E-commerce has experienced explosive growth in the last decade, with remarkable figures in Europe. The European E-commerce Report 2022 shows that in the UK, Europe’s leading e-commerce market, 60.4% of consumers shop online at least once a week. In fact, online sales account for 30.7% of total retail sales in this country, generating revenues worth a staggering 162.26 billion euros. In Spain, the trend is also notable: in 2021, 86% of consumers opted for online shopping.
These data, beyond being impressive on an economic level, have also caused a paradigm shift. Faced with growing demand, many companies (and individuals) have seen e-commerce as a brilliant opportunity. However, the problem arises when, in the attempt to break into this market, suppliers are sought without having the right experience or knowledge, especially when it comes to imports from such complex places as China or other Asian countries.
The DIY boom (and traps)
After overcoming a situation as complex as the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of entrepreneurs who feel empowered to manage their own import operations continues to grow. From individuals launching a small e-commerce to more modest companies that, either for economic reasons or out of a desire for autonomy, decide to dispense with a purchasing consultant and apply the DIY (Do It Yourself) mentality.
Despite the determination to take on the import process oneself, experience has taught us that it is a path fraught with unexpected obstacles. Without the right preparation and knowledge, what starts as an autonomous initiative can lead to a series of complications that can determine the success or failure of our business initiative.
Problems arising from a poorly managed import can range from product quality discrepancies, misunderstandings arising from cultural and linguistic barriers, to logistical challenges and potential legal disputes. The import process is not just a matter of selecting a supplier and managing the order; it is a complex process that, without proper management, can present serious complications.
Selecting suppliers beyond AliExpress
AliExpress, with its intuitive platform, has marked a turning point in the world of imports, providing direct access to products from suppliers in China. No wonder its popularity has grown by leaps and bounds. The data backs up its unstoppable success: Alibaba Group, the parent company of AliExpress, reported in its 2020 annual report that it had more than 960 million active users worldwide.
Despite this impressive figure, it is crucial for businesses and entrepreneurs to understand that this platform, while useful in certain contexts, is not always the most suitable for establishing long-term business relationships. Proper supplier selection involves a thorough analysis of production capacity, quality history, references and certifications, something that is not achieved in a few clicks, nor by purchasing a list of suppliers online.
E-commerce and the complexity of customs logistics
One of the least understood but important facets of e-commerce is customs logistics. The ability to efficiently ship products across borders can be the difference between a satisfied customer and a lost or delayed package, especially for those online shops that opt for dropshipping.
When importing products from countries such as China, customs regulations can be a maze of regulations, duties and taxes. Each country has its own rules and regulations about what can and cannot be imported, and at what price. Moreover, with constantly evolving trade policies, what is valid today may not be valid tomorrow, and improper handling of customs documentation can lead to penalties and legal complications.
In this context, opting for bonded warehouses can be a good option to optimise costs and waiting times, while avoiding problems such as stock-outs or poor user experience.
Integral sourcing: the essence of successful imports
Successful importing is not just about finding the right product at the best price, but about understanding and managing the entire process, from the choice of supplier to the arrival of the product at its final destination. This is where integrated sourcing is of immense value.
This type of service, carried out by specialised companies such as ours, is not limited to the mere identification of suppliers. It is a work methodology that encompasses market analysis, negotiation with suppliers, production supervision, quality control, logistics management and adaptation to the customs and commercial regulations of the destination country. All of this is guided by a team of professionals with years of experience in the field and solid connections in Asian markets.
Opting for an integrated sourcing approach means having a partner who anticipates problems, understands cultural specificities and handles unforeseen events with agility. It also means ensuring that your e-commerce products that reach your customers meet the required quality standards and regulations, which is especially important when you are building your own brand.
We live in an era where e-commerce has completely revolutionised the way we do business. The ease with which international connections can be established is a powerful tool, but it is also a double-edged sword if not handled with care and expertise. For this reason, the investment in a sourcing partner can be invaluable, as it can help prevent costly complications and ensure a smooth shopping experience for your customers.