This is a complete Alibaba sourcing tutorial for everyone who wants to buy from China, from selecting suppliers in Alibaba to shipping. You will learn the whole process of buying from China in this video.

We take Alibaba as an example to show you how to quickly select Alibaba suppliers, how to find lower prices, how to avoid scammers, how to avoid receiving defective products, how to ship goods from China…

We will introduce in detail all matters related to sourcing from Alibaba. To ensure that you buy from China safely and economically.

What is Alibaba.com?

Alibaba is the world’s largest B2B cross-border e-commerce platform, where buyers and sellers from all over the world can connect and conduct transactions.

Simply put, Alibaba is a platform that provides a communication window for buyers and sellers around the world. Alibaba itself does not participate in the transactions between buyers and sellers and does not sell its own products.

Basically the suppliers on Alibaba are all from China, and only a few are from India, Thailand, Vietnam and other Asian countries.

Is Alibaba Suit for you?

  • If you want to buy brand products like iPhone, Gucci bags, Nike shoes, its not suit for you.

Because all these products, they have their own distributors in every country. Even though they are made in China,but on Alibaba,you won’t get good price for buying them in quantity.

And also you will have very high risk of being scammed. Almost all the brand products sold by Alibaba supplier is replicas.

  • If your purchasing quantity is less than $300 for one product, don’t use it.

Even though Alibaba is good for small businesses, but it’s not good for too small businesses.

  • If you want to find the manufacturer that supply for big brands, like find a phone manufacturer for Xiaomi or find a charger manufacturer for Anker. I would not say don’t use Alibaba,but you almost can not find them here.

Because their target clients are usually big companies and big buyers. But the main buyers of Alibaba are usually small to medium size business. So alternatively, visiting trade shows like canton fair will be much easier to find this type of factories.

How to Shopping on Alibaba? – Alibaba Sourcing Hacks

You have already understood the advantages and risks of sourcing from Alibaba. Below we will show you the complete steps of sourcing from Alibaba.

Step 1: Create Alibaba Account

To use Alibaba, you must first register an account. It’s very simple and can be done in two minutes.

After you become a member of Alibaba. You can start looking for quality suppliers!

Step 2: Search Suppliers

The following are the 4 main ways to find suppliers in Alibaba. You can use the method that is more suitable for you according to your actual situation.

Keyword search

Using keyword search, you can view all product and supplier information under this keyword, including product pictures, product names, supplier names, addresses, price ranges, and so on.

What you need to pay attention to is not to use a particularly broad keyword, otherwise there will be a lot of products searched out, and it may not be what you want.

For example, if you enter “phone cases” in the search box, there will be hundreds of thousands of results. You can use “iPhone liquid silicone phone cases” instead of phone cases. At this point, you have narrowed your product selection by approximately 20 times.

Browse product categories

If you have no specific requirements for the products you want to operate, you only have a general idea. Then you can search by category to get suppliers, or find inspiration for some products.

On the Alibaba homepage, you can see all product categories.

And there will be many sub-categories under each category.

If your product is a Bluetooth headset, you can choose the category Consumer electronics-earphones &headphones, and you can see all the headsets on Alibaba.

Thousands of products will bring you a lot of new inspiration.

Search by image

If you see a product that you are interested in on other websites or social media platforms, you can search for the same or similar products in Alibaba by uploading the product pictures.

The operation steps are very simple. For example, I saw this desk lamp with wireless charger on Amazon and I want to source it from China.

C:\SourcingArts\Blog\采购指南\desk lamp with wireless charger.jpgdesk lamp with wireless charger

Click to upload the picture, and the same products were found immediately, and then I only need to contact the supplier.

C:\SourcingArts\Blog\采购指南\alibaba image search.jpgalibaba image search

When you already have detailed product images, image search is a better choice than keyword search.

Alibaba RFQ

The above three methods are for you to actively find and contact suppliers, and RFQ is a way for suppliers to contact you proactively.

C:\SourcingArts\Blog\采购指南\alibaba RFQ service.jpgalibaba RFQ service

You only need to draft your purchasing requirements and then publish it to the RFQ market, waiting for the suppliers to send quotation to you.

