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The 7 Principles of Strategic Product Quality Every Private Label Seller Should Know

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To identify where the issues were originating from, we followed the basic principles of product quality.

A few months ago, I started working with a client who had bought a business. The product was one with a long and successful history, but some concerning recent reviews.

Typically when we first start working with a client, we research the competition, the product itself, and some aspirational products off Amazon, and the research on and off Amazon showed the same trend – a massive downward spiral of product review ratings in the month prior to the purchase of the business.

Product Design

Product Design is the first and most important part of any development process. If your design or implementation of your design is terrible, so goes the product.

For apparel, we always recommend technical spec packs, not just copies of patterns. For electrical products, request and keep circuit diagrams on file. In the EU, in fact, the design files are actually a required part of the CE (Conformité Européenne) mark.

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Inspections

Inspections are something nearly every private label seller on Amazon is aware of, and is typically what I hear sellers say they do when I ask them if they do compliance.

There are three types of inspections typically – raw materials inspections, during production inspections, and pre-shipment (or final random) inspections.

A raw materials inspection is meant to validate that the raw materials meet specifications, nearly always done in custom clothing or textile products, along with inspections and testing on many types of electronics and children’s products.

During production happens at 20% produced, to have a good mix between the produced goods and work in process, so that you, the buyer, can make sure that the product develop is proceeding well and the product is produced well before it’s closed up and inspecting the insides can only be done by destroying the sample.

Pre-shipment inspections are the ones everyone should be familiar with – the visual inspection of goods prior to shipment. Very little internal evaluation can be done, and of course finding a problem at this stage is very problematic, since by this point, you’re wanting to ship, not fix quality control issues.

Protocols

Protocols are a list of tests that a product must pass, typically administered in a laboratory. Of course, regulatory and safety testing is a given, although we do find that many sellers do miss even that.

I also recommend that any tests chosen are based on careful decision points about where the item will fail. For example, a nice men’s suit should never fail in the knees, crotch, or thighs. So you would test for pilling, seam strength, and fabric tear strength.

Further, the product quality testing protocol should take into account whatever warranty you have going – if it’s lifetime, your product better be proven to be stellar, or that could prove to be expensive.

And lastly, quality testing doesn’t mean the product is “good” quality; quality is subjective, and maybe you’re going for budget friendly anyway. Make sure the lab is validating the level of quality YOUR product should meet, not just industry standard.

Packaging

The most common root cause problem we see is, believe or not, packaging. This is because Amazon fulfillment centers are pretty harsh on products as they move through it.

The sturdiest and best likely to deliver your product in the quality you want to sell it at is a cardboard box with internal packaging design tested to ISTA 3A/3B or the new Amazon/ISTA standard.

If you do choose a polybag, I recommend a thickness about that of a Ziploc freezer bag, that is resealable. Especially for high returns categories, like apparel, the resealable bag reduces the visual appearance of having been previously been opened or returned, and therefore also reduces the customer complaints about it.

Truth in Advertising

While it is true that you can’t turn one thing into a completely different thing, you can make it sound a lot better than it is.

Don’t do this too much!

Especially with the continued activity by Amazon to clean up and maintain the integrity of product reviews, overselling and thereby disappointing customers is going to become an even worse idea than it already is.

Be careful to be as honest as you can be about what problem your product solves without overselling. Disappointed customers are far more likely to leave an organic, unsolicited negative review.

Raw Material Selection

We finally found the culprit with the raw material selection.

Raw materials are the specific inputs for your product – is it wood, plastic, metal? What type? If you’re claiming rustproof, is the stainless steel choice you made actually rust proof?

Larger brands will often define which raw materials suppliers their contract factories are able to supply from. Things like which type of wire, or what types of zippers, are carefully sourced and mandated to ensure quality and compliance.

In this situation, the fabric had been sourced from a new supplier, and the new fabric was much scratchier and cheaper feeling due to the finish (even though it was the same fiber type) than the usually sourced fabric, leading to many customer complaints and much higher than usual returns.

Continuous Improvement

On an ongoing basis, you should be reading through and checking on your customer reviews. We use a feedback tool to track the customer reviews for our clients, and we also check seller feedback, returns commentary, and buyer-seller messages for product commentary.

The more you listen; the better your product.

If you make a massive change/overhaul to your product, I recommend making sure that your old product is completely sold out or removed from the fulfillment center before switching the information to the improved product. You don’t want to fix a major issue, then have customers receiving your old product and complaining for weeks. Amazon doesn’t ship FIFO (first in first out) and depending on your available inventory, old items can be selling for awhile. The longest I saw was a year and a half past the date of the product change.

Ultimately, the fix for the client was simple; go back to the old fabric, and the complaints will drop.

When you’re evaluating your quality strategy, keep in mind your customer avatar – are they budget conscious, focused on luxury, fun/silly? Keep your quality focused on your customer, while keeping the challenges of selling on Amazon in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful quality strategy on Amazon.

Interested in working with us to improve or launch your brand on Amazon?

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Trusted Expertise on Amazon
About the Author
I got my first job at Amazon because of my German language skills from my Master’s in History. Take that, people who said I’d never get a good job with my liberal arts degree! I soon learned that I’m not good at taking orders and started my MBA coursework at Seattle University.

I worked at Amazon for 8 years, as a liaison for law enforcement in Fraud/Transaction Risk, a quality and compliance manager in Product Compliance for Amazon Brands and imports globally, and lastly, managing hardware for Website Availability. I love the flexibility that working for clients on Amazon rather than for Amazon affords me.

In my not significant free time, I do fiber crafts such as spinning, crocheting, and embroidery, and I have been in a community band since 2009, playing French Horn, Trombone, or Euphonium depending on the band’s needs that season.

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