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Why Buy Your Promotional USB Sticks from USB2U

Posted by USB2U on 13th October 2014 | Permalink

It’s not an easy decision determining where to place your order for promotional USB memory sticks but at USB2U we thought we point out a few reasons why we think we’re the preferred option for thousands of customers every year and more importantly why lots of these customers return to us time and time again.

We could wax on lyrically about having our own USB factory in China or about our world domination of the flash drive market and how we only ever supply products that no other supplier is capable of supplying. We could even boast about our swanky offices in London and our offices in the USA but you know what we’d rather focus on a few facts and why we think we’re the best supplier of promotional USB sticks in the UK.

Fact 1: Experience – We set up our little company in the UK in October 2002. We’re now in our 13th year of trading and in this time we’ve supplied millions of flash drives to tens of thousands of companies, schools, universities and public bodies in the UK.

Fact 2: It’s all about quality and price – Our focus since 2002 has been on supplying the best quality flash drives we can at a price point which customers are willing to pay. To achieve this we have “partnerships” in place with a small number of key USB factories who we trust and who have passed our rigorous due diligence tests.

We prefer to have multiple factory partners because this way we can ensure they compete with each other for our business, which in turn ensures we always, get the best prices possible (for us and for our customers). There is also the added advantage of having back up options in the event of local problems (capacity issues, power cuts, local shipping and customs issues etc.)

Fact 3: Keeping overheads to a minimum – We operate from a warehouse located on an “edge of town” industrial estate in Northampton. It’s not glamorous, its certainly not swanky but it is relatively inexpensive (certainly when compared to London) so being based here allows us to keep our costs to a minimum.

Fact 4: We let our customers do the talking – A couple of years ago we started encouraging all of our customers to leave feedback about our service on TrustPilot, an independently run 3rd party review site. We don’t vet the reviews because we genuinely want to hear what our customers think about the service we provide (good and bad). We’ve been delighted with the results – from over 2,250 reviews we’ve been rated as “Excellent” and have achieved a score of 9.6 out of 10.

Fact 5: UK product and print - Over 50% of our Promotional USB memory sticks are either assembled, printed or engraved by us (in-house) in the UK. No other UK supplier carries more stock in the UK or finishes more of their products in the UK than us. This allows us to be uniquely flexible when it comes to meeting customers requirements and in particular those to support those customers who need their flash drives in a hurry.

Fact 6: Delivery from order in 24hrs – A growing number of our customers are taking advantage of our unique “Rush” service that allows them to buy their USB sticks the day before they need them. Not necessarily recommended for the faint of heart but it’s a service that encompasses over 20 different models and a wide range of memory sizes and packaging options.

Fact 7: Guarantees – We offer a 10 year guarantee on all of the flash drives we supply and in the event of any failures we’ll pick them up from you at our cost and arrange replacements with as little fuss as possible.

Fact 8: Lost or missing shipments are not a problem – We know from painful experience that occasionally things go wrong. Customs checks can delay shipments, volcanoes can erupt without warning and human error can result in orders being sent to the wrong address! Whilst we do all we can to mitigate against these risks ultimately if things do go wrong then we’ll simply re-print your order from our UK stock and rush it to you on our 24hr service!

Fact 9: Our staff are brilliant – we love them and our customers seem to enjoy working with them as well. We’re a relatively small team of around 20 many people some of whom have been with us for nearly 10 years! If you want to see what a companies employers think about them then check out Glassdoor.com – it’s where employees say what they think about companies they’ve worked for and they give some interesting insights into how the company is run and how they view their customers.

Fact 10: We really do value your business – Although we’ve been doing this for over a decade we love what we do and we’re 100% committed to our customers and making sure they have a positive experience with us. If things go wrong (as they occasionally do no matter how good you are) we’’’ front up and work with you on a resolution and being based in the UK with UK production and print capabilities we can always find a solution.

USB2U - Your Trusted Supplier of USB Memory Sticks

USB2U – Your Trusted Supplier of USB Memory Sticks

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And Relax. Promotional USB Stick Supply Returns to Normal

Posted by USB2U on 10th October 2014 | Permalink

Now that the Chinese National Holiday and Golden week is over our factory is open again – hooray!

