5 Tips for Importing Stock from Alibaba

Wholesale Supplies
  • Importing goods from China wholesalers has become quite popular among young 'entrepreneurial sprits' all over the world.
  • Alibaba stock is one of the first places people run to for that purpose. Importing from China wholesale is relatively cheap, of decent quality and works well.
  • So if you're considering starting a business of your own with Alibaba stock, here are five tips for you.

tips for importing from alibaba stock

My first proper online business was selling false lashes online from Alibaba stock. These are the little strips of hairs that women use to make their eyes stand out. 

There was little choice back then, so step by step I decided to enter the market and sell products online. I didn't know much about importing from China wholesale, it all seemed a little daunting at first but I stumbled across a website called Alibaba, which is like an eBay but on a wholesale/manufacturing level.

You can find small manufacturers to large factories that cater for the fortune 500 companies, however, their minimum order quantity is obviously a lot higher.

After having gone through the process of finding a manufacturer, contacting them, creating samples to shipping I learnt a fair few things that I would like to share with you.

How to Source Imports from Alibaba

Here are 5 tips for people that are looking to use Alibaba to source products:

  1. Make sure they have a good reputation
  2. Contact with as many as you like 
  3. Create a sample
  4. Get orders with tracking 
  5. Consider labelling and packaging 

1. Make Sure They Have a Good Reputation

Look for the badges for manufacturers on Alibaba stock; "gold supplier" badge is one that is a must to avoid the dodgy suppliers, it will also show how many years they have been a gold supplier for, so the higher, the better.

Keep in mind that if they are running a sustainable business with this their reputation will be more important than taking advantage of one order, so this is a good background check on Alibaba stock for you.

2. Contact With as Many as You Like 

It's a good idea to speak to as many suppliers as you like the look of. With Alibaba stock, it's really important to be specific with what you want to be quoted and make sure you send this same request to all the suppliers so you have a great base for comparison. Usually sample images and details down to specific measurements and quantity help.

If you have no idea what you can afford you can use the live chat option to get immediate responses from a number of suppliers so you can start to work out the right quantity and quality you can afford. Having a supplier that is on during "business hours" also ensures that the supplier is a legitimate operator and enough staff to serve customers. The chat button is found on the supplier profile.

On Alibaba stock, having someone contact you in a timely manner also ensures that it is more likely they will respond to you in a timely manner when something goes wrong, so favour those that provide you with an accurate and fast response. (Careless responses not included, although they may be quick)

3. Create a Sample

Before you spend your whole budget on an order, make sure that you are meticulous with creating samples. If it is a new supplier, maybe try running a minimum order quantity to begin with, as sometimes the quality of the batch may differ from the sample as well as on Alibaba stock.

How the product withholds is also important, because if you pick the wrong supplier that uses poor quality materials, it may be detrimental to your brand. For example, I had a large batch of bracelets made, and after wearing one for a month I found the gold plating faded away to an ugly grey with wear and tear. It's best you find out with a sample, then order a large batch.

In my instance, I was lucky I hadn't actually sent any out so, I just had to include a little card that warned the user that if exposed to water, it may lose its gold. A warning is better when you sell products than an unpleasant surprise when it comes to Alibaba stock.

4. Get Orders with Tracking 

For those that are less versed in shipping methods, make sure you get tracking for your Alibaba stock. Separately pay attention to air shipping methods as well. Trusted carriers such as DHL and Fed-Ex are always good. Feel free to leave a comment with your experience if you have anything else to add.

5. Consider Labelling and Packaging 

You will most likely need another manufacturer to create product labels and pack your products, but instead of having them shipped separately here from Alibaba stock, you can save a lot of time and have them all packed in China before it gets sent here. A lot of manufacturers have partnerships with packing companies so if you don't want to go through the process of finding another supplier you can ask they introduce you to their trusted partners.

They will be more than happy to do this and you will also skip the part where you have to find products. Don't forget to get a sample shipped from Alibaba stock though! That's the best way of having started with importing from China wholesale.

I hope these tips help you with your Alibaba stock journey. Make sure you always choose the suppliers that have a good reputation and great communication. I've had many that disappear on me after a few emails if they feel you are a small order (luckily I didn't purchase).

These tips can be used for any manufacturer on Alibaba stock, but because I've only had experience with the Chinese manufacturers, you may want to do some research as well into the regulations of other countries.

Do you have some other tips for importing from Alibaba stock? Let us know!

Wendy Huang

Full Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes

I am passionate about helping businesses get online with their own blog or website in just a simple 4 minutes.

