Oh, the wonderful world of Alibaba!
Just like the old tale, a trip to Alibaba’s website can either unearth many treasures or lead you down a path to destruction.
Either way, buying from Alibaba can be quite the adventure.
Your first visit to Alibaba can be a little intimidating. You’ve probably heard stories of people being scammed on the website and are probably wondering if it could happen to you.
If you are looking for Dropshipping Suppliers, better jump to our other article Best Dropshipping Companies to consider Alibaba alternatives.
Here’s the truth:
Shopping from Alibaba is relatively safe if you know where to shop from. There are good and honest suppliers on Alibaba, but there are also a few undesirables lurking on the platform. That's a usual sight in any marketplace.
What if I told you that there is a way for you to have an enjoyable, secure, and profitable experience through Alibaba by spending an extra two minutes? I can guarantee your safety.
Well, here's how you can have a great buying experience from Alibaba:
Trade Assurance Can Save You Money
So there you are, ready to search for your next business supplier.
You will now be presented with a filter underneath the search box- make sure you tick all three of them, especially ‘Trade Assurance'. These three boxes are pretty much the first steps to finding good suppliers on Alibaba.
Trade Assurance can be considered escrow protection as the money you send will go directly to the supplier's bank account, but if something goes wrong you’ll have some form of protection.
Choose Gold Suppliers
What’s so special about Gold Suppliers? I'm glad you asked.
The truth is:
There are still some nasty gold suppliers that can get your order wrong or give you a hard time, but a Gold supplier is a membership that’s exclusive to select sellers on Alibaba. They get more product exposure and other perks from Alibaba.
The Gold Supplier membership is expensive, so it should offer a baseline of protection against scammers. After all, they worked hard to get there. A better way of using the Gold Supplier rating is to use it in conjunction with the number of years they have been aGold Supplier for.
The longer the better, like these guys for instance:
Make Sure That There Has Been a Supplier Assessment
Here is the third of those three magical checkboxes and quite possibly the most important one out of the three.
Some say that the onsite check is alright, but if you really want that added layer of trust, it won’t hurt to only select suppliers that have had a Supplier Assessment.
A Supplier Assessment basically means that a third party has checked out the company and its factory. Getting this assessment is difficult, but you can sleep better at night knowing that you’re dealing with a business that has gone over and beyond to be recognized for their export prowess.
For example, this company when viewed shows that it has been verified onsite by a third party inspection company.
To the left, you’ll find details about their capabilities, business performance and some other additional information such as the trade shows they have been a part of.
Validate What They’re Saying About Themselves
If you have a contact in China that can validate the company, great! If you can go to the factory itself, even better!
However, most of us will find that going to China would defeat our economies of scale altogether, but there are ways to validate a company without leaving your couch.
You’ve ticked off Supplier Assessment and are sure about your third-party validation.
A whois lookup will shed some light on the ownership of their website, check out their email and see if anything is suspicious.
You can also use Google to check out their company name alongside the word “scam” or “fraud” in quotes.
What Are Other People Saying About Your Supplier
Let's stop for a second:
Remember how you asked around about that special someone before you got married/started dating?
It’s the same thing with business and dealing with suppliers on Alibaba. Asking around is generally a good practice especially if you want to start a business relationship.
There are plenty of forums, but a good forum to check out a supplier, a category or a product is the Alibaba forum itself.
A simple Google search such as the one shown in the below screenshot isolates all your queries using quotation marks to the respective Alibaba forum.
Don't you just love these search engine operators?
You Cannot, I Repeat, Cannot Buy Branded Items Wholesale From Alibaba
Here’s the deal:
If you’re buying branded items from Alibaba, keep a strict eye on your supplier.
Parent companies of branded items have strict distribution policies with their factories in China.
So if someone claims that they can export branded items in bulk, it's probably a scam.
Check Out The Company’s History
Use this at your own discretion. Next to the information on the specific product that you’re looking at you’ll find this:
These diamonds are an indication of transaction-level points obtained by the company for their transactions awarded by Alibaba.
Alibaba explains these:
According to Alibaba, the Trading Level is, “based on an accumulated score awarded for total online transaction volume and amount”.
The higher the score, the better the volume and amount so to speak.
Also, when you go to the company page there is usually a section called Transaction History. Here you’ll find a summary of how many transactions they’ve processed in the year.
There are two ways to interpret this data, one is that you can probably trust a company that has made a lot of transactions in the past.
I mean, why don't you?
Bigger transactions pretty much mean that they’re currently in the business and that they’ve been in the business for a while now.
You could also be looking for a new and reliable company which doesn't involve in scamming practices and really sells quality stuff.
The decision is entirely up to you, but usually, I'd almost always pick those with substantial transaction history.
There’s a Difference Between Manufacturers and Traders
I understand. So many choices.
A manufacturer will be able to offer you a better deal since what a trader does is, well, just trading. If you’re looking for a long-term supplier you’re better off looking for a manufacturer rather than a trader of goods.
They’ll be able to offer you more competitive prices and you’ll be able to develop a relationship with them in the long run- which comes with a lot of benefits!
Order a Sample Before You Go All Out
Don’t be part of the statistic. We know a lot of people who’ll find a great deal from a legitimate supplier and just start ordering 100,000 units without even having a first evaluation. It doesn’t work like that.
Ever bought a suit or a dress without trying it on? Nope. Everyone has an “it looked different online” story and you don’t want one, especially in any large-scale business deal.
It’s the same thing, you’ll want to be a good business owner and part of that process is verifying that your product lives up to your standards. Failure to do so is a recipe for an early loss of revenue.
It’s All About The Money
This is a part that you don’t want to mess up, so pay attention. A bonafide company will have multiple options for you to pay, and as we said earlier it’s sometimes more desirable to transact with companies that offer escrow via Trade Assurance.
Make sure you’re very clear about everything that’s been stipulated in your negotiation including any hidden costs or anything in fine print.
You’ll receive an invoice once you’re done negotiating the odds and ends of your supply and make sure that all the details match as what's mentioned in Alibaba.
If Paypal is an option, then pay via Paypal.
Make Sure You’re Ready To Receive The Shipment
Take a moment to think about how the goods will reach their destination.
You’ll have practice with the sample product you’ve asked them to ship you if that’s the case. Some vendors will be able to arrange all the shipping for you, but you have to make sure that they do.
You can hire a shipping broker to help you out should you have any specific concerns about importing and what not.
However, a quick way to find out more information is to ask the vendor itself. The price of shipping may surprise you, but sometimes you’ll find that they have bundled it along with the cost of your goods.
So, there you have it, if you follow these simple rules, you’re on a good track to find your ideal supplier, whilst being on the safe side. Remember, trust your instincts, and your gut is usually correct.
Alibaba can help you set up your own dropshipping business when done right. If that's your case, visit our article “The best way to Setup a Drop shipping Business Quickly” to learn more before getting started.
In any case, always ensure that the supplier has a return policy, before placing the order. Things can go wrong and if the shipment never arrives, you'll have to raise a dispute with the shipping agent.
Buying from Alibaba is an easy task but safe only if you do it with precision.
What have you bought from Alibaba in the past? How long did it take? How was the process? Share your Alibaba stories in the comments below.
Feature image by HOHO