If you already have very clear procurement requirements, RFQ is the fastest way to get quotations from multiple suppliers.

But with the RFQ service, you will not be able to select the supplier type before quoting. The choice is in the hands of the supplier, not you.

And usually only 10 quotations can be obtained at one RFQ. Although you have many inquiries, there are no suppliers to choose from. It is difficult for you to determine whether the quotation is the best cost.

Our suggestion is that if you value quality rather than price, you can try to quickly contact multiple suppliers through the RFQ service.

However, if you want to get the most competitive price at the beginning, it is recommended that you search for suppliers directly on Alibaba or combine RFQ service with direct search..

Step 3: Filter Alibaba Suppliers

Finding suppliers is easy. The difficult part is choosing the right supplier and avoiding scammers and other middlemen.

Below are the factors you need to consider when selecting Alibaba suppliers to avoid encountering scammers and middlemen.

Supplier location

The location of the supplier determines whether it is a real manufacturer and its price level.

You may have heard of the concept of “industrial clusters”. A cluster is a geographical concentration of companies and institutions that are related to each other in a specific location. This means that manufacturers in the same industry usually gather in one or several places.

Make sure you are cooperating with suppliers located in industrial clusters, otherwise your prices may not be competitive. And the most important thing is that most of the suppliers whose addresses are not in the industrial cluster are traders.

For example, if you find a data cable supplier on Alibaba that is located in Shanghai, the supplier is likely to be a trader rather than a manufacturer. Because the data cable industrial cluster is in Shenzhen, almost 99% of data cable suppliers are located in Shenzhen and its surrounding cities.

Of course, there are some real manufacturers. But even so, their prices are not as competitive as the suppliers in the industry cluster.

How to find the real address of the supplier on Alibaba?

This is very simple.

C:\SourcingArts\Blog\采购指南\find the real address of the supplier on Alibaba.jpgfind the real address of the supplier on Alibaba

First, you need to enter the supplier’s homepage, and then click the blue triangle symbol in the upper left corner, you can see the company’s basic information, including business license. The business license is in Chinese, please translate it.

About the industrial cluster, you can refer to this blog. Or you can leave a comment below.

Supplier type

Suppliers on Alibaba are mainly divided into two types, gold supplier & verified supplier.

Gold supplier

C:\SourcingArts\Blog\采购指南\Alibaba gold supplier.jpgAlibaba gold supplier

The Gold Supplier is a paying member of Alibaba. The explanation given by Alibaba is that the basic information of Gold Supplier, including the company’s business license and ownership status, contact information and factory/company address, has been inspected by A&V and on-site.

However, it did not conduct in-depth inspections of suppliers’ trading capabilities, production capabilities, and R&D capabilities. It can be understood that Alibaba guarantees that the company of Gold Supplier is genuine and legal, but does not guarantee whether it is a factory.

Gold Suppliers are the most basic members of Alibaba.

Next to the Gold Supplier icon, you can also see the age of the company. We prefer suppliers that have been established for more than 5 years because they are a clear sign of a mature company. Their chance of becoming a liar is very slim.

Verified supplier

C:\SourcingArts\Blog\采购指南\alibaba verified supplier.jpgalibaba verified supplier

The Verified Supplier icon indicates that the supplier has been verified through a third-party agent. Including the on-site verification of its basic information, trading capabilities, production capabilities, research and development capabilities, quality control capabilities, and after-sales service capabilities.

The Verified Supplier is an upgrade of the Gold Supplier. The cost is more than twice that of Gold Suppliers.

It should be noted that Alibaba’s verification results for Verified Suppliers are not as credible as you think. It is not difficult for traders to pretend to be manufacturers.

Trade Assurance

C:\SourcingArts\Blog\采购指南\alibaba trade assurance.jpgalibaba trade assurance

In addition to the above two icons, you must have noticed that there is another icon in the supplier information, which is the supplier that supports Trade Assurance.

Trade Assurance is Alibaba’s own platform for placing orders and managing payments. When you trade with suppliers through Trade Assurancee orders, you can get a lot of guarantees, and Alibaba will hold the money until you receive the product.

You can learn more about Trade Assurance here.

