a sustainable and profitable business.
Many US based firms have spent many years building brand names and a loyal customer following, selling product that was private labeled and imported from China. Overtime the Chinese have gotten more aggressive at acquiring customers of any size. They are using online marketplaces, .com sites and email campaigns to earn business. Online marketplaces have bridged the gap between China and the US; they have matured enough to allow Chinese suppliers and manufacturers to sell in as little as single piece quantities directly to US consumers. So how do you compete?
First, you have an established brand name that supports their products, offering technical advice and customer service here in the US. Many people will consider buying from China direct to save money but on a higher dollar purchase most will want the comfort of stateside support. Excellent customer service and product support are crucial to keeping an edge over “China Direct.”
Second, you need to be continuously upgrading and differentiating your products. It will only be a small window where you can maintain a competitive edge over your own manufacturing partner. Take advantage and ask for changes with no explanation from your overseas engineering team. This will help you stay ahead of the copycats. It will also keep your customers coming back to you for the latest and greatest versions of your products. You have spent years refining and revamping products, while contracting your overseas manufacturing partner to build your products. Do everything you can to protect your products and brand.
Lastly, develop long-term partnerships with trusted manufacturing partners. The best way to do this is to spoon feed them the business. This will allow you to build a rapport and a business partnership that can be viable for many years. Make sure you always ask them for exclusivity on products that you developed. Always work with multiple manufacturers to stop China direct sales from eroding your customer base and to combat untrustworthy manufacturing partners.
Do you have an experience of purchasing goods on marketplaces like Alibaba or Made-In-China.com? Please share with us.