A logistics pro shares the secrets to sourcing success
This post was contributed by Jamin Dick of Alibaba.com, the world’s largest end-to-end B2B trading platform. Jamin is the Head of Supply Chain for North American B2B at Alibaba.com, where he leads innovation on the company’s shipping and logistics solutions to make it seamless to get products from factories anywhere in the world to your doorstep.
Ecommerce is growing at an exponential rate, with Forbes citing 23% growth year-over-year, reaching an unprecedented 4.88 trillion U.S. dollars in 2021. The industry is hot, but that also means it’s competitive. To survive in ecommerce, you need to be smart about every step of your supply chain process – from creating a product that sells well with high margins, to choosing shipping partners you can trust to get your goods across borders and into the hands of your customers.
Alibaba.com is an end-to-end global trade platform that helps ecommerce companies grow their business by enabling them to source products from suppliers around the world – that includes everything from communicating directly regardless of language, getting quotations, arranging inspections, clearing customs and shipping, and paying for and financing products. All on one platform.
During my time working with suppliers at Alibaba.com, I’ve seen that the most successful businesses of all sizes seem to follow a few trends when using the site.
1. They vary their product & supplier search methods
Whether creating customized goods or ordering stock products, the businesses that end up most satisfied are the ones that shop around. On average, your business should have about 10 solid quotations from suppliers who can make your product. To get these quotes, businesses will use multiple search methods:
- Search bar. Try product keywords, then narrow results based on your specific needs – like minimum order quantity (MOQ) and price. During sales promotions like March Expo and Super September, you can also filter by certain types of offers, like 50% off Alibaba.com Air Express or by suppliers offering coupons.
- RFQ. A Request for Quotation (RFQ) is a feature that brings suppliers to you to bid on your business, rather than searching for them. You type your product specifications into a form, then receive quotations within 24-72 hours from suppliers who can meet your needs.
- Image search. If you don’t have product keywords in mind, but do have an image of a similar product, Alibaba.com’s visual recognition technology can scan our database and show a list of products that match the shape and color of your product image.
2. They only work with reliable suppliers
Successful ecommerce businesses only source their products from reliable suppliers. But this is easier said than done – when you’re vetting companies that are halfway around the world, it can be difficult to know who you can trust. To help businesses see which suppliers are most reliable, Alibaba.com created Trade Assurance, which is free order protection for all orders placed and paid for on-platform. Suppliers can choose to opt in to Trade Assurance, which guarantees that:
- Products are created based on the buyer’s specifications
- Orders are shipped from the manufacturer by the date agreed upon
- Payments are safe and protected
Trade Assurance suppliers are marked with a crown icon on the website.
3. They use Alibaba.com shipping to keep every step on one platform
Logistics plays a critical role in global sourcing – if something in this step goes awry and you don’t get your goods, everything can fall apart fast. Successful businesses use Alibaba.com for shipping, knowing they are using shipping partners that the authority in international trade has carefully selected. Businesses can also trust they’re getting competitive prices on shipping, which typically goes on sale during March Expo and Super September (with offers like 50% off Alibaba.com Air Express shipping). Alibaba.com currently offers four kinds of shipping:
- Full Container Load (FCL) ocean shipping for high-volume orders that fill an entire shipping container
- Less than Container Load (LCL) ocean shipping for orders that don’t have enough volume to fill an entire container by themselves
- Alibaba.com Air Express, a warehouse-to-door air-shipping service for shipments from Alibaba.com’s Shenzhen warehouse in China to the U.S.
- Alibaba.com Parcels, a premium air-shipping service for the fastest shipping from almost any country to the U.S.
Once the goods have been produced and are ready to ship to customers, the most successful businesses take the final step to automate their ecommerce shipping through Alibaba.com’s partners. For a reliable last step in the fulfillment process, Alibaba.com has partnered with ShipStation during March Expo.