Whilst it’s not quite business as normal it’s pretty close so we can once again breathe a little easier, change out of our brown trousers and remove our bicycle clips! It’s always a challenging time when systems that work flawlessly for most of the year get interrupted by a mass holiday that lasts more than 1 or 2 days. Unfortunately in the case of these “national holidays” it’s not just the factory that closes but pretty much the whole country. It’s analogous to our Christmas and New Year week when pretty much nothing happens apart from families getting back together.

The staff are back and working hard to clear the backlog that any break of more than a couple of days inevitably creates. Thanks to their efforts the lead times on orders of promotional USB memory sticks are now back to days rather than weeks but we do have the capability in the UK to assemble, print, engrave, data-load and deliver USB sticks in as little as 24hrs – ideal if you’re in a hurry. It’s not the full range of products but we do have around 20 different designs in a range of memory sizes that we can offer on our next day service.

Fortunately the next holiday is several months away so hopefully we can now enjoy an extended period of calm and normality – that is unless the Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland decides to misbehave and erupt and bring chaos to international travel and cargo flights (fingers crossed).

The one remaining negative is the weakness of the pound (GBP) against the $ (USD) – over the last couple of days it’s drifted between $1.59 – $1.61, a fall of just over 6% from its peak of $1.70 just a few weeks ago. With all USB sticks being purchased from the factories in China in dollars any weakness in the pound against the dollar is directly reflected in the unit cost that end customers pay. It’s this price volatility that prevents most suppliers (including ourselves) from publishing prices on their websites.

In an ideal world we’d have some certainty on prices looking forward for a couple of months because this would allow us to fix our prices and actively promote them to our customers but unfortunately that’s not the world we operate in.

To get the latest prices on any of our promotional USB memory sticks just call us or fill out the enquiry form on our website – one of our team will get back to you (normally within the hour) with prices and lead times and if you’ve got your artwork ready we’ll work up some examples for you (free of charge).

USB2U and relax

USB2U – and relax

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Chaos in China is causing delays in supply

Posted by USB2U on 24th September 2014 | Permalink

If you’ve got orders in with any UK supplier of promotional products at the moment and you’re against a hard deadline then now is the time to cross your fingers, get your hard hat ready and start worrying whether your order will turn up as promised.

Most promotional products supplied in the UK ultimately come from China and whilst this isn’t normally a problem because the usual turnaround times are often days rather than weeks right now it is.

Suppliers of promotional gifts that have gotten used to painless and quick shipments are currently facing what can only be described as a “melt-down” in China and specifically in the Shenzhen region. The problem is that there is not just one problem but multiple issues that have all come together to create a monster problem the size and magnitude of which most of the suppliers will never have seen before.

The events that have led to this are:

  1. The launch of the latest Apple iPhones and the unprecedented demand for them. This is turn have caused stresses and strains on the infrastructure in and around Shenzhen (China) where they are made (and many other electronic promotional products are made and shipped from).
  2. Alleged thefts of iPhones whilst in the hands of the forwarding agents and couriers which in turn has lead to increased security and customs checks (read delays!)
  3. Money laundering and the shipment of “cash” out of China – a recent high profile case has led to further checks in Customs in China (again read delays!)
  4. Holidays – next week is National Holiday and Golden Week in China so in the lead up to the holidays (when all the factories close) pandemonium breaks out as everyone tries to get their shipments out. The increased output in turn puts more pressure on an already overburdened customs and transport hub – (again, read more delays)
  5. Severe weather events in Hong Kong and the Shenzhen region have resulted in cancellations of some flights resulting in shipments being offloaded and rescheduled (read delays on delays)
  6. Increased nervousness on the part of the Chinese that anything carrying a recognised brand is a fraudulent copy – Customs Officers are now being instructed to seek written approval from the brand owners before they can allow any goods with their brand on to be shipped. This includes any branded promotional product. The issue is that requests for documentation are often not asked for until the shipment is with customs and so any request of this nature leads to delays.

