I love sourcing product, it is one of the joys of my day to day business. I also love seeing all the new designs when they arrive. However, on the rare (thank goodness) occasions this can be a heartbreaking moment when you realise the entire order is rubbish! You are staring at what is meant to be your latest collection, you have customers waiting and BAM….all that money and time is wasted. Now I can’t help you get back the time but here is a quick guide on how I won my Aliexpress claim against a supplier that provided me with bad product.
Be warned, the process is frustrating and I did feel as though I was going to lose it completely but in a surprise twist, I did not.
My very first step was obviously to reach out to the supplier and as much as I wanted to scream all my frustrations into a single email, I did not and you should never do this either. I simply listed my concerns and the facts. I explained that the order had arrived and unfortunately the quality was not up to scratch, making the order useless to me. I explained what the quality issues were. I asked if there was a way to quickly resolve this.
I made sure I was emailing the supplier via the message center as soon as I knew it was going to be a problem. I recommend (if you are not already) that you only email the supplier via the message center, as this will keep a great record of the conversation between you and the supplier. This goes for all orders, before and after the sale.
The supplier was not helpful at all in trying to help me so the next step was to open a dispute.
The biggest frustration with opening an Aliexpress dispute is that you have to ‘release’ payment to be able to open the dispute. I found this a very scary option but my order was only about $60AUD so not much of a risk compared to larger orders!
Once you open a dispute you will be able to tell your side of the story. I did this in dot point:
You have to attach photos, and they want lots of evidence. So take close ups and an overall photo of the total stock and faulty stock. I had to re-send an image of EVERY item that was faulty.
The dispute manager came back with two options for me and the supplier to decide on. One of them was to ship back and one was for a refund of 95% of my money. Both parties got to put their vote in. I explained I was only prepared to ship the items back at the suppliers expense as it was their damaged items and I should not be out of pocket because of it. I voted for the refund and I won.
I often joke that the reason we started talknbusiness.com and wrote Retail Rebellion was to stop people from starting e-commerce businesses. This makes people laugh, but there is truth to it. When Tess was speaking at a conference in Australia, she had no end of people coming up to her afterward for advice. We spoke on skype that evening (I was “holding the fort” in Thailand), and she told me how difficult it was to talk to people who had tens of thousands of dollars worth of product in their garage, based on niches that either had no one searching for the product, or the competition was so high that these people have no chance of competing.
How do look someone in the eye and tell them that they could have saved themselves either lots of money or years of their lives if they had just spent 10 minutes doing some market research before starting. This was not the only issue though, people come to us with horror stories about ordering product from China, and losing thousands of dollars because the supplier either didn’t exist, or sent them product that was so bad it was unusable. We usually then find out that they didn’t order a sample, and didn’t try multiple suppliers prior to choosing several suppliers to spread their risk.
So we wrote the book and started talknbusiness.com. We still don’t know where this site will end up, or even what we want from it yet, but our hope is that it will help at least a few people be successful where so many others aren’t. We have received some amazing feedback with regards to the book, and unfortunately some not so great feedback, which we will expect to get more of. This is one hundred percent from those out there who already have an online e-commerce business, who buy our book in the hope that it will solve a particular issue they’re having. When the book tells them that they should have chosen a different product, they get frustrated and that frustration comes through.
We can handle a few upset people, and we can understand their frustrations, but we hope that what we’re doing helps you avoid making choices that will put you in their position. Always remember, that often those choices are made quickly, and right at the beginning of the business’ life, and it can take years of hard work and money before you realise that. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how passionate you are about the business, or how hard you’re willing to work, if there isn’t a market, or you can’t compete with the competition, then you’re business will most probably fail.
It certainly won’t! We’re not what most westerners would call rich, but we haven’t needed to have a job now for 4-5 years, and we get to live where we want to. This in itself allows us to live a rich lifestyle, as well as getting to choose what we want to do every day (unlike remote contract workers). We have no deadlines, and our businesses will keep bringing in income whether we take a week off, a month off or a year off. We didn’t get to this position overnight, and it has taken us many years to be able to find a model that is replicable and works, and even then, getting to the point where we are rich even from a Western perspective will still take a bit longer yet. “Rich” however, has taken on a whole new meaning for us, and we hope you get the chance to live overseas when your businesses are up and running, as it will change your perspective too.
The opportunity to rank well for low competition keywords will not last forever. While there is still plenty of opportunities out there, eventually they will mostly disappear. I understand that new products are released all the time, but if these are the only keywords left to fight over, I’m not so sure that the environment we will find ourselves in come 2020 will be anything like what we still have today. I wonder if we’ll all look back on this decade and last decade as the “gold rush” era, where some made it big and others missed out because they didn’t take the plunge.
