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GOLD! Ask me anything about eCommerce (Ongoing)

Xeon

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A $6.20 product selling for $17 is not good. That is not even 3X! You really need to be around 5-6X. If I sell a $17 product, my landed cost would need to be $3.
So, you're saying that for a product / company to be making any profits, it needs to be selling at 5x or more its cost of production? Tbh, this is really high and I'm not sure it's the norm (in eCommerce in general, not just Amazon marketplace).

Also, what are your thoughts on lead magnets with regards to eCommerce? Have you used them before?
Lead magnets as in coupons/discounts, informative blog content related to the product and other incentives. A lot of articles about how to use lead magnets tend to be more for people selling eBooks or SaaS.
(*the big con with using coupons as lead magnets is that it trains customers to only buy when there is one)
 

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biophase

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So, you're saying that for a product / company to be making any profits, it needs to be selling at 5x or more its cost of production? Tbh, this is really high and I'm not sure it's the norm (in eCommerce in general, not just Amazon marketplace).
When your price point is that low, under $25, you need at least 5x. With products that are between $30-$100 you can get away with 3x.

In general most Amazon products look like this 33% COGS, 33% profit margin, 33% Amazon fees. So you could get away with a $5 product selling at $15, making $5. But once you put PPC into the mix it will drag your 33% of the profit down. An ACOS of 33% and you breakeven.

What would be better is selling at $15, COGS $3, Amazon fees at $5, profit is $7. Now your breakeven ACOS is around 45% which is way more doable on a competitive product.
 

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Alot has changed since my Ask me about Ecommerce AMA from 2012, so I thought I'd do an updated AMA as some of the answers in the previous thread are now outdated. The online marketplace has shifted greatly in the past couple years. Some examples of what has changed:
  • Google Shopping is now at the top of your search results, so ranking #1 for a specific term is not as valuable as before. I don't do anymore SEO.
  • Big box stores like Amazon, Walmart and Target now dominate the results whereas before smaller niche stores did.
  • Amazon is now the place to be in Ecommerce.
  • A huge shift has happened from dropshipping to importing and branding.
So go ahead and ask away!
Hello Biophase,

I am in service business and I don't know much about e-commerce, actually I don't know nothing except it's a online store. However I would like to learn about it. But I have no clue where to start. Is there any book or youtube chanel you would suggest? Perhaps thread which explain e-commerce for beginners?

Maybe you are familiar with some of titles bellow:
I would really appreciate your input / pointing in right direction.
Thanks.
 

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Not sure if this is the best place to post this question, but here it goes.
Does anyone have any experience trying to work around patents? I have an idea that I know there is a need for. The problem is, there are two companies that are selling this product and there is a patent on the product. Their products accomplish the same thing, but they are slightly different. They are doing an absolute terrible job though. Their websites are terrible. Only one of them has it on amazon and it has zero reviews. So, I know it can be done much better. Is it worth hiring an attorney to do patent research to tell me what improvements I could legally make to the product?
@biophase @Walter Hay @JasonR @Vigilante
 

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Not sure if this is the best place to post this question, but here it goes.
Does anyone have any experience trying to work around patents? I have an idea that I know there is a need for. The problem is, there are two companies that are selling this product and there is a patent on the product. Their products accomplish the same thing, but they are slightly different. They are doing an absolute terrible job though. Their websites are terrible. Only one of them has it on amazon and it has zero reviews. So, I know it can be done much better. Is it worth hiring an attorney to do patent research to tell me what improvements I could legally make to the product?
@biophase @Walter Hay @JasonR @Vigilante
I would never try to bypass a patent without professional legal advice. Patent law is very complex and failing to understand just one word in a patent lodgement could be disastrous.

Many people gamble on the patent proprietor being unwilling or financially unable to sue, but if someone sued you for millions, claiming loss of profits, would you survive?

Walter
 

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I would never try to bypass a patent without professional legal advice. Patent law is very complex and failing to understand just one word in a patent lodgement could be disastrous.

Many people gamble on the patent proprietor being unwilling or financially unable to sue, but if someone sued you for millions, claiming loss of profits, would you survive?

Walter
Do it from China. The Chinese don't recognise patents.
 

Sanj Modha

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But then selling in the US could get him in trouble right?
Not if the company is registered in China. I know factories who do it and they don't give a F*ck about it either.

I know guys who swipe the best performing Kickstarter campaigns, build and sell the product before the Kickstarter's ended. They sell millions of units too.
 

