I Ordered Product Samples. And This Is What I Got.
Over the years, I’ve heard so many negative things about the product quality on AliExpress. ‘The products are cheap,’ ‘it’s a scam,’ and ‘don’t buy Chinese products.’
Sorry to break this to you, but literally almost everything you own is made in China. So to assume that AliExpress doesn’t have some great products, you’re simply mistaken.
No matter where you shop, you’re bound to find products that are higher quality and lower quality. I recently bought a skipping rope on Amazon that had its handles break on the first day.
But to completely discredit an online retailer that has countless suppliers, is uncalled for.
So I set out to find quality products that I can sell on my store.
For those joining me this week for the first time, I’ve currently set out on a mission to build a new online store from scratch.
On week one, I walked through the step by step process on how to choose a niche and I decided to sell letter boards.
During week two, I shared the exact steps I took to set up my Shopify store for the first time. I also walked through the process on how to choose a theme.
During week three, I chose products to sell on my store and even ordered samples from AliExpress to do a quality check. But what I didn’t tell you is that I also ordered a product from Amazon to do a comparison between the quality of a finished product.
So let’s dive in.
Ordering a Competitor’s Product from Amazon
As we all know, the biggest disadvantage to running an online store is the struggle to compete with Amazon Prime. I bought a competitor’s product from Amazon and ended up receiving the product I ordered, the same day I ordered it.
Many store owners find Amazon’s same day delivery a bit deflating.
‘How can I compete?’ they wonder.
But truth is, the better marketer can still win. And I also know from experience how much money a store can make without selling their products on Amazon.
In July of 2017, my online store had it’s best month ever. $76, 515.21. It almost seems surreal to me. We didn’t sell on Amazon, eBay, or some big box retailer. We sold on our own website. We used the Oberlo app to find our products. Our main source of traffic? Facebook ads. So competing with the Amazons of the world isn’t impossible.
After the product trend started dying down, I knew I wanted to build another store. Hence, this case study you’re following along to.
As you know, I ordered product samples last week. But knew I had to order a competitor’s product from Amazon. It’s mostly for competitive research. I needed to know what I’m really up against.
So when I went to the Amazon website, I ordered the first product I saw. I just chose the one with the most reviews.
It has a 5 star rating, 59 comments, and 5 answered questions so my competition is fierce. But their product images aren’t anything spectacular so I have an opportunity I could take advantage of. Their title is SEO optimized, though uses keyword stuffing as letter board is in the title four times. While that might work for Amazon, it won’t work on your own website. But having an SEO optimized store is a must.
When my Amazon product arrived, it was actually in pretty good condition. The supplier packaged it in their own custom box. They had the 10×10 letter board, a bag to put the letters in, and letters and symbols I can use to write on the letter board.
The letter board has some specks of dust on it but aside from that came in great condition. This gives me an idea for creating a video on how to clean your felt letterboard. At this point, not sure how easy it’ll be to do that but it’s an idea to consider.
There were over 200 letters and symbols like promised. And it also came with a stand in case you want to place your letter board on a counter instead of a wall.
The products I ordered don’t come with that stand, which sucks, but I can still find ways to show the usefulness of the product I sell.
I often consider seeing a competitor’s great product, encouraging. It helps push me to become a better marketer. Plus, by knowing how the competition is marketing their content, I now know what I should be doing differently.
I decided to take a picture of the letterboard being used to see if the specks of dust show up in the picture, to start experimenting with using and marketing the product and just goofing off if I’m being honest.
The dust does show in the picture, so it’s worth considering figuring out how to clean the letter boards, should the products I ordered arrive in the same condition.
When Packages Start to Arrive
Some people dramatize how long it takes for a product you order to arrive. The reality is it didn’t feel like I waited all that long for my first set of products to arrive.
My biggest order was three different colors of the same letter board. I ordered the products on April 27th and they arrived May 8th. So it only took about 12 days. The estimate I was provided was between 16 and 26 days so it arrived ahead of schedule. Plus, considering I’m not in the US, I thought it arrived pretty quick. Knowing it arrives in 12 days allows you to set realistic expectations for your customers.
The bright side to having my first product arrive today is knowing what the delivery details look like before it arrives. Knowing this allows me to educate my customers on approximate dates based on whether they’re at customs or in transit.
I was eager to start opening my package. Here’s how it arrived:
I could feel that there was a box inside. However, the outer package was wrapped tightly. Scissors were needed to open it up.
After the package was opened, the box of products was covered in a foam wrap that was taped up. I could tell that the supplier really cared about ensuring the package arrived in a great condition. Since it’s travelling from China, it’d be moving around a lot to reach its destination. So I was happy to see how much effort was put into this.
After removing the foam wrap, I finally saw the boxes the products were in. They were a bit dinged up but had a feeling that products inside would be in good condition. The boxes were unlabelled and only had a barcode number on it. Notably, there weren’t any marketing materials within the package which was good to see. Now it’s time for the moment of truth.
The first box I opened included the pink letter board I ordered. The letterboard was tied up in string with a letter bag included within it. The letterboard was covered in a protective bubble wrap, once again confirming this supplier’s commitment to ensuring the product arrived in great condition. And the letters were contained within a plastic bag.
Here’s what they look like outside the box. Protective package helps ensure that the products arrive to your customer in good condition. Time to open up the packages to further inspect the quality.
