How to Find a Reliable Supplier on Alibaba: Guide - Fulfillment-Box Skip to main content
How to Find a Reliable Supplier on Alibaba

When it comes to purchasing goods from China, every European consumer immediately thinks of the online platform Alibaba. It is one of the largest ecommerce sites in the world. Previously, we have discussed the wholesale purchasing site 1688. While it offers a wide selection of products, it is exclusively focused on the domestic market of the People’s Republic of China and provides fewer guarantees for buyers.

Alibaba is a platform designed for international clients. The site is available in English, which facilitates communication with sellers. Moreover, the platform offers a wide range of tools for secure transactions, including Trade Assurance and the “Verified Supplier” status. In our article, we will discuss these tools in more detail and explain how to find a reliable supplier among the numerous offerings on Alibaba.


1. What Is Аlibaba?

Alibaba is a giant online platform that connects suppliers and buyers from all over the world. Like 1688, it is owned by the Alibaba Group corporation. It is one of the first resources registered by the company. Initially, it was intended for trade relations between small and medium-sized businesses in China. However, it quickly grew into one of the largest global ecommerce platforms. Today, the site serves buyers from 190 countries and offers automatic translation into 16 languages.

The platform allows for wholesale trading. Each seller sets their own minimum order quantity (MOQ). If desired, you can purchase goods in smaller quantities: wholesale orders can start from as few as 5 units. Alternatively, the seller might offer individual items as samples. However, for a small order, they will charge a corresponding price. The more items you include in your order, the lower the unit cost you will get.

The site is not limited to Chinese suppliers only. The platform features millions of products across various categories from suppliers and manufacturers worldwide, including Taiwan, India, the USA, and other countries. On Alibaba, you can find both raw materials and finished products.


2. Strengths and Weaknesses of Alibaba

Alibaba has established itself as one of the leading global trading platforms. The company boasts millions of products offered by thousands of sellers, making it an attractive marketplace for buyers and businesses worldwide. However, like any major player in ecommerce, Alibaba has its strengths and weaknesses. Understanding these will help you better anticipate what to expect from the platform and how to make the most of its opportunities.

Advantages of using Alibaba:

  • Multilingual support: The site is available in 16 languages. This allows users from different countries to easily navigate the site and make purchases without language barriers.
  • Wide range of products: From electronics and clothing to furniture and even industrial equipment, Alibaba offers almost everything. This makes it ideal for both individual consumers and businesses seeking good vendor.
  • Direct dealings with manufacturers: On the platform, you can find manufacturers directly, which reduces costs by eliminating intermediaries. More importantly, it allows for customizing orders and branding products, which is crucial in highly competitive markets.
  • Strong buyer support: Alibaba prioritizes user safety and offers various transaction protection and quality control programs. For instance, the Trade Assurance system allows funds to be held until the buyer confirms receipt of goods. Additionally, the “Verified Supplier” status ensures confidence in the reliability of chosen partners.
  • International payment options: The platform supports a wide range of international payment methods, including credit cards, bank transfers, and other electronic payments. This facilitates financial transactions for international clients and makes the purchasing process more flexible and convenient for them.
  • International shipping: Alibaba offers a variety of logistics solutions that streamline the process of delivering goods. The platform collaborates with logistics companies, enabling them to ship products worldwide.

Risks of using Alibaba:

  • Fraud risk: Engaging with suppliers remotely on any platform carries inherent risks. No one can guarantee that the other party behind the screen is not fraudulent. Given the scale of Alibaba, this risk is heightened.
  • Quality issues: The platform hosts a vast number of sellers, and not all of them may offer high-quality products. The goods received may not meet your expectations. Before placing a large order on Alibaba, negotiate with the supplier about obtaining samples.
  • Order volume and pricing: When ordering a small quantity of items on Alibaba, you may not receive the expected significant discount. To obtain better pricing, it’s necessary to place a larger order. Always clarify with the seller the minimum order volume required to achieve the most favorable price.
  • Shipping costs and timelines: International deliveries often entail additional expenses such as customs duties and taxes, which can significantly increase the final cost of the goods. There is also a risk of delivery delays or product damage during transportation.


3. How to Find a Supplier on Alibaba?

Let’s now discuss searching for manufacturers on Alibaba. Thanks to its user-friendly interface, numerous filters, and automatic translation into English and other languages, it is straightforward. Users can easily find the desired products by category, price, seller rating, and other parameters. The key is to do it correctly.

The simplest way to find suppliers is by using the search bar. By entering keywords, you will immediately receive a list of offers from various sellers. The shorter and more precise your query, the higher the chances of finding the desired product.

