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When you think of product design, shipping might be the last thing on your mind. However, it’s still a crucial part of the process and can affect your profits if done poorly. One aspect of shipping and logistics is incoterms. 

Incoterms might seem confusing, but they’re actually not all that complicated. If you’re shipping a product from one location to another, then it’s crucial you understand what they are and how they work.

When it comes to freight shipping, the history is fascinating. From horses pulling carts to container ships transporting literally—tonnes—of goods, we’ve come a long way. Now, the interconnectedness of our supply chains allows us to buy all kinds of products and goods, like pineapples from Hawaii and saffron from Spain.

Logistics management is an entire field of study in itself, and many people dedicate themselves to understanding all the different stages of transportation. While we don’t expect you to be a supply chain manager, you can still benefit from understanding the overview of Incoterms when designing your products.

Fun fact: The first shipping container was only invented in 1956 by American entrepreneur Malcom McLean.

A key part of international shipping is the incoterms, which can be intimidating to a lot of people. Thankfully, we’re diving deep into the topic in today’s guide on incoterms. 

What are Incoterms? 

In the world of shipping and logistics, Incoterms is an abbreviation of the words: “International Commercial Terms.” These are the terms agreed to by the buyer and seller, which reduces confusion in the shipping process. 

They are written as three-letter abbreviated trade terms and were formally established by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). As a result, the logistics of international trade are simplified since they clearly communicate different aspects of cross-border trade.

In general, there are a few things major areas that incoterms address: 

  • Point of delivery: This defines the point of change of hands from seller to buyer.
  • Transportation costs: This defines who pays for whichever transportation is required.
  • Export and import formalities: This defines which party arranges for import and export formalities.
  • Insurance cost: This defines who takes charge of the insurance cost.

What are the different types of Incoterms? 

There are 11 main terms to know when it comes to Incoterms, but we’ll break them down for you. Use these to help the buyers and sellers communicate the provisions of a contract clearly. 

Here is a quick table with the different terms and what they entail:

CodeAcronymWhat’s Involved
EXWEx WorksThe seller ensures the goods are at the seller’s premises or another specific location where the buyer loads and clears the goods for export.
FCAFree CarrierThe seller delivers goods either to the carrier, a specific person at the seller’s premises, or another specific location. Any risks passed onto the buyer must be clearly stated.
FASFree Alongside ShipThe seller delivers goods alongside a vessel chosen by the buyer. The responsibility lies with buyers after goods are alongside the vessel.
FOBFree Onboard VesselWhen the seller delivers goods on-board a vessel chosen by buyers. The responsibility lies with the buyer once goods are on the vessel.
CFRCost & FreightLike FOB, except that the seller must pay for the costs and freight to deliver goods to their destination.
CIFCost, Insurance, & FreightSimilar to CFR, except the seller arranges insurance cover against the buyer’s risk of loss or damage.
CPTCarriage Paid ToThe seller must arrange the transportation of the goods to a specific destination, but doesn’t insure them.
CIPCarriage & Insurance Paid ToLike CPT, but the seller is also in charge of insuring the goods.
DAPDelivered At PlaceThe seller delivers the goods to a specific destination, after the goods have been unloaded. The seller has full control of up until the named place of destination.
DPUDelivered At Place UnloadedThe seller delivers the goods ready for unloading at the specific destination. The seller has full control up to the named place of destination.
DDPDelivered Duty PaidThe seller is in charge of all costs and risks relating to the delivery of goods to the buyer’s named place of destination, including clearing goods for export and import, paying duties and any customs formalities.

This list is also organized from the most obligation to the seller (ECW) to the least obligation to the seller (DDP). When choosing, you’ll need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each one. 

How do I choose the right Incoterms?

With so many choices, it’s difficult to know what to choose. While there are a lot of factors to help you decide, here are some general tips to help you.

One common practice in the industry is that you should “buy” FOB and “sell” CIF. That is because there are different benefits and costs with each pricing term, especially as they relate to an importer or exporter.

All that aside, FOB (Free on Board) is, generally, the most popular Incoterm since it provides equal benefits and risks to the buyer and seller. 