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Not if the company is registered in China. I know factories who do it and they don't give a F*ck about it either.

I know guys who swipe the best performing Kickstarter campaigns, build and sell the product before the Kickstarter's ended. They sell millions of units too.
Any US lawsuit would have to go through Chinese courts. Good luck with that.
 

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Alot has changed since my Ask me about Ecommerce AMA from 2012, so I thought I'd do an updated AMA as some of the answers in the previous thread are now outdated. The online marketplace has shifted greatly in the past couple years. Some examples of what has changed:
  • Google Shopping is now at the top of your search results, so ranking #1 for a specific term is not as valuable as before. I don't do anymore SEO.
  • Big box stores like Amazon, Walmart and Target now dominate the results whereas before smaller niche stores did.
  • Amazon is now the place to be in Ecommerce.
  • A huge shift has happened from dropshipping to importing and branding.
So go ahead and ask away!
How many reviews are required to kick start sell on amazon?

What is effect of review on sales?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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tmb22

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I would never try to bypass a patent without professional legal advice. Patent law is very complex and failing to understand just one word in a patent lodgement could be disastrous.

Many people gamble on the patent proprietor being unwilling or financially unable to sue, but if someone sued you for millions, claiming loss of profits, would you survive?

Walter
Thanks for the reply Walter. I'm not a billionaire yet, so no I would not survive. I'm speaking with an attorney next week. If there's no way around it, I am going to try and buy the company out somehow
 

tmb22

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Not if the company is registered in China. I know factories who do it and they don't give a F*ck about it either.

I know guys who swipe the best performing Kickstarter campaigns, build and sell the product before the Kickstarter's ended. They sell millions of units too.
that's too shady for me
 

Walter Hay

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But then selling in the US could get him in trouble right?
that's too shady for me
Apart from the ethics, reliance on the extreme difficulty of pursuing any case in Chinese courts does give IP thieves some protection, but that is not the whole story.

The legitimate IP owner will easily succeed in having the copyist's sites and other listings taken down. This overnight destroys their illegitimate business.

The IP owner will often sue the thief for damages, with the result likely to be bankruptcy.

Law enforcement authorities get involved if the offense is deemed serious, and heavy fines and sometimes prison time result.

These things happen quite often, but get relatively little press, because there is so much more exciting stuff with which to entertain the public.

Walter
 

Ernie McCracken

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How do you feel about launching a brand into Amazon? To clarify, I developed my own unique product, invested in totally custom tooling, and am building an ecom presence from scratch. No alibaba sourced stuff.

I'm afraid if I put up products on Amazon, I'll get hammered by fake reviews and other black hat tactics that will kill my brand before I ever get off the ground. So many horror stories out there about the amazon snake pit. Any thoughts?
 

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If you're successful - you'll get knocked off in ANY market.

Spanx was ripped off but that didn't stop Sara Blakely from creating a $1bn+ thriving business. That's why I always say: BUILD A BRAND. You are unstoppable.
 

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Hey @biophase ,

Can’t thank you enough for the massive amount of value you brought to this thread over the years. I just read through the whole thing and I’m left with 2 questions.

1. How did you validate your niche once you first startet your brand?. Did you check for more products with potential for improvement right after you decided on your first product in a specific niche? Or did you first make sure that there will be enough products to improve on before you even got involved in the niche?

Not sure if this one was answered:

2. How do you deal with the upcoming force sending to FBA directly from China? I see more and more of these folks all over the place selling direct every month. Can you still compete through differentiation or don’t they just copy your product improvements in no time so they regain their advantage to offer at a better price?
 

biophase

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Hey @biophase ,

Can’t thank you enough for the massive amount of value you brought to this thread over the years. I just read through the whole thing and I’m left with 2 questions.

1. How did you validate your niche once you first started your brand?. Did you check for more products with potential for improvement right after you decided on your first product in a specific niche? Or did you first make sure that there will be enough products to improve on before you even got involved in the niche?

Not sure if this one was answered:

2. How do you deal with the upcoming force sending to FBA directly from China? I see more and more of these folks all over the place selling direct every month. Can you still compete through differentiation or don’t they just copy your product improvements in no time so they regain their advantage to offer at a better price?
1) I usually have an idea of how I would expand before I do the first product. So if I were doing a stapler, I'd think about how my brand would look. So I'd probably think, stapler, tape dispenser, pencil holder and then maybe some desk organizers.

