From China to Warehouse: How to Ship from Alibaba to Amazon FBA Seamlessly

how to ship from alibaba to amazon fba

Ever felt like you’re playing a high-stakes game of Tetris, trying to figure out how to ship from Alibaba to Amazon FBA? You’ve got your pieces – the products. You’ve already done the product research, sourced the goods and paid for production. Now, it’s about maneuvering them efficiently into place amidst customs forms and logistics plans.

businessman, boxes, transport

For a first time seller, it can be intimidating… I’ve been there.

I remember feeling super confused about all of the terms, different methods, and what the overall shipping cost should be.

But guess what? It gets easier once you learn how things work!

In this post, we’ll untangle this web together, exploring direct and indirect shipping routes from Alibaba suppliers all the way over to the Amazon fulfillment center stateside.

Let’s dive in and break it down so your shipping plan is as smooth as ever!

Why You Should Know How to Ship from Alibaba to Amazon

First Things People Saved Money For (18 GIFS) -

You might be wondering why this matters. But consider this: when done effectively, shipping directly from your reliable Alibaba supplier to Amazon FBA can result in significant cost savings – a benefit that any savvy Amazon seller would jump at.

Beyond saving money though, efficient shipping strategies also mean quicker delivery times which cuts down lead times. This impacts things like cash flow and makes it easier to scale up your Amazon business. Cash is king in this game and most experienced Amazon sellers know this.

But keep in mind, the goal here isn’t just about getting goods across borders; it’s about building a robust system that enhances your overall profitability while ensuring customer satisfaction (i.e. products that aren’t damaged).

A Glimpse into What Awaits You

In this piece, we’ll explore direct shipping possibilities and methods including pros & cons associated with each approach. We’ll discuss steps involved in both direct and indirect (via third-party logistics) shipping scenarios along with tips on choosing reliable freight forwarders – all pivotal players in making sure that quality goods arrive safely at their destination.

How to Ship From Alibaba to Amazon FBA: Step by Step

For online entrepreneurs utilizing Amazon’s FBA program, sourcing from Alibaba directly can revolutionize their business. This option lets you bypass the middleman and get your products straight into Amazon’s warehouses. Here’s how to make it happen step by step.

1. Get Shipping Quotes

shipping quotes

While production is wrapping up it’s crucial to gather several shipping estimates. This helps you determine the true cost of getting your product to its destination, also known as the landed cost.

A supplier might quote $5 per unit, but that’s not the whole story. If you’re dealing with a large or heavy item, the landed cost might surge to $10 per unit, potentially eating into your profit margins.

When you’re obtaining product estimates, manufacturers often inquire if you prefer FOB or EXW pricing terms. These terms relate to who is responsible for preparing the goods for shipment once they’re ready.

Understanding FOB vs. EXW Incoterms

When diving into the world of international shipping, especially between Alibaba and Amazon, two commonly used incoterms you’ll encounter are FOB (Free On Board) and EXW (Ex Works). Understanding the differences between these terms is crucial for sellers to make informed decisions about shipping costs and responsibilities.

FOB (Free On Board):
  • Definition: Under FOB, the seller is responsible for delivering the goods to a specified port, clearing the goods for export, and loading them onto the ship. Once the goods cross the ship’s rail, the risk and responsibility shift from the seller to the buyer.

  • Advantages for Buyers: The buyer has a clear understanding of costs up to the point of the goods being loaded onto the ship. This clarity can aid in budgeting and cost analysis.

  • Considerations: Buyers need to be aware that once the goods are on the ship, they bear all risks and additional costs, including transportation, insurance, and unloading at the destination port.

EXW (Ex Works):
  • Definition: Under EXW, the seller fulfills their obligation once the goods are made available for pickup at their premises or another named place (factory, warehouse, etc.). The buyer bears all costs and risks involved in transporting the goods from the seller’s location to the desired destination.

  • Advantages for Sellers: The seller has minimal responsibility, only ensuring that goods are available for pickup. This simplicity can be advantageous in terms of cost and logistics.

