How Does Alibaba Work? A Information to Secure Dropshipping (2023)

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On this information, we’re going to take a look at what’s Alibaba, how the wholesale market works and how one can safely purchase from Alibaba. We’ll cowl all the pieces it’s essential know to successfully and safely supply a provider on your product thought utilizing the favored enterprise listing. We’ll introduce you to the professionals and cons of going abroad and present you how one can purchase off of Alibaba and navigate this new terrain so yow will discover the right provider on your product thought and begin promoting on-line.

As a way to begin a web-based enterprise you want two issues: a product thought and provide. If you have already got a trending product in thoughts and your marketing strategy in place, the subsequent step is discovering the right provider. In our international village, it has by no means been simpler to discover a manufacturing or wholesaling associate midway all over the world.

Nonetheless, sourcing your merchandise from abroad can nonetheless look like a frightening activity for brand spanking new on-line entrepreneurs. Let’s get began!

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What’s Alibaba?

Alibaba is a Chinese language owned international wholesale market based in 1999. If you happen to’ve determined and are decided to supply your provider from abroad, there’s a superb probability you’ll need to know how one can purchase from Alibaba or AliExpress dropshipping.

By the numbers, Alibaba is the most important ecommerce firm on the earth, incomes round $135 billion in 2022. It is also probably the most complete listing that connects suppliers (largely from Asia) with consumers from everywhere in the globe. 

How does Alibaba work?

Alibaba is a wholesale market for consumers seeking to buy giant portions of merchandise on the lowest worth. Alibaba permits consumers to barter straight with producers, create customized merchandise, and obtain important price financial savings.

It’s additionally the higher alternative for buying personal label merchandise since you purchase straight from the producer.

The Alibaba group owns three Chinese language marketplaces—Taobao, Tmall, and—has lots of of hundreds of thousands of customers, and hosts lots of of hundreds of thousands of outlets and merchandise. There’s not a lot you received’t discover in its listing, which is the way it turned one of the vital in style locations for on-line procuring.

Alibaba homepage

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The right way to dropship with Alibaba

Listed here are just a few dropshipping ideas and proposals for safely shopping for items from Alibaba.

1. Start your seek for merchandise

Shopping for from Alibaba and utilizing the listing is pretty easy and much like different marketplaces like eBay. Browse the product classes or do a seek for the actual product you’re in search of.

There are two widespread approaches to doing a seek for shopping for items from Alibaba. You possibly can seek for gadgets primarily based on product descriptions, for instance, “canine collars,” which will provide you with 1000’s of outcomes. Alternatively, from the drop-down menu, you may choose Suppliers as an alternative of Merchandise and seek for producers focusing on a selected sort of merchandise

Dropdown menu on alibaba

2. Study the product itemizing pages

When beginning your seek for a provider on Alibaba, there are some things you need to take a look at and take note of on the product itemizing web page. Let’s check out a product description instance and itemizing for a canine collar we discovered on Alibaba.


Minimal order amount (MOQ)

The minimal order amount (MOQ) is the smallest order a producer is keen to just accept. Nonetheless, it’s necessary to notice that that is virtually all the time negotiable. 

In our instance, the minimal order is 50 models. Multiplying that by the higher-end worth of $2.15 per unit, we rapidly can see we might be a minimal order of roughly $107.50 + delivery from this specific provider for this specific product. That is good to know for later with regards to negotiating, as a result of it offers you a superb begin level.

Fee choices

After understanding worth and MOQ, you’ll doubtless need to know how one can pay the provider. There are a number of widespread strategies of fee and every has its professionals and cons for each the client and the vendor.

Let’s check out the commonest fee choices beneath and the related threat degree to you as the client:

1. Upfront TT (Financial institution Switch)

Threat degree: Excessive

With a financial institution switch, the provider will obtain full fee earlier than manufacturing begins. This fee methodology bears a excessive degree of threat to the client and customarily just isn’t really helpful when coping with an unknown provider. There’s little if any recourse to get your a reimbursement if one thing goes fallacious. 