2) I don't pay any attention to them at all. You will have to figure out a way to do something that a China competitor won't do or can't copy. Or just do it better than them. They can't communicate as well as you. They don't know what they are making or know the intricacies of how the product is used.
 

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2. How do you deal with the upcoming force sending to FBA directly from China? I see more and more of these folks all over the place selling direct every month. Can you still compete through differentiation or don’t they just copy your product improvements in no time so they regain their advantage to offer at a better price?
Look at basically any smaller Chinese brand on Amazon (not talking about Huawei or something). "Branding" is something they never heard about: the name of their brand is made up and doesn't make any sense (to name a few that I just searched: Nowyeh, Yescom, Wondruz, Loveuing, this list goes on), the language they use in their listings is often so terribly bad (might have used online translators), and their photos are a joke more than often.

Some people look through this and buy it, but for most westerners, it looks so unprofessional on the first sight. Chinese marketing is so much different than ours, and that's how we still can make a difference. Although it will probably not stay that way.
 

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@biophase I can’t thank you enough for the amount of info and insights you’ve given throughout this epic thread.

I would like to know your opinion regarding a product I’ve been thinking of selling. And that is Books. Physical books to begin with.

From what I could research books are and will remain to be in demand throughout the world, you can store them for an indefinite period of time if you need to, meaning you don’t have to worry about selling them before certain period of time. I’d say books are kind of a “safe” product. But I could be entirely wrong.

I wouldn’t manufacture anything, but buy them from wholesalers in my country or other countries.

Provided that I have USPs that outweigh those of big bookstores, do you see this as a viable option?
I will be selling exclusively through my own website.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Cheers.
 

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biophase

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@biophase I can’t thank you enough for the amount of info and insights you’ve given throughout this epic thread.

I would like to know your opinion regarding a product I’ve been thinking of selling. And that is Books. Physical books to begin with.

From what I could research books are and will remain to be in demand throughout the world, you can store them for an indefinite period of time if you need to, meaning you don’t have to worry about selling them before certain period of time. I’d say books are kind of a “safe” product. But I could be entirely wrong.

I wouldn’t manufacture anything, but buy them from wholesalers in my country or other countries.

Provided that I have USPs that outweigh those of big bookstores, do you see this as a viable option?
I will be selling exclusively through my own website.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Cheers.
What would be your USP for a book that other bookstores have?
 

Demian

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What would be your USP for a book that other bookstores have?
-The main thing would be faster (much faster) shipping. Something like same-day delivery with free shipping. Most shipments in my country take over a week to reach your house, and that is if they even arrive at all. I haven´t figured out all the details yet, but if I were to buy a book I´ve been eager to read I would love to have it in my hands as soon as possible.
-Another aspect I could highly improve is packaging. In my country, most deliveries come in a simple bag with the address written with black marker on it. There´s signficant room for improvement there. I was thinking that by sealing the product in a somewhat resistant box with my logo on it would put me ahead of the curve.
-Better customer service. I would be the one answering all the calls and messages from customers, guiding them through the entire process and being frank and transparent with them. Customer service is (VERY) neglected here.

These are the ones I can come up with now, I´m sure there are more but I dont want to make this longer than it needs to be. I hope this answers your question.

Would love any and all feedback you can give me.
Cheers.
 

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Apart from the ethics, reliance on the extreme difficulty of pursuing any case in Chinese courts does give IP thieves some protection, but that is not the whole story.

The legitimate IP owner will easily succeed in having the copyist's sites and other listings taken down. This overnight destroys their illegitimate business.

The IP owner will often sue the thief for damages, with the result likely to be bankruptcy.

Law enforcement authorities get involved if the offense is deemed serious, and heavy fines and sometimes prison time result.

These things happen quite often, but get relatively little press, because there is so much more exciting stuff with which to entertain the public.

Walter
This is really fantastic advice, Walter. It gave me a nitty gritty view of international e-commerce procedure.

For you and any others in the thread, how do we make hiring e-commerce contractors from the US more attractive to US clients over other international markets?
 

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Great thread, lots of value added. Thanks Biophase. I'd like to make three questions:
1. Do you send any follow up emails? If yes, at which point?
2. You have mentioned here that you run your PPC campaigns at break-even. So, do you think that the only purpose of your campaign is to rank higher?
3. About product launching. You've also mentioned selling at a lower price to rank higher. Should that price be discounted or my regular one and raise it afterwards? And finally what's your opinion about the early reviewers program?
 

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Hi guys!