If you have more experience importing goods and want full control over the process, then EXW (Ex Works) may be the way you decide to go. It does, however, mean that you take on the most risk and responsibility, so we would advise against that if you’re still learning the ropes.

When choosing the right incoterms, you want to get it right. Shipments can face all sorts of problems without the correct incoterm so it’s crucial to think carefully to decide which one is appropriate. 

For example, logistics costs could increase, affecting your profits later on. Alternatively, the buyer or seller may not be able to comply with the incoterm causing issues when you go to pick up your goods and they never arrive.

Summary

Not every business uses the same incoterm, so you have to choose based on what’s best for you. Hopefully, this guide expanded your knowledge and boosted your confidence when it comes to understanding incoterms.

At the end of the day, we recommend working with professionals who know what they’re doing so your logistics and shipping processes run smoothly. It might not be the first stage of product development, but it’s an important one!

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About the Author: 

Ventrify is a product design and manufacturing firm that helps entrepreneurs bring product ideas from concept to market. We take in fledgling ideas and bring them through our iterative design process to create products our clients can be proud of. Then, we work with manufacturing facilities worldwide to bring our clients the highest quality products at competitive prices.

If you have questions about using prototypes in your product development journey or need help, reach out to us through our Website, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Article by Victoria Fraser

If you’re an entrepreneur wondering about the product design process, your first question is probably how long does it take? There are a lot of steps between coming up with an idea and actually selling your product. After all, you need to make sales if you hope to get your money back. 

Taking your product to market is exciting, but too often many of us want to start designing it right away. That’s not where the journey actually starts and we’ll explain why. 


Phase 1: Research & Planning

Before you can begin the design phase of your product, you need to do a marketing report. This is a collection of data from different sources that will help you decide if the product idea is something worth pursuing. 

Here are just a few factors you’ll consider before knowing if you have a good idea. 

Competition

Is your product a completely new invention? Probably not. There’s nothing wrong with creating something that already exists, but you need to look at how many other companies out there are solving the same problem. In marketing, this is referred to as Points of Similarity. 

If there the market is oversaturated, you will need to ensure your product has important points of difference that will make it stand out. Not surprisingly, this is referred to as Points of Differentiation in marketing. Looking at these different things helps you position your brand in the eyes of your consumer. 

Target Audience

Who are you trying to sell your product to? Often people like to think their product is for everyone because that means you have a larger audience. This isn’t the best strategy because people won’t have a clear connection to your product. It’s better to have a focused target audience so you can market to them personally and speak the same language. 

Would you sell pens to people who work in an office the same way you sell pens to an artist who works at home? Not likely. Different target audiences will have different needs and concerns. To be the most successful, you want to focus on who your audience is and how you will market to them. 

Cost

How much will it cost to make your product? Let’s say you have an idea for an amazing new rain jacket that has a ton of features. You’re going to sell it to sailors who need the best gear for their watersports. It’s waterproof, lights up, has tons of pockets, and even a built-in life jacket! Well, that’s probably going to cost a lot more than a normal rain jacket. Is this justified enough that your target audience will buy it, or are they going to stick with what they already have for cheaper? 

After looking at all the different variables of your product idea to see if it’s viable, you’ll know what to do. Sometimes, you won’t pass phase one. That’s alright. It’s better to scratch a bad idea before investing too much time and effort into it. 

According to a study from Harvard, there are 30,000 new products designed and sold every year, but over 95% of them fail. That’s why product research is so important. Many people skip this step which can affect their success in the long run.  

Approximate Timeline: 1 – 4 weeks

Phase 2: Prototyping

Everyone loves this step, and you might have even started putting things together in your garage if you’re an inventor. At this point, you’ve decided you want to pursue your idea and create a fantastic new product. 

If you’re a small business owner, it might only be you and a small team creating the prototype. If you’re a large corporation, then there might be a whole team of developers and designers collaborating to create a new product. 

In either scenario, you’ll create the first prototype and then some iterations of it until you finalize the product. Depending on the complexity of your product, it can take a short amount of time or a longer amount of time. If there are many electronic components, then you will likely add an extra 2-4 weeks to this stage. Of course, it can take a lot longer than that, the Dyson vacuums are an example of that.

