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How to operate alibaba sourcing?

what is alibaba sourcing?

Alibaba sourcing means the process for people search the products or develop the suppliers, and then make the deal through Alibaba marketplace.

No matter the business is big or small, sourcing from alibaba is getting more convenient in nowdays. Thus more and more people make their orders online through Alibaba from all over the world.

In this article, we`ll describe how to make the Alibaba sourcing to help those who are not familiar it.

We will follow the steps below to show you how to make Alibaba sourcing

  1.  How to source suppliers on Alibaba
  2. How to source producs through Alibaba
  3. How to verify the suppliers
  4. How to communicate with the suppliers
  5. How to make a deal through Alibaba
  6. How to arrange the shipment

1. How do you source manufacturers on alibaba?

Finding a supplier on alibaba is the first but important step of sourcing, specially a right supplier. A suitable supplier not only saves time and money in communication, but also makes people feel good.

To source the right manufacturers, imput your product keywords to the search bar of the Alibaba homepage. Then select the option as “manufacturers”, not “products”.

alibaa manufacturer sourcing

There will be alibaba suplliers list to show you with options. At this time, you can choose the right supplier carefully.

alibaba supplier list

Some people may have questions as "Are all alibaba suppliers from China?"

NO. Alibaba accepts suppliers from any country, so this supplier list includes not only Chinese suppliers, but also suppliers from other countries. What you should do in next is to check the China option if you just want the Chinese suppliers.

china supplier

Besides the manufacturer sourcing on alibaba, you can also source products on alibaba directly. We`ll show you how to do it right away.

2. how to source products on alibaba?

Sourcing products from alibaba is similar as manufacturer sourcing, but more options.
There are multiple approaches to search for the products on alibaba.

  • Search bar
  • Browse the categories
  • Send RFQ
  • Search for Image

Now we`ll show you a real case of Jean’s inquiry to help you understand better how Alibaba works.

Search bar

This is the way search directly, which all you need to do is just input the keywords to the search bar and select the option as “products”, and then thousands of products will appear on the screen in a second. You can see the price range from each supplier, select those whose price range is acceptable, then send out inquiries.

Here is the steps of how to work:

Step1: Input the keywords on the search bar of the main page, select the option as “Products”

alibaba product sourcing

Step2: Filter the search results.

Here many options to filter the search results such as “Supplier Types”, “Product Types”, “Supplier Country/Region”, Management Certification”, “Product Certification”, and other options.

Choose the products you like after all the filters settled down.

filter the search results

Step3: Contact suppliers.

Send inquiry to the supplier by the “Contact Supplier” button once you select the right product.

Also you can chat with the supplier online by click the “messenger”. Mostly there is a seller online to reply you sooner or later.

contact suppliers

Once you get in touch with the suppliers, you can take a deep communication with them for the business. You can also show your demands for the products, negotiate the price, or make clear the payments.


Searching products from the Categories is an easy way that you no need input any words by just click.

But first of all, you need to know which category the product you’re looking for is belongs to. For example, “Jeans” belongs to the “Apparel”, so you need to click “Apparel” on the main page of on the left side, and then choose a more specific category like “Men`s Jeans” or any other category.

Step 1: Choose the right Categories

choose cagegory

Step 2: Browse the results

They will show you thousands of results after you click “Men`s Jeans”. Here no more options to filter the result, what you can do is to browse one by one until you’re satisfied.

browse the results

Step 3: Contact Suppliers
This will be the same way to send out inquiry to suppliers or chat online with them.

Send RFQ

RFQ(Request for Quotation) is a simple way that you tell millions of the suppliers what you need.

What you should do is just to fill out a form of product information and click “Submit”. The Alibaba system will send your purchase request to thousands of potential suppliers.

Step1: Go to Alibaba RFQ page:

Step2: Go to the RFQ form page by click “Submit RFQ”

Step3: Complete the form and submit RFQ, waitting for the replies from suppliers

send RFQ

Step4: check the quotations in the message center of RFQ dashboard

Step5: select 3-5 good suppliers for further communication

Search for Image

Search for Image is the most easy way on alibaba products sourcing. Because you just need to upload a photo to the search bar, then waitting for the result. The search engine will return to you all the products similar as your photo or the same as your image.

See our article “Image search on B2B platform” to learn more about it.

search by image

The results of these 4 methods to source products on alibaba are very clear.

Keywords on the Search bar, browse the categories and search for image are need to spend hours reviewing the products and supplier information. You need to send out the inquiry one by one and then wait for the reply to 1-2 days. If you have a lot of products to source, there will be a very long time job.

While with RFQ, just within a few minutes to fill out the form, then send out. You may get lots of quotations from multiple suppliers in 10 minutes. It will save your time to select the right supplier.