The overriding message is that all of a sudden the slick and smooth “machine” that moved promotional goods (including promotional USB Memory sticks) from China to Europe in a matter of days is on the edge of being “broken”. Orders are missing their “must have by” dates and disappointment reigns. Unfortunately there is very little that can be done other than to hope things sort themselves out but an early resolution looks unlikely.

What Problems - Printed USB Sticks in 24hrs

What Problems – Printed USB Sticks in 24hrs

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Money Laundering, Customs Issues, Crazy Weather, Currency Weakness & Factory Closures

Posted by USB2U on 18th September 2014 | Permalink

All we’re missing at the moment is a volcanic eruption in Iceland and that’ll top off an interesting and challenging few days. Perhaps it’s best not to speak too soon because the Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland has been threatening to cause major travel disruption for the last couple of months so we’ve got everything crossed that it won’t add to the current list of woes.

We’re a UK based supplier of promotional USB memory sticks and like all other suppliers around the world our core products are manufactured in China. For the most part this is not a problem because we’ve been sourcing products from 2 – 3 key partners for the last 10 years or more so we understand very well the issues and the risks. Until a few days ago our standard lead times of 5-7 days were still being honoured but right now things are very different and the outlook is that it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

The usual delays we expect at this time of year (because of the National Holiday and Golden Week) have been exacerbated and extended. The underlying cause is a range of issues all colliding together to create on monster challenge.

The elements that are at play are a major money laundering operation/scare out of Shenzen and Hong Kong which in turn has led to a regime where customs are now being instructed to be undertake more rigorous checks of all packages. This in turn inevitably leads to delays and backlogs and all of this is happening in the run up to the National Day and Golden Week holiday when the couriers, airlines and customs departments are placed under more pressure to get shipments out before the holidays start.

Add into this mix some of the crazy weather that has been experienced in Hong Kong and Shenzen over the last week (leading to flight cancellations and delays) and you start to get a picture of the near “meltdown” that’s happening.

Of course whilst all of this is going on we have the vote for Scottish Independence taking place oday. This is driving uncertainty into the financial markets and pushing the value of the pound (£) down against the dollar ($) – the net effect of which is to increase the cost of any USB sticks that are able to run the gauntlet of getting out of China!

The only saving grace in all of this is that we’ve been around long enough to anticipate some of these issues so we have lots of blank USB sticks in stock in the UK which we can print or engrave and turn around in 1 – 2 days. As a result we will endeavour to ensure all of our customers get USB sticks for their event. They may not be exactly the model they wanted but at least we’ll be able to offer something!

Printed-in-24hrs

Printed-in-24hrs

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Hang onto your Hats if you’re about to buy Promotional USB Memory Sticks

Posted by USB2U on 15th September 2014 | Permalink

At USB2U we’ve been supplying promotional USB memory sticks for nearly 13 years and because of this we’re pretty good at understanding when things are likely to get challenging in the market.

We’re about to enter such a period and it has nothing to do with the forthcoming vote on Independence in Scotland albeit the uncertainty around this has caused a bit of a spike in prices because of the pound has fallen heavily against the dollar.

No, the turbulence we’re about to experience happens every year and it is holiday related. Not ours but the factories in China that manufacture the flash chips and assemble the USB memory sticks. The holiday in question is one of the biggest taken in the year – The combined “National Day and Golden Week”.

National Day is celebrated on the 1st October and whilst the official holidays break is only 3 days it tends to be extended into the week-end with most factories and offices closing for at least 1 week. This extended holiday allows their staff to return to the provinces to spend time be with their families.

Whilst a week might not sound long the problem is that people panic buy in the lead up to the holiday, the factories get rammed with orders and the whole mess that ensues can take weeks to sort out. Of course when the factories return from their holidays they have the double whammy of trying to deal with orders not fulfilled before their holiday and handing the backlog of orders that have built up during their holiday!

