Money notes laid out on table

Alibaba provides a near-endless number of suppliers selling products at competitive rates. Hey, that sounds like a good place to find a niche product and start selling through Amazon FBA, doesn’t it?

It is! But, when dealing with a supplier, you also don’t want to be short-changed.

Because of the amount of listings Alibaba.com brings up for even a single product search, it’s best practise to explore your options and see which supplier is offering the best prices. The goal of any business or individual finding a product to sell through Amazon FBA is to buy quality supply for a cheap as possible. I mean, its better to err on the side of profit than to break even, right?

Learning how to get the best prices on Alibaba can help you keep the cost down when shipping supplies, and this guide will give you some tips and tricks on how to do so. Still wondering how to find a product to sell, use the best keywords to boost sales and learn how to find the right supplier? We’ve got you covered, and it’s also a good idea to stay safe when buying on Alibaba.

How does Alibaba work?

So, on the topic of Alibaba, it’s best to get to know what the global marketplace is and how it works.

Alibaba is a Chinese-owned technology company specialising in ecommerce. Through its online B2B marketplace, Alibaba.com, it connects manufacturers and wholesalers mainly based in China to businesses worldwide. Need a truckload of meal prep containers delivered to a warehouse or an Amazon fullfilment centre lickety-split? A quick search on Alibaba.com will connect you to a manufacturer. From there, you can negotiate order numbers, delivery times and locations, and method of payments and boom – you’ve got yourself supply.

It’s the largest online marketplace for good reason. Alibaba provides an extensive list of suppliers manufacturing large quantities of products of all kinds for low prices. Being able to contact the manufacturer directly also means there’s no “middleman” malarkey, and individuals can also negotiate customisations to a product to make it stand out.

Quantity, shipping, customisations and more all come at a cost though, and some suppliers will have better fees than others.

How to get the best prices on Alibaba

Finding the best prices for a product on Alibaba is all about the art of negotiation. That, and a little research of your own to know the baseline cost of a product you’re trying to buy.

Oh, and you’ll probably want to know how to set up an account on Alibaba to really delve into this.

Find prices on 1688.com

Alibaba doesn’t just have Alibaba.com. The company also has 1688.com, which is another leading online B2B marketplace – but this one is more for Chinese businesses. Like its sister site, it allows users to source products from a wide range of suppliers. Thing is, prices for products tend to be more affordable than on Alibaba.com.

Since its site designed for domestic use, you’ll generally find the real prices for the product you’re looking to buy. It isn’t ideal to find suppliers and buy products here, however, since it deals with domestic businesses and aren’t used to oversea negotiations.

Using 1688.com, you can compare prices between the two sites, and see if a supplier on Alibaba.com may be overcharging.

For example: I’m looking for Tumblers to buy in bulk. Using Amazon seller software such as AMZScout, I can see a list of products and their suppliers on Alibaba.com. Prices from a supplier I’m interested in range from $3.45 to $4.55, and that’s one of the cheaper options. But is it the cheapest?

I then head to 1688.com. It is only available in Chinese, you’ll either have to use Google Translate on the page (it should automatically pop up or can be seen in the address bar) or translate the product you want to find into Chinese and then hit search.

How to find the best prices on Alibaba: 1688 product finder

As seen above, I typed in “Tumbler” using Google Translate on the page and still found a list of Tumbler products.

How to find the best prices on Alibaba: 1688 Tumbler product page

After scrolling through the page, I found the products similar to the one I’m interested in on Alibaba.com. These prices state its ¥25. Converting this to US dollars, this is around $3.63. Now I know the baseline price to expect, and it’s on the lower end of the price I found on Alibaba.com.

This is a helpful way to know what prices you should be looking out for, and it will also keep you safe from ridiculous prices from dodgy suppliers or a middleman in disguise. Speaking of…

Stay away from the middleman

One of Alibaba.com’s greatest strengths is communicating directly with a supplier – not a middleman. However, some listings may be middlemen in disguise who benefit from getting the most out of the supplier and the buyer. One noticeable sign you’re actually doing business with a middleman is how much a product costs, which is usually higher than it should be. However, there are other factors you can look into.

