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Logistics is probably one of the first things you think about taking care of when you’re going to sell on Amazon. You know that besides good product research, product manufacturing and good listing optimization, it’s an essential part of the sales process. 

Still, it won’t be the subject most sellers feel 100% comfortable with. Most will be better at product research, copywriting, or setting up the best PPC campaigns.

However, it is essential to build enough knowledge about international air freight and shipping.

After all, you want your products to arrive neatly at Amazon. Fortunately, there are parties that have more experience than the average seller on Amazon: freight forwarders.

We will regularly mention China as a country where products are made in this article. Of course, you can fill in for any country or city, whether you’re shipping from Brazil, India or Bali.

How do you manage the logistics process?

There are hundreds of factors to consider if you want to get your cargo from China to Europe:

  • How do you arrange transportation from the factory to the port?
  • How do you get cargo on board with all the right documents?
  • How long does it take for your cargo to arrive on location?
  • Is it best to choose to transport by plane, or should you put your cargo on a boat?
  • What about importing?
  • And what is a freight forwarder?
    amazon usa

    Freight forwarders

    Fortunately, there are plenty of companies, also known as freight forwarders, that can handle this process for you. A freight forwarder is also known as a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC). This is a person or organization that ensures that cargo from individuals or companies from a factory arrives at a market, your home or an Amazon Fulfillment Center. In addition, the freight forwarder takes care of filling out the necessary documentation and importing at customs. Of course, for us as sellers on Amazon, it’s important that a freight forwarder knows how to deliver at Amazon.

    Usually the Amazon FBA freight forwarder will offer the following services:

    • Agreeing with supplier how, where and when to pick up the products
    • Product Inspection
    • Make sure that products from the factory arrive at the port or airport
    • Storing products in a storage center and organizing logistics around it
    • Fixing Export Documentation
    • Negotiating the best freight prices
    • Freight Consolidation. This is the merging of multiple shipments into one shipment, ideal for the smaller entrepreneur and reduces costs as well!
    • Help setting up freight insurance
    • Clearing customs (this is an essential part of course)
    • Transporting products from customs to the Amazon Fulfilment Center or your own storage center

    As you can read above, most freight forwarders are able to arrange a lot with people physically being present on multiple locations. These are things you can’t oversee from the United Kingdom.

    International logistics is very complex.  It is easy to make gross and expensive mistakes that will make sure your cargo never arrives. Or without the right papers, your cargo may be confiscated by customs.

    It is also relevant to mention that factories often use freight forwarders to ship your products themselves. This certainly has one major drawback: the freight forwarder its customer is the factory, not a customer of yours. So you don’t build a relationship and you’re less informed about the progress of your transport.

    Therefore, always get you a freight forwarder yourself. Just see this as your company’s logistics department!

    amazon logistiek

    How much does a freight forwarder cost?

    Of course, it’s hard to tell what a freight forwarder costs in advance. Prices can be higher or lower depending on the season. For example, prices will be higher before and after Chinese New Year and Q4 compared to the rest of the year.

    Roughly, the calculations will amount to the following:

    1. Total shipment weight
    2. Total shipment volume — often expressed in cubic meters (‘CBM’).
    3. The location to be shipped from and the location it needs to go. This has to do with, among other things, the distance between the two locations.
    4. The type of transport you want to use: plane, train or ship.

    We always recommend that you request a quotation from multiple freight forwarders. Prices may vary. Of course it’s also possible that the freight forwarder you’ve had a good experience with over the past five times, is now suddenly much more expensive (for whatever reason).

    Types of transport you can use

    In consultation with your freight forwarder, you can determine which type of transport you want to use to transport your shipment. You probably guessed it, of course, a plane makes sure your cargo is faster from A to B than by ship. However, as soon as your volume increases, this will be a lot pricier too. We’ve listed out the different options below so you can make a good choice depending on your situation.

    In addition, don’t be surprised that your transport consists of multiple modes of transport.