The pink letter board doesn’t really have any dust or specks on it which is good. The wood is a bit darker but still looks nice. Compared to the Amazon product, this letter board doesn’t have any emojis but uses the standard letters and symbols people will use the most.
Time to open up more boxes.
The grey letter board was wrapped up in the same packaging as the pink. There were a couple specks of dust on the letter board but nothing too bad. I imagine it’s pretty standard for a product like this. Overall, pretty happy with the products are turning out.
The dust shows a bit more prominently on the black letter board, likely due to its color. However, it’s not too bad. Overall, this first shipment from AliExpress seems promising. Pretty happy with the speed of delivery and quality of the products.
At this point, still waiting on two shipments. Unfortunately, the other product I ordered on the same day hasn’t seemed to left China yet which is a bit concerning at this point. But the next package seems to be arriving soon.
The Arrival of the Second Product
When you order products from different suppliers, you never know what you’re going to get. But the next package finally arrived. I decided to order a larger letter board. I thought to myself, ‘why not?’ It might not sell as well but the store could use a higher priced product in case someone wants a size larger than the 10×10.
The product was ordered on April 30th and arrived May 10th. Eleven days, not bad at all. The estimate was actually around the same 16 to 26 days. Not sure if it’s luck but the suppliers I chose seem to be on the ball.
This is how it arrived:
Once again, scissors are needed as the packaging is quite thick and hard to rip with your hands. Or maybe I’m just super weak. Who knows.
This supplier uses bubble wrap instead of foam wrap. This product, due to a larger size, is also noticeably more expensive so the bubble wrap is likely to better protect the more expensive product. The same yellow tape is used to hold the bubble wrap together.
Upon removing the bubble wrap, a similar box is used for the letter boards. No branding on the box, simply a barcode on it which isn’t a big deal. The box is slightly dented. However, if it’s anything like the last shipment I received the letterboard inside is likely in good condition. So far, it’s important to note the effort the supplier took to ensure this package was, well, properly packaged.
Upon opening the box, I immediate notice a couple of key differences between this product and the other package. First, there are emojis that come with these letters. It’s a bit inconsistent with the other supplier’s product but considering I’m using different suppliers it’s no big deal. Plus, that can be a marketing angle for selling a higher priced product. I could tell customers, ‘You get a bonus set of emojis’ with this larger letter board.
Also, there was no string surrounding the letterboard and bag. However, the bag, letters, and letter board were all included so it’s the same three products with each supplier so far. The letter board was once again covered in bubble wrap and the letters were covered in a plastic bag.
Upon removing the bubble wrap, the most noticeable surprise is the extra set of emojis. While the 10×10 letter boards had two sets of letters, this rectangular letter board also comes with bonus emojis. This could work well for marketing in case people want to add hearts or stars to their written content. The letter bag looks the same as the other suppliers which is good. There is a bit of a difference in the letterboard, aside from its size though.
There’s a noticeable amount of dust on the letterboard. I imagine this is going to be one of the biggest complaints from customers due to the felt material the letter board is covered in. So figuring out a way to help customers clean their letter boards can help lower complaints. Maybe sending a few content marketing focused emails after they’ve made their purchase can help them.
After opening the second package, I decided to check the tracking of the other package I ordered. It still hadn’t left China. It wouldn’t be until the next day that I’d see it reached Canada last night. But it wouldn’t be until a few days later that it’d arrive.
The Last Package Arrives
The final package arrived on day 16. While this timeline is within their 16-26 day estimate receiving, the other packages arriving so quickly made this shipment seem delayed. Something worth pointing out is that you likely don’t want to ship out two different suppliers products for the same customer if there’s a noticeable delay in arrival times. Having a one day difference in shipping times is more manageable. However, if you’d like to upsell another supplier’s products, you need to make it very clear to your customer that they may arrive at different times.
So here’s what the package looked like when it arrived.
It arrived in the same packaging as the other products different suppliers sent.
Unfortunately, the box wasn’t wrapped up in foam wrap or bubble wrap. The box looked more dinged up than the other packages sent. Plus with the delay in shipping, I’m a bit nervous about what the product inside looks like.
Inside the box the products are wrapped in a similar manner as the first shipment I receiving which is… relieving. The supplier ensured that the products were protected as the letter board is covered in bubble wrap and the string holds the bag with the letter board. The letters are also covered in the same plastic wrap. The letters look similar to the first supplier. This may be a good product to upsell with for the standard letter board.
The letter board is in good condition. The letters are the same across the other suppliers, though this one doesn’t have emojis like the first suppliers products. The letter bag is the same across all three suppliers.
The main downside is that once again there’s quite a bit of dust on the letter board. This could potentially be a common complaint with customers.
Without ordering the products yourself, it’s harder to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Had I not personally experienced dust on the letter board, I might not have felt compelled to create content around cleaning your letter board. If I didn’t experience the delays in arrival time for the third package, despite arriving on the first day of the timeline they gave, I wouldn’t understand the frustration a couple might feel if one package arrives a bit earlier than another. This will help in ensuring that delivery times are clearly communicated on the store and within emails to customers before their order arrives.
It’s always a good idea to order your products in advance to ensure you know what your customers will experience and what they can expect when the product arrives. It allows you to better plan your marketing, provide customers with accurate information and take your own custom photos for your website.
Next week the focus will be on creating product photos. I’ll be taking my own photos, with my phone, for the website now that the products have arrived. I’ll walk you through the process of how to take photos and show you some early pictures for the website.