Import from China: A Guide on Using Alibaba.com

Import from China: Alibaba.com is one of the most important websites in the world on which products worth billions are bought and sold day after day. As an importer, you will find yourself doing a lot of business on Alibaba.com, that’s why it is essential to understand the site well. Alibaba.com is a B2B (or business to business) that connects Chinese manufacturers to overseas buyers. Alibaba.com has no shopping cart system, all the items are negotiated by e-mail and using a built-in chat. Alibaba.com does not take any commission or transaction fees either.

Alibaba Group Holding Limited (NYSE: BABA) is a publicly traded Hangzhou-based group of e-commerce businesses, including B2B online web portals (alibaba.com, Chinese B2B website 1688.com), online retail (C2C marketplace Taobao, B2C Tmall.com) and payment services Alipay, a shopping search engine eTao.com and data-centric cloud computing services Aliyun.

Alibaba group started in 1999 when Jack Ma founded the website Alibaba.com, a B2B portal to connect Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers. In 2012, two of Alibaba’s portals handled 1.1 trillion yuan ($170 billion) in sales.Alibaba Group raised over $21 billion from initial public offering (IPO roadshow presentation here) on NYSE on 19 September 2014.

Alibaba.com makes its money from the membership fee paid by suppliers based in China to qualify for the “Gold Supplier” category. Only legally registered companies can be Gold Suppliers, so there is some control on quality when you buy from one. Suppliers on Alibab.com make made to order products, based on specifications sent by the buyer.

Import from China with Alibaba.com: Let’s understand a bit more about business

#1. Suppliers on Alibaba.com have a high Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ).

MOQ means the least number of orders that a supplier has to produce before he can make a profit. So, as a buyer, your order will be considered only if you purchase enough to satisfy the MOQ. Generally, this means, if you are buying something like a smart phone, having to buy 300 smart phones at least.

#2. There are no fixed prices on Alibaba.com.

All prices are based on the specifications sent by you – based on the quality standards expected and the quantity ordered. Higher the quantity ordered, lower will be the price set. Higher the expected quality standards, higher will be the price.

Alibaba Group Holding Limited is a Chinese e-commerce company that provides consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer and business-to-business sales services via web portals. It also provides electronic payment services, a shopping search engine and data-centric cloud computing services. The group began in 1999 when Jack Ma founded the website Alibaba.com, a business-to-business portal to connect Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers. In 2012, two of Alibaba’s portals handled 1.1 trillion yuan ($170 billion) in sales. The company primarily operates in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and at closing time, on the date of its initial public offering (IPO), 19 September 2014, Alibaba’s market value was measured as US$231 billion. However, the stock has traded down and market cap was $145 billion at the end of September 2015.

#3. All suppliers on Alibaba.com offer custom designs and logo printing.

But you have to send highly detailed product specifications as the suppliers don’t really use much of their creativity. You should specifically mention the material specifications, colors, components, product packaging designs, product body artwork as well as logo designs.

#4. If your products need to be compliant with a particular standard, you should mention this clearly to the supplier.

All major Chinese manufacturers have the expertise to customize products and to make them compliant with the standards expected, but they need to be given the exact specifications so that there is no confusion.

#5. The best way to Import from China to have the right quality controls in place is to be very specific about your requirement, not leaving out even the smallest detail.

As a buyer, you will have to work very hard on getting precise information from the supplier on their manufacturing capabilities.

#6. The lead times for order preparation on Alibaba.com vary from 15 days to 6 months.

The production time takes 30 days and the shipping by air freight takes 5-7 days and by sea freight takes 4 weeks. Air freight is appropriate for smaller orders, while sea freight is better for bigger bulk orders.

#7. Alibaba.com is also a great place to find business partners.

You can also seek business partners on Liverix.com. Just look around the site, perhaps you will find business partnership opportunities that you are interested in.