Don’t feel ruffled when you hear someone talk about mini-importation business. It is simply a small-scale importation business. You identify products needed locally, source them from foreign manufacturers and vendors, import and sell for profits. So whereas, the major importers could be bringing in millions of products, or shiploads of a product, you may simply be importing in hundreds or less.
You can still connect this business back to the traditional business model of buying and selling.
Decide on your niche
It is very tempting to want to import everything that has huge sale potential, but it is more sustainable to settle for a niche and focus there. Are you going to focus on importing environment-friendly gadgets? Do you favor fashion items? What about fitness products? There are several niches you can pick from, and even if you have the capacity to do multiple niches, start with one.
Research and get hard facts. Don’t follow your feelings.
When you get to the point of deciding what products to import, base your decision on research, not emotions. You see a shiny cooking ware, and just because your mother loves such wares in her kitchen, you assume that the whole world does too. You’d be shocked to find the products spending 6 months in your custody after importing.
Do a survey. Find out products that are in hot demand. Check trends. See what people are complaining about the most, and find out what product can solve it for them. Don’t import a product simply because it ‘catches your fancy’. That everybody is making money from selling two-pieces, bags and kicks does not mean that is the only profitable business. There may be others that the market is yet to discover.
A good idea would also be to source for and import complementary products. If you are importing a special solar cooker that can only be used with a certain set of kitchenware, then import the kitchenware set as well, so that you can upsell and cross-sell.
Source a manufacturer/supplier
There are a number of verified sites you can source products from international manufacturers, and some of them provide shipping/logistics service to move the items to your country. Once you have decided on the product(s) to be imported, find out which manufacturer offers the best deal in product quality, price, discounts, value-added services etc. You may need to place a sample order, depending on the product, before going ahead to buy hundreds of units.
When settling for quantity and price, you should be very deliberate. You cannot compromise quality over price. You also have to look at the delivery timeframe and other factors. Ensure to check the reviews on a merchant before choosing.
Also check how long the supplier has been on the platform, the minimum order quantity, variety of sizes, shapes and colors, etc.
You may set up a shipping agreement
If you are dealing directly with a manufacturer without any of the online middle-men platforms, then you should also consider drafting a shipping agreement to avoid having unresolvable issues in the future. What is the timeframe for delivery of all supplies, who bears the brunt of damages that may occur during shipping? What about delay of shipments? Is there any option of returning products due to factory damages? What would be the return policy? How about sales and tax? Any special arrangements on branding?
Decide on your business model
How do you want to dispose off your products once they arrive? Are you going to list them on online e-commerce platforms? Are you going to sell through your whatsapp status, facebooks ads etc? Are you placing them in physical outlets to be sold? Do you want to put together a drop shipping group and sell through individual retailers? It is important to know exactly how you want to go about it. Each option comes with its pros and cons. Weigh both sides and see where the scale tips.
Consider building your own website
You may have grand plans about how you want to sell your imported products on other platforms, but then, nothing beats having your own system. If you plan to set up a digital marketing campaign that will run online and direct customers to you, you should consider building your own website. There are many ways having a website can increase your sales, and in addition, you’d be able to cross-sell and upsell other complementary products.
You can also build and sustain a mailing list that becomes your unique asset for future marketing campaigns. With this, you do not necessarily need to rerun a fresh campaign every time you have new products. A professional e-commerce website needs not cost you an arm and a leg. You can get a website from Startweb Africa at really amazing discounts. The site has amazing and customizable templates that can help you display up to 50 products for your website visitors to see.
Get a mentor/Guide
Although this is optional, it is a wise move to look for someone already in the business for some guidance. You can do a thorough research on your own and get started but there are things you can only get to learn from someone who has been in the business for a while. The person would need to be honest and open with you. For instance, you can learn how to spot fake manufacturers and vendors, to avoid getting defrauded. You can also get to find out the fastest, cheapest and most reliable shipping options. If you check business groups on Facebook or other online platforms, you will see tales from others before you, about how they ordered a product and got something else. So a mentor could guide you on products to avoid importing, those that sell out fast, and those that only tie down your funds.