Chinese National Holiday - Promotional USB Sticks

Chinese National Holiday – Promotional USB Sticks

The cut-off day to get an order sent from the factories in China before they close for their holidays is the 25th September. If you miss this date then they won’t start working on your order until the 6th October when they get back to work. The reality is that on this day they’re going to be handling a large back-log so the usual turnaround times will be extended. You could, depending on when you place your order, be looking at a 4 week lead time!

Our advice is to get your order in now. Don’t wait. Get your place in the production queue secured. The longer you leave it the more likely you are to be disappointed. If you wait until next week then beware of any promises you are given on delivery.

Buying locally will de-risk your order and ensure you get your promotional USB memory sticks when you need them but the challenge will be finding a supplier in the UK that holds stock and has the capability to print or engrave them. A small number do but typically those that do only hold a very small range of products and a limited range of memory options.

At USB2U we’ve learnt over the years that customers need support during this period which is why we hold large quantities of USB sticks that we can print or engrave in-house. We also offer a “Super Fast” 24hr turnaround service on a wide range of USB sticks, a service that is designed to get customers out of trouble.

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New Reversible USB Design Finished

Posted by USB2U on 19th August 2014 | Permalink

The standards group that have been developing the next generation of the USB cable and connector have finally finished their work and have now passed the exact specifications to the USB Implementers Forum.

Expect a smaller USB port with that will support cables and peripherals that can plugged in any way around! There are also significant improvements in the data transfer speeds that can be supported – 10 Gigabits per second which is twice the current maximum supported by USB 3.0.

The next stage is the manufacture of products, cables and peripherals to take advantage of the new specification. Dubbed “USB Type-C” the new connector is not dissimilar to Apple’s Lightning cable/connector.

USB Type C Cable and Connector - Courtesy of Foxconn

USB Type C Cable and Connector – Courtesy of Foxconn

Whilst USB Type-C has many benefits it is not compatible with the current USB standard so it’s going to take a while before it gains any critical mass and of course users will have to upgrade all of their peripherals to take advantage of the benefits on offer.

The move from USB 2.0 to USB 3.0 has been slow so it’s going to be interesting to see how quickly the market adopts this new standard. Its adoption is likely to be helped if it’s picked up and marketed by the makers of Android Smart Phones – it’s unlikely it will get any help from Apple who are likely to prefer their own Lightning standard.

USB flash drives that take advantage of the Type-C connector are likely to emerge later this year albeit we may just see first generation prototypes in 2014. Of course without PC’s, laptops, tablets and smartphones to plug them into it’s going to take a while!

Inevitably USB flash drives that take advantage of this new specification will be expensive so they’re unlikely to be used as promotional items and give-aways (unless you’re a company with deep marketing budgets and you’re targeting classic early adopters!). They’re also likely to have much larger data storage capabilities that the typical 8GB or 16GB USB sticks you see today – after all there is little point in putting all that power and speed into a USB stick and then equipping it with 8GB of memory that you could fill in seconds. It’d be a bit like designing a Ferrari with a 1 litre petrol tank – it’ll look fantastic, sound fantastic and drive amazingly well but it would only go 100 metres before you’d need to fill it up with petrol again!

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We’ve Smashed Through 2,000 Reviews for USB2U on Trustpilot

Posted by USB2U on 30th July 2014 | Permalink

As a relatively conservative British company it’s not really the done thing to brag but we’re so pleased to have broken through 2,000 customer reviews for USB2U on Trustpilot that we couldn’t resist the urge to post an update about it on our website. It’s a big milestone for us and the fact that the vast majority of our reviews rate our service and products as “Excellent” is something we’re really chuffed about!

We started using the independent review service provided by Trustpilot a couple of years ago. We did it (and we have to pay for the service) because we wanted to give our customers a chance to comment on the service and the promotional USB memory sticks they receive from us.

At the outset we had no real idea what the reaction would be. We felt that we were offering a good service, it’s certainly something we strive to do and the team here at USB2U put their heart and soul into trying to give our customers the best experience they can. But without actually asking our customers for their feedback we were really just guessing what people might be thinking and of course if there were issues with our service we were never going to find out. OK, we might get the odd one or two customers providing feedback but by introducing a trusted and independent 3rd party to manage the reviews we’ve found that customers are much more willing to provide feedback (good and bad).

