For sellers just embarking on their Amazon journey, transporting goods across international borders (usually from China to global Amazon marketplaces) might seem daunting.
But shipping inventory halfway across the globe is easier than you think, thanks to service providers known as freight forwarders.
A freight forwarder can pick up your goods from the manufacturing site, load them on a carrier, handle the complex paperwork, and safely transport your products to an Amazon fulfillment center.
Working alongside reliable service providers minimizes the risk of running out of stock (OOS), instances of damaged inventory, and not being able to capitalize on increased consumer demand during popular holiday seasons and Q4.
This blog will answer questions like:
Let’s start with the basics: what is a freight forwarder?
A freight forwarder or freight forwarding company are logistic experts responsible for moving cargo (or freight) across the supply chain. Freight forwarders don’t transport goods themselves—they act as intermediaries who rely on their contacts with popular carriers to move goods across international trade routes, i.e., the air, ocean, railroads, or highways.
Some of the advantages of working alongside a freight forwarder include:
Even if you were to spend hours researching and learning about customs clearance procedures, documentation costs, and freight charges based on volume and weight, there’s no substitute for experience.
Reputable freight forwarders have been in the game long enough to know how to deal with international custom clearance issues, supply chain bottlenecks, worker strikes, natural disasters, and emergency reroutes, to name a few. Working alongside the experts reduces the risk of damaged goods and prolonged delivery times.
Partnering up with an international freight forwarder is, in most cases, the most economical option. An abundance of freight forwarding companies ensures that prices remain stable so Amazon sellers like yourself can transport goods without breaking the bank.
Note: We strongly recommend comparing pricing plans for multiple freight forwarders. That’s because it’s difficult to estimate the actual markup costs, but once you do your research and learn about the average market rate (for transporting freight across the same route), it’s unlikely that you’ll get scammed.
Working with renowned international freight forwarding companies like DHL, and Kuehne + Negal, there’s peace of mind knowing your goods are in the right hands. These logistics service providers deliver freight on time and implement the best storage and transportation practices.
Proper storage containers and continuous on-board surveillance protect fragile and sensitive goods from damage and theft. In addition, investing in the right freight forwarding services ensures your inventory reaches buyers in the best condition—increasing customer satisfaction and reducing the likelihood of negative product reviews.
Some freight forwards also offer freight insurance that guarantees reimbursement (according to set terms and conditions) if your goods get damaged, lost, or stolen in transit.
Not every Amazon seller needs to transport a container’s worth of inventory, especially beginners who want to learn the ropes by selling a few dozen products.
Freight forwarders provide consolidation—also called less than container (LCL)—services where they store multiple consignments in a single container, spreading shipping costs among all participants.
Freight forwarders use advanced Transportation Management Systems (TMS) to keep their clients updated regarding their freight’s whereabouts. Such service providers can also arrange warehousing services usually owned and operated by their affiliates.
Once you reach out to freight forwarders, prepare to encounter plenty of supply chain and logistics jargon. The most popular of these are called Incoterms, something Amazon sellers should know about.
Set forward by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Incoterms are sets of rules that define the responsibilities of buyers and sellers (i.e., importers and exporters) in international trade. These terms clarify each party’s duties, costs, and associated risks, ensuring greater accountability and smoother transactions.
The following are popular Incoterms:
Note: FAS, FOB, CFR, and CIF are all basic incoterms used for inland waterway and sea transport.
Duty Delivery Paid (DDP) is the most convenient option for Amazon sellers because you essentially outsource all the risk and paperwork involved to a third party. However, going for any other options will require you to get in touch with and work alongside multiple forwarders or agencies, distracting you from the task at hand, i.e., setting up an Amazon business.
There’s no shortage of freight forwarders to help you ship products from China to any one of the international Amazon marketplaces. The easiest (and often most economical) way to find one on Alibaba.com is by typing in “freight forwarders” in the search bar and hitting enter.
Browse through the recommendations to see the cargo charges, shipment types, and other details. Also, don’t forget to read the customer reviews, time spent on the platform, and verified status to select only the best and most reliable forwards in the market.
People tend to use the term “freight forwarders” and “shippers” (or shipping line) interchangeably, but they refer to different things. A shipping line business is responsible for transporting cargo safely between ports.
On the other hand, a freight forwarder is responsible for transporting the cargo to the vessel, loading and unloading it between ports, and delivering the goods to a stated destination (based on the incoterm agreements upon by both parties).
Note: The term “shipping” used on Amazon or for Amazon-related fulfillment activities refers to delivering products from a storage facility or an Amazon fulfillment center to buyers’ locations.
The cost of freight forwarder services varies. While it’s difficult to determine whether the services offered are worth the price tag, knowing the expenses incurred by forwarders when transporting goods helps create rough estimates.
Note: big names in the freight forwarding industry don’t shy away from offering their clients a detailed breakdown of costs. This helps in comparing quotes between different suppliers and choosing the best option.
Here’s are some services forwarders charge their clients for:
There may be other costs involved in the quotation, but these ones are usually included in a quotation.
To sell on Amazon, you need to carefully plan and execute essential tasks like keyword research, product hunting, Amazon PPC, listing optimization, and product sourcing (including shipping).
To get in touch with suitable suppliers and freight forwarders, you need to sift through endless pages on Alibaba.com and individual websites, read up on customer reviews, and maybe read up on a few blogs and YouTube videos.
Fortunately for you, there’s a tool out there that can help you get in touch with some of the best product manufacturers/suppliers in China, and it’s called Easy Source.
Thanks to a collaboration between ZonGuru and Alibaba.com, the Easy Source tool shortlists reliable and quality manufacturers for related niches with just a click of a button. These suppliers also have links with leading freight forwarders and can fetch you some fantastic discounts!
But don’t take our word for it—avail a 7-day ZonGuru Easy Source tool free trial and see for yourselves!
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