2. Letter of credit score

Threat degree: Medium

A letter of credit score is pretty protected for each events, nevertheless it carries some complicated procedures and is mostly really helpful just for bigger purchases ($20,000 and above).

3. Western Union

Threat degree: Excessive

This can be a dangerous fee methodology for the client that’s not really helpful with regards to paying suppliers if the fee just isn’t protected by escrow. Western Union usually ought to be used solely when coping with individuals you understand very effectively. There isn’t a recourse if one thing goes fallacious. 

4. PayPal

Threat Stage: Low

PayPal is a well-liked fee methodology for consumers, because it presents a lot much less threat, ease of use, and customarily good purchaser safety. Though it’s a well-liked possibility with consumers, it’s much less in style with suppliers because of difficulties in withdrawing cash, excessive tax charges, and potential cost backs from lower than trustworthy consumers.

5. Escrow

Threat Stage: Low

When utilizing an escrow service, the client’s cash is held by a 3rd get together and is simply paid to the provider after the client confirms passable supply of their order. Escrow is a reasonably protected fee methodology for purchasing and promoting on-line as a result of it protects each the client and provider.

Typically, while you’re simply beginning out shopping for items from Alibaba, you’ll in all probability need to search for or negotiate with suppliers to both settle for PayPal or some sort of escrow service to provide the highest degree of safety. 

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3. Contact suppliers

Now that you simply perceive how one can higher defend your self when performing a transaction on the opposite aspect of the globe, it’s time to contact some suppliers. When contacting suppliers abroad, e-mail, social media, or WeChat will doubtless be your predominant methodology of communication. 

In lots of instances, suppliers will use a program like Google Translate to translate your e-mail in addition to their reply again to you. Bear in mind, pc translation continues to be an imperfect artwork, so anticipate some errors and potential misunderstandings. 

To verify communication is as clear as potential, hold your emails brief, concise, effectively formatted, and freed from spelling errors. This not solely will assist the producer, however in the end will give you extra helpful replies.

Fast tip for purchasing on Alibaba: When asking your questions and formatting your emails to suppliers, it’s greatest to quantity your questions to allow them to simply reply to every one. This retains the questions and communication clear and arranged.

contacting suppliers on Alibaba

4. Request a quote

Requesting a quote (also known as an RFQ or request for quote) is a comparatively easy course of for how one can purchase from Alibaba. Nonetheless, taking just a few further minutes to plan your e-mail could make a major distinction within the quantity and high quality of replies you obtain.

Listed here are just a few necessary questions to think about on your e-mail when shopping for from Alibaba:

  • Minimal order portions (MOQs). Even when a list gives its MOQ, it is best to double verify with the provider to make sure accuracy. If the MOQs are a lot increased than what you understand you may afford, you’ll need to ask if they’re keen to barter their minimums. Be certain to offer them an thought of what you may afford. Take note, minimal order amount is sort of all the time negotiable with abroad suppliers. 
  • Pricing for samples. Samples are necessary to examine for high quality. You’re going to need to ask what their pricing is for samples instantly. Some suppliers that obtain numerous pattern requests could change full retail pricing for them, others will supply samples at a reduced charge, and a few could even present samples without cost in the event that they really feel you’re a severe purchaser.
  • Manufacturing pricing. One of the crucial necessary questions is how a lot your merchandise price per unit. Many occasions on Alibaba a provider will give a spread ($2–$3 per unit, for instance), however you’ll need to know precisely how a lot every unit will price you.
  • Manufacturing time. Figuring out how lengthy it’s going to take to provide your order is a vital consideration, and relying your precise enterprise, time might be essential.
  • Fee phrases. Many suppliers would require new companies to pay for the total order upfront. That is necessary to know, since stock is a significant price for ecommerce startups. You might also need to additionally ask if they supply fee phrases on future orders.

Right here’s an instance of an e-mail template you could need to contemplate as a tenet when contacting abroad suppliers from Alibaba:


My identify is John, and I’m with XYZ Firm.

I’m involved in inserting an order for Widget A. Earlier than I do, nevertheless, I simply have just a few questions:

  1. What’s your minimal order amount?
  2. What’s your price per unit, and at what amount ranges do you supply amount reductions?
  3. What are your fee phrases for brand spanking new clients?

