We’ve seen it before: You’ve got a million-dollar idea - it’s going to be the next fidget spinner - and all you have to do is get it from your head into your hands. So you log onto Alibaba.com, but then it hits you...there are millions of suppliers on the site, probably thousands of which can manufacture your product, and you have no idea how to narrow the field.

That’s why Gary Huang, the founder of 80/20 Sourcing, discussed a 3-part test in this Jungle Scout webinar to help you quickly decide which suppliers in your search results should be on your shortlist. 

Test 1: Common Thread

After finding a product you like the looks of on Alibaba.com, your first move should be to go to the supplier’s profile page. Scroll through the product list, and make sure everything they produce is similar to the product you’re sourcing. Everything listed should be made of similar materials, and belong to a similar product category.

Why is this test important? It determines whether you’re viewing a trading company, or the direct manufacturer.

Depending on your situation, working with a trading company that provides a variety of products is not necessarily a bad thing. But usually working directly with the manufacturer will save you money, and ensure they’re experts at producing your specific product.

Test 2: Export Breakdown

You know what they say...location, location, location. But we’re not talking about the supplier’s location here. We’re talking about the geographical locations they export to. A supplier’s export breakdown refers to the breakdown of which countries they export to, and where most of their products are shipped. You can find this breakdown in the Trade Capacity section of the supplier’s profile page on Alibaba.com.

Why is this test important? It lets you know the supplier’s level of familiarity with the cost and customs clearances regulations for landing goods into your specific country. 

Every product and category can have different requirements or tests your product has to pass before making it through customs, and different countries have varying customs regulations as well. If your supplier is familiar with the customs processes for your product and designated shipping destination, you’re one step ahead of the game already. They’ll be able to assist you through the process and perhaps even provide the relevant test certificates. 

Test 3: Established Business

The final test a supplier needs to pass in order to make it on your shortlist is that they should have at least two years of experience.

Why is this test important? This means they have a strong record of manufacturing within your specific product category.

You might be saying “DUH” right now, and we don’t blame you. However, it can be tempting to go with a supplier that has less experience, but provides a cheaper quote. Buyer beware: Without that strong record of manufacturing success and the knowledge base that comes with it, this could end up costing you more money in the long run. If this information isn’t on Alibaba.com, you can request details about their current customer base and history of trading, or even ask for past customer references if possible.

Want to discuss this more with a New York-based Alibaba.com expert? Use our online scheduler to set up a time to talk. (US customers only.)