James Dyson spent 15 years perfecting his vacuums until he was satisfied.  He made over 5000 prototypes throughout the product design process. While that’s an extreme example of how long it takes to design something, it does happen.

At Ventrify, we try to do this step efficiently so you’re able to move forward quickly. Many companies can take a lot longer to do this step. 

Approximate Timeline: 1 – 8 weeks

Phase 3: Sourcing & Logistics

At this stage, you have a solid prototype and you need to start contacting factories that will take your product and scale it up. If you’re working with a company like us, we’ll have plenty of contacts in the industry that we can recommend. We will always help you find the best factory to work with.

Then, they take your product and find out how to create it on a factory line. They’ll customize their machines to create your product. At this stage, you need to make sure you have the funds to pay the factories to create your product. If not, you aren’t going to get very far. 

Often while this is going on in the background, your team is sorting out logistics and pricing as well. Many factories exist overseas in other countries. While it might seem simple to bring over your product in a shipping container and start selling it, it’s not that easy. 

With tariffs, imports fees, and taxes on certain types of products, this can get complicated quickly. Even importing something as simple as shoes has its drawbacks. Because of that, you might decide to change certain aspects of your product. Many companies have found creative solutions to address issues like this. 

Have you ever wondered why Converse shoes have a thin layer of felt on the bottom? It wears off after a few weeks outside and you can’t see it while walking, so the felt serves no practical or aesthetic function. Converse does this actually because of taxes. By adding a small amount of fabric, the sneakers are technically categorized as slippers. At some point in the design process, the brand discovered that slippers have lower import tax than shoes, so they added felt as a workaround. 

Approximate Timeline: ~ 4 months 

Phase 4: Production

After you’ve chosen a manufacturer to create your product, you have to wait for it to be produced. Now, you might think that a large project takes longer than a small project, but in our experience, the amount of product you order doesn’t affect the timeline as much as you think it does.

If you think about it from the manufacturer’s point of view, they have to change all their machines each time they create a new product. Regardless of producing 1000 or 10,000 copies of your product, the set-up time is likely to be the same. 

For a larger project, the manufacturer might start on your project sooner to get it done quickly as they’ll make more money. For a smaller project, you might be added to the queue until a day when they have time to do small batches all at once. 

This step can get messy for various reasons: 

  1. Laws & Random Factors—This is often outside your control. With Covid-19 we have seen a lot of disruption in the shipping industry, not to mention the Suez Canal incident which cost an estimated $400 million per hour in goods delayed. 
  2. Product Certification—You can’t sell your products until they pass certain testing and certification requirements which also add time to this step. 
  3. Customs—Some countries are a lot stricter with their customs than other countries.

This phase can be quick, but it can also last longer than you expect. You also design the actual packaging for your product and optimize it to fit in the shipping containers when you’re bringing it over. While it’s at the factory, you will still have a lot to sort out. 

Approximate Timeline: At least 6 weeks

Phase 5: Shipping & Distribution

At this point, the product has been designed, produced, and is landing in a warehouse. After it’s in the warehouse you’ll now be in contact with a distributor who will then get your product in stores or in your consumers’ hands directly. 

Once you’ve made it this far you are going to focus on selling the product and marketing. At Ventrify, we’re no longer involved anymore. You’ll be working with your distributor to make sure shipping to your customers and buyers goes smoothly. 

***

Now, to answer a complicated question, your total timeline from an idea to going to market can take anywhere from 3 to 16 months. Problems can arise as well lengthening the process even if you’ve planned it out from the start. There are a lot of decisions to be made which is why it takes so long. 

While there are a lot more steps including marketing and selling your product, we wanted to focus on the product design process itself.  

We believe in transparency and sharing practical advice to help entrepreneurs and inventors be successful. If you’re looking for more information on product design and development then make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter.

About the Author

Ventrify is a product design and manufacturing firm that helps entrepreneurs bring product ideas from concept to market. We take in fledgling ideas and bring them through our iterative design process to create products our clients are proud of. Then, we work with manufacturing facilities worldwide to bring our clients the highest quality products at competitive prices.

If you have questions or want to discuss going remote, reach out to us through our Website, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Article by Victoria Fraser