I am sure a lot of us are in the midst of starting a business or researching for new ideas. In either case, for people who are focussed on a product based business, Alibaba has a good list of genuine wholesalers (free of cost). Unfortunately, its equally a good space for scammers and fake businesses. This is one of the reasons why people prefer to deal with worldwide brands and eSources (where you off course have to pay for membership).
But having mentioned the above, I must also admit that Alibaba has measures in place to protect buyers. There are quite a number of ways/practices that can ensure a good experience at Alibaba (should you choose to adopt these). Please check out their videos on youtube that are very helpful as well.
(I have mentioned in my previous blogs about Aliexpress, which is part of Alibaba but has better security and extra advantages).
So, it all starts with the most asked and wondered question “Which supplier”?? This is the first question that you would want to look up if there was a Wikipedia article on it (don’t worry, I already checked, there isn’t one). Choosing a supplier depends completely on your needs. First of all, how big is your order going to be, aka, what is the quantity that you are looking to buy? Is it going to be a one off order? Are you going to order at fixed time intervals throughout the year? What kind of variations such as aesthetics, do you need? Quantity will decide the price and the suppliers, since most have a threshold amount under which they don’t take orders.
Next filter is Alibaba’s ranking system which comes up in two categories; number of years registered and if they are verified or not. Number of years wouldn’t matter as much as being verified would. Verified businesses are the ones whose operations and locations have been physically checked by alibaba personnel to give them the label of “Verified Supplier”.
This article is going to go on, so please grab a coffee or mother or some sort of energy drink so you don’t fall asleep.
The next thing is to browse through suppliers and compare the products versus their offered price range. This is the main research and could seem like a long process but is the most important one….so don’t give up. Good things come to those who research….hmm I made that up but sounds cool, doesn’t it.
Anyway, also keep an eye on “methods of payment” that each supplier is providing and choose the one you are most comfortable with. I would recommend using paypal only, since it’s the safest. In case of a fraud where you paid and didn’t get the products, you can request a refund from paypal or from your credit card provider (such as mastercard, visa,etc). This process is called ‘chargeback’. You can find more information on Wikipedia. (Yes, I checked and there is an article on this one).
Moving on, the next problem most people face is – Am I going to get exactly the same product as has been shown in the picture on their website and would the quality be up to the mark?? The best way to encounter this problem is by ordering a sample from the suppliers you are interested in. You can’t order from 50 different suppliers, so narrow the list down to only your favourites.
NOTE: You can also ask for photos of the packed product or the photos when the product is ready to be shipped, just to confirm if the supplier is experienced enough and is not a middle man or agent.
The last but one of the most important things is going to be delivery time frame. Mostly you can assume that the cheapest way would be through sea, but it can take up to 8 weeks to receive the shipment (you would be a dinosaur by then). But since this is an important aspect of your cost, it’s worth speaking about with the suppliers, from the very start.
I should also mention that you can post a buying request on Alibaba. It’s an ad that you put out within alibaba that allows you to list your requirements so only interested suppliers contact you….like a dating site, except you don’t need a picture to get a response.
Hypothetically, you might leave out some good suppliers because you maybe too focussed on the ones that are contacting you. So, its good to look on your own whilst the responses to your “buying request” are giving you good insights into your chosen product industry.
In retrospective, I feel like I should have done a video blog instead of writing so much… Anyway, I hope I have helped you in some way or the other.
Would love to hear your comments!!