As a retailer, there's a good chance that you're already feeling the effects of China's production standstill in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.
In fact, with China being the largest export market worldwide, the ability to source products will become increasingly difficult, irrespective of your location.
Which raises the question: how can you mitigate against this?
Well in short, you can't.
At least not completely.
What you can do, however, is consider sourcing products outside of China.
Now even though this isn't a perfect solution - after all there's no guarantee that these suppliers aren't sourcing products from China themselves - it is a potential starting point for developing a contingency plan.
So with this in mind, we have put together a list of alternatives to Alibaba and AlixExpress, two of China's leading platforms for wholesale trade, as well as some additional opportunities for finding reliable suppliers.
Despite being a Chinese website, it is worth keeping in mind that Alibaba's suppliers are located across the globe. In fact, you can actually filter their suppliers by country.
So, if the only reason you're considering alternative sites is because you're looking for suppliers outside of China, we wouldn't recommend writing Alibaba off entirely - although you should definitely make sure you're protecting yourself as a buyer.
If, however, you're considering Alibaba alternatives for a different reason, we have listed some of your additional options for product sourcing below.
Before we jump into them though, it's worth pointing out two things.
Firstly, this is by no means a complete list of supplier directories, rather it's a starting point to help guide you in the right direction.
Secondly, as with any big business decision, it's crucial that you conduct thorough research before opting to use a new supplier. Have a read of this for some guidance on what to look for.
Now with regards to the sites we've listed below, we have shed some light on their supplier verification process. We would, however, also urge you to also consider the feedback from other buyers, as this will provide invaluable insight into how reliable they are.
Country: United Kingdom
Cost: If you're not fussed about getting your hands on eSource's entire supplier list, it might be worth considering their free membership option which gives you limited access.
For complete access you will need to subscribe to their premium membership, which starts at £20 for a month, increasing to £50 for six months access and £75 for the year.
Do keep in mind though that if you opt for their paid premium option, eSources will refund your fee if you don't secure an extra £30K worth of revenue from these sources.
Verification Process: While not all suppliers listed on eSources are verified, you can easily locate those that are by looking out for the site's TradePass icon.
Country: United States
Cost: In addition to granting you access to SaleHoo's supplier directory, the site's $67 annual fee also gives you access to a member's forum and the SaleHoo Market Research Lab, their dedicated platform for product demand.
Verification Process: SaleHoo provides security screening for all their suppliers, making it a great option for inexperienced sellers.
Country: United Kingdom
Cost: The Wholesaler UK’s directory is free for buyers and only suppliers are charged to be listed.
Verification Process: The Wholesaler UK has a strict verification process. In fact, not only do they verify each suppliers address before allowing them to list to the site, they also encourage buyers to report any issues.
Country: United States
Cost: As a buyer, there is no cost incurred for using ThomasNet's Supplier Discovery feature.
Verification Process: While it is not clear how ThomasNet verify their suppliers, they do provide key information for each, including the supplier's location, annual revenue, the year the company was founded and the number of employees.
That's not all though.
When using their directory, you are also given the option to filter your searches by location and quality certifications, for added peace of mind.
Cost: As a buyer, there is no cost incurred for searching for suppliers.
Verification Process: While the exact process TradeIndia uses to verify suppliers is unclear, the information they do provide can help to give you an understanding of each supplier's credibility.
In fact, when searching for products, you can see the name of the supplier, the number of years they've been a member, their buyer feedback rating and more importantly, whether they have a 'Trusted Seller' badge.
Best of all, this information is apparent at first glance, without having to do much digging.
Other opportunities for sourcing products
Granted, trade shows aren't alternatives to Alibaba themselves, however they can be a great starting point for identifying credible suppliers outside of China.
The best part? You don't even need to attend these shows.
While there are of course benefits to attending them, for instance having the opportunity to meet with potential suppliers face-to-face, many of them do make their vendor directories available online.
As a starting point, we'd recommend taking a look at ASD Market Week's vendor directory.
Not only is ASD Market Week a B2B wholesale trade show covering a range of industries, it has the added advantage of enabling you filter the directory to include or exclude suppliers from certain countries, in this case China.
Don't just limit your research to one trade show though.
In fact, by using a site like 10 times, you can search for trade shows and conferences relevant to your industry, in specific cities or countries.
Another option worth considering is dropshipping.
More specifically, dropshipping is a fulfillment method that doesn't require you, as the seller, to stock the products you sell.
Instead, once a sale has been made on whatever channel you're selling on, you pass the order information directly to a third-party supplier, who will then ship the order to the customer.
But what does this have to do with finding products to source?
Well, the short answer is that there are a whole host of dropshipping specific suppliers out there.
Now while you can find dropshipping suppliers on many of the sites listed above, we've also listed some of them here.
Develop strong relationships with your suppliers
Regardless of where your suppliers are based, establishing and maintaining good relationships with them is crucial for ongoing business success.
Not only does this put you in a stronger position to negotiate better rates, perhaps more importantly it can help you minimise costly issues.
Issues that include:
- Not receiving a warning about your products being discontinued
- Delays in supply
- Poor product quality
For more guidance on supplier relationship management, have a read of this dedicated guide.
Improve your chances of finding products that are in demand
If you're only just starting out, you will need to have an idea of the products you're wanting to sell before finding the suppliers that sells them.
After all, even the most reliable suppliers out there can't guarantee success if there isn't demand for those goods in your chosen markets.
While we've got a whole article that walks you through the steps to finding high demand products, if you're short on time, a few places to start are:
- eBay suggested products
- Marketplace best seller lists
- Google Keyword Planner
- Watch Count
- Paid tools such as Terapeak
Use inventory management software to anticipate reorder points
Finally, once you have found a supplier, you will need to ensure that you are raising purchase orders with them well before you actually need the stock.
In other words, you need to balance stock availability with product demand, something that is only possible when you are on top of your inventory control.
Fortunately, advanced inventory management software makes this possible.
By taking into account your average stock consumption rate for each product and your supplier's lead times, along with other factors that may influence demand, to anticipate when you will need to reorder stock.
Which as I'm sure you already know is crucial for preventing stockouts and the subsequent risks to your business.
So, there we have it.
A list of Alibaba alternatives, some opportunities for sourcing goods outside of China and additional supplier considerations.
Have you had any experience with any of the sites we've listed? Or can you recommend any others? We'd love to hear from you - simply drop us a comment below.