Well it’s great to be hearing from some new members over at The Source Report following my product sourcing webinar last week!

Welcome to you and I hope you will continue to find the resource useful in the coming months.

As new members join, I usually get a sudden influx of questions and queries and quite often I notice a general theme with regard to topics or specific parts of the product sourcing process where advice is required.

And this week was no different! I’ve had several emails from people who have been asking about the significance of product samples, so I thought it would be a good idea to cover this subject this week.

5 reasons why product samples are important

So, as an online seller, what is your aim?

I would expect you to say that your aim is to ensure that you source and sell products that make you a profit. And of course, you would be absolutely correct.

But, as a serious seller, you should also have another aim; and that is to ensure that the goods you source are always of the highest quality.

It’s tempting to go with goods that you know you can source way under budget, but quite honestly if those cheap goods live up to their name and are also of cheap quality, then your customers will disappear in droves and your reputation will suffer.

This is why it’s absolutely vital that you always request samples of products before you place a larger order.

I know it’s tempting to bypass this stage of the sourcing process – after all, you will have to wait for your samples to arrive, particularly if you are sourcing from overseas, which could cause you frustrating delays in getting the product listed for sale…

However, it’s not worth skipping the sample stage to try and speed up the process, because you may end up with shoddy goods that you can’t sell.

Quite simply, you need product samples for a number of reasons.

1.So that you are able to actually see and feel the product – you can check it over and make sure it reaches the standards you expect, to be able to confidently sell the product to your customers.

2.You can use samples as a ‘test sell’ – in other words, list that product for sale and gauge the interest of customers and work out your ultimate price point.

3.Ordering a sample will allow you to judge the professionalism and efficiency of the supplier. You’ll be able to note how quickly the sample is dispatched, how long it takes to arrive and how well it is packaged.

4.If you are ordering from overseas and are unable to visit the supplier or factory to view the product in person, then a sample is the next best thing.

5.You can’t just rely on photos of the product. A photo that you receive of a product may not be the actual product that you are interested in. You can’t look at the product from all angles and you can’t touch it. It’s simply not the same as seeing the product with your own eyes.

I want to stress that ordering a sample should not be difficult. Any reputable supplier will be happy to send you samples of their products, however, if a supplier creates a fuss about sending you product samples then it’s definitely best to choose another supplier.

Why would you place a large order for a product if you haven’t actually seen the item for yourself? Why risk your reputation? A genuine supplier will understand this and will send you samples – either at a minimal cost or for free.

And there is absolutely nothing stopping you from ordering samples from more than one supplier either. In fact, it’s a good idea because it allows you to compare items easily.

Checking sample quality – are you confident or terrified?

If you are a new online seller and are not yet entirely confident when dealing with suppliers – particularly overseas ones – or you generally just don’t like having to ‘ask for things’, you may be wondering what happens if you receive a product sample and you need to go back to the supplier.

Whether it’s a request for ‘better quality’ product or for some improvements or upgrades to be made to the product… it’s natural to be apprehensive.

What if the supplier gets annoyed and tries to increase the price?

What if the supplier is offended and doesn’t want to deal with you?

What if requesting a different sample or asking for improvements causes further delays in you actually receiving an order and being able to sell the product?

Any of these things ‘could’ happen – but it’s unlikely they will.

You are a professional – and you are dealing with professionals – so it’s hugely important that you assert yourself and if you are not happy with something, you do make it known.

Ultimately the product must be to your standards because it’s your reputation at stake

Whether you are considering ordering stock from a UK supplier or International manufacturer, the rules are the same… it’s important that you work with the supplier.

You are much more likely to get exactly what you want – particularly if you are having a factory create a product for you.

So, don’t try and rush the process, stay in constant contact with your supplier and be very clear about your exact needs.

What if the sample is good but when the subsequent order arrives the quality is poor?

Again this could happen, although it’s unlikely unless you are looking at getting a product manufactured from scratch rather than buying in bulk from a wholesaler.

On occasion, a manufacturer may create an absolutely perfect ‘prototype’ of a product. It will be of the highest quality possible – and this is what you may receive as your ‘sample’.

As you may have already guessed, the ‘sample’ is designed to make you think ‘wow’, and before you know it you’ve gone ahead and ordered 1000 units without really thinking about it.

Don’t let this happen to you! When requesting a sample, always ask for an ‘off the line production sample’ – basically this is a sample from a real run of the actual product, literally off the production line. This is a true sample and will allow you to see the quality for real.

So, next time you go through the sourcing process, don’t try and fast-track things by missing out this key ‘sampling’ stage.

It’s worth taking your time and getting things right rather than making a costly mistake.