How to Save Money on Factory Sampling Costs – A Must-Read for E-Commerce Entrepreneurs

Jan 15, 2024 | 0 comments

Here’s how to save money when sampling from your factories.

Because sampling can get expensive.

The Cost of Sampling, an Example

Assuming you’re sampling from 3-4 initial factories you’re usually looking at $1,000+ for:

(1) Factory sample costs

(2) Shipping fees

(3) Tariffs (if applicable)

And that’s just the FIRST ROUND of sampling.

(Disclaimer: this number will go up or down depending on materials, product size, weight, factory location, your location, if UPS is on strike, etc.)

Whether you’re just starting out or a mature brand, sampling costs start to add up.

Oftentimes—depending on complexity—it takes anywhere from 2-5 rounds to get it right.

And oh boy do we not want to get it wrong.

It’s Important to Get Sampling Right

This is the part of the process where you want to take the time.

Raise your hand if you want to launch a bad product?

No hands?

That’s what I thought.

Sorry, I have three young kids so the “raise your hand” thing is a bit of a go to.

But, I digress.

What’s the take away? Spend the money. Take the time to get sampling right.

3 Ways to Save Cost When Sampling:

(1) Consolidation

The biggest way is by consolidating samples.

Get someone or some business in China to gather all samples and send everything together to you.

I normally never plug but… our agency does a mighty fine job at this.

Bonus points are that we—or another agency or agent—can also help do an initial quality/specifications check.

Send it to our China office for a check + consolidation.

We’ll combine everything, taking care to label and create an inventory so it’s clear which sample is coming from which factory. 

If it doesn’t pass the check, then we’re normally all in agreement that it shouldn’t be shipped.

It’s obviously not an ideal outcome.

But it definitely happens.

And catching it results in more money and time saved.

(2) Future PO Refunds

Before you start sampling, ask or confirm with your factories that they will refund any sampling amounts on your first PO.

Ultimately this will only result in the factory you go with refunding you.

But it’s still recouped cost.

One caveat:

Depending on sampling complexity, and number of iterations, it’s possible the factory may not credit you for all iterations and sampling mold costs (if applicable). 

Or they may want to spread the refund over several POs.

So, it’s good practice to ask them before each sample iteration and have an ongoing conversation around this.

After all, the factory has their own time and cost considerations in the sampling process.

(3) Requesting a Close-Sample

Rather than paying the factory more and waiting for a hand-made sample, you can request a factory’s existing sample that’s close to your product.

The cost will almost always come in lower.

And you can still gauge quality and functionality.

So there you have it: three ways to save money when sampling.

Of course, like anything in life or business, sampling is hardly a linear journey.

Possible Surprises When Sampling: 

  1. Limited Suitable Factories: Sometimes, you may only find 1-2 factories that meet all your requirements. 

So this limits options for comparing and negotiating. 

  1. Unexpected Quality Differences: The quality of samples from different factories can vary, sometimes significantly. 

So, your first-choice factory after quoting may end up being a dud after sampling. 

  1. Communication Challenges: Language barriers and different business practices can cause misunderstandings around product specifications or timelines. 

This can lead to getting unsuitable samples or experiencing delays. 

  1. Changes in Tariffs and Regulations: Changes in international trade policies can unexpectedly change tariffs and importing regulations. 
  1. Issues With Supplier Reliability: A factory may seem initially reliable but may end up facing worker shortages, materials shortages or even management changes. 

This could all impact your abilities to get your samples as expected and on time. 

  1. Shipping Losses and Delays: Your samples could get delayed or even damaged during shipping. 

Have you ever seen your UPS guy chuck the box from 10 metres away? Well, your samples will exchange hands multiple times during international shipping, increasing the chances of something happening. 

Factories generally do a good job of packing samples for international transit but surprises still do happen! 

  1. Hidden or Unexpected Costs: Normally, factories aren’t out to get you. It’s more that these hidden unexpected costs will come up as your discussions with the factories progress. 

From your initial concept, it may become clear that tooling or even a mold at the sample stage is required to get your to-specification sample created. 

  1. Environmental or Ethical Standards Mismatch: Here you may discover that your factory doesn’t have the compliance or certificates required. 

So, be sure to ask these questions during the early quoting stage to avoid surprises later on! 

There will be surprises. But you’ll get there with time and effort.

Good luck and have fun sampling!

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