Nicole Wang

Mar 20, 2021

Nicole Wang on German and American aggregators working with Chinese manufacturers

THE BEST PRACTICES AND LESSONS LEARNED

Having assembled deep domain expertise in e-commerce, at unybrands our strategy is to scale microbrands around various market segments. As part of this approach, we continuously grow the strong relationships we have built with a trusted group of Chinese suppliers. Our Investment and Integration team member, Nicole Wang has played a unique role in shaping these: Hailing from China, and now based in Berlin but often on-site, she lets us in on the best practices and learnings of working with our overseas partners.

Our suppliers are an essential asset to building and scaling brands in the unybrands ecosystem. We have over 20 trusted manufacturers currently providing us with juvenile and household goods; think water filtration and bottles, shower filters, mugs, and more. In fact, most of them rely on exports to Europe and the USA, allowing them to be very familiar with our main target audience’s demands and tastes as well as international trends.

Moreover, the local network of Chinese suppliers is exploding. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, people rely on online shopping more than ever before, and with a significant portion of goods produced in China, there is a huge demand from Amazon FBA sellers. While suppliers report that orders from physical retailers have shrunk—companies are racing to engage in e-commerce—and now need to learn how to comply with Amazon regulations. They are in constant exchange, and often compete on prices, minimum order quantities, and providing free samples to business owners. To be ahead of the game, they regularly check the marketplace for themselves.

Our partners create new products with us and are always open to developing innovative designs with consideration of sustainability and reusable materials. We test our goods prior to final commission—for them, this often means accepting orders below the minimum order quantity. Naturally, all of this relies on mutual trust: at unybrands our mission is to help brands reach new heights, something we can only accomplish by working with a close-knit group of trusted partners. Not only are we expanding our growth team as we speak, but we are about to launch a new tech platform that will connect all moving pieces and streamline our processes.

Best practices

Language and cultural understanding are key. For quality assurance, we closely collaborate with local partners. Manufacturers are just in their early days of understanding aggregators’ business model, while aggregators often lack a Chinese speaker on the ground, someone who can directly liaise businesses with manufacturers. There’s always a lot of back and forth, and being able to speak Chinese makes a massive difference: it accelerates product iterations, negotiates the best possible terms, and allows us to feed reviews from storefronts directly back to the manufacturers around the clock without delays. Most of all, it markets unybrands amongst the Chinese supplier network.

Secondly, we have a clearly defined process, no matter the nature of our products—a process that has to be backed by data and analytics, two things that inherently drive unybrands. We share our growth vision and sales targets with suppliers. We help them grow and grow ourselves: Our monthly updates provide total confidence and transparency that our products sell and that they’ve been working with the right client.

Another important factor is transparency in communication. Nurturing trust takes time. We never cease to pay our vendors in a timely manner and have therefore never experienced any production delays. Most importantly, this means that our products are always of the highest quality, which in turn enables our brands to thrive.

Investing in face-to-face time when possible makes a true difference too; it further cements our status as a trusted partner and enforces our resources and mission.

Lessons learned

We always make sure to place our orders in advance. In 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, sourcing in general was rather difficult; congested ports and slow shipments led to stock-outs.

There are lots of synergies that can be built with our partners, especially as unybrands is growing significantly—our solution is to find reliable ones and to establish long-lasting relationships with them. These local connections are crucial to our every move and truly enable our brands to flourish. This is what sets us apart from other aggregators. Because everything we do has to be done with integrity, and this involves every step of the way, from fostering talent within our team to being in touch with the workers producing our goods.

Chinese-born, Berlin-based Nicole Wang is a Manager in our Investment and Integration Team. After spending 14 years studying and working in London, and two years in Shanghai, she joined unybrands in 2020 with a breadth of professional experience in the financial service industry. For a prior stint in fintech, she headed up business development efforts in China and was integral to setting up the local business.

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