When you are operating in wholesale commerce, you need suppliers. One of the most popular ways of finding these, is to go to Alibaba.com. Alibaba is one of the most popular platforms for online retailers who are looking for distributors. Here is a step-to-step guide for finding the right supplier for the products you want to sell in your online store.
First, you go to Alibaba.com. Then go to the search bar and put in the keywords for the product you want to sell online. An extensive list of products will appear. Of course, now it’s still difficult to find the right supplier. So, it’s time to filter the results:
- Check ‘Trade Assurance’ – This means you’re covered if the products you ordered aren’t shipped on time or your products don’t meet the quality standards
- Check ‘Verified supplier’ – This means the seller is assessed, certified and/or inspected by independent third party institutions
- Filter on ‘Supplier Country/Region’ – every Chinese province is known for its specific product categories – picking the one with the highest number of suppliers is often a safe choice
- Filter suppliers by ‘Minimum order’ – in the beginning, you might want to buy small quantities, like 10 or 100 pieces, to test the product
Now it’s time to compare the Alibaba suppliers more thoroughly. You can hover over the different symbols to see some quick facts. If it’s available, also take a look at the top 3 markets. This is important, because suppliers with lots of experience in Europe are often also aware of specific country requirements and regulations. It could save you a lot of time, stress and penalties in the future!
Scan the product page
If you think you have found a good Alibaba supplier, click on the specific product page. Now, check everything there is to see. For example, find out how long the supplier has a Gold membership and for how long he is a Verified Supplier. If he has one for five consecutive years, it’s a safe bet to presume this supplier won’t scam you. But also check other things on the product page to find out if this Alibaba seller is someone you want to do business with:
- Is the price within a reasonable range?
- Can your desired minimum order quantity be met?
- Are the payment terms acceptable? (Can you pay using PayPal?)
- Does the product matches the supplier’s portfolio?
- Does the supplier offer good quality product photos? Can you see the product in detail)
Check available certifications
A very important thing you need to check, are the available certifications. More specifically, look for RoHS, CE & FCC. The RoHs certification (“Restriction of Hazardous substances”) is necessary for most European countries. It prohibits certain hazardous material within the product. The CE (“Conformité Européene/European Conformity”) is a certification for Europe to meet general standards. You really need this if you want to sell in the European Union! And the FCC (“Federal Communications Commission”) is a required certification on electrical products and also a standard for the US.
Take a look at the company profile
When you still have a good feeling about the supplier, take a look at the company profile and check all available information. Also visit the website to see if the products he sells there matches the products he sells on Alibaba. For example, if he sells smart watches on Alibaba, but on his website he sells mostly home decoration items, you may assume that he doesn’t produce the smart watches, but only have them for reselling. And it’s better (and often cheaper) to do business with the one that makes the smart watches.
If all looks good, try to contact the supplier and ask for things like:
- A price
- The minimum order quantity
- The delivery time
- Available certification
- To which customers he is selling this product as well
- Production lead time
- Available colors
- Payment terms
Now, try to send an inquiry email to two or three other suppliers. This way you can easily compare them with each other and you have a back-up when a supplier won’t respond back to you.