Successfully using b2b platforms: 6 ways to make it work with Alibaba
China is the number one world exporter for many years. Online markets such as Alibaba become more and more popular every year allowing even relatively small companies to move their production to China and resell it in other countries. But is it all that flawless as many thinks? As everywhere there are lots of pitfalls that can turn the first experience with Chinese suppliers into endless production nightmare.
We gathered main issues and most popular myths about working with suppliers from Alibaba and our b2b online markets.
Myth #1 Supplier check is the product is legally compliant
Chinese suppliers live for today and do what they are paid to. Only you are responsible for the import of your goods. If they are patented by another company in the country of delivery, you look into big penalty charge and destroying things worth thousands of dollars that you’ve bought and shipped.
Remember to make some research and find out which certificates are needed in your country for the goods you’re planning to import. Electronics, leather, lighting, wood etc. – just a number of items that require certification. All of the documents will be necessary during customs clearance.
Do ask suppliers if they ever produced for your country. Experienced companies know exactly which documents are needed for certain countries.
Myth #2 All Alibaba suppliers are reliable
Alibaba is merely an online platform which provides small companies and small wholesalers with business opportunities without getting out of the desk and visiting numerous exhibitions.
First of all, you should remember that saving the face is one of the most important if not the most important thing in China. Even if the production site is a small warehouse in the middle of nowhere with very little (if any) equipment expect to see nice clean photos. In China, you can rent a nice-looking warehouse or a factory to make a couple of photos to upload later into the Alibaba account. Do not take face value for all the photos in a profile description.
Myth #3 It’s always better to Buy from a manufacturer directly
Let’s come clear, Alibaba is not a manufacturer. Which means you’re still using an agent to communicate with factories.
Is it really better to skip agents and work directly with a factory? It all depends on how big your business is. It’s relevant for big companies with high purchasing volumes. But if you’re a middle or small-hand entrepreneur, and even if you get to work with a high-roller factory, you’ll be on the bottom of the clients’ list.
Sometimes it’s necessary to hire people to control manufacturers and quality, especially when your business does not require travelling to China too often.
Agents on another hand work with all-sized businesses and know import and quality requirements for different countries. They also often work with legit qualified factories which have good production capacity.
Myth #4 «Yes» always means understanding
In China, it's considered a shame to admit if something is unclear. After every meeting expect an email with a confirmation of every issue that was discussed over a meeting. Because of imperfect knowledge of the language, clients can lose money. Many details, which recognized in the whole world as basics, are not in China. All of the nuances must be provided with a thorough explanation, for example, you find yourself explaining what «good quality» is. Take a deep breath and patiently clarify each requirement point by point. It will save a lot of nerves during production.
Prepare a working sample which will be sent back and forth until the final sample is confirmed. To save the money on express services, we suggest hiring someone in China to do it.
Myth #5 Alibaba is all you’ll ever need
Alibaba is a platform that became a sensation and opened many opportunities for entrepreneurs on both sides of the world. Many people remember the time when to find a supplier you had to go for yellow pages or specialized exhibitions. Remember Alibaba is not the only option, and not 100% of the vendors there are legit honest companies. Alibaba markets itself as a platform for entrepreneurs on both sides which means vendors are not top-notch professionals and sometimes it looks like blind leading blind.
Do not believe vendors’ word without verifying and their skills and experience.
Myth #6 Trust the vendor with logistics
Logistics and shipping are one of the biggest parts of the cost of import from China and one of the largest businesses in the world.
Should you trust shipping to a supplier? We recommend finding your own shipping company that you trust, to have control over every step of the delivery process. Suppliers use logistics services and priority for shipping containers will be given to big old customers, and you might see some delays.
There are many advantages and disadvantages using Alibaba or other b2b platforms and there are always surprises to spoil the experience. Think it through to avoid the most common mistakes.
Contact our managers and we take care of your order until the very end. Don’t waste your time and nerves and trust professionals with it.