If you don’t know the keyword, the site offers a photo search feature. Simply upload an image, and the system will automatically find similar products from different sellers. This is ideal for situations where you need to find an identical or very similar product to the one you already have.

To streamline the process and find the supplier that best meets your requirements, follow these simple recommendations:

    • Search by supplier, not by product: Searching by product will yield a large number of results, many of which may not meet your requirements. It’s better to search by supplier. This way, you can narrow down potential partners to those who have already established themselves in your industry.

    • Use filters in your search: To narrow down your search results, you can also set filters, which are located on the left side. If you want to select high-quality suppliers on Alibaba, apply the “Verified Supplier” and “Trade Assurance” filters. These are trust indicators that signify a high level of reliability and product quality from the seller.

    • Choose your target market: Determine the region where you want to sell your products and select suppliers who specialize in that market. Sellers with experience in your region are more familiar with local requirements and can offer products that meet these standards. They usually have all the necessary licenses.

    • Check certification fields: Tick the certification checkboxes to narrow down your Alibaba sourcing to suppliers who meet international quality standards. For example, certifications like ISO9001 and BSCI indicate a seller’s commitment to high quality and ethical standards.

3.1 What is a request for quotation (RFQ) on Alibaba?

On Alibaba, you can create your own Request for Quotation (RFQ) and receive specific offers from suppliers. When creating an RFQ, you provide detailed requirements for the product such as quantity, materials, specifications, and delivery terms. Suppliers interested in collaboration will respond to your request with detailed proposals. This allows you to compare and select the suppliers that best meet your requirements. RFQs significantly save time and effort compared to individually searching and negotiating with each supplier.

Here’s how to create a Request for Quotation (RFQ):

  • Log in to your Alibaba.com account.
  • In the user menu at the top right corner of the screen, navigate to “Request for Quotation“.
  • Fill out the RFQ form, providing detailed descriptions of your product requirements, pricing expectations, and supplier preferences. The more detailed your requirements, the more accurate the quotations you will receive.
  • Click “Submit.” Suppliers will start sending you proposals within an hour.

This process allows you to efficiently gather offers from suppliers tailored to your specific needs, streamlining the procurement process on Alibaba.com.


4. Vendor Profile on Alibaba: What to Pay Attention To?

Alibaba offers a vast array of manufacturers from different parts of the world, each with their own unique characteristics and way of operating. Therefore, once you’ve identified suppliers that suit your needs, it’s crucial to thoroughly review their profiles. Additionally, the platform hosts many resellers, increasing the risk of encountering fraudulent sellers. The product listing includes seller information that can indirectly verify their reliability.

  • Company type: Suppliers on Alibaba can either be factories or trading companies, and this distinction affects how quickly and reliably your orders will be fulfilled. Factories often have better manufacturing conditions, while trading companies may offer a wider range of products.
  • Location: This is important if you need to consider logistics and transportation costs.
  • Status: If a supplier has been designated as a Verified Supplier, it means they are actively promoting their brand and investing resources into it. The seller has undergone third-party verification, confirming their legitimacy. This designation provides assurance that you are dealing with a reliable and verified partner.
  • Rating: A good rating ensures reliability and quality of service. A rating of 4.5 or higher is considered normal and indicates satisfactory performance.
  • Years on platform: Companies with a long history on the platform often have a more reliable reputation and established methods of operation.
  • Workforce size: The larger the workforce, the more extensive orders the company can handle.
  • Minimum order quantity (MOQ): Ensure that the MOQ requirements align with your needs.
  • On-Time delivery rate: This is the percentage of shipments delivered on time in the last 180 days. A high rate indicates the reliability of the Alibaba seller in meeting order deadlines.
  • Export revenue: High export revenue indicates the supplier’s competitiveness in the global market.
  • Production area: The production area can be an indicator of a supplier’s capabilities. A larger production area typically allows for the manufacturing of a greater volume of goods simultaneously.
  • Customer reviews: Reviews provide real insights into the quality of products and services offered by the supplier.
  • Contact information: The phone number and email address should be accessible and up-to-date. This facilitates communication and resolves any queries promptly.
  • Link to official website: The official website typically contains detailed information about the company. This helps you better understand who you are dealing with and make an informed decision.


5. What Does the “Verified Supplier” Status Mean on Alibaba?

The “Verified Supplier” status on Alibaba is a significant advantage for sellers on the platform. It indicates that the company has undergone thorough verification and meets high standards of quality and reliability. This status is part of a paid membership. First, the supplier must provide all necessary documentation, including licenses and certificates. Then, an independent auditing company (such as SGS, Intertek, or TUV) conducts a detailed audit. This audit includes a visit to the manufacturing facilities, an assessment of product quality, and a check for compliance with standards. As a result, the supplier receives a detailed report and an audit video, which allows potential buyers to verify the supplier’s reliability.

