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How to sell on Alibaba
Practical tips to get started selling your business’s products on Alibaba.com.
Launched in 1999, Alibaba.com is a B2B ecommerce marketplace based in China. The platform allows you to target buyers in over 190 countries and regions and sell items across more than 40 major product categories.
However, Alibaba can be confusing and daunting for new sellers. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about how to sell on Alibaba.
What's in this guide?
- How do I decide what to sell on Alibaba?
- How much does it cost to sell on Alibaba?
- Is selling on Alibaba worth it?
- How do I start selling on Alibaba?
- How to price your items
- What types of payments does Alibaba accept?
- How to get paid by international buyers
- How to organise Alibaba shipping
- How do I market my Alibaba products?
- What to watch out for with Alibaba
- Frequently asked questions
How do I decide what to sell on Alibaba?
Alibaba is an online marketplace for global import and export businesses to sell items in wholesale quantities. You can sell products across a wide range of categories, including:
- Consumer electronics
- Home appliances
- Fashion accessories
- Packaging & printing
- Beauty & personal care
- Home & kitchen
- Vehicles & accessories
- Sports & entertainment
- Watches, jewellery & eyewear
- Lights & lighting
- Garden supplies
- Pet products
- Health & medical
- Office & school supplies
- Tools & hardware
- Accessories & telecommunications
- Toys & hobbies
- Gifts & crafts
- Luggage, bags & cases
How to find products to sell
There are a few simple steps that you can take to help you decide what to sell on Alibaba:
- Research the market. Browse a range of categories to find out which products are popular sellers and why. Will you be able to offer similar products at the same (or better) price point?
- Check buyer requests. You can browse buyer requests for products on Alibaba to gauge the level of demand for different product categories.
- Sign up for email alerts. You can also subscribe to Alibaba’s Trade Alert system, which sends the latest buyer requests to your email inbox.
How much does it cost to sell on Alibaba?
Alibaba doesn’t charge any:
- Sales commissions
- Transaction fees
New Zealand sellers can sign up for Alibaba as a Free Supplier or a Gold Supplier. Free Suppliers can post up to 50 products online and source potential buyers through the platform.
If you sign up as a Gold Supplier, there are three membership packages to choose from: Basic, Standard or Premium.
|Number of products you can list||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Receive and respond to enquiries|
|Data and reporting|
|Personalised customer service||Local email support||Local email support||Dedicated account manager|
Is selling on Alibaba worth it?
While it’s entirely possible to make money selling on Alibaba, there’s no guarantee of success. Not only will you need to compete with a wide range of other suppliers, many of whom are based in China and can offer products at bargain-basement prices, but you’ll also need to consider Alibaba membership fees and your other overheads.
But even though it’s no certainty that you will make money on Alibaba, there are a few simple things you can do to boost your chances of success:
- Start out with a free membership. Before signing up as a Gold Supplier, register for a free membership so you can sample Alibaba’s features. This allows you to get a feel for how the platform works and the level of buyer demand before you pay any money.
- Partner with a Chinese manufacturer. Many products sold through Alibaba are made on demand, so joining forces with a Chinese manufacturer could help increase your profit margins and meet orders faster.
- Research the market. Research how other suppliers are marketing and pricing similar products on Alibaba. This will help you understand how to attract your target buyer and how to price your items.
- Seek out buyers. Be proactive about generating new business. Rather than waiting for buyers to come to you, browse the latest buyer requests and provide quotes to any potential customers.
How do I start selling on Alibaba?
You can register for an Alibaba supplier account by completing the following steps.
How to price your items
You’ll need to consider a couple of factors when pricing items on Alibaba:
- Your costs. Consider how much it costs you to source/manufacture, store and ship your products. What represents an acceptable profit margin above your total production costs?
- What buyers are willing to pay. Research the market to find out how much other Alibaba buyers are paying for similar products. Use this information, along with trialling your own pricing strategies, to work out a reasonable price point for buyers.
Eventually, you’ll hopefully be able to find a happy medium that suits both you and your customers.
What types of payments does Alibaba accept?
Alibaba accepts a variety of payment methods:
- Credit card
- Debit card
- Telegraphic transfer
- Online bank payment (USD and EUR only)
- Western Union (USD only)
- Boleto (USD only)
- Pay Later (USD only)
How to get paid by international buyers
When a customer pays you with foreign currency, it’s important to find a cost-effective way to convert those funds back into NZD. While you can let your bank take care of the currency conversion for you, this means paying high transaction fees and accepting an exchange rate that’s well below the mid-market rate.
That’s why many businesses choose to open an online seller account. These multi-currency accounts allow you to receive fast payments in the buyer’s local currency, as well as access superior exchange rates when you convert your earnings into New Zealand dollars.
For more information about the features and benefits of online seller accounts, check out the table below.
How to organise Alibaba shipping
When you’re working out an order agreement with a buyer, you’ll need to quote shipping costs and delivery timeframes. Because Alibaba lets users buy in bulk, depending on the size of the order, you may need to consider using a specialist international freight service.
There are plenty of international couriers to choose from, so compare quotes from several providers to find the most reliable and cost-effective option. For international orders, you’ll also need to choose between:
- Shipping by air. This is a quicker and more reliable option, but also more expensive.
- Shipping by sea. Ocean shipping may be slower but it can be much more cost-effective for large, heavy shipments.
Finally, if you need to ship products from China, Alibaba offers its own logistics service, Alibaba Logistics. There are two options available:
- Alibaba.com Parcels ships from China to countries around the world.
- Alibaba.com Air Express ships from China to the US.
How do I market my Alibaba products?
Alibaba offers a range of tools that you can use to market your products to buyers, including:
- Keyword Advertising to make your products more visible in search results.
- The My Keywords tool to assess the performance of your keywords and optimise your product listings.
- Online promotional campaigns for new suppliers.
- Offering discounts and coupons to buyers.
- Promoting your most important products through Product Showcases.
- Creating your own online storefront.
What to watch out for with Alibaba
Make sure you’re aware of these risks and drawbacks before you start selling on Alibaba:
- Competition. Alibaba is based in China, a country famous for manufacturing and selling cheap consumer goods. In some cases, it simply may not be possible for your business to compete with the prices offered by other suppliers.
- Alibaba fees. The cheapest paid membership from Alibaba costs US$1,399 per year, so it’s important to be certain that the platform is the right choice for your business before signing up.
- Not suitable for all online sellers. According to Alibaba, businesses that have the most success on this B2B platform usually:
- Sell 10 or more products
- Have two or more employees
- Have an annual revenue of US$500,000 or more
- Have some export experience
- How it works. Alibaba doesn’t get involved in the buying and selling process. Once you receive a customer order, you’ll need to liaise with the customer to finalise the order and payment details.
- Export and customs requirements. Alibaba can help your business connect with buyers around the world, so you’ll need an understanding of any rules and regulations you’ll need to satisfy to ship your items overseas.
- User-friendliness. Alibaba can be a confusing platform to navigate for new sellers. There’s lots of information to take in, and it’ll take you some time to navigate around the site and find all the details you need to start selling.
Frequently asked questions
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