You can directly select Verified Suppliers and Trade Assurance filters under the supplier type drop-down menu on the search page. Trade Assurance, Verified Supplier doesn’t guarantee that the supplier is the manufacturer, but this at least shows that these suppliers are legal and genuine.

Product types

In addition to supplier types, Alibaba also provides product type filtering. Includes 2 product types: Ready to Ship, Paid samples.

C:\SourcingArts\Blog\采购指南\alibaba product types.jpgalibaba product types

Ready to ship indicates that this product is in stock and can be shipped immediately without production after you pay. This is equivalent to retail, similar to your shopping on Amazon.

If you want to buy a small amount of products on Alibaba for testing, you can choose Ready to Ship to filter the products. But you can’t customize your own private label. And when you choose Ready to ship to buy a small amount of goods, the price is usually more expensive, and you have to pay high shipping costs.

If you have long-term purchase ideas, please remember to ask the supplier whether the product is available for a long time before buying. Because some Ready to Ship products may be slow sellers of the company, the supplier may not purchase the goods after clearing the inventory.

Paid samples are easy to understand, which means that you can usually pay to customize your samples, and basically all suppliers can provide paid samples. This is not particularly important.

In short, when you want to buy a small amount of products from Alibaba to test, you can usually choose “ready to ship” to find a suitable supplier.

Price range

It is worth noting that, unlike the B2C platform, the B2B platform usually does not display the specific product price but the price range of the product. Because for bulk purchase orders, buyers usually have their own customized requirements for product appearance, specifications, packaging, etc., which causes price uncertainty. And the number of orders will also affect the production cost of the product.

You can only get the final quotation after telling the supplier your detailed requirements.

Even the price range may not be true, because many suppliers will deliberately write prices very low to attract customers’ attention. When you make an inquiry, you will find that the final quotation of the product is not within the price range displayed by Alibaba. This is a common method used by suppliers

Transaction Information(Has been cancelled in the latest version of Alibaba)

C:\SourcingArts\Blog\采购指南\Alibaba Product Transaction Information.jpgAlibaba Product Transaction Information

Next to the company profile, you can see product transaction information. Including product sales in a year, number of transactions, number of customers, customer’s country and other information. Of course, the statistics here are Trade Assurance orders, not including offline private transactions between buyers and sellers.

So this cannot be the only criterion for judging product sales.

Customer comment

On the product homepage, you can see customer ratings and comments on the product. However, most product reviews are still relatively few. Only a few people will take the initiative to evaluate when they receive the goods.

C:\SourcingArts\Blog\采购指南\Alibaba customer comment.jpgAlibaba customer comment

Generally speaking, there are fewer negative reviews of products. You can check this item carefully, and be extra careful with badly reviewed products.

The above 6 points can help you eliminate some traders and basically all scammers. To find the most suitable supplier for you, you need to refer to more information, including product details, product videos, product certifications, and so on.

Step 4: Send Inquires and Negotiation

Once you’ve found some suitable suppliers, it’s time to approach them. The biggest question you’re going to have is “how much?” but before you hastily send the supplier your request for quotation, plan what you want to say and the questions you need to ask.

Requesting a quote from a supplier is not quite as simple as getting a quote from your local mechant.

Questions should be asked

Planning your initial inquiry can increase your chances of receiving a response and the correct information. Here are a few important questions to consider for your inquiry.

  • The company’s background (and request references)
  • The product/s you’re interested in (availability, warranty/guarantee)
  • What services they provide (manufacturing, OEM, ODM)
  • Placing an order (price, discounts, MOQ, quantity, quality, packaging, samples)
  • Shipping (trade terms, destination, cost, delivery time, tracking numbers)
  • Payment (terms and method)
  • Support services (return and refund policies)

Inquiry template

To [supplier name],

My name is [your name] and I am the [your position] of [your business], based in [your country]. I sell [the products you want to stock] online and I’m looking for a new supplier.

Could you please provide pricing, availability, and MOQs for the following items:

[Item 1, including photos if available]

[Item 2, including photos if available]

[Item 3, including photos if available]

If you could send more information as well as your product catalog, that would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

[Your name]

[Company information]

Negotiation tips

Congrats! You’ve successfully contacted a supplier and got a reply. The wheels are in motion. Everything seems above board and you’re ready to place your first order. But first, you want to negotiate a better deal.