When we started Vurge, we found that we had one major competitor, Gilletts.com.au. They had a distinct advantage in that they had been online since before Google, and had over a decade of backlinking. They still kick our butts (and everyone else’s) for most of our keywords, and probably always will. They “own” the top three results for “mens wedding rings” in Australia, and probably always will. Gilletts doesn’t care when Google changes its algorithms. Gilletts doesn’t even really care about new competition. It was through their example that we started to picture what it would be like to “own” our own top Google real estate, and how much that will be worth in decades to come.
When people first started dreaming about e-commerce, the world started to realise that search engines didn’t rank you by brand value or by how much marketing spend you had. Sure you could pay for adwords to get your site up there, but people can block those ads so easily now, and everybody knows that you only got there because you spent more money than the next business, and they inherently believe that there is something wrong with that.
So this created the idea that small home based businesses could always compete with large corporations for search engine space, because small new businesses were so much more flexible and targeted. This is true, and is still possible now, but it is fantasy to believe that this will always be the case. In fact, the very nature of the way we search may ultimately mean that we will end up even less competition than before. Take Gilletts for example. We’ve been to their one physical store, and it’s just another jewellery store. In fact in the mall they are in, there are dozens of other jewellery stores, and in the city there are hundreds, and in the country there are thousands. In Google.com.au however, Gilletts only has nine other real competitors in the whole country for mens wedding rings. Now that is real estate worth having! Was Gilletts a big jewellery chain? No, they’re one store. There are many jewellery chains in Australia, all of them with a whole lot more money, brand power and influence than Gilletts, but they did it right. They moved quicker, they targeted the right keywords, and now they’re going to be extremely difficult to move from that number one spot.
What real estate will you own? Will you look back with regret?
Two weeks back we looked at how you can compete with Aliexpress, ebay and other giant market places which included “7 Tips for Creating A Better Customer Experience”. This week I thought I would keep it short and sweet and provide an easy to follow check-list that you can come back to when ever you need. Remember this is just the start, there are so many more things you can being doing to make your brand a stand out. Nathan made a very relevant point over a coffee the other day as we discussed branding and distinguishing ourselves from our ebay competition:
” Asking yourself ‘how do I compete with ebay?’ is asking the wrong question. You should be asking yourself ‘how can they compete with me?’ “
You see we were discussing the fact that we offer free shipping and unique policies and procedures that protect and focus on our customers, rather than ourselves. During this chat I mentioned that our ebay competition will never be able to offer the same level of service as their margins are just not big enough.
So now I ask you guys:
“What are you doing for your brand that makes it impossible for your market place competition to compete with you?”
Hi, I am interested in importing a product line into Australia. It is a niche market with low competition. I have ordered samples from the manufacturer and plan to take these around to the specific shops to ascertain their interest in purchasing the range. (Have spoken to a retailer already who is interested. I don’t know quite how to price the item. I believe it will sell for a certain price but don’t know what to charge. Should I ask for 50% of RRP? Do I ask what they believe it will sell for and ask for 50% of this price? I believe the product will sell for 10 times the cost of manufacture, so am confident of at least making 100% on outlay. Can you please advise?
- Thank you Belinda
This week we have another question from you guys that we loved! Jonas wrote to us asking;
How can we compete with Aliexpress?
Hi, We have considered staring an online business. We really don’t have an excuse not to give it fair go as we design and create websites including shopping carts. I know it is more involved than that to have a successful online business but at least we can save on that expense. We have thought of a few different products that we possibly can sell. What makes me unsure of this adventure is how do we actually compete with for example Aliexpress? I know they say Aliexpress is a b2b retailer but when it comes down to it I reckon they are as much a b2c retailer – as anyone can buy products from them at low quantities. How do we, that what to run an ecommerce site and most likely get our products from Aliexpress compete with them after we have added our mark-up? Would be very interested I hearing your views or thoughts on this or if you have heard anything from any of your users that might have expressed similar concerns. Thank you for a good website with some useful information
Kind Regards, jonas
Totally agree that Aliexpress is becoming more and more B2C, and that you shouldn’t try to compete with them. We were in China on an Alibaba/Aliexpress panel last year, and along with everyone else on the panel we stated our concerns about how B2C Aliexpress was becoming. They politely took notes, unfortunately it does not appear that the suggestions will be taking place. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use them to get started however, and two of the key things to remember when launching an online business (or any other business for that matter), is that you will always have competition and there are different kinds of customers. When we first started, we sold products on ebay, that we now sell for 2-3 times more on our website. The products are the same, but they are presented and packaged differently, we offer more services and add-on’s with them and they are sold to different customers. The value to the customer has increased greatly and the profit margin for us has also increased creating a win/win.