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Finding Your First Supplier on Alibaba.com

Alibaba.com Insights
March 30, 2018
3 min read


In many product categories, there are hundreds or even thousands of suppliers, listed on Alibaba.com. Clearly, the challenge is not to find suppliers, but identify those that are qualified to make your OEM or ODM product.


In this article, Chinaimportal.com share the methods used when trying to identify qualified suppliers on Alibaba.

1. Use the supplier search

Did you know that you can either search based on product, or suppliers? I strongly prefer the latter, as I focus on the suppliers capabilities.


For example, you can type in “Stainless steel watches”, and you’ll get a list of more than 900 supplier options.

Step 1: search criteria

Some of these are specialised watch manufacturers, while others are not.


This is step one of the process.

2. Narrow down your search

Sending an RFQ to 900+ suppliers is not a good way to spend your time. Instead, we need to narrow the list down.


Fortunately, Alibaba.com allows you to filter suppliers based on, for example, these factors:


  • ISO 9001
  • ISO 14001
  • BSCI


Filter by certifications


I’m not going into detail about what these company certificates mean. But, it’s a good sign if a supplier is ISO 9001 or BSCI certified. These suppliers tend to be larger and more established.


I use this function to further narrow down my search.

3. Review company profile

Now, we have a list of, say, 20 to 30 suppliers. That is a lot more manageable, but we still need to dig a bit deeper.


Click on a supplier name, and go to the company profile.

  • Do they mention product certificates?
  • Do they mention brand name customers?
  • Are they specialised in your product category?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • Do they have any audit reports?


Based on these signals, you can further narrow down the number of suppliers.

4. Review TrustPass profile

What makes Alibaba.com unique, is that they provide verified company data. Every single Gold Supplier is verified, and this information is made available in the TrustPass profile.


For example, you can find the following:


  • Business license number
  • Registered capital
  • Year of registration
  • Registered address
  • Legal representative

5. Select at least 5 to 10 suppliers

You have now narrowed down the number of suppliers, from 900, to less than 20. That said, it’s still too early to make a final decision.


At this early stage, you still need to get quotations from at least 5 to 10 suppliers, to properly compare prices. Perhaps, you should also consider letting 2 to 4 suppliers make product samples.


Sourcing on Alibaba.com is only the beginning. The outcome of this process is decided by how well you manage the process.


I like to think that it’s 10% about finding a decent supplier, and 90% about how you handle the following:


  • Creating a product specification
  • Product sample order
  • Product safety / regulations in your country
  • Sales contracts and quality control


Keep in mind that even the best (or well, most qualified) supplier will make mistakes if the product specification is vague. It’s now up to you to take the next step.



About Chinaimportal.com

Fredrik Grönkvist is a Swedish Entrepreneur and co-founder of Chinaimportal.com, a website that provides free guides, videos and webinar on importing OEM and private label products from Asia.


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