For e-commerce sellers, it makes great sense to source directly from China. However, the whole process is complicated, there are many possibilities to cause quality issues. Following are the 5 main reasons I learned from my 20-year experience in sourcing business.

1. Miscommunication

Miscommunication is the most important reason for most quality issues.

Do not believe that your supplier understands your specifications and your expectations clearly after they’ve been told once.

Usually, you are most likely communicating with someone who doesn’t speak English as their first language.

Also, you’re most likely talking to the salesperson, who in turn has to communicate requirements to engineers and production staff. And it’s not uncommon for things to get lost in translation or for requirements to not be clearly communicated to the assembly line.

2. Unclear instructions from the buyer

Many e-commerce sellers assume suppliers will know their requirements. They are not particular about their specifications.

For example, if they’re ordering a yellow T-shirt, they might not specify the exact shade of yellow they want.

Similarly, the buyer might not have indicated the specific type of finishing they want on a product, or where and how the labels should be attached and in such a situation, the supplier is likely to use the option that costs them the least.

It is also possible that the sales representative is not familiar with the product, and might not understand the product details and technical requirements.

3. Cultural differences

It is common for Chinese suppliers to tell buyers what they think you want to hear, even if it’s not the truth just so that they can make a sale.

Also, suppliers may be hesitant to ask questions and admit they don’t understand requirements as “saving face” is an important element in their culture and they do not want to seem incompetent.

4. Buyers pushing for lower price

When e-commerce sellers pressure suppliers on price, they may try to cut corners, which could impact product quality.

For example, the supplier might reduce the thickness of the metal on a spatula, which might impact performance. Or for products made of wood, they might not treat the wood properly which could result in the wood warping over time.

5. Skipping product inspections

Spending several hundred dollars on an inspection can save importers a lot of trouble later on because once the shipment arrives in the importing country, if there are major issues with the product, there’s not much you can do at that point to rectify the issue.


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