We’re by no means perfect and we’ve picked up a few negative comments over the last couple of the years. Mostly it’s been where we’ve dropped a catch or made a silly mistake – we’re all human and with the thousands of orders we handle ever year the odd one or two errors are bound to creep in. We’ve taken these on the chin and when they do happen we use the feedback as constructively as we can to make changes and improvements or our processes. Any negative feedback hurts but more importantly if a customer has taken the time to write it then it typically means they’re pretty unhappy and we’d rather know about this so we can deal with their issues and make sure we get it right next time.

Our current ranking based on just over 2,000 reviews if 9.7 out of 10 which of course we’re delighted with! There are simply too many to highlight and post here but if you are interested pop over to the Trustpilot site and have a browse through the reviews – we can’t moderate or adjust them, all we can do is ask/encourage customers to say a few words and rank us.

If you are looking for trusted UK supplier of promotional USB memory sticks then checking out 3rd party review sites like Trustpilot is a good place to start!

Promotional USB Twister Flash Drives

Promotional USB Twister Flash Drives

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UDP Flash Has Driven USB Memory Stick Innovation

Posted by USB2U on 10th July 2014 | Permalink

When the first USB flash drives hit the market just over 10+ years ago they were all based on one core technological solution and that was the combination of flash memory with a controller chip and a capacitor – these components were soldered onto a printed circuit board and a USB connector provided the interface to the PC. The result was a small(ish), portable and easy to use data storage device – the USB memory stick was born!

The “guts” of the memory stick (the printed circuit board, memory module, capacitor, controller and USB connector) are generally referred to in the industry as a COB solution – think of it as a common engine around which manufacturers build different designs/shells.

In subsequent years the storage capacity of these first generation USB sticks grew from a relatively small 8MB to eventually break through the 1GB barrier. Today memory sticks with a storage capacity of 64GB are common place!

The big shake up in terms of design came with the introduction of the UDP chips – in common with other sectors in the computer and gadget sector what was once achieved on a large COB card could now be achieved on a much smaller form factor. Effectively a UDP chip has the flash memory, the controller and the capacitor all rolled into one and as you can see it’s much smaller.

USB Memory Sticks  - COB vs UDP

USB Memory Sticks - COB vs UDP

As a consequence the USB memory stick product designers have had a field day! No longer did their designs have to work with a largish rectangular internal component but instead they could now unleash their creative talents and come up with all sorts of shapes, designs and styles.

Today the market is awash with thousands of different designs ranging from super thin credit cards to tiny little Iron Sticks and lots of really cute custom USB sticks. UDP chips are a boon to designers of Custom USB sticks because pretty much any shape can now be accommodated hence the proliferation of custom USB lips, USB animals, USB truck and cars and USB sticks in the shape of characters from movies.

USB Cards Using UDP Chips

USB Cards Using UDP Chips

There is no difference in the performance of USB memory sticks that use UDP technology. Their read/writes speeds are just as fast and they’ll support the same number of read/write cycles. Arguably they are more stable because there are no soldered connections to break or weaken over time.

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Buyer Beware – Promotional USB Memory Stick Scams are Rife

Posted by USB2U on 26th June 2014 | Permalink

It’s not quite made it onto Rogue Traders just yet but you do wonder how long it will take before the scams that are rife in this sector are exposed to a broader audience than we can achieve on our blog site.

The problem for anyone buying USB memory sticks is that it’s relatively easy to mislead and to end up buying rubbish. The big problem is that on the outside a fake USB stick can look genuine BUT it’s what under the skin of a USB stick that really matters and not how good they look on the outside. You can’t even trust the brands printed on the outside of the USB sticks because these are easy to fake to!

The Chinese factories will produce any shape of USB you want and print any logo on them – rarely are questions asked about who owns the brand, if there is permission to use the brand and so on. Consequently if you wanted to buy USB flash drives that look exactly like say a Kingston Flash Drive then no problem – how many do you want tends to be the only question asked and then it’s just a question of how much (or little) you want to spend on the internal components!

