Founded in 1999, Alibaba is a multinational technology company based in Hangzhou, China. It is the largest B2B marketplace in the world. Alibaba specializes in e-commerce, retail, Internet, and technology primarily for wholesalers. Alibaba Group covers nearly every step of online trading, putting it at the forefront of e-commerce, finance, logistics, and artificial intelligence.
While American entrepreneurs were slow to take advantage of the vast marketing opportunities on Alibaba, it’s not too late. Read on to learn how to sell on Alibaba.
Why Consider Selling on Alibaba?
Alibaba is more than a marketplace. The platform primarily features Chinese manufacturers and wholesalers, who can produce quality goods for prices significantly lower than Europe or the USA. This, and its vast network, makes Alibaba a one-stop shop for B2B transactions. It’s the preferred choice for product sourcing for many Amazon sellers and businesses that gain competitive advantage with an easy-to-use, intuitive interface and competitive prices.
Alibaba is more than just an online commerce company. It combines all functions associated with retail coordination into a data-driven network of sellers, marketers, service providers, logistics companies, and manufacturers.
Alibaba is a community of businesses and consumers of many types interacting with one another through an online platform and the larger offline physical elements to conduct businesses and move goods. Whether you’re planning to start a small business online with Aliexpress or launch a global brand, Alibaba has the resources to help it succeed.
What Types of Products Can You Sell on Alibaba?
You can sell all types of products on Alibaba. Best selling categories for the first quarter of 2023 were:
- Home appliances
- Beauty and personal care
- Pet supplies
- Sports and entertainment
- Mother, kids, and toys
However, you can sell everything from smart home appliances to kitchen appliances, cleaning appliances, and home decor to clothing, personal care, cars, automobile parts, supplements, and natural medicine.
How to Sell on Alibaba in 6 Steps
If you’re ready to start selling on Alibaba, there are only a few steps to follow. Here’s what you need to do to get started.
1. Open an Alibaba Account
To open an Alibaba seller account, you’ll register as a new seller on the site. Depending on your country and product offerings or industry, you will have various types of selling packages and plans available.
You’ll want to get your Business Verification done to build trust between you and your potential buyers. You can also choose a dedicated account manager to help you through the process. If in doubt, Alibaba offers a chat service on the registration page to help answer any questions.
2. Set Up Your Company Profile
As Alibaba is a B2B marketplace, setting up your company profile is essential. Consider your company profile as your business storefront. This profile is potential clients’ first exposure to your offerings and an opportunity to distinguish your brand and build trust. You can align the company profile with your business plan to showcase your company’s vision, mission, and unique offerings.
Unsurprisingly, Alibaba research shows that building a strong company profile can help you gain the trust of buyers. Provide buyers with the information they want, including company description, history, certifications, and capacity.
Make sure to include detailed and accurate information about your products, company background, and certifications so that potential customers have what they need at a glance. And remember to make your company profile unique to stand out!
3. List Your Products
When posting products on Alibaba, you should add all the products in your catalog to your store. More products in your store increase your chances of showing up in buyers’ search results. This means you’ll potentially get more exposure and secure more customers as a result.
You can post products individually or streamline the process with the bulk upload tool. As you post products, the Intelligent Posting system uses AI to suggest ways to optimize each listing based on how the Alibaba.com algorithm works and what buyers are searching for on the site.
Other important tips to get the most out of Alibaba product listings:
- Categories: Choose the most relevant and appropriate product categories to list your products on Alibaba.
- Descriptions: Write clear and detailed product descriptions that highlight your products’ key features, specifications, and benefits.
- Photos: Use high-quality product images and videos.
4. Create an Online Storefront
In addition to creating an independent company website within Alibaba, you have the option to use an Alibaba.com Storefront to make your products discoverable to prospective buyers. Within the digital storefront, you can customize the site to reflect your branding and highlight product offerings while benefiting from Alibaba’s vast B2B e-commerce marketplace.
5. Reply to Inquiries and RFQs
Once your storefront is up and running, you’ll start getting inquiries and requests for quotes (RFQ). You will want to create a customized proposal for each client that outlines what you can offer, the costs, and when you could have it ready. Depending on the nature of the inquiry, your quote can reflect the buyer’s unique needs.
6. Utilize Alibaba Resources
Alibaba offers support for sellers, including educational resources to get the most out of the site. Known for exceptional customer service and diverse product offerings, Alibaba can help build your business while addressing any issues along the way.
How Does Alibaba Shipping Work?
Shipping quotes on Alibaba are customized. Between diverse supplier locations, large volumes, and global delivery, you must create customized shipping strategies to meet clients’ needs. You might also consider a dropshipping business from Alibaba or working with a dropshipper.
