Guide on Ordering Product Samples When Importing From China


Table of Contents

Once you have found a suitable supplier and an acceptable quote, the next step is to order samples. This is a key step before you start production to ensure that the supplier you choose is qualified to produce the product you want. In this article, you can learn about the types of samples, the importance of samples, tips for ordering samples and some other information you need to know about product samples.

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Why Is A Product Sample Necessary?

Purchasing product samples is an indispensable step before placing an order for production. The following are the main reasons for purchasing samples.

Check the Supplier’s Capability

This is the most important reason to order product samples. Make sure the supplier you choose is capable of producing the quality product you want, so you can place orders with confidence and avoid wasting time and money on a substandard manufacturer.

View the Products More Precisely

It allows you to observe and test products more intuitively. The product pictures provided by some suppliers are seriously inconsistent with the pictures due to PS processing and other reasons. So buying a sample allows you to understand exactly what the products look like.

Verify Your Product Design

If you are ordering custom made products, it is important to see if the appearance, function, overall quality, etc. of the product meets your requirements through samples before production.

Check Molds and Tools

And some products need to develop new molds or tools before mass production, product samples can also help you determine whether the newly opened molds or tools meet the production requirements or not.

Reference For Quality Inspection

A final sample can be used as a reference for quality inspection to determine whether the product meets the standard or not.

What Are the Types of Product Samples?

In general, there are the following different types of samples, you can choose the appropriate one according to your own products.

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Manufacturer or Factory Samples

Factory samples are “off the shelf” samples of products that are not manufactured to the buyer’s design or custom specifications. It is a way to test a manufacturer’s productivity. In general, the cost of these services is low, and sometimes it’s even free (or just shipping). However, it should be noted that a good factory sample does not prove that the supplier is competent enough to produce custom made products. Also beware of trading companies that pretend to be manufacturers and buy samples from factories. Manufacturer Samples can be divided into the following two categories:

Material Samples

These samples are not finished products, but samples of materials used by the manufacturer in the production of the product, such as wood, fabric samples, etc.

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Production Samples

Production samples is when the manufacturer does not have the exact product you want, but only a similar product, produced in the same way as the product you want, so you can use this sample to test the capabilities of the manufacturer.

Customized Product Samples

If you want to make a custom made product, a pre-production sample is very important because you don’t know if the supplier has the ability to make the product that can meet your requirements. The process of developing a new product is not always smooth, it may take a long time. If conditions permit, it is suggested to find several suppliers at the same time. The cost of the sample itself can be very expensive, for example, the plastic mold has to be set up for you.

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Counter Samples

Sometimes, you can send a reference sample to your supplier to demonstrate the certain product you want to produce. The supplier will copy the details and make a counter sample for you, so that you can check the supplie’s productivity.

Virtual Samples

A virtual product sample can be a 2D rendering or a more complex 3D product model that can be tested for performance in a digital environment. Before you invest in expensive injection molds or other tools, virtual samples can be used as a way to make sure your suppliers understand your design requirements correctly.

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Tips for Getting Product Samples From Your Chinese Suppliers

Clarify Your Requirements Clearly

If you want to get a satisfactory product sample, then you must explain your requirements to the manufacturer in detail, such as drawings, design and other instructions related to the product, as detailed as possible. In order to avoid misproduction due to misunderstanding.

List Several Alternative Suppliers

If a manufacturer fails to produce a sample according to your specifications, even after many modifications, then you should choose another supplier from your list of alternatives. When a manufacturer fails to make a qualified sample, it means that their production capacity is not up to the requirements. If you continue to cooperate with this supplier, you may waste a lot of time and resources.

Establish Your Budget

Usually, you will have to pay for your samples. In some cases, samples are free and you only need to pay for freight. However, if it is a customized product sample, the price will be higher because of the new mold and other expenses. You need to establish your budget on your actual situation so that you don’t have to spend too much on producing samples.

Protect Your Intellectual Property

There is always a risk that suppliers or their employees may use your product specifications to copy your products after they hit the market. To avoid this, the best way is to register trademarks and patents both in China and your target markets. If you want to know more about how to protect your IP, please refer to this article: Import from China Tutorial 05: How to Protect Your Intellectual Property |

Keep the Samples Well

Keep the samples you receive in order. Take a picture of the sample, put it in a bag or box and label it. Record the product, supplier, and any other information you want. It is convenient to compare the sample quality from different suppliers, and can also be used as a reference for quality inspection in the future.

How to Get Samples From Alibaba

If you are looking for a supplier from Alibaba, you can also contact the supplier via email or phone and ask them to provide samples.The cost and payment method of the samples will vary from seller to seller. Some samples charge a lot because it may require a lot of work.

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  1. If your product retails for between $20- $50 and you place a larger and more expensive order after receiving the sample, then you can ask for this sample cost to be deducted from the price of the entire order.
  1. It is recommended to always use payment methods provided by Alibaba rather than third-party payment platforms. This can help you ensure that your payments are secure.


Purchasing product samples can save you a lot of detours finding the most suitable supplier. If you want to get product samples from China, please feel free to contact us.

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