Alibaba started with the vision of bringing the benefits of online commerce to the Chinese community. But what started as a simple aspiration evolved to become an advantage for the entire global community within just a decade.
Twenty years later, a current stock price valued at $176/share in the New York Stock Exchange (a $108 difference from its 2014 IPO) and a user base of over 670 million (2019), Alibaba continues to be the world’s leading eCommerce platform for wholesale, business to business transactions since its advent in 1999.
Why is it a good place to source out your products?
Well for one, China has become a powerhouse in the global manufacturing scene. The country basically has cheap raw materials and low-cost skilled labor. Alibaba capitalized on this potential back when the Chinese commerce industry was just nearly-flourishing in the east.
Zooming in on China, Alibaba is the country’s leading international trading stage because of:
Cheap Wholesale Prices
Have you ever noticed how some big brands don’t actually make their products exactly where the label originated?
It may be unsettling, but that winter sweater you bought last Christmas for$149.99 on Amazon, might just have been originally acquired from the supplier at $35.69. This is the reality for a lot of retail businesses. Of course, you can only generate profit with markups. Since markups are at the disposal of the sellers, you will be surprised at how far SRP's (Suggested Retail Price) go up from their original factory pricing.
The opportunity opened by Alibaba has driven the supply curve further up, augmenting competition among suppliers and decreasing prices for the buyers. Prices for bulk orders will depend on minimum order quantities set by the merchant, and the bigger the volume you order, the lesser the unit price will be.
Millions Of Products In One Marketplace
Unlike other eCommerce platforms, Alibaba presents a free seller account type. This makes it accessible for all types of suppliers (big and small), establishing a giant marketplace for all sorts of items in different niches.
You Can Customize Your Products
Just like physically dealing with a supplier or manufacturer, you get to modify your product in ways you prefer it to be. You can apply your own branding for RTW's, change the shades of color in a curtain, request different sizes of wheels and so much more, just to produce that one of a kind product that will define your business and your brand.
This is where the significance of finding a good supplier rests. You’d want to be able to produce and sell unique, excellent quality products for your target market.
You Can Get An Initial Glimpse Of A Company’s Level of Service Right Away
Since Alibaba allows customer reviews, you can somehow get a picture of a supplier's performance. You may have to dive into further background checks with your candidates, but this would save you much more time when compared to dealing with suppliers face to face.
How do you find a good supplier on Alibaba?
A good supplier shouldn’t only produce good quality products, but should also be able to generate or incorporate the exact product specifications that you want, and have great communication etiquette.
Here are some tips on how to look for a good supplier or manufacturer on Alibaba:
Search using specific keywords
If you try to key in “sports shoes for women”, you’d probably get over a hundred thousand search results. It is important to be as specific as possible.
This is why it is highly important for you to lay out the exact specifications of the product that you want to sell. You’ll have to indicate for example the material type, color, shape, and other details that you are looking for.
Check out Gold Suppliers
Similar to Amazon’s Prime, Alibaba grants “premium status” to its merchants who are willing to go the extra mile for their business. Gold Suppliers are prioritized in search ranking results for a corresponding fee. The qualifications may be different from Amazon, but it gives you the idea of how capable and reliable these suppliers are.
Alibaba helps you filter in these Gold Suppliers by clicking on the Supplier Type filter option.
Check out Assessed Suppliers
Assessed Suppliers are those factories that have been quality checked by third-party companies. Although Alibaba does not claim any regulatory partnership with such companies, you can double check the specific certifications related to the supplier.
You can narrow down search results to Assessed Suppliers by clicking on the Management Certification or the Product Certification filter option.
Check out Trade Assurance Suppliers
If you buy from a trade assurance supplier, you will have protection and compensation should contract terms be breached by your supplier. Yes, you and your chosen supplier will have to make your agreement official and legal through a contract before engaging in trade.
You will be covered if your products are not shipped on time, and if your products do not meet the quality specifications as per the contract.
You can find the Trade Assurance Supplier filter under Supplier Types.
Evaluate product page
A good product page will give you a comprehensive look into the supplier’s products and services. This includes delivery systems, available product and service variations, pricing range, minimum order requirements, a brief background of the company and more. In some cases, some suppliers even provide documentary proof of their services and legitimacy.
Lastly, a good product page exhibits meaningful and clear content organization and product images that are original and that authentically depict the product.
Check out customer reviews
Customer reviews are one of the most decision-influencing factors among online buyers. For one, they often come as raw, unfiltered accounts of the buyer’s experience. However, considering the possibility of fraudulent comments, you should learn to deliberate which reviews are legit or not.
Double check company background using google
It is a smart choice to take your research outside Alibaba. Try a quick Google search to get more information of the supplier that you are considering. If the supplier doesn’t have their own website, you can scan through news and forums regarding potential scams.
Talk to many suppliers
The rule of thumb is to talk to no less than 3-5 suppliers. After filtering down your list based on the above tips, it’s time for you to evaluate how they interact. Are they professional? Do they communicate well? Remember that they will become your partner in delivering your business goals. They should deliver their service seamlessly, and that includes not giving you a headache due to poor communication abilities.
Purchase samples before buying in bulk
Once you have your final list of supplier candidates, request or buy a sample product first with all your specifications. Samples may be priced higher but the risk is better than buying low cost, large volumes that are not saleable.
Compare the samples according to product construction, seamlessness, material quality, potential defects, etc. You can even do your own material testing like subject clothing to laundry with strong detergents, test the flexibility of rubber materials, and the like.
The last factor that you need to evaluate as well is the packaging – is the product neatly packed? Can the packaging safeguard the product from potential delivery mishaps? This is very important if you are a seller who wishes to ship your products from the supplier directly to distributors, resellers or retailers like Amazon FBA merchants. You wouldn’t want your customer retention rates to not go up just because of unpleasant packaging. You have to deliver the “complete package” which means that you have to be meticulous with product and service quality from head to toe.
So there you have it! These are some nifty tips that you should certainly take into account when looking for a supplier. Remember, your supplier goes hand in hand with your business goals, so don't be hasty. Take your time, and make sure you get a supplier who gives you the product specifications you require, who has a great standing in Alibaba, and someone who is flexible, communicative and easy to work with! The effort will always be worth it in the end.