How to negotiate wholesale prices on Alibaba.com
Feb 3, 2021
7 min read
Many businesses feel apprehensive before placing a wholesale order on an ecommerce marketplace like Alibaba.com. The minimum order quantity is typically high, so it can be a large investment. Some businesses alleviate this feeling by traveling to the factory or distributor to see the product and production in person. But due to money or travel constraints, this isn’t always an option.
So how do you ensure the product you’re ordering is of the quality you expect before committing to a full order? One answer is to order a product sample.
A sample in business-to-business transactions is a very small order – typically one unit – of an item you are interested in placing a large order of. It’s a low-risk way to inspect the product yourself for color, quality, materials, and more.
During the sampling process, you’ll also be able to assess what it’s like to work with that particular seller. Is communication prompt and seamless? Did the seller offer the level of assistance you require? This is your test run.
Ordering a sample also helps the seller know you’re serious about your order. Sellers can get tens or even hundreds of inquiries a day, and may not pay attention to every single inquiry. A sample request shows you’re highly interested in the product and motivated enough to make a small investment to prove it.
After you’ve decided you want to order a sample, it’s important to know there are several types of samples, and which option you’d like.
Factory samples are already made according to the manufacturer’s specifications, These are ideal if you want a Ready to Ship product that doesn’t require any customization. Factory samples can be shipped very quickly.
Custom samples are samples made to your unique specifications. This can be a lengthy process, because you are essentially creating your exact product. The fail rate is high because most companies produce many iterations of their product before they’re ready to go to market.
Batch samples, or production samples, are samples collected from an actual product being mass-produced. This can help you determine quality, functionality, or perform lab tests.
Virtual samples are becoming increasingly popular, and are highly descriptive online versions of the product. This could include a rendering in Photoshop or a 3D model, such as from a 3D printer.
Most suppliers will not suggest that you get a sample, so it’s important to know you can request it yourself. Sometimes it’s as simple as checking a box on an Alibaba.com product page, if the supplier has already indicated they’re open to sending samples. In other cases, you will have to make the request yourself.
In your request, introduce yourself and your company. Follow this information with as must detail about the product sample as possible - you should send all the same information as if you were ordering the product itself. You may also want to ask the seller to provide information about their company, process, and timeline. Don’t forget to share the address you want the sample shipped to!
Be aware that many samples will not be exactly what you asked for, or may differ from the mass-produced product. There are many reasons for this, from the manufacturer using a different machine to make one product compared to hundreds of thousands, to materials not being available unless a larger order is made.
The way you pay for your sample, and the amount itself, will vary from seller to seller. Some charge high amounts for a sample because of the large amount of work it can require. Some charge nothing at all, because of the promise of a larger order if their product and level of service are what you expect. Shipping costs will also vary based on your location and that of your factory, and are usually relatively high to send a small package a long distance.
With all this said, you can expect to pay a small amount for your samples and shipping, sometimes $50-$100 for a sample and express air shipment if you’re in the $20-$50 retail price range for your product. You can request that this cost be taken off the price of a full order, should you place a larger and more expensive order after receiving the sample.
You can pay for your sample using any of the payment methods on Alibaba.com. It is recommended to always pay using the methods provided on Alibaba.com rather than a third-party payment platform. This helps you ensure you payment is secure.
Once you have received all of the samples, it will be much easier to make decisions with a product in hand! You’ll be able to see the difference in quality and tweak any of the details and features. Manufacturers often need to create a few iterations of your product to get it right, which is something to always keep in mind as you plan your budget.