Alibaba.com is the world’s largest B2B eCommerce platform and often the first stop for buyers when sourcing wholesale products. However, it’s often perceived as a China-based marketplace for Chinese suppliers; what many international suppliers may not realise is that it also offers sellers globally a chance to be part of a 24/7 B2B tradeshow and allows them to connect with over 16 million buyers around the world.
Currently, Alibaba.com services over 190 countries and regions in over 40 industries and receives more than 340,000 product enquiries daily. If that’s not incentive enough to jump on board, here’s a closer look at how to succeed on the platform.
But first, a bit of history…
Founded by Jack Ma in 1999, Alibaba.com was the first brand of Alibaba Group, which has since expanded to encompass eCommerce, retail, internet, technology and finance. If you’ve heard of Taobao, Tmall, AliExpress and Alipay, you’ll understand the reach and diversity of this multinational company. What this means is that it offers partners a constantly developing suite of integrated tools and services to succeed in the online space, with the relationships and know-how to back them.
What categories work best on Alibaba.com?
Alibaba.com represents products from over 40 industries, with typical buyers being retailers, wholesalers, sourcing agents and manufacturers. With that in mind, here are the top ten categories by buyers’ interest.
How does Alibaba.com support sellers?
The platform helps sellers with everything from product listings to communicating with buyers. One of its most innovative features is real-time translation, which effectively removes the language barrier and allows suppliers to engage in chat messaging with interested buyers in 17 languages.
For Andrea Gradassi, the CEO of an Italian food company, this was a key feature in allowing him to tap into Scandinavian and North American markets.
Trust, also, is an important element in the platform’s success and for sellers too – buyers need to trust suppliers to provide their goods up to standard and within the agreed timeframe. For this, sellers can become Gold Suppliers, who are verified by Alibaba.com via a premium membership.
There is also the option to become a verified supplier, where a seller’s company profile, production capabilities, products and process controls are vetted by an independent third party. Finally, buyers are able to evaluate suppliers using a star rating which is then displayed on the supplier’s homepage.
Then, there’s the ability for buyers to send a Request For Quotation (RFQ), whereby buyers publish a request and suppliers are able to respond with an offer.
Aside from this, you’ve also got tools such as keyword advertising, featured products, analytics and online trade shows.
Is selling on Alibaba.com right for you?
It’s true that Alibaba.com boasts a huge volume of buyers and enquiries. However, whether you can maximise your returns depends on a few factors. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What is the demand and competition like in my industry?
- Am I able to offer value when it comes to price, quality, service and/or logistics?
- Am I confident that I’ll be able to navigate the buying and selling process, which includes finalising payment details, understanding the rules and regulations governing overseas buyers and using the online platform?
With the help of Alibaba.com, two-man business micro-business Drillrig Equipment & Accessories evolved into an international reseller with an annual revenue of more than US$1M since its foundation in 1993. Learn how they did it.
If you are overwhelmed by the process or don’t want to do it alone, it’s worthwhile checking out WorldFirst’s exclusive launch package, which includes discounted costs, local support from a team who can provide on-site training and who can even run the store for you and put in the hard yards.
How to ship
International sellers are responsible for fulfilment. As orders are often made in bulk, it’s advisable to consider a specialist international courier and compare quotes from several providers for the best option. Shipping by air will be quicker and more reliable, while shipping by sea is more cost-effective, especially for bulky and heavy shipments.
The cost to set up on Alibaba.com
Alibaba.com offers different tiers of membership to suit sellers’ needs. The basic package starts at US$2,499 a year, with inclusions such as 20 responses to RFQs a month, while the premium package offers additional support and a higher keyword advertising spend.
Download the Ultimate Guide to Selling on Alibaba.com for full costs and inclusions:
Alibaba.com accepts a variety of payment methods, including credit card, debit card and telegraphic transfer. For payments in USD, buyers can also use online banking or pay via Boleto or Pay Later. Payments in Euros can also be done via online banking.
With over 190 countries and regions on Alibaba.com, you can expect orders from overseas and payments in multiple currencies. Getting paid in a foreign currency involves exchange rate fluctuations and potential fees, ultimately eating into your margins. To minimise costs, sellers often use an online seller account, which allows them to bypass the banks’ high transaction fees and below-market exchange rates.
WorldFirst’s International Collections Account, for example, allows sellers to receive fast payments in several currencies, repatriate funds with bank-beating exchange rates and even pay suppliers in local currency.
What are the steps to get started?
- Visit the Alibaba.com seller homepage for more information or to speak to the WorldFirst team
- Once you select a Gold Supplier packaged based on your requirements, set up your company profile. This is the information that potential buyers will use to assess your suitability, so include anything that you think will attract new opportunities
- Create your online storefront with videos, images, descriptions and minimum purchasing requirements
- Connect with potential buyers by responding to RFQs, participating in online trade shows and site-wide promotions