The fakes might look like the real thing but when used don’t be surprised to discover that the claimed 16GB flash drive only contains 4GB of flash memory. When you plug it in and check the properties of the flash drive it might look like a 16GB but the try and load 16GB of data onto it. If you have bought a 4GB USB drive that has been “masked” to look like a 16GB then when you load more than 4GB of data onto the drive you’ll get a “disk full” error message. Masking is a common problem and because very few people know they have an issue until they’ve been using the sticks the scammers often get away with it.

The other common issue with fakes is their build quality and data transfer speeds. Most fakes use cheap, grade “B” flash memory components many of which will be recycled. As you can image the problem with these components is that they have a high probability of failure and they typically have slow read/write speeds.

Promotional USB flash drives are sold to companies, school and universities in their millions every year and whilst they are ordered from local suppliers pretty much every USB memory sticks will have been manufactured to order and flown in from China.

Pressure to reduce prices and win business has seen some unscrupulous local suppliers of branded USB memory sticks supply “masked” sticks and pass them off as drives of a higher capacity. The only way to be sure that you are getting what you are paying for is to load one of the USB memory sticks to the limit and check that you can load 4GB of data onto a 4GB USB Memory Stick. You’re never going to get access to 100% of a 4GB drive because some of the capacity is used to manage the way the USB stores its data but you should be able to use around 95% of a 4GB drive.

We strongly recommend that you buy from a known and trusted local supply. Ideally choose a company that has been around for a good number of years and who are not going to disappear overnight. You want to buy from a company that is financially stable and is going to be there stand behind any guarantee that’s on offer. A 10 year guarantee is only any good if the company is still around to claim against it!

If you buy from direct from China and pay up-front (as you will have to) then you open up a whole additional set of risks/issue. Only an option for the brave or the foolhardy.

 

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Supplying Engraved Wooden USB Memory Sticks to Professional Photographers

Posted by USB2U on 6th May 2014 | Permalink

Since exhibiting The  Photography Show earlier this year our feet have barely touched the ground and it’d be fair to say it’s all been a little bit manic – but in a good way. The feedback from the photographers we met at the show was amazing and the level of interest shown in our range of USB packages since the show has blown us away.

As we committed to the show weren’t 100% sure if now was the right time to be exhibiting. Our nervousness stemmed from concerns about whether Professional Photographers were ready to take the plunge and move CD’s and DVD’s to USB memory sticks. Equally we knew it was down to us to inform and educate about the differing quality of “promotional” USB sticks that are readily available and to get across the message that most are simply not suitable for photographers because a “promotional” USB sticks is a very different beast to a High Spec USB stick put together specifically for the photography sector – these have upgraded memory, upgraded controller chips and an upgraded capacitor.

Inevitably “High Spec” USB sticks cost a little more than standard promotional USB sticks so our challenge was helping photographers understand why we felt it was important that they bought these more expensive sticks in preference to the cheaper promotional models we sell.

Wendy Grant Wooden USB Sticks and Boxes from USB2U

Wendy Grant Wooden USB Sticks and Boxes from USB2U

Coupled with this we knew we had to do something special in terms of branding and packaging which is why we’ve invested so heavily in this aspect over the last year. The “bundles” we now sell on our dedicated Photographer WebSite are all put together using High Specification USB sticks but they also include a range of fantastic packaging options.

The most popular “bundle” has been our engraved Woodland USB sticks coupled with our engraved wooden slide gift box. We fill the wooden box with Coconut Coir (it’s a very fine, natural fibre) that works really and reinforces the “eco-friendly” message the package sends out. Although we can print the wooden sticks and boxes most photographers are opting to get them engraved – the level of detail we can achieve with the engraving is amazing and of course the engraving mellows and matures with the wood. The results are a great looking and incredibly tactile package that is incomparable to a CD or DVD and as such they have very quickly become a vehicle to generate additional sales and additional revenue for the professional photographers that are using them.

Prices for our bundles are shown on the USB2U Photography Web Site but if you can’t see exactly what you want just give us a call – mock-ups and dummy samples are all supplied free of charge.

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