You can identify a Verified Supplier by the blue “Verified” badge next to the company name in the search results or in the top corner of their profile page.

To facilitate effective searches, Alibaba has implemented a new classification system for Verified Suppliers. They are now divided into three types based on the specific services they offer:

  • Custom manufacturers: These suppliers specialize in creating products based on custom orders. They are an ideal choice for those seeking exclusivity and wanting to stand out in the market with unique offerings.
  • General suppliers: These are companies with a wide range of products and services. They operate in various industries and can meet the diverse needs of their clients. Such suppliers often have extensive experience and can offer competitive prices due to economies of scale in production.
  • Brand owners: These are companies on Alibaba that manufacture and sell products under their own brands. They guarantee high product quality and offer ready-made solutions for those who want to start a business with minimal effort in developing a new product. This is a good option for those looking to sell products from companies with already recognizable names.


6. How to Check Alibaba Suppliers?

It’s important to understand that paid membership is not a definitive criterion for judging whether a specific supplier is trustworthy. It is an advantage but not a guarantee. Even the most attractive statuses should be supported by deeper analysis and verification.

Checking a supplier on Alibaba is a necessary step to ensure security and confidence in the transaction. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and clarify all details that might influence your decision. A good supplier is always willing to provide all the necessary information and do everything possible to create comfortable conditions for cooperation.

6.1 Request samples

To ensure the quality of the goods, it’s essential to see and touch them. Request samples from the supplier. This allows you to assess the quality of the products before placing a large order on Alibaba. It helps avoid unpleasant surprises and ensures that the merchandise meets your expectations and requirements.

6.2 Analyze company reviews

Reviews provide a real picture of a seller’s performance, reliability, and product quality. By analyzing them, you can identify potential issues and make an informed decision about collaboration.

6.3 Search for supplier information via Google

Searching for a supplier through Google will allow you to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the company’s reliability and reputation. For a more effective verification, add keywords like “scam” or “fraud” to the search query. Analyze reviews, articles, and mentions of the supplier in news sources. Additionally, check the company’s website. A good supplier on Alibaba typically has a professionally designed website with detailed information about their products, terms of cooperation, and contact details.

6.4 Request the certificate of state registration and the bank details of the company

Conscientious suppliers are always ready to provide such information without unnecessary questions. Be sure to compare the information provided with the seller’s profile data. This especially applies to bank details. Very often, sellers may ask to pay orders into the personal account of an individual, citing issues with the company’s primary account. It’s best to ignore such requests.

6.5 Inspect the supplier

If possible, conduct an on-site inspection of the supplier. This may involve visiting their manufacturing facilities and warehouses. Alternatively, you can hire specialized companies to perform these inspections on your behalf. For instance, Fulfillment-Box offers a comprehensive solution. We will manage the inspection of your supplier in China, purchase the goods, and swiftly deliver them to your country.

Carefully review all proposals, compare different suppliers, check their reputation, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. This will help you make an informed decision and build long-term mutually beneficial business relationships.


7. Frequently Asked Questions

1. What types of suppliers can be found on the platform?

On Alibaba, you can find manufacturers, trading companies, distributors, and wholesalers.

2. How to determine that a seller on Alibaba is a manufacturer?

In the supplier’s profile, they typically indicate their type as either a manufacturer or a trading company. You can also verify the presence of certificates and licenses that confirm the company’s manufacturing capabilities.

3. What is Trade Assurance and how does it work?

Trade Assurance is a service for protecting transactions between a seller and a buyer on the platform. When payment is made, funds are held in an Alibaba account and transferred to the vendor only after the buyer confirms receipt of the goods. If the goods do not match the description or are not delivered on time, the buyer can receive a refund.

4. How to contact the Alibaba supplier?

In the supplier’s profile, there is a “Contact Supplier” button through which you can initiate communication. Additionally, Alibaba supports video conferencing and audio calls through the TradeManager application. You can also use the contact information provided in the supplier’s profile to get in touch.

5. Can goods from Alibaba be shipped to an Amazon warehouse?

Yes, you can ship goods directly from Alibaba to an FBA warehouse. Most suppliers on the Chinese platform are familiar with Amazon’s requirements. However, there is a significant risk of rejection by Amazon if it’s your first time dealing with a particular seller. If you’re unsure about your supplier, it’s better to entrust this task to a Prep center.

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Julia Gordon

AuthorJulia Gordon

Head of the Fulfillment-Box Prep Centers network

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