Alibaba products can be dropshiped
Checklist: How to Find the Right Suppliers on AliExpress
Your product can only ever be as good as the people who supply it. It doesn't matter whether you are ordering raw materials or finished goods, finding the right supplier can be a game changer in the e-commerce business.
Fortunately for you, the days of searched factories across the country are over. Platforms like AliExpress make it very easy to source virtually nothing - spares, supplies, and finished products.
However, finding the right supplier on AliExpress is not easy. So we've put together this checklist to help you choose the perfect supply partner on AliExpress.
Manufacturers, Distributors, and Drop Shippers: Understanding the Differences
Before you begin, it is important to understand the difference between manufacturers, drop shippers and trading companies before you go about sourcing from China.
Manufacturers make products. They work in factories, materials, machines, and employees to make the product from scratch. Most established manufacturers also have designers who'll work with you to develop product ideas.
Go to the manufacturer when you have a product idea and want to help turn it into a reality. Most manufacturers require a minimum order quantity (MOQ) before starting the manufacturing process.
Related: How to Find a Manufacturer for Your Product Idea
Wholesalers / distributors
A distributor is a company that buys goods in large batches and sells those goods in smaller quantities to retailers or distributors.
You go to the dealer when you want to source large quantities of an existing product and sell it in your home country. For example, if you want to sell LED lamps in the US, you are going to go to an LED lamp distributor.
Related: Where to Find a Wholesale Supplier for Your Online Store
Drop shipping is a retail fulfillment method in which the store doesn't keep the products it sells in stock. The storage of the products by the drop shipper, who takes care of fulfilling individual orders on behalf of the reseller.
Once the reseller receives an order, it will be sent to the drop shipper for fulfillment. The store never sees the product that is being delivered to customers.
Go to the drop shipper when you want to run a business but don't want to keep an inventory or a quote with shipping.
Related: How to Start Your Drop Shipping Online Store
Trading companies buy several types of product from different factories and sell to other companies.
The difference between trader and trader is that the former usually stocks small to medium quantities of a lot of products, while the latter holds large quantities of a limited range of products.
For example, an electronics trading company selling everything from cell phones to LED lamps. Telephone distributors, on the other hand, will usually only stock cell phones of a particular brand or type.
Also Read: Should You Make, Manufacture, Wholesale, or Dropship Your Product?
Difference between Alibaba and Aliexpress
You might be wondering: what is AliExpress and how is it different from Alibaba?
Alibaba is arguably the better-known platform - it's, after all, the name of business creation.
AliExpress, on the other hand, is a relatively new platform and has a very diverse clientele.
We'll show you how to choose between the two below.
Alibaba is ideal for companies that want to place large quantity orders at the cheapest price per unit. She is mostly found when looking for manufacturers and wholesalers on Alibaba.
Business owners can also have a custom product made by the manufacturer or buy certain types of products that they specialize in and private label them under their own brand.
There is no shopping cart on Alibaba; In order to work with manufacturers, you have to negotiate a price and minimum order quantity.
Use Alibaba - if you want to work directly with manufacturers, develop your own label for your product or bulk orders at the cheapest price.
Aliexpress works at the consumer level - a retail version of Alibaba. It enables buyers to purchase the goods in lower quantities at fair prices. You get a shopping cart - just like a branch - and don't have to negotiate with suppliers
Because it caters largely to retail buyers, AliExpress doesn't have as many manufacturers on it. Instead, you can find a lot of trading companies and smaller traders.
While you won't get such cheap prices as on Alibaba, you don't have to order large minimums either. This makes it ideal for small and new businesses looking to get started with e-commerce.
Checklist for finding the right supplier
The supplier is one of the most important cogs in your e-commerce machines. A reliable supplier of quality products can give you a tremendous advantage over the competition.
However, with millions of competing suppliers on AliExpress, finding the right one can be a daunting (and expensive) task.
To make better decisions, follow these 10 guidelines.
1. Choose alleged sellers with positive feedback
This is perhaps the most important thing when evaluating AliExpress suppliers. As a rule of thumb, buy from suppliers who have 95% and higher positive feedback.
The "Feedback Score" shows the seller, the sales and the "Positive Feed Rate" represents the feedback that the supplier has received.
A vendor with more than 95% Positive Feedback Rate and 2,000 Feedback Score is considered a reputable seller.
This, of course, doesn't mean that a supplier with a 500+ feedback score cannot be trusted, or that all suppliers with the 1000+ score are genuine. Think of it as a general measure.
Also, note: the number of years the store has been in business.
