How To Buy From Alibaba Safely? From Newbie To Expert

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How many times have you heard about Alibaba? Why is it the first choice for many importers? One of the reasons is that they can easily source suppliers online and reach out to overseas suppliers just a click away. 

If you are new to the import business and wonder how to source safely and effectively via Alibaba? Don’t worry, this guide is specifically for you.

By reading this article, you will fully understand how to use Alibaba and learn to find the right suppliers for yourself.

What Is Alibaba?

As a part of Alibaba Group, is a leading wholesale platform with the world’s largest supplier directory, most of whom are Chinese. Alibaba works like an online trade show, with the most comprehensive product types. Many global businesses source from Alibaba at cheap prices, and then sell on Amazon, eBay, or other e-commerce sites.

What Is The General Usage Process Of Alibaba?

Alibaba’s general usage process involves several key steps. First, users create an account on Alibaba’s platform, which grants them access to a vast directory of suppliers and products. Next, users can search for products or suppliers using various filters to narrow down their options.

After finding potential suppliers, users can contact them directly through the platform to inquire about products, negotiate prices, and discuss customization options. Alibaba also offers secure payment methods and logistics services to facilitate smooth transactions and shipments. This streamlined process makes Alibaba a convenient and reliable platform for sourcing products from global suppliers.

The Ways To Search Suppliers And 3 Key Points To Select Suppliers.

As you noticed, there are thousands of suppliers on Alibaba. You can search for suppliers by typing in keywords like product names in the search bar. Then, review supplier info and click the “Contact Supplier” button to send inquiries to those looking good for further selection.

Another method is using RFQ (Request for Quotation). This way, you post a buying request and wait for suppliers’ responses. This is more efficient if you do not want to spend hours developing a long list of suppliers.

No matter which method you use, you should pay attention to the following three key points:

Know That Verified Suppliers Are Essentially Paid Members On Alibaba.

With only a few exceptions among free members, the majority of suppliers on Alibaba are Verified Suppliers, since Gold Supplier membership has been offline since September 2021. Suppliers verified by a third-party agency have to pay more for being verified members. But this does not mean verified suppliers are reliable. Further contact is necessary to evaluate suppliers.

Determine Whether You Should Collaborate With A Trading Company Or Directly With A Factory.

Many buyers prefer going directly to factories for the lowest prices. They spend lots of time searching on Alibaba for factories. However, in some cases, working directly with a trading company is more appropriate. Here are two scenarios where this applies:

For most startups and small-budget businesses ordering a small quantity, it’s best to approach trading companies. They can work well with you, especially when customizing a product in 3-5 different colors or sizes. In comparison, most factories are reluctant, Because time is also a cost.

Choose a trading company when purchasing or customizing many different types and styles of clothing. Typically, a factory produces only a few fixed types. If you need a wide variety, you might have to work with a dozen or more factories, which can be too troublesome. Working directly with a trading company, although potentially more expensive, is more convenient.

If your purchasing needs do not fit the two scenarios mentioned above, then a factory is definitely a good choice for you. Direct contact with a factory not only has advantages in price but also in delivery time.

Assess Supplier Professionalism By Their Product Portfolios And Replies.

Browsing the supplier product category to initially judge whether he is professional in your desired product. Suppose you get a good wine tumbler quote after using RFQ, but the supplier’s product portfolio is as below. It’s clear that wine tumblers are not his area of strength, doubting his capacity to fulfill your order. You need to look for other suppliers.


Look at how suppliers reply to your inquiries and whether they get back promptly. Suppose your wine tumbler inquiry email includes product cost, packaging, shipping cost, etc. Good suppliers can clarify all your concerns clearly and logically, and maybe sometimes propose suggestions for your project. However, a poor reply will generally deliver nothing, due to a lack of product knowledge and industry experience.


Why Does The Same Factory Have Different MOQ For Different Products?

Actually, the MOQ varies based on the product type, product value, and customization complexity.

Typically, “Ready to Ship” products have no MOQ restrictions. For custom products, suppliers are more flexible with lower MOQs for high-value goods than low-value items like toilet paper. Additionally, simple customization such as embroidering on T-shirts, 100-200 pieces are acceptable. The more complex a customized product is, the higher the MOQ tends to be.

If customizing such products as seamless underwear, the custom MOQ is also high as a production line is always accompanied by thousands of pieces. Producing several hundred units will make suppliers bear losses.

In case your order quantity is slightly below the MOQ, you can find other suppliers. Some may be willing to lower their MOQ to achieve cooperation, especially if this is your first order.

Assessing Commitment And Quality Through Sampling

When requesting samples, it’s an opportunity to evaluate the suppliers’ commitment and professionalism. A supplier eager to engage typically demonstrates a high degree of dedication, which is vital for intricate custom designs or creating new products from scratch. Challenges may arise during various phases, and having suppliers ready to address these issues can alleviate many worries.