I’d additionally prefer to order a pattern of Widget A earlier than inserting a full order. Are you able to please ship me the fee for the pattern, together with delivery expenses, to:

John Doe
123 Pretend St.
Toronto, ON M5V 2J4


XYZ Firm

As you may see, the pattern above is brief, concise, and its purpose is to verify at a excessive degree that there’s a match between each events.

5. Negotiate your phrases

Upon getting begun conversations with a number of suppliers and have a good suggestion of every of their costs, MOQs, and fee phrases, you may start negotiating with them. As talked about beforehand in our ideas for purchasing on Alibaba, minimal order portions are virtually all the time negotiable, it’s merely a matter of asking. Bear in mind, a superb negotiation leaves each events pleased with the end result, so push slightly however not too onerous. 

6. Think about your choices

When you’ve narrowed it right down to a choose few suppliers, the subsequent step of how one can purchase off of Alibaba is weighing all of your choices. Understand that when doing so, you’ll need to contemplate extra than simply worth, MOQ, and fee phrases. Be sure to consider how effectively and the way rapidly every provider replied to you.

Communication along with your provider generally is a essential component of your corporation going ahead, so that you’ll need to be sure to begin off on the suitable foot.

Is Alibaba protected? 

Since its launch in 1999, Alibaba has turn into one of many largest marketplaces on the earth. Like many fashionable ecommerce marketplaces, a majority of retailers on Alibaba are respected and reliable, making {the marketplace} fairly protected and legit.

The corporate provides Commerce Assurance, a verification program for choose suppliers, to guard your funds by way of the fee platform.

The advantages of Commerce Assurance embrace:

  • Handy fee choices. Alibaba provides a number of fee strategies, together with bank card, PayPal, and financing choices for certified US consumers.
  • Fee safety. Monitor and reconcile funds with suppliers and know once they obtain your fee. 
  • Higher assist. When working with Commerce Assurance suppliers, refunds can be found when you’re not glad with the product’s high quality.

Commerce Assurance protects you from getting scammed or receiving low-quality or unsafe merchandise from Alibaba. Though there will probably be some backwards and forwards between the vendor and Alibaba throughout mediation, you’ll be protected against dangerous suppliers. 

This isn’t to say that working with dropshipping suppliers not within the Commerce Assurance program is dangerous. It simply means you’ll must do extra analysis to maintain your self protected.

Let’s check out a number of issues you are able to do to guard your cash when sourcing from Alibaba:

1. Confirm suppliers. Alibaba has its personal verification program. Verification is predicated on third-party on-site inspections, in addition to suggestions from earlier clients. If a provider is verified, you will see a widget on the left-side of any product web page that appears one thing like this: 


Searching for these verification badges is an efficient first step to assessing whether or not a provider is able to ship for you. Right here, you are capable of see how lengthy a provider has been verified, the variety of in-person inspections, response occasions, and buyer satisfaction charges. 

As well as, Alibaba contains provider specialty tags utilized to suppliers primarily based on their efficiency. Within the instance above, you may see two tags; Provider Evaluation Procedures (indicating the provider has been assessed for high quality management) and Minor Customization (indicating the provider provides customized packaging for some merchandise). 

Further specialty tags could also be added for environmental compliance, a excessive variety of repeat clients, quick delivery occasions, and extra. 

2. Ask questions and observe up. As you start narrowing down suppliers, ensure to ask numerous questions on their enterprise and their merchandise. Ask for a duplicate of their enterprise license Ask for a telephone quantity—and truly name it. Have a convention name along with your contact. Ask for photographs of the manufacturing unit and pattern merchandise.

Be happy to ask for no matter makes you are feeling extra comfy doing enterprise with somebody a world away. It wouldn’t be loopy so that you can even ask your manufacturing unit contact to take a photograph of themselves on the manufacturing unit ground holding up the present day’s newspaper and one in all their merchandise. 

3. Get samples. It ought to go with out saying that earlier than you make investments any important sum of money into stock it’s essential get samples to verify and confirm high quality. Be happy even to contact them by way of one other (fictitious) identify and e-mail and get an extra pattern so you may evaluate.