You shouldn’t accept the first quote from a supplier as there’s almost always room for bargaining. Here are a few tips to help you negotiate with suppliers like a pro.

  • Create win-win scenario
    I know you want the best deal, the cheapest price, the fastest shipping, and the highest quality. But the first rule of negotiating like a pro is realizing that business deals need to be mutually beneficial.

Experienced buyers understand that suppliers need to be getting a fair deal. Attempting to undercut suppliers can be seen as disrespectful and lead to them cutting corners, which can cause issues for you down the line. Creating a win for your supplier can also be a win for you.

  • Negotiating terms for long-term buying
    Suppliers are looking for long-term customers. Positioning yourself as a potential long-term buyer can be a powerful negotiation tactic.

One way of doing this is by suggesting a loyalty-based program with the supplier. Another way is simply by saying you’re wanting to establish a long-term partnership with a supplier.

  • Negotiate price based on sales volume
    The general rule is that the more units you buy, they cheaper they will be. A lot of suppliers will have a MOQ. However, buying the minimum quantity of units often means you’re paying the highest price. When you’re starting out you might not have the capital to buy thousands of units.

If that’s you, try this. Ask the supplier how much the per unit cost is for 1000 units. Then ask how much it is for the MOQ. Knowing the price they are willing to drop to can give you extra bargaining power. But remember not to be too tight.

  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
    Let suppliers know that you’re getting quotes from other suppliers. This can give them FOMO (fear of missing out) and make them more willing to negotiate favorable terms with you.

It really depends on how much they want your business. But if you’re projecting yourself as an eCommerce pro, communicating clearly, and negotiating fair terms, they will want your business.

  • Know your target
    You must have a clear idea of how much you’re willing to pay for a product and how much you’re able to sell it for. You want a profit margin of at least 20-40% and ideally upwards of 100%.

You have to take into account shipping costs, listing fees, import taxes, packaging, marketing. If you don’t know your target, you can’t negotiate effectively.

Step 5: Compare Quotes from Different Suppliers

The price comparison is based on the same product of the same quality. Make sure that all suppliers clearly understand your needs for the product, otherwise the price will be meaningless.

To be on the safe side, we recommend that you eliminate the supplier with the highest price 1/3. Some suppliers with incomplete quotation information should also be eliminated.

For example, the supplier only responds to your price without mentioning any other terms. This shows that this supplier does not value your offer. Generally speaking, a qualified supplier will not only answer your questions, but also give you some other insights about the product. And those who don’t care at the quotation stage, cooperating with them may bring more troubles.

Step 6: Choose 2-3 Suppliers for Further Communication(Get Samples)

At this step, the important thing for you is to ask for samples to test the quality of the product. If you hesitate between two suppliers, then the sample is the best solution. No matter how high-quality the supplier describes itself, what you ultimately need is a high-quality product.

Although you may need to pay the sample fee, this is to avoid greater losses after you place the order.

Step 7: Place an Order and Make the Payment

When you decide to work with a supplier to place an order, the supplier will draft a Proforma Invoice for you. This form is the standard before you pay anything.

Then you can draft a Trade Assurance order or ask the supplier a Trade Assurance order on Alibaba. This does not conflict with PI. You can upload the PI in the attachment of the Trade Assurance order.

After you both confirm the trade assurance order, you need to pay 30% or 50% deposit for the order. The order is effective from the moment you make the payment. Then balance payment will be required before the goods shipped from China. Usually the balance is against the Bill of Lading.

Alibaba Trade Assurance is the safest way to pay Alibaba suppliers. Alibaba will hold the funds until you receive the goods. And If there is a problem with the product, you can apply the Alibaba Trade Assurance dispute.

For some suppliers who cannot provide credit guarantee order service but you trust very much, the most commonly used payment is wire transfet(T/T).

Learn more about payment methods.

Step 8: Follow-up Production

Delayed delivery by Chinese suppliers is a common problem. Almost every importer has experienced delays in production and delivery.