Additionally, receiving samples allows you to physically inspect the fabric quality and garment construction, offering a more tangible understanding than images or videos. Based on your budget and specifications, you can select the most suitable supplier for a pilot order. It’s wise to have 1-2 backup suppliers to mitigate risks in the production process.

Choose Trade Assurance And Pay On Alibaba Safey.

No matter the large or small orders, choosing Alibaba trade assurance service can make your Alibaba purchases safer.

How Does Trade Assurance Work?

Trade assurance is a free service offered by Alibaba to protect buyers and enhance security when the quality falls short of expectation or the supplier fails to ship on time as agreed. It means you can open a dispute and ask for a refund if either of the two situations happens.

But getting refunded is not as easy or quick as that on Amazon. This process is more complex & time-consuming. You have to upload sufficient evidence. Only with strong evidence submitted by buyers and sellers can Alibaba make a fair judgment as a third party.

Remember to communicate with suppliers via email, though there are other channels such as “Chat Now” on the Alibaba website, WeChat, WhatsApp, etc. For any important issues related to your order, it is best to communicate via email. These emails can be documented and serve as records for future reference and evidence in case of any disputes.

How To Pay Safely?

The first coming to our mind is the widely used Paypal. It is safe, as you can apply for a refund when facing such issues as poor quality. But to pay via Paypal, you need to create an order without trade assurance. Usually, PayPal is suggested for an order value less than $500. Most Chinese suppliers won’t accept it for large orders, for fear of getting cheated, due to 180-day refund protection.

For trade assurance orders, you have to pay on Alibaba using 5 different methods:

  • Online Bank Payment (for large orders)
  • Credit card (Visa, Master Card)
  • Telegraphic Transfer (T/T)
  • Western Union
  • Pay Later

Any offline methods cannot protect your payment and you’re likely to get scammed.

Alibaba Shipping Or Freight Forwarder To Ship Your Cargo

Alibaba has its own logistics platform, powered by Freightos since mid-2020 through collaborations. You can enter Alibaba Logistics to get and compare shipping quotes.

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Fill out the required information, such as places of origin & destination, cargo type, etc. Regarding the load info of carton dimensions plus quantities and gross weight, ask your supplier to get data. 

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Also, you need to choose freight forwarders and shipping methods. Then the shipping freight is calculated by the Alibaba platform.

Freight forwarders, also known as forwarding agents, are responsible for delivering goods from the supplier to you. They work with shipping companies, airlines, etc., and can get agent prices, lower than the prices you directly contact these companies.

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Typically, Express is expensive but much faster than “ocean shipping to the port + local truck delivery”. Delivery time is closely related to the shipping methods you choose. The quicker it is, the more you pay for shipping.

In addition, asking suppliers for freight forwarders to arrange shipments is common and preferred by many importers. Usually, suppliers have cooperative freight forwarders. This will be much easier than sifting through millions of forwarders on your own.

Please note: if you decide to use the supplier’s forwarder, usually you can inquire CIF price; if you already have your forwarder, remember to ask the supplier to quote you the FOB price. Read our CIF vs FOB to know their difference.

As a professional apparel manufacturer, Modaknits can meet your needs for any mode of logistics services when you collaborate with us.

Inspect Alibaba Product Quality: Use 3rd-Party Services Or Self-Search

The last step before shipping is to inspect the product’s quality. If you find out the quality problems after receiving the goods, it will be too late. It is not as simple as buying a bad product in a store and asking for a refund or a new one.

On the Alibaba inspection service page, you can only choose from 3 third-party service providers: BVChina Certification & Inspection Group, and SGS. Alibaba provides discounts on inspection fees, making it cheaper than the market price.

In addition, you can also find many other 3rd-party inspection companies, such as V-trustQIMA, etc. Usually, the inspection costs $200-300 per person a day. 

Either Alibaba 3rd-party inspection services providers or others, normally adopt AQL sampling inspection. But in most cases, the amount they check is small, and not really in strict accordance with AQL standards. Only when many problems are found during the inspection will they increase the quantity, in order to make the quality inspection report look real.

Issuing the inspection report to tell you whether the result is Fail or Pass. Then the service is completed. If it’s “Fail”, you need to negotiate with the supplier to modify defective products or redo them.

With 26 years of experience in foreign trade as an apparel manufacturer, Modaknits can also assist with quality inspections, typically at no extra cost, depending on our clients’ needs. Should there be any quality issues, clients can easily request rework from us.


Embarking on Alibaba offers a unique journey from novice to expert in the apparel industry. This guide demystifies selecting suppliers, managing MOQs, and ensuring quality, aiming for successful partnerships and informed buying decisions.

Leveraging Alibaba’s logistics, Trade Assurance, and third-party inspections safeguards interests and promotes sustainable business growth. These tools are not just protective measures but pathways to innovation in your fashion endeavors.

As an experienced knitwear manufacturer, JF Apparel,We are pleased that this article can assist readers or clients in need, hoping everyone can gain a more comprehensive understanding of Alibaba and foreign trade through it, thus avoiding scams.

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