The first is the business license. Companies in China will have a Unified Social Credit Code on their business license. To make sure they’re legit, these can be looked up on the National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System (NECIPS). A middleman may show you a business license, but it’s better to see if everything lines up using the NECIPS.

Like below, put in the Unified Social Credit Code or company name here and see if it all adds up.

National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System for Alibaba

As Sino Inspection points out, another section to look out for is the business activities the company is involved in. If “Manufacturing” isn’t one of them, then it’s likely to be a middleman making trades. Of course, this also works with any shady company that may not be delivering what they claim to sell.

Request a quote

Alibaba’s RFQ (Request For Quotation) tool allows buyers to receive up to ten quotations from potential suppliers in 24 hours. It’s a fantastic way to narrow down your search for an ideal supplier, and gives you various quotes for the prices you can expect. Better yet, it’s easy (and free) to use.

Simply head over to rfq.alibaba.com and sign into your Alibaba account (it’s free to join). Type in the keywords to narrow down the product you need a quote for. For example, I put in “Tumbler.”

How to find the best prices on Alibaba: Alibaba RFQ

From there, you can fill in the template to let suppliers know your needs, such as the budget range, sourcing quantity and more. The more details are filled in, the more suppliers will know you mean business. Once you’re done, you can hit Invite supplier to quote.

You can only receive up to ten quotations from suppliers, seeing as this quote goes out to many suppliers on Alibaba.

Negotiate prices

Of course, you can always reach out to a supplier your find yourself – and you’ll want to reach out to many. A product listing on Alibaba will show you a price range of a product, but a good negotiator will know that it takes effort to make sure the price is on the lower end of that range, and hopefully even lower.

First and foremost, don’t be afraid to contact multiple suppliers – even if they seem to be outside your budget. Sending a well-written message about what you’re looking for and the prices you can expect for supply to each manufacturer will help you gauge what prices they’re willing to accept.

Once you have a range of price options, you can go back to suppliers knowing how affordable the product can be. Ask detailed questions about the quality of the product, such as: “what makes this product so good?” or “why is this priced higher than other products I find?”

If you’re not getting the answers you want or the supplier won’t budge on price, just walk away. Really. Two outcomes may happen: you move onto another supplier with a better price or the supplier comes back with a better price. Tricks of the trade.

Of course, it isn’t a good idea to swindle the supplier, either. They have profit margins to make themselves, so asking for too much of a price discount can easily put them off. Be reasonable.

From there, it’s up to you to figure out the best supplier on Alibaba to partner up with, but these tips will help you find the best prices around. For even more handy tips, check out how to find the best suppliers on Alibaba and how to stay safe on Alibaba.

Show examples

Talking to various suppliers on Alibaba can be difficult, especially if they don’t understand what you specifically want from the product they manufacture. Communicating through text doesn’t help, either. If you’re looking for customisations but find it hard to get the specifics across, show a visual example.

For example, while I was looking for art deco door handles without locks or keyholes, I found a supplier that had these door handles but still with a keyhole. Due to a language barrier, the supplier didn’t understand that I was looking for a handle without a keyhole. In order to get this across, I altered an image of the supplier’s door handles to show it without a keyhole.

How to find the best supplier for Amazon: Alibaba example

Visual examples of what you need are an easy way to let the supplier know exactly what you’re looking for, so be sure to send a few snapshots over. Who knows, it could adjust the price in your favour.

Darragh Murphy
Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from the mischievous world of online security to washing machines designed for earbuds. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for laptops into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. When he's not checking out the latest devices and all things tech, he can be found swimming laps, watching terrible shark movies, and trying to find time to game.  Previous Editor at Laptop Mag and News Editor at Time Out Dubai, specialising in food culture, nightlife events, gaming, tech and entertainment.