How to buy from Alibaba: Ultimate Guide (2023)

Alibaba, known as one of the most popular and professional Chinese wholesale websites, is quite an amazing platform for both new starter and experienced buyers to source from China. And online Chinese wholesale websites like Alibaba just makes importing from China much easier as online shopping. If you are new to use Alibaba, this article will give you an ultimate guide specifically for you, teaching you how to source from Alibaba in steps. Now let’s move on to the very first part before you start your importing business on Alibaba.

Chapter 1: Why Alibaba?

Online sourcing has been more and more popular among importers, as it can save your time and energy to go visit the supplier in person. There are a number of Chinese wholesale websites these days, like Alibaba, AliExpress, DHgate, ChinaBrands, ChinaVasion and so on. Why choose Alibaba? What makes Alibaba so popular among importers? Let’s find out the answer by knowing what Alibaba is and how it works.

1. What is Alibaba?

Founded in 1999, Alibaba has served as an online marketplace for importing and exporting businesses, connecting buyers, suppliers and manufacturers from all over the globe. Alibaba serves as a platform where buyers and suppliers can freely communicate with each other and helps tackle disputes between both parties.

You can find products of almost all categories here on Alibaba, ranging from apparel, electronics, machinery, beauty, accessories and so on. Alibaba embraces buyers and suppliers of all sizes. But different products may have different MOQ requirements, which buyers should bear in mind before sourcing from Alibaba.

Is Alibaba safe and legit?

With nearly 21 years of developing and improving, Alibaba has been rather a mature wholesale websites for buyers to source from. And Alibaba provides services that secure both buyers’ and suppliers’ rights and property. In other words, people can safely source and buy from Alibaba, which makes it a trustworthy wholesale website.

However, things you need to know is that even though Alibaba is rather safe, you still need to be careful when sourcing from it. And there are some categories you’d better not buy from it, like branded products (mostly fake or high imitations), food products, alcohol, cigarettes and drugs (there are strict regulations on importing and exporting such items), etc.

2. Alibaba VS AliExpress VS DHgate

The Alibaba, AliExpress and DHgate are the mostly used Chinese wholesale websites. They are similar to some extent, but different in features. Depending on your financing and business plan, choose the most suitable wholesale website to import from China.

PricingExtremely low & negotiable (B2B only)Slightly higher & non-negotiable (B2C or Dropshipping friendly)Slight lower & negotiable
MOQ requirementsMostly high, usually start from 100 pcsStart from 1 pc with tier priceRelatively high
FinancingNet-60, Trade Assurancenonenone
Business modelB2BB2C, B2BB2B
Buyer protectionLimitedFullLimited
Private label productsYesLimitedLimited
Production time5-60 days0-30 days0-50 days
Language of useMultiple-LanguageMultiple-LanguageMultiple-Language
Shipping costDepends on QTYTypically freeDepends on QTY

Chapter 2: How to Source from Alibaba–Step Guide

No matter to source from online and offline, there are some rules you need to follow to keep you away from scamming and losing money. As we’ve mentioned in our other articles, when sourcing from China, there are some important factors you need to pay attention.

Product—-Product is the key to success. A winning and profitable product is what every importer wants.

Supplier—-Working with trustworthy and honest suppliers, you are free from a lot of troubles and time waste.

Sample—-Samples determines which supplier you are to work with.

Payment—-Secured payment is rather essential. No one is expecting to lose money. Therefore, secured payment is one thing to evaluate the supplier and wholesale website.

Shipment—-Shipping is mostly a smooth part to go through. But there are still concerns about shipping.

And in this chapter, we are going to show you how to source from Alibaba based on the above elements. Make sure you don’t miss any steps. Now let’s get into it.

Step 1: Find A Profitable Product

As we’ve mentioned above, a winning and profitable product can make you success. Therefore, before sourcing from Alibaba, you need to find out what product is profitable now and will be profitable in the future. It seems to be a lot of work to do. That’s why we use some tools to do product research. Here’s one of our article about tools on product research you can turn to.

With the help of product research tools, you will have a clear idea on what’s needed in the market and the developing trend of certain product. Don’t source product blindly.

Step 2: Select the best-match supplier

This is one of the most essential part of the whole process. A dishonest and irresponsible supplier can easily destroy your business and make you lose money and waste time. Thus, keep a sharp eye when selecting the best-match suppliers. There are two ways to find suppliers: one is to search directly, the other is to use Alibaba RFQ.

We’ve write another article talking about how to use Alibaba RFQ in details. So we won’t say too much about it. Here’s the link: How to Use Alibaba RFQ Function to Get Your Best-Match Suppliers.