  • Considerations: Buyers bear a significant amount of responsibility under EXW. They handle all transportation costs, export duties, loading charges, and risk during transport. It’s essential for buyers to be well-informed and possibly enlist the services of a freight forwarder when operating under EXW.

Key takeaway: Choosing between FOB and EXW depends on the level of control, responsibility, and risk a seller or buyer is willing to assume. It’s essential to understand these incoterms thoroughly, negotiate terms that align with your business needs, and ensure all parties involved are clear about their responsibilities. Once you have your estimated express shipping costs or sea freight quotes, you’ll be better prepared to decide which option to choose. I personally like to quotes by asking for the minimum order quantity (MOQ) based on EXW because it allows me to compare apples-to-apples between suppliers.

2. Choosing Your Shipping Method

Before we can select the correct method, we need to determine, which shipping method makes the most sense for our products.

large shipping container

Choosing Between Air and Sea Shipping

The decision to opt for air or sea shipping hinges on several variables, including the order’s weight, dimensions, and quantity. For smaller, lighter orders that don’t occupy much space, air freight is often the preferred choice.

Conversely, for bulkier orders that demand substantial space, sea freight becomes the more viable option. While this method might be lengthier, it’s notably more cost-effective for Amazon FBA sellers.

A hybrid approach is also worth considering.

There might be situations where you have a substantial order, but there’s an urgency to stock up Amazon’s warehouse. In such scenarios, it’s practical to split the shipment: dispatch a quick batch using air freight and send the bulk of the order via sea. This strategy is not uncommon, and I’ve personally employed it in the past.

Your next step is choosing your method of shipment: Express, Air Freight, or Sea Freight. Weighing the advantages and drawbacks of each option is essential before settling on a choice.

  • Express: Fast but pricey; perfect for small shipments or time-sensitive items.

  • Air Freight: A balance between cost and speed; great for moderate-sized orders.

  • Sea Freight: The slowest yet cheapest method; ideal for large product quantities not needed immediately.

Once you have your estimated express shipping costs or sea freight quotes, you’ll be better prepared to decide which option to choose.

3. Choose a Freight Forwarder for Alibaba to Amazon FBA

air cargo

Shipping from Alibaba to Amazon requires a trusted middleman. That’s where freight forwarders come into play.

The Role of a Freight Forwarder in Shipping

A freight forwarder, like the quarterback on your favorite football team, coordinates and manages all shipping logistics. They deal with complex paperwork, negotiate rates, handle insurance matters, and make sure your goods reach Amazon FBA without any hiccups.

Just like potential suppliers, you can also find freight forwarders on Alibaba.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Freight Forwarder in China:

Your chosen freight forwarder can be the difference between smooth sailing or rocky waters when it comes to getting your goods shipped. Here are some important factors you need to consider:

  • Check their Legality: You wouldn’t trust an unlicensed doctor for medical advice; similarly, don’t put faith in an illegal company for business practices. Always verify that they have proper credentials before doing business.

  • No Hidden Charges: If pricing feels like decoding Morse code, something’s off. A good freight forwarder should give clear cost breakdowns without hidden charges tucked away somewhere deep inside legalese. Also compare multiple quotes to make sure you’re getting reasonable prices.

  • Insurance Policies: An umbrella won’t stop rain but keeps you dry; likewise having solid insurance doesn’t prevent mishaps but shields against financial loss due to them. Review these policies thoroughly.

  • Prominent Association Membership: A reputable association membership is akin to high school popularity – it usually indicates credibility within the industry. You can look up licensed freight forwarders with the Federal Maritime Commission here.

  • Trade Assurance: Many forwarders will be listed on Alibaba which allows you to use the Alibaba secure payment service.

Remember choosing right helps save time and money while reducing stress during this crucial part of your online business journey.

4. Making an FBA Shipping Plan

The next step is setting up your Amazon FBA shipping plan. You will need to do this inside your Amazon seller account. This will guide how your goods are prepared in China and received at the warehouse.