Find top rated sellers, type products through the seller rating.
2. Compare prices against the competition
The old adage is especially true on AliExpress: if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
When you first land on AliExpress, you will be surprised (and excited) to find some dirt products sold at cheap prices (versus competitors). These are usually offered by new suppliers with little to no feedback.
You proceed with caution in such cases. Sometimes, the lower prices are because a new seller wants to get a brand in the market. But more often than not, it's either a scam or you are seriously compromising the quality.
Be sure to compare those from different providers. If a number of vendors have similar prices for the same product, but one seller has a significantly lower price, take this as an indication that the product is likely not genuine.
AliExpress has a handy tool for filtering very high or very low priced products. If you hover over the "Price" bar on the product page, AliExpress will show you how many people bought the products in that price range.
If very few people buy products that are in a low price range, it probably isn't a very good deal.
3. Check for the authenticity of the goods
Unfortunately, counterfeit products are a big problem on both Alibaba and AliExpress. With the number of products on offer, filtering out counterfeit products can be a massive challenge.
For example, if you search for "Xiaomi TV", you will see more than 1,800 results;
Most would these real ones, but you can never really tell fake of real ones if you just have a few product pictures to go through.
There are a few alternative tactics you can use to filter out if a product is fake or not:
Seller & product feedback score
Just like on eBay, review scores a lot of questions for sellers. Reputable sellers would not have any grievances that could potentially jeopardize your review score.
In addition to the seller score, you can also check product feedback by clicking the "Feedback" tab on the product page.
In the above case, both the product and the seller have very high ratings.
Check the seller's other products for sale
A seller offering only one type or brand of products is probably more authentic than someone who sells virtually anything under the planet.
You can check this by looking at the "Seller Categories" in the left sidebar. In this case, the seller largely focuses on accessories from the upcoming brands:
Check guarantees and price
Again, if the price is too low, it's probably not authentic.
Similarly, also, check seller's warranty. You can see how you do it in the "Seller Warranty" tab on the product page.
If you still can't be sure, try ordering a single product to determine its quality and authenticity.
4. Communicating with the seller before buying
Proper communication with suppliers is a must as the products come directly from you, not AliExpress.
The best way is to immediately write to the supplier. Clear all of your doubts and ask them to ask each item specific details, shipping or delivery questions.
You can find the seller contact details in the left sidebar on the product page:
5. Pay attention to the responsiveness of suppliers
After you send the message, through chat or messaging, notice how quickly the supplier replies to your request.
This will give you an idea of how responsible the seller is. Remember that your suppliers are also your business partners. A salesperson who doesn't respond quickly to your inquiries or unreliable in his response time likely make for a bad partner.
Keep the local China Time (UTC +8) in mind before doing this.
6. Negotiate prices on bulk orders
When you buy in bulk from AliExpress, most sellers offer you a small discount for bulk orders.
You can see this on the product page under "Bulk Price".
Understand that this price is completely negotiable, especially when you have a large requirement than the bulk price mentioned by the seller.
In the above case, you can probably negotiate a few extra% points for 100+ piece orders.
Always negotiate before making a purchase commitment.
7. Read item details / description carefully
Never place an order without reading the item description and no matter how nice the photos look. Sometimes useful information is included in the details section.
8. Search guaranteed for sellers
Sellers offer their own guarantees. When you are purchasing a branded item make sure you look for ‘Guaranteed Real 'Tag.
If the product is still found to be counterfeit, you will receive a full refund including shipping costs.
9. Understand that Custom / Import Fees may be charged
Expensive products usually under the scanner's custom department. If it happens to you, there is a good chance you will need to pay import duty for the products.
Different countries have different tariffs that pay import duties. Keep in checking the duty you might have to pay before you buy the product.
Check-out duty computer to get an estimate.
So you can use AliExpress suppliers
Email is the preferred method of communication for most of suppliers. You will likely be using Google Translate to translate your emails, so make sure the text is concise, well-formatted, and to the point.
This will not only help the supplier but also get you better answers. Here is a template that you can consider as a guide before contacting the supplier.
My name is [your name]. I'm interested in your [insert product name or item code,].
I have several questions:
1. What is the price per unit?
2. What is your minimum order quantity (MOQ)?
3. What is your expected delivery time, including customs?
I would love to place an order for a sample before full order.
Can you please send over the sample cost including shipping to the US?
I am also looking forward to a great business relationship with you. Thanks.
What to do when things go wrong
Things can - and - go wrong, sooner or later. That is only part and package of doing business.
