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1688.com Platform: How to Find a Supplier

Chinese platforms have gained immense popularity in a relatively short period of time. And it’s not surprising. Asian products are 2-3 times cheaper than those from European manufacturers. 1688.com is one of the most cost-effective sites for wholesale purchases. It is a leading Chinese B2B platform owned by Alibaba Group. The site offers a wide range of products, and prices are significantly lower compared to Taobao and Alibaba. This is perhaps the main advantage of the platform.

However, despite its popularity and extensive opportunities, many entrepreneurs encounter difficulties navigating and finding suppliers on the site. Our article will help you understand all the nuances of working with the 1688 platform. We will provide you with a detailed guide and useful tips for successfully finding and selecting reliable suppliers.

1. What Is the Chinese Platform 1688?

1688 was launched in 1999 by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma. Since then, it has grown into the leading platform for domestic trade in China. Its main goal is to help Chinese small and medium-sized enterprises develop their businesses. The platform aids suppliers in finding new customers, improving production processes, and increasing sales in the Chinese domestic market.

In Chinese, 1688 sounds like “A Li Ba Ba.” Essentially, it is a site similar to Alibaba.com, but focused exclusively on the Chinese consumer. Unlike Alibaba, it does not have an international focus. Consequently, the prices here are lower. This makes the 1688 platform particularly attractive to foreign companies looking for favorable conditions for wholesale purchases.

However, as you might have guessed, it is not so simple for a foreigner to purchase goods on a site designed for the Chinese market. To successfully use the platform, it is essential to understand all its features and be prepared to address any challenges that arise.

To help you better understand the specifics of the site, we have highlighted several key features:

  • The site is oriented towards wholesale trade: Each supplier on the platform sets a minimum order quantity. This usually amounts to tens or hundreds of units or packages, depending on the type of product. Some suppliers set a minimum order value. In rare cases, there are sellers who are willing to sell goods at retail.
  • The interface is available only in Chinese: The 1688 site does not support English or other languages. To facilitate navigation, you can use translation tools integrated into your browser. When visiting the site, simply click on the translation icon in the address bar and select the option to translate the page into your language. This will significantly simplify the process of finding information.
  • Communication with suppliers on the site is conducted in Chinese: Manufacturers on 1688 sell their products to the Chinese consumer. It does not make sense for them to hire employees proficient in English or other languages. For European buyers without knowledge of Chinese, communicating with a supplier can be quite challenging. This is why many of them resort to using intermediary services.
  • Price depends on the quantity of goods: Like in all wholesale markets, sellers on 1688 aim to incentivize the purchase of large volumes. The larger the volume of the purchased batch, the lower the price per unit of the product. When negotiating, clarify the possible discounts for increasing the order volume.
  • Delivery outside of China is not available: The delivery of goods from the platform is primarily oriented towards the domestic market of China. This means that most suppliers here offer delivery conditions only within China. You will need to additionally organize international transportation through intermediaries or logistics companies. This can complicate the purchasing process and extend delivery times.
  • Goods are delivered in the packaging of the Chinese manufacturer: Products on the 1688 site are not intended for export. They are only shipped within China. Accordingly, they will be delivered to you in the original packaging of the manufacturer, which contains all the information and labeling in Chinese. Such packaging will require additional adaptation for your market. A good intermediary may negotiate customization of the packaging, but you will have to pay extra for this.
  • Payments are made in yuan only to a Chinese bank card or through the Alipay wallet: There are two options for paying for goods on 1688: transfer to a Chinese bank card and payments through the Alipay wallet. For both options, you will need an account with a Chinese bank. Even if you have such an account, completing the payment will require a complex verification process, which only residents of China can undergo. This issue can be resolved through an intermediary or financial agent.

Based on these characteristics, it can be stated that collaboration with suppliers from the 1688 platform has both its advantages and difficulties.

Advantages of working with the 1688 platform:

  • Low prices.
  • Wide range of products and suppliers.
  • Direct contact with manufacturers.

Challenges you may encounter when searching for a supplier on the platform:

  • Language barrier.
  • Difficulties with making payments.
  • Challenges in verifying the quality of goods and reliability of suppliers without intermediaries or agents.
  • Extended delivery times.

2. How to Find a Supplier on the 1688 Website?

The 1688.com platform is exclusively oriented towards users in China, and the website interface is only available in Chinese. Translation into English or any other language is not provided on the site. This creates certain difficulties for foreign users trying to search for products and suppliers on the website.

One of the most convenient ways to navigate the website is to use the built-in browser translator. After translating the page, you will be able to navigate through the menu and product categories.

