If you have sourced in China before, I bet the first thing that comes to mind is Alibaba.
This is a perfectly normal reaction. Alibaba is a very useful and convenient sourcing platform.
Post a buying lead, and you will have dozens of responses within a few hours. Even some in a few minutes. You can just sit back and relax while suppliers come to you. To most this is ideal. Put in minimal effort, for maximum returns.
But have you ever asked yourself whether there are alternatives to Alibaba? The answer is a resounding “Yes”. And many might be better suited to your needs.
Before we look at a few alternatives beyond Alibaba, you might want to know why you should look any further, if Alibaba has worked for you.
Simple logic is that you can only judge the effectiveness of Alibaba if you have something to compare it to. If you have not looked any further than Alibaba, you have nothing to measure it against, objectively or even subjectively.
I could write about the shortcomings of Alibaba, but this is not what this article is about. A simple Google search provides enough of these.
Instead we will simply look at some alternatives you can explore.
A useful alternative to Alibaba is networking, both offline and online.
I am sure that you have colleagues in the same industry as you. Ask them for a supplier reference, or if they know of any good suppliers.
It is in their interest to give you these details. It might seem counter intuitive for a business to share its good suppliers with anyone else. It actually gives them a valuable tool. Leverage.
Think about it. If the supplier misbehaves with an order, it also risks the referred buyer’s order. The supplier knows the two buyers are in contact, and that they will probably discuss any misdeeds by the supplier. Therefore, the supplier risks losing more business than it would without the referral.
Make use of professional networking sites such LinkedIn . There are thousands of suppliers in every industry here, and they are connected to thousands of buyers. There are also plenty of industry specific groups that are also a good source of suppliers.
One of the best things about LinkedIn is that you can get supplier references by connecting to a supplier’s network.
If you use a supplier you have found on LinkedIn, and there are problems with your order, the supplier risks this being discussed on the site. If a supplier does a good job, you can create some goodwill by mentioning this to your network.
The main downside with LinkedIn and other professional networki