The 2020 Canton Fair is coming up soon! The Canton Fair, or China Import and Export Fair, began in 1957 with the purpose of opening up China’s products to the world. At that time, practically all of China’s production facilities were state owned and the country as a whole was economically isolated. The fair was meant to serve as a meeting point where China could present it’s goods and production capabilities to foreign buyers in order to boost its exports. It is organized by the China Foreign Trade Center and it takes place in the very appropriately named China Import and Export Fair Complex in the city of Guangzhou in the Guangdong province. This year, the fair will take place between June 15th and June 24th.

Nowadays, China is very much open to travel and it’s easy to get to Chinese factories, you don’t even need to actually travel to China in order to do business with the Chinese. Of course, many of us know how easy it is to start a relationship with a Chinese company over Alibaba. However, being there is a very special experience on it’s own and it can give you some very unique opportunities. The major difference for the upcoming one is that it will be held online.

The Canton Fair online

Since the Canton Fair is so crucial for both the Chinese and the global economy, the organizers are trying their hardest not to break the 63 year long tradition and are making preparations to have the fair online. We don’t know too much about what exactly is that going to look like, but we know what sort of technologies are going to be utilized. 

Virtual showrooms – The presenters will be expected to create virtual spaces containing their product selections. This will be very much like a video game where you would be able to move around the space and zoom into products and get some information on them. It’s the next best thing to physically being there, and on the bright side, you will be alone in the room. 

Guided telepresence tours – You can actually set up a guided tour through a real physical showroom with a presenter on the fair. How this works is basically that a person will literally hold a camera through which you can see the space and all the products while you are accompanied by another person and guide you through the selection. This will be an interactive experience where you can stop at any item and ask questions and even ask for any specific item to be put up for a closer inspection. 

attend 2020 canton fair

Video meetings and calls – This will probably come as no surprise, but you will be able to have meetings with potential suppliers via video call software in order to discuss any particulars about the products you are interested in. Things like, price, quantities, manufacturing times, customization etc…

What can you gain by attending?

The Canton fair might be a very interesting place to visit just for the experience of seeing what goes on “under the hood” of the global consumer economy and certainly there are people that visit it just for that. But for most people, it’s a place where you go to do business. Sure, you could just go to Alibaba and browse until you find a product you like and contact the factory for the information you need. If you’ve done this in the past you should be aware of the fact that it’s much easier to find the product that you need then it is to find a supplier that’s manufacturing it that you can communicate well with. 

Attending the fair completely removes that issue from the equation. You would be able to ask anything you want to ask right then and there and you will be dealing with someone that’s going to answer anything you want to know. Not to mention that you will have an enormous selection of products to look at, many of which you weren’t aware of. You will also be able to pick up anything and try the product yourself, learn about customization options packaging etc…

So, let’s get into what you might be looking to do at the Canton fair as an Ecommerce seller in general and how this might be different this yeast since it’s taking place online. Here are just four benefits you can expect from the online Canton Fair:

1. Finding a new product to source:

  1. This is an obvious one, if you are looking for new products to add to your online store this would be a perfect place to get your pick of the litter. As mentioned before, in this online setting you will have virtual showrooms where you can browse all the products you want. This way will probably be more efficient. Sure, you won’t have anyone to talk to ask questions at the virtual showroom, but if you are interested you could arrange for a conversation and a personal demonstration with the manufacturer. You won’t be able to experience the atmosphere of the normal convention but you could, arguably, be more effective in your search and selection in this online environment. The communication, once you reach out to a manufacturer, should be just as productive as it would be if you were on the fair. This would make sense since the presenters will be taking this very seriously. Keep in mind that they count on this fair to close new clients and make deals that provide significant revenue to them, coupled with the looming economic crisis and you will probably find yourself talking to a very enthusiastic and accommodating representative. 

2. Creating a variation or upgrading your existing product: A good idea for an Ecommerce seller would be to see how they can improve their product and possibly manufacture it in such a way that it can have an additional feature that would make it more attractive or to build on an exciting product by dividing it by making variations. You could bring your product to the fair and speak to a manufacturer that makes similar products and discuss the possibility of them manufacturing some customized versions of it. You might be able to even end the interaction by ordering a prototype to be made and having some price quotes on quantities for them.

This is not something you can do as easily online as you could in person. Just like you cannot actually hold any of the presented products in your hand online, the same obviously applies to anything you might want a manufacturer to take a look at. In this scenario you would be wise to have a really detailed sketch and specifications prepared as well as a way to clearly present the product you already have and the types of changes and modification you would like to see in the variations you would like to have made. This might be a bit of a challenge and it might take some patience but it might be worth the trouble.

3. Getting your concept or prototype manufactured:

This is a similar situation as the previous one, only in this one you don’t have  a product that’s been selling, rather you have an idea. The idea can be just a sketch or it could be a prototype you’ve made yourself or had custom made. This is a bit of a different process since there would be more things to discuss. You could have a long conversation with a manufacturer about the materials that could be used for your product, how feasible or quickly they can start making it, if it would require making molds for it etc…This is all pretty much something that can be done online. 

Getting a concept manufactured is not an easy process, however, you could make it much easier on yourself by talking to several different manufacturers and learning about the challenges of getting it done. You might find yourself wanting to revise your design based on the feedback and doing some other types of adjustments to make your product concept ready for production. It is not an uncommon occurrence that someone would just go up to a booth with a sketch and leave making a deal on having their exact product idea in the pipeline and making their first order. 

4. Finding a new supplier: The Canton fair is actually a really good opportunity to compare the prices you are currently getting to make your products from your current supplier to what else is out there. You are bound to find numerous manufacturers making products that are similar to yours and you can simply show them your product and say “How much would it cost to make this at your factory?” 

A good way to identify new potential suppliers is to visit the virtual showroom for factories making similar products and try and get some basic price quotes and see how they might give you a good deal based on those. This might be one of those situations that you would like a translator for since there is definitely bargaining and negotiation to be taking place. It’s certainly cheaper to hire a translator to be with you on an online meeting than finding one to bring with you to the fair in usual circumstances. 

If you manage to find a new supplier with a good deal you should first ask for samples in order to inspect the quality and compare it to your current supplier’s stock. You should also not immediately commit to getting all your inventory to a new supplier you found, you should , for starters, just order some portion of your stock from them and see if there are any negative reactions from your customers in the form of returns, refunds or bad reviews. If that all checks out, you’ve walked out of the fair (or logged out in this case) with a  higher profit margin per product unit. 

Be there, or be square!

Follow our step-by-step registration guide to sign up today.

The Canton fair is basically a bottle neck where a large portion of the global consumer economy goes through every spring. The vast and seemingly endless cornucopia of boots and products represent the formidable Chinese production prowess and anyone attending can benefit from it. In usual circumstances taking a trip there might not be worth the investment especially if you are a smaller online seller or brand. This time you can actually attend without paying for flights and hotels and taking the 10 days off to attend. This might be the perfect opportunity to see all the fair has to offer for without straining yourself financially. If you are generally committed to selling products online, or you are generally sourcing products from China, you owe it to yourself to attend it at least once. This time you can have a virtual preview of what you can expect for the fraction of the cost.

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