If you prefer to search for products by keyword, you can use the search bar. However, when entering queries in English, the site may provide many irrelevant results. To increase the accuracy of your search, translate your queries into Chinese. On the first pages of the search results, the ranking system will suggest suppliers with high ratings.

Another feature of the 1688 website is the ability to search for products by photo. To do this, click on the camera icon in the search bar and upload a saved image of the product you are looking for. The system will automatically analyze it, compare it with images of products in the database, and provide results that most accurately match the uploaded picture. This is especially convenient if you do not know the exact name of the product or are unsure of the correctness of the translation.

3. What to Consider when Choosing a Supplier on the 1688 Website?

When choosing a supplier on the platform, it’s important to pay attention not only to the price of the product but also to a number of other factors that can influence the quality of service and satisfaction with the transaction. To simplify this choice for users, the platform assigns various labels to its sellers. Based on these labels, you can filter out the most advantageous and trusted manufacturers.

For example, the label “Expert’s Choice” (行家选) means that the product from this seller is in demand on the platform and is shipped in large quantities. This provides an opportunity to purchase a product that has already received positive reviews and recognition in the market, thus reducing the risks of buying low-quality goods.

Once you enter the product card, at the top, you will find information about the supplier. Based on this information, you can see how popular the supplier is and how good the service they provide is.

Criteria for evaluating a supplier on the website:

1. Rating: The higher the number of shipments and the fewer complaints a supplier has, the higher their rating.

2. Duration of registration on the website: It is preferable to choose sellers who have been registered on the 1688 platform for at least 3 years. This indicates the stability of the company and its long-term presence in the market.

3. Type of company: Right below the rating, you can see whether the seller is a manufacturer of goods or a distributor. Direct purchasing from the manufacturer may provide lower prices and more reliable product quality. The manufacturer status is confirmed by documentation during registration.

4. Sales volume: The “A” medals indicate the amount the seller earned from sales in a month. One “A” medal corresponds to 500¥. After the medals, suppliers are awarded diamonds, and then crowns. The maximum mark is 5 crowns for sales amounting to 500 million yuan or more.

5. Presence of the bull icon: The bull status means that the seller has passed an inspection by one of the inspection companies collaborating with 1688. They have also provided all their founding documents, deposited a security amount of 16,000¥, and complied with all the platform’s strict requirements. This is a premium supplier with a high level of reliability.

6. Percentage of repeat sales: This is the percentage of buyers who have made two or more purchases from the seller in the last 90 days. The average rate is 20-30%. A rate of over 30% is considered excellent. This is a good indication of the company’s stability and reliability. Less than 20% repeat sales already indicate that the seller’s products are likely of low quality or there are other reasons why buyers are not willing to return for repeat purchases.

4. How to Purchase Goods on the 1688 Website?

For purchasing goods on the 1688 website, you will have 3 options. Each of them has its own advantages and features. Let’s figure it out.

4.1 Direct contact with the manufacturer

Self-purchasing goods from the manufacturer on the 1688 website is an approach for those who want to personally control all stages of the transaction and have some experience working with Chinese suppliers. To do this, you will need to register on the platform. On the product page, there is usually a button to send a message to the seller. Additionally, you can find the supplier’s phone number or WeChat on the page. You can contact them directly to ask questions about the product, discuss the price, and delivery terms.

It’s worth noting that this method allows you to discuss the details of the deal with the supplier and purchase the goods from them. However, you won’t be able to make payment while being outside of China. As mentioned earlier, 1688 only accepts payments through Chinese bank accounts. Additionally, the fact that most sellers on the site are oriented towards the domestic market means they cannot deliver goods outside of China. These limitations will require the assistance of intermediaries or agents to complete the transaction.

4.2 Dialogue through an intermediary

To avoid the difficulties that arise from self-purchasing, many entrepreneurs and individuals prefer to use intermediary services. The main principle of an intermediary’s work is that you find the desired product and supplier, and then place a link to its page on the intermediary company’s website. The intermediary takes care of all further steps: they purchase the goods and organize their delivery to your country.

As a rule, the intermediary offers a full range of services, from negotiating with sellers to repackaging goods and shipping them beyond China. Thanks to their experience, they can help avoid typical mistakes and minimize risks associated with international purchasing. The percentage for the intermediary’s services usually varies from 3 to 10% of the transaction amount, which is subsequently offset by time and cost savings.

4.3 Services of a 1688 agent

If the order is large or you want to ensure the quality of the goods before shipment, it is more advisable to use the services of an agent. Agents offer a wider range of services. They handle the search for goods, check their quality and the reliability of the supplier, purchase them, and even organize returns in case of defects.

However, agents are interested in large orders. If you ask them to purchase a small volume of goods, you should expect a high commission.

