Million Dollar Session 6 Evaluating Alibaba Samples

The Million Dollar Case Study Session #6: Evaluating Samples

The wheels are turning, momentum is growing, and we continue to move towards our product launch. The Million Dollar Case Study continues after a 1 week hiatus while we had the samples shipped to us!

And the good news is that the samples arrived in a timely manner, within a week or two of ordering them – and the quality is very nice!

So let’s go to the video tape to see exactly what these samples look like, and Greg’s interactions with these suppliers:

And here are the slides:

 

Evaluating the samples was an interesting exercise, particularly because I was privy to only one part of the equation: the product quality. The other relevant part of this step is how the supplier was to work with and communicate with, which Greg had insight to.

So here is the holistic look at what we are considering when evaluating the product samples, our interactions with them, and ultimately which supplier is a good fit for joining us for this journey.

 

Alibaba Samples: Considerations

Much of this is self-explanatory…

  • Communication: This is obviously an essential ingredient to the success of our product. Is the supplier responsive, thorough, detail-oriented, and have a grasp of English so that we can build a solid partnership?
  • Product Quality: Though a foregone conclusion is that we need a solid product quality, it is even more important for us as we will be pricing the towels at the high end of the market. Some of the top sellers have some negative reviews commenting on the product quality, which is an opportunity for us to differentiate and offer a higher quality product.
  • Pricing: We have a rough estimate of what the product will cost from our initial conversations. We will need to nail down a final negotiated price before making final assessments on the suppliers.
  • Intangibles: We ultimately want our supplier to be a partner with us in business. Therefore, we want someone who is proactive in helping us grow our business, with the understanding that there are long-term benefits for them.

 

Product Differentiation

There are four ways that we could carve out a specific niche for our towels.

  1. Offer a variety of colors: if we offer a few variations of baby towels, possibly with a pink, blue and neutral color, we can get more market share. There are existing options of each color, but not many sellers currently offer a variety of colors.
  2. Size: the 90x90cm towels are large, and work for newborns through infants or older. If our towels are larger, that becomes a selling point for us (we marketed the bamboo marshmallow sticks, aka Jungle Stix, as the longest in the market, and that was quite successful).
  3. Premium Quality: As noted above, we are going to be pricing ours as a high-end product, therefore the product needs to reflect that.
  4. Added Value: One of the suppliers offered the suggestion of including a wash cloth with the hooded towel using the left over fabric. It’s an affordable way to add some value and uses up waste fabric.

 

Here are some of the poor reviews that are plaguing the existing sellers:

 

 

A Review of the Samples

Next we took a closer look at the physical samples, here’s how they fared.

 

Supplier 1:

Supplier 1 sent one sample, a 400gsm towel, and three 400gsm swatches.

The interesting thing about the sample that we received is that it is from one of the top 10 sellers for these towels. This is a nice show of validation for their product quality and consistency, as the real customer reviews are largely positive.

Supplier 1 Samples

I liked the swatch samples as well, they were silky and smooth. I tried to get a close up shot, but I don’t think I did it justice in conveying the velour-type feel. This is a fabric that a baby would certainly enjoy after a warm bath!

 

Supplier 2:

Supplier 2 sent us two standard issue towels: 400gsm, 92% bamboo and 8% micro fiber. The samples differed in size, one was a 75x75cm towel, and the other a vast 90x90cm. As an American, I am uncertain at times when it comes to the metric system, but that extra size makes a big difference!

Moreover, going large was one of our differentiating factors that we plan to market, so it was nice to see how the sizing looks in person.

The fabric is very similar to that of Supplier 1, which makes sense as it is a 400gsm 92% bamboo sample:

Supplier 2 Samples

 

Supplier 3:

We received three samples: a 400gsm, a 500gsm, and a 100% cotton sample. Each had a different design, and frankly the most intricate and whimsical designs of the three suppliers:

Supplier three samples with designs

An interesting variation that this company offered was a rectangular towel. A nice small detail with this towel was the linen lining that runs through the inside of the hood. I assume that this is to add another layer inside the hood to cover the underside of the embroidery, which may be an irritant to some babies:

Supplier 3 samples alibaba

Supplier 3 did send the nicest sample of the bunch, a plush and luxurious 500gsm 100% bamboo towel:

Supplier three fabric quality 500gsm

The weight of the towel is noticeably heavier than any of the other towels I had. To me, this had a very “premium” feel, in softness, thickness, and weight.

If it were a 90x90cm towel, it would garner a happy parent paying $25-$30 for the best towel on the market. I know as a parent, I would!

 

The Overview Comparison

There is a fair amount of data points to process across the three suppliers. The good news – each of these suppliers would be good partners going forward.

Here is a simple matrix outlining the pros and cons of each supplier, with their initial price quotes:

 

 

Which supplier do you think would be a good fit for what we are looking for? Please share your thoughts, and reasoning, in the comments section below!

 

The Next Steps

Greg is going to continue conversations with each supplier, and see if there is room for negotiation on the quoted price.

Within the next week or so, assuming a fair price at a manageable Minimum Order Quantity, Greg will put the deposit down and get those towels into production!

In the meantime, we need to nail down the branding and package design. The manufacturer is going to need a package design for the custom boxes that will hold our towels.

 

Session #7

We have an expert designer, with deep experience in branding and package design, joining us next week to share the exact process for building and designing a brand that stands out from the masses. You aren’t going to want to miss this: Wednesday, April 5th at 8p ET/5p PT:

JOIN THE BRANDING & PACKAGE DESIGN SESSION

 

We Need Your Input!

What are our towels called? TBD.

But it’s time to make those decisions!

A participant in the Collaborative Launch coined our bamboo marshmallow sticks as “Jungle Stix”, and that worked quite well!

So feel free to get involved. Please drop in a suggestion or two for what we should call this brand. It will really help inform the branding exercises that we run through next week.

See you next Wednesday!

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