I am looking for a specific version of a product that is not available on Amazon. The product is quite normal on Amazon, but the version I am looking for is not there.
I have not been able to find a manufacturer that offers it on Alibaba, only traders.
Would you recommend going with a trader in this case? Or search on a different platform - what platform in that case?

All the best.
 

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Hi guys!

I am looking for a specific version of a product that is not available on Amazon. The product is quite normal on Amazon, but the version I am looking for is not there.
I have not been able to find a manufacturer that offers it on Alibaba, only traders.
Would you recommend going with a trader in this case? Or search on a different platform - what platform in that case?

All the best.
1688.com

Good luck!

PS: find a Chinese sourcer on Upwork that will help you out in case your Chinese isn't on point.
 

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Great thread, lots of value added. Thanks Biophase. I'd like to make three questions:
1. Do you send any follow up emails? If yes, at which point?
2. You have mentioned here that you run your PPC campaigns at break-even. So, do you think that the only purpose of your campaign is to rank higher?
3. About product launching. You've also mentioned selling at a lower price to rank higher. Should that price be discounted or my regular one and raise it afterwards? And finally what's your opinion about the early reviewers program?
1) Yes, about 1 week later asking for a review on Amazon. For our website, we don't send any follow ups. But they are on our mailing list now.

2) Yes.

3) It's just a lower price. I don't think anyone realizes if it's discounted or a regular price. I don't use the early reviewers program at all.
 

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Thanks for the reply. I mention the discount because of amazon's review policy. It doesn't count as a verified purchase review if the discount is more than 20%. What would your PPC budget per month be, for launching, for an average cost of main keywords at 0,60$?( search volume being less or equal to 5000)
 

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Thanks for the reply. I mention the discount because of amazon's review policy. It doesn't count as a verified purchase review if the discount is more than 20%. What would your PPC budget per month be, for launching, for an average cost of main keywords at 0,60$?( search volume being less or equal to 5000)
Do you mean giving people a coupon code as a discount? Or just pricing it lower on sale? Or just making your price the lower price?

If you are trying to make a profit, your PPC would be limited by clicks, not by budget. If you are profitable your PPC budget should be unlimited.
 

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@biophase thank you so much for keeping this AMA live for a such a long time. The wealth of information here is amazing, and I'm truly grateful to learning the ropes from you.

Quick question. I am working with an Asian manufacturer who wants to launch their product in the US market. The niche is very competitive (high PPC). But, this product is game changer with the technology they are using to create it.

1. My plan is to get buy a few units to test the product and packaging, not sell it. If all looks good, get the packaging redone here in the US, and then pick the best variation to launch using Amazon.

2. Can you refer any good packaging company who would cater to small test orders? I just started talking with YesPackaging.

3. Do you prefer using Viral Launch, or other companies to boost initial sales?

Thank you for your help :)
 

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@biophase , I am in the process of finding a Chinese manufacturer for a product in the bedroom category.
I have so far only found one trading company on Alibaba that can manufacture the type of product I want. They have never done the product in the exact way that I am requesting, but they have told me that they can do it. They want to go ahead and make a sample for $95 included shipping. They have been on Alibaba for only 1 year, offer trade insurance and is a gold supplier.
Should I just go ahead and trust that they can do this?
 

biophase

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@biophase thank you so much for keeping this AMA live for a such a long time. The wealth of information here is amazing, and I'm truly grateful to learning the ropes from you.

Quick question. I am working with an Asian manufacturer who wants to launch their product in the US market. The niche is very competitive (high PPC). But, this product is game changer with the technology they are using to create it.

1. My plan is to get buy a few units to test the product and packaging, not sell it. If all looks good, get the packaging redone here in the US, and then pick the best variation to launch using Amazon.

2. Can you refer any good packaging company who would cater to small test orders? I just started talking with YesPackaging.

3. Do you prefer using Viral Launch, or other companies to boost initial sales?

Thank you for your help :)
Why is it a game changer? Is it different than the others on Amazon?

1) Ok
2) No, I don't use any packaging companies here
3) I don't use any, but that goes back to my first question, if it's a game changer, you don't need to do any of those to launch. Can't you just talk about it on FB or IG and get others to talk about it?
 

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@biophase , I am in the process of finding a Chinese manufacturer for a product in the bedroom category.
I have so far only found one trading company on Alibaba that can manufacture the type of product I want. They have never done the product in the exact way that I am requesting, but they have told me that they can do it. They want to go ahead and make a sample for $95 included shipping. They have been on Alibaba for only 1 year, offer trade insurance and is a gold supplier.