Customized products are not the same as “direct orders” products. Customized products mean that suppliers have to produce products according to your requirements. In this process, the factory often encounters various problems.

Therefore, for customized orders, it is very important to follow up the supplier’s production process after the order is placed, otherwise the supplier decides not to ship the goods on time within the specified time.

The way to follow the production is simple, The most important thing is to keep close communication with your factory while tracking the order status during the production process. You can learn more about tips on avoiding supplier delays in delivery here.

Learn more tips to avoid delayed delivery.

Step 9: Inspect the Product Quality before Shipment

It’s necessary to check the quality of products before shipping if you don’t want to receive defective products. It is difficult to confirm the product only by looking at some pictures provided by the supplier. When you don’t have a representative office in China, you can usually hire a third-party company to inspect the goods.

Ususally there are 3 types of China third-party inspection companies

Alibaba inspection service

If you choose a supplier that accepts trade guarantees, or you have added inspection services before the first payment. Then, you can directly order inspection services at Alibaba Inspection Service.

Here, you can choose one of two quality inspection companies, one is BV and the other is China Certification and Inspection Group. The service charge of the Alibaba inspection service is cheaper than the market price, but the inspection amount is small and the inspection time is short.

Professional third-party inspection company.

There are companies specializing in quality inspection, such as Asian Inspection Company, V-trust, etc. The inspection charge for these companies is usually $300 per person per day.

SGS, Intertek, TUV and other companies also provide inspection services, but the cost is relatively high. They will usually take sample inspections in accordance with AQL inspection standards and report the inspection results to you.

Purchasing company.

You can also find a purchasing agent to complete this work, it can be a trusted purchasing agent you work with. Some developed purchasing companies can provide quality inspection services.

The quality inspection service of the purchasing company has its own advantages. Once the quality defects of the goods are found, they will provide a thorough inspection and help you negotiate directly with the supplier, while the inspection company doesn’t provide such services. Moreover, the inspection charge of the purchasing company is cheaper than that of the inspection company.

Step 10: Ship Products.

Finally, you are at the last step of the whole process. Most buyers ask the buyer to arrange the shipment to their country or home. They will help arrange the shipping,and import and export process. And you just pay all the costs to the supplier.

.But if you want to arrange transportation by yourself, there are three common transportation methods for your reference. Express courier, sea freight and air freight.

Express courier

Transportation with a courier company will be the most suitable method for most people starting out. Courier company, widely used in China is DHL, UPS, TNT and FedEx. With courier service, you get fast delivery times and an online tracking facility. Most courier shipments take just 2~5 business days to arrive in anywhere around the globe.

All you have to do is sign for the package when it arrives. In most cases delivery is quick and reliable. When there’s a problem, there is a tracking number that can help resolve the matter.

Please note that the advantages of different courier may vary from different weight and destination. You can ask the supplier or the forwarder make the best plan according to your cargo.

Sea freight

Transport by ocean can take a very long time but can carry a massive amount of goods, which drives down the costs. The diversity of cargo that can be shipped is also a major benefit to this mode. That’s why it’s popular and widely used mode in logistics.

If you plan ahead and confirm that you will have enough time to wait, sea freight will be your top choice. Depending on where you’re located, it will be in the vicinity of 3~60 days.

Just like with air freight, you’ll have to take care of the documentation, customs clearance and delivery of goods from the port to your warehouse. Shipping by sea can be economical, particularly, if you’re prepared to handle the logistics of clearing the goods through customs yourself. Also, the best way to handle large bulky purchases.

Air freight

Air freight is usually used for urgent transportation, small and light-weight items, and items that require higher security.

If the weight of sourced products is too large for couriers, example 500kg, air shipment might be the better bet. With air freight, costs will be significantly lower than with courier companies.

Transit time varies based on the schedule of airlines, but in general range between 2~10 days. While extra work is involved when the goods arrive at the destination airport.

You have to handle documentation and customs clearance on your own (unlike with courier companies), which for many newbies may seem impractical. Of course, you can outsource these tasks to a customs broker or a trucking company at an additional cost.

Learn more about transportation

The above is the entire process of purchasing from Alibaba. If you have any other questions, please leave a message below or contact us directly on [email protected].

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