1. Stay focused
The Canton Fair is huge. It showcases all industries and products from China. A common mistake first-time attendees make is spreading their attention. They try to cover everything in all three phases of the Canton Fair, but end up with nothing for themselves. To avoid this, it is important to focus on the main goal.
If you already have a product and a niche in mind, stay in your area of interest. Visit all the booths, talk to key suppliers, learn about your competitors, and discover new factories and products that might not be available in your market yet.
If you're still unsure and looking for a new product or business idea, it's important to at least narrow down your search. Identify areas where you could potentially develop the business. Make a list of possible niches and products. It's also helpful to research what's currently available in your market, including current models and their prices. Do it before your trip. With this knowledge, your communication with Chinese suppliers will be much more effective.
2. Connect with market leaders
Large factories usually secure prime locations at the Canton Fair. Their booths are large, and they exhibit constantly year after year. For them, the fair is the place to uphold their reputation and reconnect with loyal clients from all over the world. Just having a talk with such suppliers can give you valuable market insights.
Start by introducing yourself and make your goals clear. Then continue with questions like:
- Who are the main customers from your country? (This way you can learn about the main competitors in your market.)
- How many containers do the market leaders buy per month? (This can often reveal that your market is much larger than you initially thought.)
- How often do they place orders? When was the last one?
- Which models are the most popular?
- How much do you need to purchase to get an exclusive contract in your country?
3. Samples are important
On the last day of each phase at the Canton Fair, you’ll have a unique chance to purchase factory samples or even get them for free. These can include new products, the latest models, unique test samples, and occasionally one-of-a-kind prototypes.
While there will be many catalogs, photos, videos, and presentations, nothing quite compares to having a physical product in hand. With this sample, you can take high-quality photos, create video reviews, offer it for testing to influencers, make a landing page, and ultimately get pre-orders and advance payments from customers. It's a powerful tool for your business.
4. Explore every inch in your niche
When you walk through the fair, go through each row. Just remember the tip #1 and stay focused on your niche. Don’t miss any corner booths, booths in the aisles between sections, or end booths in nearby areas. Keep in mind, all the key players in your market are here, which means your competitors are likely on the lookout for fresh ideas and products here too. What catches your eye will catch theirs as well. With limited exhibition space, it is simply impossible to display all the products. Typically, the most unique finds are in the shadows.
5. Notice the “meter by meter” booths
Pay special attention to booths that are shared among several suppliers. These are often the showcase for small factories and new suppliers. As a rule, their prices are lower compared to market leaders, who can be quite selective with new customers. Additionally, these smaller booths and those situated in the areas between sections may be the only chance for new manufacturers to exhibit at the Canton Fair. If you're new to your market, it's a smart move to look for similarly small and new factories in China. This strategy allows you to introduce a fresh product line and then grow with your Chinese partner.
6. If you cannot find it, just ask
As you walk around the Canton Fair, keep in mind that every booth, no matter how small it is, represents the entire factory. So, it's important to consider the broader range of what they can produce. It's physically impossible to bring every product sample. Each factory has a separate catalog, a showroom with their products, and sometimes even a space showcasing goods made for different clients. Some factories specialize in custom work, following the client's specifications and designs.
For example, almost any clothing factory can replicate a sample of clothing that you provide. They can adjust colors, materials, and packaging with no difficulty. Don't hesitate to show them samples from your market and ask questions.
7. The Canton Fair is a great place to connect
In Guangzhou, you'll be surrounded by buyers from all over the world. You'll find both newcomers and market experts, single buyers and owners of retail chains, famous brands, and even world leaders. From the USA to Europe, South America to Africa, the Middle East to countries in the CIS - they all order things from China.
So, use this chance! Meet people, discuss trends and new products, get feedback on working with a particular Chinese supplier, and even team up to show your products in other markets. In short, you'll get a ton of really useful insights and chances.
8. Use Canton Fair to find new ideas
Sometimes, the prices you see at the Canton Fair might not be exactly what you're looking for. On the one hand, companies that can afford to be at the fair may sometimes charge a bit more. They might do this to regulate participation or to ensure they cover all their expenses. On the other hand, certain factories, on the contrary, might offer special prices at the Canton Fair to attract new customers and make more sales in larger quantities.
Price depends on a variety of factors, such as product quality, certification availability, production timeline, export experience, and level of service. It also depends on how many you want to order, how it is packaged, and if it has a brand on it.
You can use the Canton Fair to explore ideas for new products. Later, you can work with suppliers through Alibaba and explore other suppliers for potentially better offers. If you plan to establish a long lasting business relationship with China, consider branding your product right from the start to make it unique. Be flexible and creative!