Comments (5)
Brian Mallyon

Brian Mallyon, Owner at Luckypole Limited

Some very good and valid points in this article. If I may, I would also like to add some comments that may assist any potential buyers when looking to buy goods from Asia, predominantly China. 1. It is true that a "gold" supplier (with badge showing number of years they have been a gold supplier) provides a pretty good indication that a supplier is legitimate. It should be remembered that these "gold" supplier notations are applied because the supplier has paid money for it, not because it is based on quality. Some comments to explain this further:- a) For most suppliers there is very little information about the quality of the products or services the company will provide. In all my years sourcing product from China, I have rarely had a problem with illegitimate suppliers, more so the problems have arisen after placing an order with a supplier. They can be minor or large, but as a buyer you need to be constantly alert on the progress of any order. Quite often, you cannot expect the same levels of service you would get locally, so you have to balance the potential cost savings you may get and compare that to the work required in getting the deal done. b) As someone who started in this business before Alibaba was even around, there are other outlets that can offer options for your purchasing. I know of many good factories that are not even listed on Alibaba. It may be the biggest, but it should be remembered that Alibaba is essentially a platform to put a list of suppliers in one place to make it easier to find a supplier of a particular product, so is not really what you would call a sourcing platform. My company was once a gold member, but the five grand a year I paid wasn't worth it for the return I got, so we cancelled it. So not being on Alibaba and not being a gold member is not necessarily a reason to avoid a supplier, but I also do accept it is one thing to consider. c) At the initial stages of any business relationship, a Chinese supplier will be looking at the short term nature of the business deal. You may be thinking long term, they are more than likely looking to maximize their profit from the first deal. Remember they are getting many requests and a lot of those are just people shopping around, so they will not always value the long term potential at the outset. Quite often saying things like" I want a small order to test the quality and build it as my business grows", is often translated to " I want a small order, and you probably won't see me again if I cannot sell this." d) Avoid anyone in China selling branded products. That iphone, or branded polo shirt, may be made in China, but it is almost guaranteed to be fake. Brand owners generally have very strict agreements in place with manufacturers, and that does not involve the maker being able to sell these goods directly to anyone they like. 2. Yes, it is very important to select quite a few suppliers. Even when I have suppliers of a product I have used before, and will likely use them again, I nearly always get additional supplier product details to be able to make comparisons. a) If you have been using a good supplier and know their product and service quality, sometimes even paying them more is a better option that having to go through the process of vetting new suppliers. b) I do however disagree with the comment about not having an idea about what you can afford. It is the responsibility to the buyer to have an idea of the product information and the associated costs. This to me is one of the main areas where there are problems. Buyers don't know what something costs, they therefore select the cheapest option when talking to suppliers. Problem is that generally the cheapest option is cheap for a reason, which may be product quality or service quality. c) On Alibaba they will generally show a price range of a product on the main product listing pages. Buyers should bear in mind that these prices listed are often not the real prices so should not make any judgment based on these. (Suppliers call this a marketing tactic to entice potential buyers, I call it a flat out lie.) d) Quite often when asking for quotes, information will be missing. Follow up until you have received everything, otherwise you may find some nasty surprises when it comes to the real amount needed to be paid. e) As for communication, you need to remember that English is often not the first language for most suppliers. Not only that, but sometimes an email can be easily understood, whereas talking is incomprehensible. So everything needs to be stated clearly and the shorter the communication the better. 3. Yes, most definitely sampling is important to make sure of the quality. I would even add that, to add some comfort it can be worth considering to have a third party do an inspection of the goods. In the majority of cases for relatively large orders, the payment process is 30% deposit, followed by 70% final payment before the goods are shipped. This inspection can be done before making the final payment as a way of offering some further peace of mind. generally this will cost around USD200-300 currently for an inspection done to AQL (international) standards. 4. For logistics, and with larger orders, shipping by sea is probably the most economical method. (It is handy to look up "incoterms" to know what the different terms mean.) Quite often a buyer will leave the shipping to the supplier (CFR/ CIF), but I would nearly always recommend against this and to arrange shipping on an FOB basis, which means arranging it yourself through your own forwarding company. This is because the cost per CBM can vary significantly with other charges potentially making your costs a lot higher if not done correctly. (Personally, I always arrange several quotes from different suppliers, as I would with my product supplier, just to get a good comparison.) So for example, the supplier may use the shipper with the cheapest shipment rate, but the buyer is stuck with inflated port charges at the destination. Finally, obviously one of the major reasons (probably the major one) that people look to go overseas when sourcing/buying products is the cost. Unfortunately this often leads down the path of looking for the cheapest option. Taking the very cheapest option looks good at the start, but often it is the cheapest option for a reason, which is generally product quality. So a buyer really needs to try and make that judgment call between getting the product at a reasonable price and ensuring the quality is to their satisfaction. Asia is a place of great potential for cost savings, but greed can sometimes outweigh those potential benefits. So I hope some of my comments may have added a little more to help people in their thinking on this subject.

Brian Le Mon

Brian Le Mon, Principal at

Hi Wendy, Good list. I would like to add 1 more. Be Realistic. - e.g If you looking to buy iPads (ok Alibaba is not where you should be searching but continue for the sake of argument) and manage to find someone who is "willing" to sell to you for $10 if you have a MoQ of 100pcs. Gold supplier or not you really deserve to lose that $1000 if you think this is a legitimate deal. Doing some research to see what the standard market price would probably be as well as what the price offered by competing suppliers will give you an idea of what is realistic and what is bogus without placing too much reliance on the supplier rating.

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