Should I just go ahead and trust that they can do this?
I would. But this is because I view it as a $95 risk vs. unlimited rewards. Your downside is $95 and upside is unlimited. It depends on how you view your $95. If it's stolen, will you spend money to get another factory to do it?
 

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@biophase , I am in the process of finding a Chinese manufacturer for a product in the bedroom category.
I have so far only found one trading company on Alibaba that can manufacture the type of product I want. They have never done the product in the exact way that I am requesting, but they have told me that they can do it. They want to go ahead and make a sample for $95 included shipping. They have been on Alibaba for only 1 year, offer trade insurance and is a gold supplier.
Should I just go ahead and trust that they can do this?
I want to add here, reading some of @Walter Hay's book, just because they're a gold supplier, that doesn't mean anything.
 

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I would. But this is because I view it as a $95 risk vs. unlimited rewards. Your downside is $95 and upside is unlimited. It depends on how you view your $95. If it's stolen, will you spend money to get another factory to do it?
Thanks for the reply!
I mean, I am on a tight budget but I will continue searching for a supplier no matter what.
But if I do the sample with trade assurance, will I get refunded if its stolen? Or is that just for bigger shipments?
 

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Why is it a game changer? Is it different than the others on Amazon?

1) Ok
2) No, I don't use any packaging companies here
3) I don't use any, but that goes back to my first question, if it's a game changer, you don't need to do any of those to launch. Can't you just talk about it on FB or IG and get others to talk about it?
This market is very competitive (North of $1 Million sales distributed among the top 30 products) this is for just one keyword. The are all solving the same problem but are bulky products. The product is around 1.5 - 4 lbs selling at $15 to $30.

My variation solves the same problem but is super light ( 5- 10 grams), and small (7x14 cm). The reason is that it fundamentally changes the way the product is made and functions. Because of the smaller size, this can address all the things which these products are doing, and more (as can be used for places where big and heavy items can't be used).

I'll be receiving the samples soon from the manufacturer, and will review the packaging but it doesn't look great from pictures. So, I might have to redesign it here to create higher perceived value.

This is my first private label product, so I'm fairly nervous and want to do this right. I have though about FB and IG as well, but not sure what would be the best path... I'll likely think about this once I have the product in hand and have tested it myself.

I'm also thinking if I should try reaching out to potential clients directly along with Amazon. The product overlaps with category of Kitchen, Household, Health, Beauty and Sports.... so the market is fairly big.
 

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Thanks for the reply!
I mean, I am on a tight budget but I will continue searching for a supplier no matter what.
But if I do the sample with trade assurance, will I get refunded if its stolen? Or is that just for bigger shipments?
Samples are never covered by Trade Assurance. That scheme also provides very little real protection for larger shipments.

I have posted frequently about the almost total lack of protection provided by Trade Assurance. I suggest you search my AMA
GOLD! Sharing my lifetime experience in export/import. Product sourcing specialist.
for that subject.

As for the supplier being verified, the fact that they are verified means nothing unless there is a reasonable amount of information provided by TUV or SGS, but recent changes to Alibaba's system has resulted in those reports now being very sketchy, and they often look as though they were written by the supplier's marketing department. The various status badges do not give you much certainty.

My instructions on assessing suppliers take up quite a few pages in my book, but for a quick assessment, do a Google search for the company, with the word Review added.

Walter
 

gunhol

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
May 6, 2019
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Samples are never covered by Trade Assurance. That scheme also provides very little real protection for larger shipments.

I have posted frequently about the almost total lack of protection provided by Trade Assurance. I suggest you search my AMA
GOLD! Sharing my lifetime experience in export/import. Product sourcing specialist.
for that subject.

As for the supplier being verified, the fact that they are verified means nothing unless there is a reasonable amount of information provided by TUV or SGS, but recent changes to Alibaba's system has resulted in those reports now being very sketchy, and they often look as though they were written by the supplier's marketing department. The various status badges do not give you much certainty.

My instructions on assessing suppliers take up quite a few pages in my book, but for a quick assessment, do a Google search for the company, with the word Review added.

Walter
Much appreciated!! Thank you!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

biophase

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Thanks for the reply!
I mean, I am on a tight budget but I will continue searching for a supplier no matter what.
But if I do the sample with trade assurance, will I get refunded if its stolen? Or is that just for bigger shipments?
I don't know about that, I've never used trade assurance. The risk isn't that it is stolen or they never send it. It's usually that they send you a crappy sample. You can't get your money back for bad quality.
 

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