    Sea transport

    Sea transport involves massive cargo ships to ship a huge amount of products at once. This is the slowest, but also the cheapest and therefore the most used way of shipping. Shipping can take up to two months. This option will definitely be interesting if your cargo weighs over 250KG/551lbs.

    There are two things you need to know about when shipping products by sea: FCL and LCL.

    • FCL or “full container load” refers to the fact that containers are filled with products from one and the same batch. Ideal for larger parties with a lot of cargo, or for entrepreneurs with a large and filling product. Another advantage is that it’s easier for a freight forwarder to organize. Everything belongs to one party, which saves customs processing time and money.
    • LCL or “less than container load” refers to containers filled by multiple batches. If you have a lot of small products, or don’t have enough stock to fill a container, this is a common solution. One advantage of this method is that you can order smaller quantities of stock, without all your cash flow gone all at once. It can also be useful to use this method if Amazon wants you to send products to multiple fulfilment centers.
    amazon freight forwarder
    freight forwarder amazon
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    Air transport

    Air transport (also known as air shipping, air express or air cargo) is for sellers who want to get their inventory to Amazon as soon as possible or have litte stock to  transport. In general, transporting products does not take more than two weeks. It’s the most expensive option of all three. 

    Overland transport

    Every logistics journey from A to B includes overland transport, even if you use sea or air freight. Overland transport generally goes by trucks or trains, the latter becoming more populair. In general, overland transportation is used to bring products to and from the (air)port, and then deliver them to an Amazon fulfilment center.

    Depending on where your supplier is in relation to the (air)port and how far the Amazon fulfilment center is from the (air)port, this part of the journey will take a few days at most. In general, the cost of overland transport is higher than sea transport, but cheaper than transporting by air.

    There are a lot of things a freight forwader will take care of you. However, you will have to make sure that you stay actively involved in transport matters. Here are some things to take into account:

    Things to take into account during the logistics process:

    1. Find a freight forwarder and discuss what needs to be done regarding your first shipment.
    2. Create a shipping plan in Seller Central on Amazon (we’re going to show this you!).
    3. Let your freight forwarder know when your shipment is ready and be informed of the transportation costs.
    4. Connect the freight forwarder with your supplier so they can ensure the correct transfer of your shipment.
    5. Discuss which type of transport will be used.
    6. The freight forwarder will unload the container and will ensure that the shipment is imported.
    7. After importing, the freight forwarder prepares your stuff for Amazon and takes them to the fulfillment centre.
    8. You can start selling!

    Choosing the right freight forwarder

    Choosing the right freight forwarder is essential, this must have become clear by now. Especially in the beginning, you can’t afford yourself any mistakes, because it will have big impact on you starting out.

    What 3 questions do you need to ask yourself when selecting your freight forwarder?

    1. Do they have experience with Amazon FBA?

    This is perhaps the most crucial question when you’re going to sell on Amazon. You can’t just drop your stuff at Amazon and hope it’ll be fine. Amazon has strict demands on products entering their fulfillment center on how to pack and label these products. If things go wrong, they send back your cargo without a doubt and leave you in the thick of it.

    A good freight forwarder knows the requirements of Amazon and will ensure that your cargo ends up at Amazon.

    2. Are they easily approachable? 

    The freight forwarder should be seen as the logistics department of your company. You expect them to take you seriously and communicate with you adequately. In addition, they need to keep you informed about changes in Amazon FBA and help you set up your own supply chain as best as possible.

    3. Can the freight forwarder scale with you?

    With the right mindset and choices you make for your business, there’s no other way that your business will grow exponentially. It’s also important that your freight forwarder can scale with you. That’s all about having a large network of different partners they can work with and have access to multiple channels to ship your freight. If they meet this, you know you have the right partner.

    Do you have examples of trustworthy freight forwarders?

    We have either used the freight forwarders we mention below, or have heard that other sellers have a good experience with them. However, past results do not guarantee the future results. Therefore, always do your own research and determine which freight forwarder suits your company best.

    Recommended freight forwarder based on our own experience:

    Guided imports

    Other freight forwarders we’ve heard good things about:

    Unicargo logo
    flexport logo
    regional express logo