The key question is whether the product will be shipped by air or by sea. If by air then most likely it will ship direct from the factory to the US. In this case you will want to request EXW means that the supplier will factor in only the cost to manufacture the product and have it ready for delivery at the factory.
EXW stands for Ex Works where the supplier is only responsible for making the products ready for delivery from their location. Normally this is the factory. And the buyer (you) are responsible for all transportation costs the rest of the way. In other words to ship it from the factory to your destination.
On the other hand, if shipping by sea then we would request for FOB quotations, or free on board. This means that the supplier is responsible for manufacturing the product, moving it to the port, clearing customs, and getting it onto the boat.
In cases of FOB, the buyer is responsible for transportation costs the rest of the way from the boat to the final destination.
For example if we wanted to ship lightweight electronics from Shenzhen to our fulfillment warehouse in Los Angeles by AIR, then we would request EXW quotations.
If we wanted to ship heavy tables from Shenzhen to Los Angeles, we probably would ship them by SEA to save on freight costs and request FOB quotations.
Going back to the Jungle Scout case study I assumed that the towels will be small and lightweight enough to ship by air there I requested EXW quotations.
Here’s my answer to another reader who had a question about shipping to Germany.
I hope that helps!