Dropshipping is a fantastic way for an ecommerce business owner to get started since it doesn't require any upfront inventory investment.
However, the key to success with dropshipping depends on finding suppliers that can reliably fulfill orders without fail.
This article will walk you through the steps on how to find quality dropshipping suppliers on Alibaba for your store in 2023.
What is Alibaba?
You may have likely heard of AliExpress if you're done your homework on dropshipping. Alibaba is a sister company of AliExpress that operates a little differently.
The largest difference between the two being Alibaba is focused on business-to-business (B2B) commerce, whereas AliExpres is more for business-to-consumer (B2C) commerce.
This means that Alibaba suppliers are typically further up the supply chain and offer better prices than suppliers elsewhere.
Can you do dropshipping with Alibaba?
Alibaba suppliers used to generally apply minimum order quantities (MOQ), meaning you would have to buy a minimum amount of products before they will do business with you. By doing so, the supplier ensures business continuity.
If you're interested in learning more about the question if you can do dropshipping with Alibaba, check out our other article here!
Plus, you can learn how to import products from Alibaba to Shopify here.
Pros of dropshipping with Alibaba
There are numerous benefits in using Alibaba; we've put together a few of them here:
- Cheaper product costs. With Alibaba, you will be buying further up the supply chain, cutting out unnecessary middle persons. This will give you much greater flexibility on your profit margins.
- Flexible suppliers. The MOQ is not set in stone with many suppliers, reach out to them, and you will find a great deal of flexibility with most.
- So many suppliers to choose from. Alibaba has thousands of sellers. This means for any product; you will have many sellers to compare from.
- Buying at the source. When dropshipping from Alibaba, you are buying either from the manufacturer or their direct distributor.
Cons of dropshipping with Alibaba
While there are numerous benefits to dropshipping with Alibaba, there are also quite a few problems:
- Long delivery times. As most of the suppliers will be based in China, your customers will be in for a long wait for the orders.
- Lower quality products. Dropshipped products from China come with a bad rap on product quality. It's vital to ask for samples before using them.
- Communicational barriers. Speaking to suppliers from China causes both language barriers and difficult time zones to most.
- Difficult to verify the supplier. Because Alibaba has thousands of sellers, sifting through them to separate the good from the bad can be tedious work.
You can read more here about the pros and cons of dropshipping with Alibaba.
Is it safe to dropship using Alibaba?
Alibaba is an established and very reputable company that has been around since 1999.
So providing you're always operating within their platform, you have nothing to worry about.
All retailers on Alibaba are vetted before trading on their platform, and all of this information is compiled on the seller's profile page.
Alibaba also offers numerous payment methods, so you can choose the one you feel most comfortable with.
Paypal is the most favored payment method as they offer a greater level of buyer confidence; this is offered on most stores on Alibaba's platform.
6 Tips to find the best Alibaba dropshipping suppliers
So, we've talked a little about Alibaba suppliers and the pros and cons of using them for dropshipping.
Let's now delve into sourcing the best suppliers on Alibaba and what to look out for.
1. Using the Alibaba dropshipping center
The new dropshipping center has made finding suppliers who facilitate dropshipping so much easier by shortlisting them in one place.
As shown above, all products within Alibaba's dropshipping have a MOQ of one. One further point to consider is the shipping fee, which in some cases is more than the product itself.
As not all suppliers will facilitate dropshipping, this platform breaks down numerous barriers by helping you search for your product and shortlist the suppliers selling them.
Plus, there are many Alibaba dropshipping connections apps now as well!
2. Sellers with great feedback
A good way to find sellers is by taking a look at their store's reviews. This reveals a great deal of useful information on the supplier's profile page.
There are three criteria by which the supplier will be reviewed, supplier service, on-time shipment, and product quality. As you can see from the above, ratings around 4 stars are somewhat acceptable.
Pay extra close attention to the 1-star reviews. They offer a great deal of insight into ongoing issues that the supplier may be having, such as slow delivery or poor product quality.
3. Good on-time delivery record
Looking into the on-time delivery record will save you many headaches further on. This will indicate well the supplier sticks to their promised delivery time.
If you are not convinced, there's no harm in asking the supplier for tracking numbers for previously completed deliveries to the countries you want to dropship to.
It could well be that they are experiences issues in delivery to a selected few countries, hampering their otherwise good on-time delivery record.
4. Comparing prices between suppliers
Another good point to gauge your suppliers on is, of course, pricing.
The price listed on the product page is not necessarily going to be the final price. Shipping, packaging, and branding are all added costs that you must consider, not just the product.
It's crucial to get the bottom figure quotes from all suppliers and then compare them against one another. As shown above, the quotes are usually valid for a fixed period.
If you are buying a MOQ, the supplier may be prepared to drop the price a little in the hope of business continuity, but you will have to ask for this.
5. Good communication
Communicational barriers can be a real headache if your supplier doesn't understand English. Almost all of the suppliers on Alibaba are based in China, and not all of them will speak English very well.
Of course, when asking questions, it helps to be clear and concise. You should also exercise a little patience and be prepared to re-phrase your questions.
If communication is a real problem, and after a few attempts, you have got nowhere, then it's probably best to give this supplier a pass. This will only lead to problems further on when you have any more technical questions.
6. Branded products & packaging
Branding is cool; it makes you stand out from your competitors and polishes up your business's identity. Why wouldn't you want branding?
One of the main reasons not to would be the cost involved in doing so.
Most Alibaba suppliers will offer branded products, and their costs are not listed on the product page. The cost of branded products and packing will usually involve an upfront fee and even an added cost per unit. You will likely need to commit to a MOQ also.
After all, the supplier doesn't want to be stuck holding a product with your company's logo on it, as they can't resell it should you not be able to.
If you are interested in branded products and packaging, speak to your shortlisted suppliers and find out what they have to offer as well as the costs involved.
Are you ready to dropship using Alibaba?
In this article, we first took a look at what Alibaba is and how it works. We learned that it is very well suited for suppliers to businesses rather than to the individual.
We soon realized that many suppliers have a minimum order quantity (MOQ) upon looking on the platform.
The recently introduced Alibaba dropshipping center was a perfect solution for people looking for suppliers more dropshipping-orientated; some even had a MOQ of one.
Dropshipping with Alibaba comes with a lot of benefits, such as great prices and supplier flexibility. However, it also comes with a few problems, such as slow delivery times and communicational barriers.
Finally, we took a look at how to find the best Alibaba suppliers. A good on-time delivery record and customer feedback is always a good indication that supplier knows what they are doing.
Here's a quick overview to save for later:
Some suppliers offer branded products and packaging, but this and other expenses are why you need to get a final quote from the supplier, as this isn't always the price initially listed on the product page.
So, what do you think?
Is Alibaba a good fit for you? Let us know in the comments below!