4. Be ready to stroll away. Lastly, if one thing is simply too good to be true, it often is. Be cautious of pricing or guarantees that don’t appear proper or which can be means off from different suppliers you’ve contacted. At all times be keen to stroll away from a deal if one thing doesn’t really feel proper.

If you happen to’re in search of new Alibaba suppliers, ensure to obtain WeChat. You possibly can then discuss with potential suppliers in actual time and get a greater sense of what the working relationship will probably be like on your dropshipping retailer. 

What’s the distinction between Alibaba and AliExpress?

Alibaba and AliExpress are each Chinese language-based on-line marketplaces made up of third-party sellers. The large distinction between Alibaba and AliExpress is: 

  • Alibaba is for business-to-business transactions.
  • AliExpress is open to customers.

Whereas Alibaba caters to giant and small companies buying bulk wholesale orders, AliExpress gives dropshipping merchandise at retail costs to anybody, with no minimal order necessities. With Alibaba, you purchase straight from the producer and may simply personal label with customized designs or logos.

AliExpress gadgets are often pre-made, so there are restricted customization choices, and sometimes are costlier.

Sellers on AliExpress additionally have a tendency to supply ePacket delivery, which may also help your ecommerce retailer ship high-quality, validated merchandise to clients, quicker. Alibaba delivery time is usually longer.

If you happen to’re working an ecommerce enterprise and need to rapidly supply AliExpress merchandise moderately than work with wholesalers, join a Shopify storefront with a dropshipping app. It’ll assist automate your dropshipping service to unlock time (so you may promote extra) and enhance revenue margins.

Professionals and cons of Alibaba dropshipping



  • Decrease manufacturing prices
  • Suppliers are (usually) far more open to working with small companies and offering smaller portions
  • Excessive variety of suppliers to select from
  • For a lot of merchandise, Asia is likely to be the one place that produces the merchandise
  • One-stop providers like Alibaba have made it very straightforward to navigate and buy from suppliers

Together with the benefits of sourcing wholesale from abroad suppliers additionally comes a number of disadvantages that retailer homeowners ought to be equally conscious of. 


  • Perceived decrease high quality and unsafe from clients
  • (Often) decrease manufacturing and labor requirements
  • Virtually no mental property safety
  • Language and communication barrier might be tough to beat
  • Tough/expensive to confirm producer and go to on website
  • Longer delivery time
  • Product importing and customs clearance
  • Decrease degree of fee safety and recourse

Change into an Alibaba dropshipper and safely supply merchandise

Shopping for wholesale items by way of Alibaba from a protected and dependable provider on your dropshipping area of interest is likely to be a brand new expertise but additionally generally is a rewarding one. With some fundamental data and customary safeguards, it may be a protected and worthwhile enterprise mannequin on your on-line retailer. At all times do your due diligence, and if a deal feels too good to be true, be prepared and keen to stroll away. There are 100 different suppliers yow will discover in only a few clicks.

Glad sourcing!

Illustration by Pete Ryan

Alibaba Dropshipping FAQ

Does Alibaba do dropshipping?

Alibaba helps you supply merchandise from producers, however you may’t robotically fulfill orders by way of Alibaba. You possibly can work out a cope with a selected provider you discover within the market, otherwise you’ll need to rent an order success service to dropship merchandise from Alibaba.

Can anybody order by way of Alibaba?

Sure, anybody can order by way of Alibaba, whether or not they’re a person or an organization. Alibaba allows you to order bulk merchandise from all kinds of manufactures. 

Are you able to get scammed on Alibaba?

There’s a risk you could get scammed from a provider on Alibaba, much like different marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. You’ll need to take precautions when vetting Alibaba suppliers to keep away from getting scammed on Alibaba.

Which is best for dropshipping: Alibaba or AliExpress?

The merchandise you determine to promote dictates which market is best for dropshipping. If you need wholesale or customized white-label items, Alibaba is a greater possibility. If you wish to dropship ready-made merchandise and not using a minimal order, AliExpress dropshipping could also be higher for you. 

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