In my opinion, Keywords on search bar plus special conditions or Browse the categories are suitable for the bulk of professional acquisition. You need to spend a long time to select a good supplier and make safety business in the beginning.

If you are new to an industry with small business and do not want to spend hours developing a long list of suppliers, you`ll be suggested to use Alibaba RFQ for more efficient results.

Or you turn to a sourcing agent for help if there are too many difficulties.

3. how to verify alibaba supplier?

We always see the question “Can I trust suppliers on Alibaba?” on the internet.

It’s hard to say in a word. Not all the people can be trusted in anywhere.

Alibaba is a huge online business platform with thousands of suppliers, including factories, middlemen, small wholesalers, and retailers. Some of them are real businessmen, and also some cheaters. If you encounter a bad supplier, shoddy, short quantity, you will lose money and your customers; and if you are unlucky to encounter a swindler, then the products, the money are finished.

So when you find the right product, or the right potential supplier, the next step is to verify that these suppliers are reliable or not.

Then what is verified mean on alibaba?

The verified means the supplier already inspected, assessed and verified by an independent third-party institution to protect the business safe.

“To qualify as a Verified Supplier, a supplier’s company profile, production capabilities, products and process controls have to be inspected, assessed and verified by independent third party institutions to assure reputable and consistent expertise on”

Here are some points to check the alibaba verified suppliers

1- Check supplier profiles for verification badges

As you notice from the search results, there are different types of suppliers on Alibaba, such as Gold Supplier, Verified Supplier, Trade Assurance Supplier, etc.

check supplier profiles

Once you confirmed the potential suppliers, go to their profile pages to verify their legitimacy. Look for profile badges to make sure you’re dealing with a verified supplier.

The A&V Check indicates that the supplier has passed authentication and verification inspection by Alibaba and a third-party verification service.

av check on alibaba

The Onsite Check verifies that the premises of suppliers based in China have been checked by Alibaba staff to ensure onsite operations exist.

onsite check

The Assessed Supplier Check notes that the supplier has been verified by a third-party service.

The Assessed Supplier Check

2- Try to search the complaints of the supplier

In addition to checking the profile badges, you can check the “Buyer Reviews” to see what the buyers commented about the products or the supplier.

the complaints

In addition to the official certification, you can also check some other aspects through the search engine.
For example, try to search online (Google, Bing, or others) for comments or complaints about the supplier, or cross-reference the contact information provided on their Alibaba profile with a Google search.

Once the supplier is a real reliable factory or company after verify, then you can go to the next step to communicate with them.

4. how to communicate with supplier on Alibaba?

After selecting the right suppliers, you should make a deep communication with them. As we showed you there are two ways to get in touch with the suppliers: “Contact Supplier” and “Messenger”.

No matter which way you use, we are not just “say hello” to the suppliers. What we want to do is to communicate and get more comprehensive information in order to be in an advantageous position in the transaction.

Then What should be negoiated with the supplier?

There are a few important questions to consider:

  • Minimum Order Quantities (MOQ)

Unlike other e-commerce platforms such as Aliexpress, Amazon, or eBay, where you can purchase a single item, Alibaba is like an online trade show, where you can find thousands of suppliers at the same time across various industries. Most of the products on Alibaba have a MOQ requirement. But it is not fixed. The MOQ is negotiable for some of the suppliers.

  • Samples

Samples are important in international business. Because you just see the picture of the product from the website. So you need the samples to check the quality and design of the products. And you also need the samples to inspect for quality in the bulk order. If the sample isn`t satisfied, then forget the supplier.

Mostly, if the supplier feels you are a serious buyer, they will offer samples for free(not a big amount). Sometimes the supplier gets too many sample requests, they will charge as the retail price.

  • Price

Price is the most sensitive issue in a business.

Many times on Alibaba they will give you a range (Example: $30-$70 per unit), but you’ll want to know exactly how much each unit will cost. Bargaining is an essential process in a business. Don’t be shy, just speak out for specifics and an acceptable price.

  • Production time

You need to know exactly how long it will take for your order from the beginning to the end. This should be made clear before starting the business, because sometimes the supplier may delay delivery after got too many orders.

  • Payment terms

Many suppliers will require new businesses to pay for the full order upfront. This is important to know since inventory is a major cost for eCommerce startups. But you can negotiate your payment currency and preferred payment method with the supplier according to the actual situation.

In your inquiry message, you should include all these factors above. These conditions are the important elements of the business, it can help you to avoid disputes in the future.

Once all the conditions are clear after you communicated with the supplier, it comes to the transaction step.

5. how to complete the transaction on Alibaba?

