"I want to begin sourcing products from China, but I don’t know where to start. How do I make sure the supplier I decide upon is reputable and won’t leave me high and dry with poor quality products?"
Online B2B marketplaces and directories that connect Western businesses with the East, like Alibaba, are a good place to start. It’s worth conducting due diligence from the comfort of your desk in the UK as "trusted" status on some marketplaces can be "purchased" for the price of a fixed subscription fee, so it isn’t necessarily indicative of the past or future performance of the supplier. To help, Alibaba has a Trade Assurance scheme to protect your order if you’ve paid through Alibaba.com.
Once you’ve done your initial marketplace research (and perhaps even ordered a few samples), the next step is to reach out to your peer network to see if there are any suppliers they’ve done business with that they would personally recommend.
Unfortunately, many online sellers’ competitive advantages lie in their supplier network, so asking them to divulge their secrets might not land you with the word of mouth recommendations you were hoping for, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Finally, a trip to the Canton Fair or visiting select manufacturers and warehouses on the ground in China (perhaps those that you originally found on online B2B marketplaces) is the most sure-fire way to establish productive working relationships and build trust on both sides.
Exporting was probably summed up best by Will Butler Adams, CEO of Brompton Bikes. He told us businesses just need to “Get out there, have a laugh, meet some funny people, eat weird food, drink funny whisky. Exporting is a good laugh. It’s a such a no-brainer.”
In short, there are no guaranteed cheap and/or quick ways to find a supplier in China – there are very few shortcuts that don’t result in lots of trial and error for online sellers.
I want to pay my Chinese supplier in RMB, can you help?
Where can I sell my products in China?
TMall, JD.com and Kaola are all popular marketplaces that cater to the domestic Chinese market. Alongside those, a rise in social media platforms offering eCommerce capabilities and features, such as WeChat Shops, allows huge audiences to seamlessly purchase products without having to leave the social media site, a boon for a country almost surgically attached to their smartphones. And if your brand can handle the lower exposure, launching your own standalone eCommerce site could offer you more ownership over the customer experience (and cut out commission costs per sale), providing you get the UX right and can handle longer loading speeds that turn off local shoppers used to snappy domestically-hosted websites.
What is the difference between CNH and CNY?
Currency in China can be confusing. Some call it RMB, short for renminbi, while you may also hear people refer to it as the ‘yuan’. CNH is used for international trade, while CNY is used for domestic payments. You can find out more in our guide to paying Chinese suppliers in RMB.
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