Alibaba: Anyone Have Any Experience With The Platform?

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One of the things I'm keen to investigate is the prospect of taking stock of about 60 items so to sell on a Shopify store and sourcing them from Alibaba. These are items that I know sell well (*cough* based on what former employer was selling *cough*) but I've zero experience of purchasing having been very much on the mar-comms team.

Are there:
  • any flags to look out for to avoid being scammed?
  • any standard ways to verify a seller is legit?
  • any methods to ensure the quality is as expected?
While I've heard first hand some really good things about the platform I've also heard it's easy to get scammed and either not receive goods or receive total dog shit.

Also, I know they have a method of buying which gives you a little more protection should you get bad service - has anyone experienced using this?
 
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I've never had any success with Alibaba, always getting scammed, usually the quality of the sample was significantly better than the main order etc etc.

From what I hear if you're making a large order then boots on the ground is a must.
 
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eliquid

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I managed Alibaba's PPC ad accounts for a while.

The company is sloppy as hell. While I know this doesn't answer your question about buying and selling, the internal company was very sloppy and had no clue what they were doing corporate side. Everyone runs around like a chicken with its head cut off. I was very surprised by this considering everything I heard about them prior.

I'm sure that shit trickles down in other ways, like how they verify their sellers....

I've also bought on Alibaba and Aliexpress.

You are more likely to get "scammed" in some way AT SOME TIME with Alibaba.. either in quality or not getting product. I didn't say all the time, but you will at some point for sure. Those ratings can be gamed easily on Alibaba.

I've had a lot more success and good experiences on AliExpress. I am not sure what makes the 2 so different, but I typically get better results from the limited vendors on AliExpress than I do on Alibaba as a buyer.
 
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Brother in law tried Alibaba and got taken for a few thousand.

First couple of small orders were great, good product at a fair price. Feeling confident he put in a larger order and that's when they went quiet.

Last I'd heard he'd raised a ticket with Alibaba support but they've also ghosted him.
 
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The company is sloppy as hell. While I know this doesn't answer your question about buying and selling, the internal company was very sloppy and had no clue what they were doing corporate side. Everyone runs around like a chicken with its head cut off. I was very surprised by this considering everything I heard about them prior.
I think this is enough for me to stay away from the platform. I'm sure that there are folks getting it to work but as alternative suppliers are available albeit at a slightly higher cost then there's no doubt I'm not ready for this platform yet.
 

EyesExist

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I'm had great fortune wtih alibaba.
Now almost 2 years rolling.
However, I do not place orders of 5 figures with them. 60 products sounds like you're going to be aiming high.
AliBaba's Been great for me.

AliExpress = super slow.................. drop-shipping doom .. It will get your paypal/ebay/whatever shut down in time ordering 1 by 1
 

becool

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One of the things I'm keen to investigate is the prospect of taking stock of about 60 items so to sell on a Shopify store and sourcing them from Alibaba. These are items that I know sell well (*cough* based on what former employer was selling *cough*) but I've zero experience of purchasing having been very much on the mar-comms team.

Are there:
  • any flags to look out for to avoid being scammed?
  • any standard ways to verify a seller is legit?
  • any methods to ensure the quality is as expected?
While I've heard first hand some really good things about the platform I've also heard it's easy to get scammed and either not receive goods or receive total dog shit.

Also, I know they have a method of buying which gives you a little more protection should you get bad service - has anyone experienced using this?
My experience is pre-Alibaba, so take it with a grain of salt, as the marketplace may have changed. Years ago, vetting and negotiating directly with factories (in my niche at the time) worked out for me.

Meeting with whoever you're working with is also helpful, but this only makes sense if you're dealing with significant sums. Seeing the factory firsthand and speaking with the proprietors is huge and inspires confidence and legitimacy. When you travel overseas for this purpose, you generally don't visit one factory. You visit several. I know that may not be fiscally viable, though.

In this landscape, if it were me (and assuming it makes monetary sense) I'd hedge my bets by spreading my 60 item inventory across multiple suppliers. In all probability, several of those 60 items are going to be produced in the same factories. You just wont know it initially.

Realize though (based on my experience) that at the outset, inventory usually won't be your limiting factor. Rather, users/clients/buyers will be. So if you don't have the perfect suppliers/factories lined up, you'll have a bit of time to sort it out. (I hope that you have the reverse problem, though - an obnoxious number of users/clients/buyers)
 
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Have ordered around $100k on alibaba at this point--most of that spent on a handful of suppliers i've established long-term relationships with. The main difficulty when starting is just working with a long list of potential suppliers/manufacturers after submitting an RFQ (request for quotation that you can submit on their site--it's very intuitive but make sure you include every single last detail you can think of/want for your item and pictures/dimensions go a long way).

But even then, I hired someone to start going through all our current agreements and source higher quality/better pricing.

Always gotta be improving.

The language barrier and time-zone differences can slow things down and you have to be willing to put in the effort to order samples, give corrections on those samples with precise measurements, specifications, etc. and i'd suggest working with a designer (upwork etc.) for custom packaging.

I've never run into any issues being scammed but I always use the alibaba trade assurance option.

TIP: check the age of the store/their "assurance" levels. AKA stores that have been around for a long time with large assurances are there to do business and not playing games and you can be confident everything will be gravy.

As always YMMV and i'd never suggest using anything but a credit card in case things get harry. But again no issues for me thus far.