No matter the business is big or small, safety is paramount. When you negotiate a payment term and a payment method with the supplier, be sure to settle on a low-risk option.

The payment term is usually 30% deposit and 70% balance against the bill. This will be depends on the communication with the supplier.

On Alibaba, you can place a normal order or create a trade assurance order.

The “normal order” means the order without trade assurance protection on Alibaba.

The payment methods for alibaba normal order including Paypal (for a small amount) or other third-party escrow services, T/T(telegraphic transfer), and L/C(Letter of credit). These payment methods are beyond the protection of Alibaba. They can’t protect your money safe in the event of a trade dispute. This is like order offline.
Usually, Paypal is suggested for an order value of less than $500 on alibaba. Most of the Chinese suppliers on alibaba are accept the Paypal payment for sample charging. They`ll not accept Paypal for large orders, for fear of getting cheated.

The “Trade Assurance” is a free service offered by Alibaba to protect the buyers.

To place a safer order, you can create a Trade Assurance order on Alibaba. If some events happened like the quality falls, short of quantity, delay delivery, or other issues, then you can open a dispute and ask for a refund by uploading sufficient evidence.

You have to pay through the Alibaba platform according to a Trade Assurance Order. There are 5 options of alibaba payment to pay the order: Online Bank Payment, Credit Card (Visa, Master Card), T/T(telegraphic transfer), L/C(Letter of credit), Western Union, and Pay Later. There cannot pay via Paypal or other offline methods such as Money Gram, otherwise, your payment is not protected.

Note: The suppliers only located in China mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are eligible to use their secure payment service.

alibaba trade assurance

6. how to ship the orders on Alibaba?

After the long tedious process of purchasing products, and the goods produced successfully, finally we come to the last vital step – shipping the products.

There are 3 main modes of transport in international trade.

  • Ocean transport:

Ocean transport is the most important mode of transport in international trade. The character of Ocean transport is a large capacity.

Unlike the trains by rail and the vans by road restrictions, marine transport can use the natural channel of the sea. But it is vulnerable to climatic and natural conditions, the duration of the voyage is uncertain and the risks are high. Besides, the speed of ocean transport is relatively slow.

  • Rail Transport:

Rail transport is the second main means of transport in the modern transport industry. Even the goods which are imported and exported, are also transported mostly by rail for the concentration and dispersion.

The railway is the main artery of the national economy. It has the following characteristics compared with other transportation modes: The accuracy and continuity of railway transportation are strong, and it is hardly affected by the climate.

  • Air Transport:

Air Transport is a modern way of transport. It is fast, high quality of delivery, and is not limited by ground conditions.

Therefore, it is most suitable for the transportation of urgently needed materials, fresh commodities, precision instruments, and valuables. Of course, it’s also the most expensive way of transport.

To figure out which type of transportation works best, you may ask these questions by yourself.

Which way is suitable to ship for your goods?
What documents should you prepare for custom clearance?
How much should you pay for the shipping?

Here is the way to find out the answers on Alibaba shipping service. Alibaba`s Freight Logistics resource helps the supplier determine and pay the costs of transporting goods internationally.
In the resouce page, You can compare the rates for different shipping options and choose the best and economical way by yourself.

alibaba shipping service

There is another way you can find out the alibaba shipping cost, that is get a freight forwarder.

A freight forwarder is a company specialize in arranging storage and shipment on behalf of its shippers. It usually provides a full range of services such as preparing the documents(custom broker paper, PL, Invoice), warehousing, booking cargo space, negotiating freight charges, and cargo insurance, etc.

Search it on Google or Bing, by the keywords”alibaba delivery”, will get plenty of the results.
You can leave all these troubles to the freight forwarder or cargo agent once you get in touch with them. They will give a perfect solution for your products shipping if they professional enough.

Of course, there is an easier way that you can also leave the headache to your suppliers, let them settle down the problems with the cargo agent, then you pay the supplier the cost of alibaba delivery. As most of the alibaba suppliers have long-term forwarders on their own who will handle your shipments professionally, they know alibaba shipping cost more than others. So maybe you can get a better price.


Now we understand the process of Alibaba sourcing is like this:

  • Search the suppliers/products by multi-ways
  • Choose the Best-matched Supplier
  • Communicate with the supplier, negotiate for Best Price
  • Make a safe transaction
  • Find a good freight forwarder to deliver the products
  • Get the products at your destination

Of course, there will many unexpected problems in the actual operation. You can leave the message of you encountered problems on alibaba sourcing, let`s discuss together.

Or you may need a sourcing agent to handle all the sourcing projects in China. Then just contact us to get a quotation!

Goalrunning is a Sourcing Agent located in Guangzhou, which offer one-stop solution of sourcing service.