There are hundreds of thousands of suppliers on Alibaba. To directly search suppliers on Alibaba, there are quite a lot of options you can choose to filter out the best-match suppliers. Here are some tips you can turn to.

Tip 1: Select Trade Assurance, Golden Supplier and Assessed Suppliers

There are reasons why they are Golden Suppliers, as they have operated their shop on Alibaba for years and with good rating. Trade Assurance is to secure your payment when working with this supplier. An Assessed Supplier means it is qualified with certain certificates you may need for your products.

Anyway, when you click the all three options, there are less risks for you to encounter a dishonest and cheating suppliers.

Tip 2: Check carefully about the company files 

A company file can say something about the supplier you are to work with, but how to judge whether the supplier is qualified and suitable for you by the company files. You need to follow some rules.

Supplier Name: A Supplier’s name implies where the supplier is located and what the suppliers is major at. For example, Yiwu Chengxing Plastic Product Co. Ltd and Yiwu Chengxing Daily Necessity Co. Ltd. By their name, you can tell that the former one is concentrated on plastic products while the latter one is more wide-ranged. And tip is simple: choose the concentrated suppliers over wide-ranged supplier. A concentrated supplier is more responsible for the products’ quality and will respond you more timely.

Business Type: Nowadays, people automatically think that the manufacturer is competitive at pricing while a trader is better at dealing with importing from China. It’s totally untrue. We have many cases a manufacturer quotes a higher price with a higher MOQ, and a trading company quotes a lower price with a low MOQ. So don’t only sticky on the manufacturer. Just take more measurements on other metrics to choose the right one to deal with.

Number of Years: Normally, an over 3-year-old supplier is more trustful and has more experience on communication and handling problems for buyers. A one year of two years old suppliers can be more risky to be cheating scams. Even if they aren’t cheating suppliers, they are inadequate in handling the problems for you.

Company Certificate: Company certificate varies from the type of products they are dealing with. A certificated company is more likely to be a manufacturer as trading companies don’t have the ability to own such certificates if they don’t produce any products.

Product Categories: Product categories is similar to company name, but more detailed. The product categories shows you whether the company is concentrated or wide-ranged.

Product Certificate: Different products have different regulations on certificate. Some don’t need a certificate. While for some products, like electronic products, toys, baby products, certain certificates are required. It depends on the product you are to source. Therefore, better ask if the supplier has certain certificates or not.

Location: Some suppliers may trick you with its name. But they can’t trick you with their location. It’s obvious that a factory is to located in industrial zone rather than a commercial area. And the city of the company can show you if the supplier is professional. Most importing and exporting companies are located in coastal provinces, which are more convenient for shipping. And there are 5 major coastal provinces in China: Zhejiang Province (include Yiwu, Ningbo, Whenzhou, Hangzhou, Taizhou…), Guangdong Province (include Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Foshan, Dongguan, Chenghai…), Jiangsu Province, Fujian Province, Shangdong Province.

Efficient Communication: The communication level of the supplier and how timely the supplier reply to you can’t tell you if they are trustful, but to tell you if they are efficient. An efficient communication with supplier can save really save your time.

Step 3: Place A Trial Sample Order

Place a sample order for trial. It is a way to test how the supplier is responding to your order and check the products’ quality. One thing to notice is don’t rush to sample order. If possible, place a small order rather than a sample order.

If your order value is under $500 and you choose Sample Order when you place the order, then you need to be careful about the products received. The reason is that samples are allowed to be flawed, and you can’t complain and dispute on the platform.

Step 4: Choose Secured Payment Methods

Secured payment methods provided by Alibaba is more trustful and won’t get blocked. Don’t choose any other option of payment offered by suppliers. Other payment options may be more easy to operate. But the chances you get cheated and your money get blocked are rather high.

Step 5: Get Yourself A Reliable Freight Forwarder

We are not saying that you can’t manage your shipping on your own. We are suggesting that a reliable freight forwarder can help you a lot and save you from trouble. Above all, a freight forwarder can better arrange storage and shipment for you. It helps prepare shipping and export documents, book cargo space, negotiable freight charges and find you warehouses.

After all these steps are done, you will be quite experienced in sourcing from Alibaba. If you don’t want to make all the steps so complicated, you can just turn to a third party, which is trading company, to assist you on your behalf.

Hope this article help you on your sourcing from Alibaba, and if you have any questions or suggestions, leave them down on comments. We are ready to take them and become better. Thanks for supporting.


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