Alibaba suggests the following steps to create an international shipment:
- Check shipping and trade guidelines and restrictions
- Choose a shipping method
- Choose a courier
- Consider using a customs broker
- Collect information for shipment and prepare the shipment
- Send off the shipment
- Track the shipment and ensure successful delivery
How Much Does It Cost to Sell on Alibaba?
Alibaba has three levels of seller plans: standard, standard extended, and premium. Here’s how each one works:
Alibaba’s standard seller plan costs $3,499 per year. With this plan, you get:
- Unlimited product postings
- Initial keyword advertising spend of $500
- Dedicated account manager
If you’re just building your business on Alibaba, this can be a cost-effective solution to start accessing Alibaba’s features and offerings.
Alibaba’s standard extended plan costs $5,299 for 2 years, making it less expensive annually than the standard plan. With this plan, you get:
- Unlimited product postings
- Keyword advertising spend of $550
- Dedicated account manager
Standard Extended is a good plan if you want to commit for the long term or have products that will continue to sell for years.
For sellers who want to maximize selling on Alibaba, the Premium costs $6,999 per year. This plan can help sellers boost products and increase exposure. With the Premium plan, you get:
- 100 posts with the help of an Alibaba posting expert
- NYC-based key account manager
- Keyword ad spend of $1,150
- Access to Alibaba’s Key Success Program (KSP)
Tips for Achieving Success in Selling on Alibaba
If you are working to sell on Alibaba successfully, consider the following tips:
1. Offer Competitive Pricing
When determining your pricing strategy, research the market and consider factors such as production costs, shipping, and profit margins. Understand competitor pricing, consider volume discounts and craft descriptions to showcase your unique product offering to maximize sales.
2. Give Samples and Demonstrations
Samples and demos give buyers the opportunity to experience the quality and functionality of your products before making a larger purchase. Many Alibaba sellers offer single-item prices at a discount for buyers interested in a bulk purchase. Depending on the buyer’s location and item cost, you can offer demonstrations on-site or at the buyer’s location.
3. Develop a Strong Online Presence
Buyers won’t stay on Alibaba. They will research your company, background, history, track record, and reviews through general internet searches. In addition to your Alibaba profile, establishing a strong online presence through social media platforms, a company website, and other online marketplaces can help boost your company profile and build customer trust. You can also attend trade shows and other industry events to build your offline presence.
4. Request and Respond to Customer Reviews
Encourage buyers to leave reviews and ratings for your products and services. Respond to customer reviews, both positive and negative, in a professional and timely manner. Promptly address any problems or complaints to increase customer satisfaction and build a strong reputation to create a loyal customer base.
Building a Global Brand with Alibaba
Alibaba allows you to work with established global brands, control your supply chain, and save on supply costs. You can sell almost anything on Alibaba and benefit from a large sales volume and a vast network of buyers. Your Aliabab business could start as a side hustle and grow into a lucrative full-time business. There’s no limit on how much you can sell while building long-term financial freedom.
As you grow as an entrepreneur, especially when working with international markets, you will want to protect yourself from liability. Forming an LLC offers liability protection along with adding professional credibility to your company. Get doola LLC formation services for fast, low-cost LLC formation in any state. With doola formation services, you will also get an EIN and help to open a business bank account. That way, you’ll have more time to focus on building your global brand through Alibaba. Ready to get started? Learn more about Alibaba tax exceptions here.
Does Alibaba offer any buyer protection or guarantees?
Alibaba does offer buyer protection. Its refund policy protects buyers in case a purchase does not meet the agreed order terms, is damaged, or is of poor quality.
Can I sell internationally on Alibaba or is it limited to a specific country?
You can sell internationally on Alibaba. There are no country limits imposed by Alibaba, although you will want to sell to countries you can easily ship to.
Can I sell branded products on Alibaba?
Selling licensed or branded products on Alibaba can result in legal action. You’re not allowed to sell others’ branded products on Alibaba, although you can, of course, sell your own company’s products.
How do I handle customer support and returns when selling on Alibaba?
Alibaba can help you handle customer support and returns. You will want to promptly address the customer’s concern, apologize for the inconvenience, and offer a solution, such as a replacement or refund of a defective product.
How do I handle intellectual property rights and prevent counterfeit products on Alibaba?
You have the option to register your intellectual property rights with Alibaba. Inside your profile in the Protection Platform, you can click on a button called “My IPR” on the left-hand side. You can then register all corresponding documentation, including trademarks, patents, and copyrights.