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Should you Ditch Alibaba for 1688?

Have you been wondering if you have been missing out not ordering from suppliers on 1688?

If you are a savvy importer, you should be wondering about this, after all, some of the suppliers on 1688 supply to their Alibaba counterparts and the prices of goods can be ridiculously cheap.

So, should you just ditch Alibaba and go straight to the source?

Let’s find out in this post.

Alibaba and 1688 are two giant B2B trading platforms, both founded and owned by the famous Jack Ma.

1688 is the domestic trading market serving over 1.3 billion Chinese people, while Alibaba on the other hand is for the export market, serving international customers. The latter is in the English language while the former is in Mandarin (Chinese language).

There are two major problems you are going to encounter while ditching Alibaba for 1688.

The first is the language barrier. Because Chinese is the trading language of 1688, hence, almost all the suppliers on the platform speak and strictly transact in the Chinese language. The quickest solution to this is to learn the language. Lol! Just kidding… That’s a very long shot because Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to learn.

The second problem is the trading entities. Because the platform is for domestic trading and you being a foreign company or individual is not basically allowed to transact on the platform. The major problem here is making payment to your supplier. Unlike on Alibaba that you can use Trade Assurance to make payment to your suppliers for your goods.

So, before you can jump from Alibaba to 1688, you would need an agent to help you make payment to your supplier on 1688. Most freight forwarding companies in Nigeria offers this service for a little fee (You can use the comment box if you need my recommendation).

Having explained this, there are two critical questions to be answered to see if we should go to 1688 to find our suppliers.

The first question is, Is it the same quality?

This is a very critical question to ask because traditionally, the quality of product sold for domestic consumption is inferior compared to those of the export market. Export market products are known for higher and better-quality standard because that is where the Chinese suppliers basically make their money. Good quality product means repeat patronage which in turn means more money for the supplier.

One of my suppliers once showed me two identical looking products, one meant for the local market and the other for international customers. The one made for the domestic market was made with low quality materials while the one for export market is of a high-quality material but it was so difficult to tell by the look.

However, I am not saying this is across board, but for you not to get your fingers burnt, you need to make sure the quality of the product you found on 1688 is the same quality as the one on Alibaba.

You can simply do this by asking salient questions about the product from the supplier and ensuring you place order for a sample first before making a large order, I can’t stress this enough.

The second critical questions; risk control?

Since you are taking your transaction off Alibaba which offers protection for payment made to suppliers, you are now faced with a very critical issue, how do you protect your transaction?

If you make payment to your supplier on Alibaba, you are sure of getting your money back if the transaction goes wrong. This cannot be said while using 1688. Since you are unable to pay directly to a supplier due to the trading entities challenge, you are left with the option of making your payment using the service of a third-party agent.

This can cause you problem in two ways, if you don’t get a reliable agent, he might play a fast one on you and not make your payment to the supplier; or the supplier runs with your money immediately after receiving payment.

Hence, you need to make sure you are using a reliable and trustworthy agent and also carry a background check on your supplier before sending money to him. I wrote extensively on this in one of my previous posts, read it up.

After you evaluate all the answers to these questions, now you can ask, is the price really much cheaper from 1688 compared to Alibaba? Does the risk I’m taking justify the savings?

If you answer Yes to these questions, then you can go ahead and ditch Alibaba. Just make sure you get a good third-party agent for your payment and shipping.

However, my advice to new importer is to stick to Alibaba. Learn the rope of the business first before going after the suppliers on 1688.

If you have any questions concerning buying from 1688, use the comment box below or ask your question on the forum section.

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Since I was a 22-year-old undergraduate in University, I've run a home-based business importing products from China and generating millions of Naira on a yearly basis. Since then, I've made China and its culture not only a key part of my business but also of my personal life.

1 Comment

  1. Hi, good day. Please I want you to advise me on the cheapest frieght forwarding company in Nigeria that can help forward my goods from China.


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