Alibaba is the most well-known online B2B e-commerce platform in the world.
It was founded in 1999 by Jack Ma that you probably have heard of.
We’ll cover more details about it below.
Alibaba.com itself is a safe and legit marketplace that customers can trust.
They have their way of controlling the supplier quality.
- Gold Supplier (Supplier needs to pay a yearly fee to open their store on alibaba.com and get verified by third party inspection companies, so these suppliers are all real, registered businesses.
- Trade Assurance (Trade Assurance protects online orders when payment is made through Alibaba.com. That means, if you order from a supplier using alibaba’s online ordering system, they will protect you and make sure you get the goods you paid for. And if there is a dispute, they will get in, investigate and solve the problem)
If you order online and make payment through alibaba.com, you’re protected by alibaba.com in terms of quality and lead time.
If you order from suppliers and make payments offline, you will need to negotiate with suppliers on your own if you think there are issues.
Either way, it’s strongly suggested to be very careful in terms of choosing a supplier since it can ruin your business if you are not capable of handling high risks due to poor products or delayed shipment.
Choosing a Trade Assurance supplier does make you feel safe and protected, but it’s not guarantee that you’ll profit from it. To some point, you’re eventually paying more for Trade Assurance orders since suppliers will pay a commission to the alibaba.com platform, whereas suppliers don’t need to pay percentage of the order amount to the platform for offline payments.
On the contrary, for suppliers that are not ready to accept orders through alibaba.com, it doesn’t mean that they’re not a good supplier either.
You will need to evaluate the supplier and make your own judgement.
There are mainly two types of suppliers on alibaba.com: Manufacturer and Trading Company.
Manufacturers are basically the end factory that produces the final products and list them in their own store on alibaba.com. Such suppliers are usually able to offer the best prices for a given product, compared to trading companies.
Trading companies list products they buy in and sell on alibaba.com. Even though they may not produce the products themselves, they usually are very professional about what they sell, and their services are more professional, in general. And their prices can be same or even lower compared to a manufacturer listed on alibaba.com. The reason is that some trading companies have their own resources that are not listed on alibaba.com and they get good deals from their suppliers thanks to their bulk orders.
You will also see a supplier with two labels: Manufacturer, Trading Company. These are companies that produce products by themselves and they may also trade some of the products they list in their store.
Since alibaba.com is a B2B online ecommerce platform, it’s MOQ is usually high compared to other platforms like Aliexpress, 1688 etc.
We couldn’t name a general number for MOQ here since there are a huge number of different products with totally different nature.
For large machinery, usually MOQ is one; and for small items like clothing, usually 200 pcs/style etc.
But we have one tip for you:
Don’t just look at the MOQ they put on their website, you can ask suppliers about their MOQ directly and tell them about yourself.
More often than not, you’ll get a better deal after talking with them.
The Alibaba.com system requires listings (products) to come with a price range, which is solely determined by the company that uploads the product.
For a product of 10 USD, let’s say, the supplier can set the range as 9-11 USD, but they can also set it to 1-20, or 1-50. So this price range doesn’t usually present much accuracy or value.
It’s best for you to ask suppliers for prices directly and they usually quote you if you provide them with a quantity.
Alibaba.com is a very flexible platform in terms of communication. They have their own Trade Manager that is suggested. They also have an online inquiry form that you can use to inquire sellers of certain products or company information. You are also free to use Email, Chatting software like WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber, Skype etc.
However, we’d suggest you to use Trade Manager for security reasons.
If there is a dispute, Trade Manager and Email records are the only clues alibaba.com can get in and investigate to protect you. WhatsApp or WeChat records are not taken as evidence.
More details are covered in the buyer protection section.
Alibaba.com has its own escrow payment system that you can use for the utmost security. The secure payment is part of the Trade Assurance feature and it supports various payment methods:
- Credit card
- Apple Pay
- Google Pay
- Western Union
- Pay Later
Offline payments are also supported. These are payments that are actually more often seen until now whereas suppliers provide you with their bank information and you wire the amount to their bank account.
Shipping time and modes is totally dependent on the supplier. They can choose to use Alibaba’s logistics system for shipping by express like DHL, UPS, FedEx etc. Most suppliers are still using their own shipping agent for shipping by sea, by air, by railway or by express.
Depending on the destination, the time varies a lot.
Alibaba.com is the choice if we can only recommend one wholesale website to you. Their advantages are many and not limited to the below points:
- The largest supplier and product base in the world
- The best prices you can get (thanks to their large database)
- Trade Assurance and its secure payment is a big plus
- RFQ (Request for Quotation) allows buyers to get multiple quotes efficiently
No one is perfect and we do think further improvement can be made:
- The trade manager user experience is not that perfect and you may find it easier to use Email, WhatsApp and WeChat.
- For new buyers, it’s easy to get lost in choosing the best supplier since the database is huge and buyers may end up spending too much time hesitating
- The price range shown on product listings is not accurate
16526 reviews on Trustpilot averaged 4.2 out of 5. You may check from the link below.