Ready to Test the Sourcing Waters?

AliExpress reduces risk for sellers new to importing.

by Auctiva.com staff writer
- Sep 20, 2010

Dipping your toes into the international sourcing pool for the first time can seem overwhelming. As you sort through the various suppliers, you'll have several things to take into account, from the type of products you want to source, to the cost of items and quantity requirements, to shipping rates and shipping time. It's a lot to consider.

Truthfully, these factors come into play no matter where a supplier is geographically located. But if you've never dealt with an overseas partner before—who may or may not speak the same language—it's natural to feel uncertain.

AliExpress, a wholesale sourcing platform from Alibaba.com, was created to ease these concerns, and make it easier for small and medium-size online merchants to compete on the level of large retailers.

The site offers access to an abundance of high-quality merchandise, direct from the manufacturers—many of which offer free shipping and the ability to buy small quantities, or even a single piece. While not all the items on the site display the rock bottom prices you might expect from Chinese factories, that shouldn't deter U.S. merchants from asking for a better deal. In fact, many sellers on AliExpress expect you to negotiate with them.

The AliExpress site is easy to use and puts all of the pertinent information about the sellers—including their feedback scores—right on an item's details page. AliExpress offers a buyer protection program to let merchants buy with confidence. Plus, you can use PayPal or your credit card to pay for your purchases—no wiring of money to unfamiliar sources required. The site aims to be a top destination for global business-to-business transactions, so Alibaba.com strives to ensure a safe and friendly experience for its customers.

With minimal investment, you can test a few products to see how they would sell before venturing further

A global marketplace

Thousands of manufacturers from around the world put their products on AliExpress, giving you access to more than 5 million items. Suppliers pay an annual fee to display their items on the site. As a buyer, you'll pay nothing to browse and make purchases.

You'll find a variety of products on AliExpress, from books and notepads, to apparel—including special-occasion attire and casual wear—to electronics, sporting goods and games, to home d├ęcor and much more. Most of the suppliers on the site are manufacturers, so they offer items at discounted rates. But as we mentioned earlier, if you think the price could be lower, e-mail the seller and negotiate. You have nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain.

Indeed, incentives like free shipping and no minimum order quantity can significantly lower the risk if you're unsure about whether sourcing from overseas makes sense for you. With minimal investment, you can test a few products to see how they would sell before venturing further.

If you're an Auctiva customer, take advantage of exclusive AliExpress coupons and discounts to reduce your sourcing cost even further. Auctiva users who have the Sourcing tab enabled in their Auctiva accounts can get coupons and search AliExpress' inventory right from Auctiva.com. We'll be rolling out this feature to all users in the near future, so if you don't see the Sourcing tab yet, keep an eye out for it.

You don't have to be an Auctiva customer to get access to the vast product resources of AliExpress. Anyone can open an AliExpress account for free, but you won't get the same money-saving offers.

Protecting buyers

One of the impressive aspects of AliExpress is its buyer protection program. The site is so committed to providing a good buyer experience that sellers won't get paid until the buyer confirms receipt of the item, and confirms that the item arrived as described.

How does this program work? Like with any other marketplace, first, you make a purchase and pay—again, you can use PayPal or your credit card, if you wish. Then the escrow service lets the seller know that the buyer has paid for the items. Sellers then have a limited time to mark their items as "shipped" and provide tracking information. If they miss the cut-off, AliExpress will cancel the transaction, and the buyer gets his or her money back. If all goes well—as it likely will—the buyer has 30 days from the shipping date to confirm they've received the item and that it was in good condition. Then the escrow service releases funds to the seller.

Throughout the process, buyers and sellers are encouraged to communicate to ensure both parties are happy with the sale. AliExpress allows users to do this either via messages sent through users' AliExpress accounts or via live chat.

AliExpress aims to let buyers and sellers do business together without geographic limitations

Buying your products

As mentioned earlier, you can access AliExpress right from your Auctiva account via the Sourcing tab. This not only gives you access to the vast selection of factory-direct merchandise, it also gives you access to exclusive coupons and discounts other AliExpress users don't get.

Of course, you can also directly enter the AliExpress site. Either way you choose, you'll need to create an AliExpress account. This literally takes only minutes, and it's free.

Once the logistics are out of the way, you can browse items using AliExpress' search feature. When you find the item you're looking for, click on it to get all the pertinent information about the product. You'll be able to view the seller's feedback score and the number of customer ratings the seller has right on the product page. You can also see if they're online, in case you have questions and would like to communicate via live chat. Once you're ready to buy, add the items to your cart and click "Buy Now." Then verify the details of your order and hit the "Place Order" button to add your payment details.

You can get complete instructions here. When you're done, keep tabs on your order's progress on the My Orders tab in your AliExpress account. Here you'll be able to see the details of your orders, find out if your order has shipped and get tracking information. And this is where you'll confirm your order once it's arrived, or request a refund should something go wrong.

Shipments made simple

AliExpress aims to make it possible for buyers and sellers around the world to do business together without geographic limitations. And many of the sellers on AliExpress are located overseas, so shipments will take longer than if you were sourcing from a domestic vendor. You may be thinking: How much is this going to cost me? But in many cases, it won't cost you anything.

Not only do many of the sellers on AliExpress offer free shipping for their items, they also foot the bill for any customs fees the shipment may carry. You'll want to double check this with your supplier before you buy, just to be on the safe side, but you should be in the clear.

Still unsure if sourcing through AliExpress is for you? Here's what a merchant who recently used the site to find inventory had to say:

"Time and money are the two most important things to me as a small-business owner," says Don Pinard, owner of peggsbargains.net. "I spend a lot of time looking for products I can sell. I used to use liquidation sites, but AliExpress is much better, and more reliable. If I can trim my cost of purchasing items by just 7 percent that will cover all store fees and shipping costs, which will really increase my profits."

There's one happy customer if we've ever heard one.


About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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