In this process, you’ll need to get the product and shipping labels. Product labels (FNSKU) goes on each individual product. Basically the barcode that Amazon uses to read your product.

FNSKU label

The shipping labels will be placed on the outside of the cartons. You need to get these from your Amazon Seller Central Account and instruct your supplier or shipping agent to place on the shipping cartons.

Amazon FBA shipping labels

Important: You need the carton details in order to make a shipping plan. Given that your supplier handles the production and packaging, they’re already equipped with details like carton size, weight, and volume. Ask them these details and use this info to create the labels, which will then be sent over to them after production ends.

5. Packaging According to Standards

You must make sure that all packaging meets Amazon’s requirements. Any missteps here could result in rejected shipments or additional fees – something no one wants. Get it right from the start with proper preparation on labeling, bagging, boxing…

Note: While direct shipping saves costs and streamlines the process, it’s important to understand that there is a risk of your supplier seeing your sales data. Make sure you trust them and have agreements in place.

6. Make Payment and Move Forward with Your Choice

Having weighed the pros and cons, and armed with all the necessary information, it’s time to finalize your decision. Choose the forwarder and shipping method that aligns best with your business needs and budget.

  • Payment Methods: Different forwarders might offer various payment options, from bank transfers to online payment gateways. Ensure you choose a method that’s both secure and convenient for you. Alibaba secure payment service is a good option if your forwarder offers that.

  • Documentation: Once payment is made, ensure you receive all necessary documentation, such as the Bill of Lading for sea shipments or Airway Bill for air shipments. These documents are crucial for tracking and receiving your shipment.

  • Stay Informed: After making the payment and initiating the shipping process, maintain open communication with your forwarder. Regular updates will help you anticipate any potential issues and address them proactively.

By meticulously following these steps and ensuring every detail is attended to, you can ensure a smooth and efficient shipping process, paving the way for your products to reach Amazon’s fulfillment centers without a hitch.

Methods of Shipping from Alibaba to Amazon FBA

If you’re wondering how to get your products from Alibaba to Amazon, there are two primary methods: direct and indirect shipping. Both have their pros and cons.

Direct Shipping

In the world of e-commerce, time is money. That’s why many sellers choose shipping direct from Alibaba verified suppliers in China right into the hands of Amazon Fulfillment Centers. It’s like a non-stop flight for your products. The benefits? Less damage due to fewer transfers, quicker shipping times, and it can be more affordable.

But here comes the plot twist. Direct shipping has its drawbacks too – mainly a lack of inspection opportunities before reaching Amazon warehouses. Imagine not being able to check if your grandma baked those cookies just right.

Protip: Always get your product quality checked out by a third party inspection company before production is complete.

Indirect Shipping via Third-Party Warehouses

The other route is indirect or ‘via-a-third-party’ shipping. In this case, we’re using an intermediary stop at a third-party logistics firm (3PL). Think layover flights but with added perks like getting some rest or catching up on work.

This allows you the opportunity to inspect goods ensuring they meet all quality standards before sending them off towards their final destination – Amazon FBA warehouse. It also gives room for replenishing shipments in advance if needed which could save potential out-of-stock embarrassments down the line.

But as they say, nothing good comes easy. This method might be pricier, take more time due to the additional stopover and there could also be higher chances of damage.

As a first time seller, having an FBA prep company or 3PL isn’t really necessary. Many Alibaba suppliers have more experience with Amazon FBA and can do all of the prep work needed.

Shipping Indirectly from Alibaba to Amazon FBA using Third Party Logistics (3PL)

If direct shipping is like jumping headfirst into the pool, then consider third-party logistics or 3PL as your trusty floaties. With 3PL, you get a chance to check and prep your goods before they hit the Amazon FBA warehouse.

