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How to differentiate an (imported) product from the competition?

When a company prepares to import products from China for the first time, it is absolutely normal for doubts and fears to arise. One of the most common fears is not being able to personalize your product. This idea is based on the mistaken belief that all goods purchased in China are equal and consequently, the end customer will end up confusing or comparing the product with that of the competition.

As purchasing consultants, solving these kinds of problems is part of our job. When a company tells us that it would prefer not to import from China because it is a saturated market and it risks product parity, we offer a range of information and tips to differentiate an imported product from its competition.

Firstly, it should be noted that any product that we import from China can be customized to taste. We do not have to give up the wishes of our clients or our corporate image, however, we must be very clear that to characterize our product we must have a sourcing strategy that takes into account every detail of the item to be manufactured from its size, color, weight, logo to its packaging.

But sometimes detailing the product is simply not enough due to communication issues which is very common in transactions with the Asian market. Whether due to language or cultural factors, if the import is carried out by someone with no proven experience, the details of the customization of a product may not be sufficiently defined and become a problem.

In this sense, leaving the importation process in the hands of a sourcing partner guarantees, not only fluid communication with suppliers, but also the timely monitoring, detection and resolution of possible setbacks that may arise during the manufacturing process.

What can I customize about my product?

Characterization depends, to a large extent, on the type of product being imported (personalization is not the same thing for a mug as a pair of pliers or a machine). Even so, we must always take full advantage of the range of possibilities for the article that we are going to manufacture in order to enable it to stand out from our competitors.

To differentiate ourselves from the competition we have two options: improve the performance of the products (for example, with a three-speed fan, offer one of four speeds) or create a totally different product. The choice of one or the other option must be made based on a prior marketing study that responds to the needs of the consumer.

On the other hand, there will be times when we cannot present improvements over the competition or create variations since the product is very specific and only responds to the exact demand of the end customer because of certain characteristics. In this case there is only one option left: personalize your packaging and give it added value as a brand (for example: a box with a discount coupon for future purchases).

Brand identity: the key

However small or simple the product may be, our brand must be clearly visible on it: corporate colors, logo, slogan, etc. Anything that helps the consumer to visually relate the item to our company must be present on the product and/or on its packaging.

Embedding the brand identity into the products that we decide to import from China has multiple advantages: a strong brand transfers part of its (economic) value to the product; the identity of the company can be a sales argument (or open market) on its own, or even capture unexpected sales thanks to previous customer loyalty with the brand.

Remember that all these actions will work if the company in question previously had a marketing plan that has been working for years and whose objective is to awaken the desire to purchase in the mind of the consumer.

At the same time, and regardless of any import, there is something that no company should forget: the added value of its brand. Companies that sell products do not only sell an item that meets the needs of a consumer; the goal must be greater. Good after-sales service, customer support, product replacement or flexible return periods are some of the many advantages that a company can associate with any product.

There are many aspects in which we can work to differentiate our imported product from that of our competition, but we must go beyond this. As American marketing expert Stan Rapp stated, “making a sale is important, but achieving customer loyalty is vital.”

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