5. How to minimize the risks of fraud from sellers on the 1688 website?

On the 1688 website, there are both large manufacturers with many years of experience and small companies just starting out in the market. It is important to be able to distinguish reliable and trustworthy partners from those who may not meet expectations. Below, we have provided several recommendations. They will help you minimize the risks of fraud from platform suppliers and ensure the safety and satisfaction of your purchases.

5.1 Do not choose the cheapest products

Avoid products with suspiciously low prices. The decision to save money often results in low-quality products or fraud from the supplier. Sellers offering products at significantly lower prices than the market average may use inferior materials for production or may not supply the goods at all. Look for products at a reasonable market price to ensure their quality and reliability.

5.2 Request samples before making a purchase

This approach will not only allow you to assess the quality of the products but also verify the reliability and integrity of the supplier. Suppliers willing to provide samples of their products are usually confident in their quality and interested in long-term cooperation. At the same time, a refusal may serve as a signal for a more thorough examination of the seller and even refusal to proceed with the transaction.

5.3 Clearly outline the quality requirements for the products

Before placing an order, clearly define your quality requirements for the product. Ensure that these requirements are documented in your messages and agreements with the supplier. Clearly specified characteristics and standards will help avoid misunderstandings and ensure that the product meets your expectations. They will also serve as the basis for resolving disputes if the received goods do not meet the agreed standards.

5.4 Inspect the supplier

For additional assurance, inspect your supplier. This can involve either a personal visit to the production facility (if possible) or utilizing third-party services to verify the company’s operations. This approach will help ensure the legitimacy and reliability of the seller.

5.5 Choose a secure payment method

Avoid transfers to personal accounts. Give preference to transactions through official bank accounts of the supplier company. This approach provides additional protection of funds and the possibility of refund in case of disputes.

5.6 Check the supplier’s return policy

Before finalizing the deal, it’s important to check the supplier’s return policy. The presence of a clearly outlined return procedure and warranty commitments is essential to safeguard your interests. In the event of non-delivery of goods or discrepancies with the stated specifications, you’ll have the option to request a refund or replacement of the product.

6. How to Deliver Goods from 1688 Outside of China?

The main challenge when purchasing goods on the 1688 website and delivering them to international destinations is that the platform is focused on the domestic market. Sellers here do not have the license to export goods additionally. Therefore, to deliver goods beyond China, you will need a reliable intermediary.

Fulfillment-Box will help effectively overcome all the difficulties associated with delivering goods beyond China. Our years of experience guarantee that your products will be handled professionally and delivered to the destination point, whether you are targeting individual customers or large trading platforms like Amazon.

The questions addressed by Fulfillment-Box are:

  • We will inspect your supplier in China and help ensure their reliability and the quality of their products.
  • If you are sourcing products from multiple suppliers, Fulfillment-Box will consolidate your items into a single shipment. Consolidation will help you save on shipping costs and streamline the logistical process.
  • We offer warehousing services in China. You can store your products in our warehouse until they are needed for order fulfillment.
  • Our company handles shipments of various sizes, from small parcels to large batches and containers. We organize the transportation of your goods from China to Europe and the USA, delivering them to your warehouse or one of our fulfillment centers.
  • If you sell on Amazon, Fulfillment-Box will prepare and ship your products directly to Amazon warehouses, ensuring compliance with all of its stringent requirements.
  • For dropshippers, the company offers order fulfillment services directly from China. We will remove all supplier information, repackage the goods according to your instructions, and send them to the end customer in Europe and the USA.

Make profitable deals with Chinese suppliers on the 1688 platform, and we will be your safeguard against all potential risks.

7. Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who is the 1688 platform intended for?

The platform is aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises in China, as well as individual entrepreneurs looking to purchase goods in bulk at lower prices.

2. How is the 1688 site different from Alibaba?

Alibaba is oriented towards the international market and supports a multilingual interface. The 1688 platform focuses on the domestic consumer and offers goods and services primarily in Chinese.

3. 1688 and Alibaba, which site is cheaper?

Products on 1688 are often offered at lower prices compared to Alibaba. They are aimed at the domestic market and minimize various markups associated with export and international trade.

4. How to communicate with sellers on the 1688 website?

Communication with sellers on the 1688 website occurs through built-in communication tools within the platform. Additionally, you can find the seller’s phone number or WeChat contact information on their supplier profile for further communication.

5. What payment methods are available on 1688?

On 1688, you can only pay for goods through Chinese bank accounts or the Alipay wallet. International payments and transfers to personal accounts are not available. For international buyers, it is recommended to use the services of intermediaries or agents.

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Julia Gordon

AuthorJulia Gordon

Head of the Fulfillment-Box Prep Centers network

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