The Benefits of Using 3PL

When you use a 3PL, it’s not just about safety nets; it also gives you room for better planning. Let’s say your products are seasonal, but with storage limits on Amazon FBA, stock piling isn’t an option. So instead of rushing shipments during peak season risking delays or worse – out-of-stock scenarios – why not send them in advance to a nearby 3PL? This way, restocking becomes less frantic and more strategic.

Another benefit is that a 3PL can provide other services, such as knitting, packing, photography, and more.

Using Both Direct and Indirect Shipping Methods Simultaneously

The peak sales season is like a marathon. It’s all about pacing, making sure you have enough energy (or in this case, inventory) to cross the finish line. But what happens when your Amazon inventory capacity is maxed out? You need an efficient way to replenish stock quickly.

Here’s where combining direct shipping with indirect shipping via a Third-Party Logistics provider (3PL) comes into play. Think of it as having two arrows in your quiver – one for immediate use and another kept handy for future needs.

Direct Shipping: The Sprinter

Alibaba, the giant Chinese e-commerce platform, offers options such as Express, Air Freight, or Sea Freight that let you ship directly from Alibaba to Amazon FBA warehouses worldwide. This method gives you speed – crucial during peak seasons when every minute counts towards meeting customer demand.

Indirect Shipping: The Marathon Runner

If direct shipping is the sprinter who covers short distances fast, then indirect shipping using third-party logistics providers (or 3PLs) are marathon runners who take longer but provide stability over time. By storing extra products at these third-party locations until needed at Amazon’s warehouse(s), you ensure there’s always something left for later rounds.

This combination strategy makes sense if time sensitivity varies across different parts of your product range – some items might need instant replenishment while others can afford to wait a bit longer.


By now, you’ve gotten a pretty solid grasp on how to ship from Alibaba to Amazon fulfillment centers effectively. Grasping the intricacies of direct and indirect shipping is key to a successful transition from Alibaba to Amazon.

Despite its vastness, the Alibaba platform can be navigated with ease once you get the hang of it. And when coupled with reliable third-party logistics (3PL) or an efficient freight forwarder in China, managing shipments becomes less daunting.

You’ve also learned that having cargo insurance is crucial because accidents happen – no matter how careful we are. But hey. That’s why insurance exists right? To give us peace of mind knowing our hard-earned investments are protected during transit.

And let’s not forget about holiday peak sales seasons where inventory levels at Amazon could restrict replenishment speed. In such scenarios, utilizing both direct and indirect shipping simultaneously has proven effective for many sellers who push large volumes.

This might seem overwhelming initially but once you do it yourself, it will become second nature. You’ll likely face challenges along this journey but don’t sweat it too much – these hurdles will only help sharpen your entrepreneurial skills even more.

My Experience Shipping Direct from Alibaba to Amazon fba

I’ve had my fair share of shipments from China to the US. When I first started selling on Amazon, I saved money shipping directly from my factory to the Amazon warehouse. However, after I gained more experience, I realized that a good freight forwarder can provide protection and an added layer of security so that your supplier doesn’t know you’re entire supply chain.

Nowadays, I strictly use a freight forwarder and most experienced Amazon sellers I know do the same.

If there are parts that still feel murky or if you need some extra guidance on anything covered here – I encourage you to ask questions below or reach out directly via my contact page. Your success matters so let’s make sure all bases are covered as far as Alibaba to Amazon FBA shipping goes.


Can I send directly from Alibaba to Amazon?

Absolutely. You can ship goods straight from Alibaba to an Amazon Fulfillment Center, saving both time and money.

Is it legal to sell from Alibaba to Amazon?

Yes, it’s perfectly legal. Just ensure you’re not infringing on any patents or trademarks in the process.

Can I buy products from Alibaba and send them to an Amazon FBA warehouse?

You bet. It’s a popular strategy for many e-commerce sellers who use Amazon’s robust fulfillment network.

Can you ship from Alibaba?

Sure thing. Many suppliers on Alibaba offer shipping options that cover various needs and budgets.

Can you make money buying from China and selling on Amazon?

Yes, you can. Read more about how to get started selling on Amazon FBA in my full guide.

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