Having established processes for dealing with such situations can make your job a whole lot easier.
Here's what to do if something goes wrong:
1. With product quality
Unfortunately, all of the due diligence in the world cannot protect you from poor product quality. It is not uncommon for sample products to be very different from the final product.
In such situations, you can rule out litigation - American / European court rulings do not apply to Chinese companies.
Also understand that if you are already paying, you have very little control over the seller.
This is especially true for the big salespeople with a lot of feedback - the odd bad rating isn't going to impact you much.
If you received a poor quality product, here is what you can do:
- Ask if there is a production defect: Often times, poor product quality is caused by a one-time production defect. Sometimes, it's also because the manufacturer is in the process of upgrading to new machines. In such cases, the seller might be able to place on the next order.
- Hire a third party inspection company: Because of the quality of the risks, a number of companies hire third party inspection companies in China to ensure product quality. Google “Third Party Inspection in China” to see a list of such companies.
AliExpress "Buyer Protection" gives you 60 days to request a refund or start a dispute. You can do this by going to the order under "My Orders" and clicking "Open Dispute".
If that doesn't work, you can escalate the dispute straight to AliExpress.
2. With delivery time
Shipping times on AliExpress vary wildly depending on the seller, the product type and the country to which it is being shipped.
For most smaller items, AliExpress offers its own free shipping.
If your order hasn't arrived after the stated time frame, here is what you can do:
- Track order status: Obviously, the first step - check if the order is in China, in your country, or en-route. You can do this by going to "My Orders," then clicking "Track" next to "Your order name."
- Check whether the order is stuck in the customs area: parcels instead of the usual culprits in shipping delays. When this happens, Customs will notify you by post of your shipment and tell you how to retrieve it. This can take several days to reach the usual delivery time. Most courier tracking services will tell you when a package has reached customs.
- Ask the seller for guidance: If you are shipping the products to Europe or USA, most sellers would already be familiar with shipping to your country. Ask for guidance on what might be holding you back the delivery, and if there is something you can do to speed things up.
3. With customs
Packages stuck in customs is a routine complaint from people importing from the PRC. Customs in some countries is particularly notorious for holding packages.
Your shipping service provider should be able to tell you when the package clears through customs. After this, Customs will send you a notification (in writing) why your product has been held up and what you can do to get it released.
In case the seller claims the product is on hold, customs, here is what to do:
- Ask for a bill of lading: Ask the seller to furnish a bill of lading to prove that the package has, in fact, left the seller's warehouse.
- Contact shipping service to confirm the goods arrival in your home country.In the US, if your carrier does not notify you within 15 days of the goods arrival (and you fail to act on customs communications), your package will be moved to a "General Order Warehouse" (GO). This makes retrieving the items expensive and time consuming.
Understand that this is a very subjective question - customs procedures vary from country to country. Find your country's customs office to find out more.
4. With payments
Most sellers on AliExpress accept a variety of payment options.
Since AliExpress offers its own buyer protection, you protect you against any payment fraud. Within 60 days of Buyer Protection, you will receive a full refund in case of non-receipt of the items.
In the event you encounter any problems, you can open a dispute about the refunds.
To do this, log into your buyers panel and find your order under "My Orders".
Next, click "Open Dispute" to continue ordering:
On the next screen, select "Refund" to complete the refund process:
You cannot use PayPal on AliExpress. Unless suppliers have their own PayPal account, they could send an invoice with the item description and price. AliExpress has its own credit card payment system that is similar in many ways to Paypal and offers the same level of security. Even if you use a bank transfer, debit cards or the Western Union, you have no choice but to go to AliExpress.
5. With copyright and branding
Intellectual property theft is a major issue in China so it shouldn't be surprising when you find your unique idea copied from a supplier.
Unfortunately, Chinese law makes it nearly impossible to enforce any patents or any redressal for IP theft. Keep in mind that even Apple isn't safe from this problem.
The best thing you can do is to open a dispute (see above) and request AliExpress to remove the seller.
This, however, still won't stop your IP theft.
Consider this part of the risk of doing business in China.
Also Read: 7 Reasons To Treat Your Suppliers As Well
AliExpress isn't perfect, but it has a ton of advantages over sourcing products locally. For one, you get access to a huge inventory with no minimum order quantities. You also get extremely low prices, including free shipping on most items.
On the downside, you have to contend with communication issues and the occasional seller dispute. To mitigate this problem, AliExpress offers robust buyer protection and an easy-to-use communication system.
On the whole, you will find AliExpress a very valuable partner in sourcing suppliers for your e-commerce store.
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