23 Questions you HAVE to Ask Alibaba Suppliers and Why


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If you’re looking at making your first order from Alibaba, PLEASE make sure you have a list of questions ready to go. I’ve heard some horror stories of people bulk ordering inferior products, orders being sent to random ports and massive production delays that cost them thousands!

All because they either forgot to ask, they didn’t think to ask or they didn’t realize they had to ask specific questions.

If this is your first time purchasing from Alibaba suppliers, I suggest you read through each of the questions below thoroughly and decide which ones apply to your business.

If you need some more assistance with contacting suppliers, I have several Alibaba inquiry templates you can use and a guide to avoid working with untrustworthy Alibaba suppliers.

Questions to Ask Alibaba Suppliers about their Company

1. What is your MOQ?

Suppliers will have their MOQ (Minimum order quantity) listed on Alibaba but that is not set in stone. Often you will see their MOQ as 1 but this is purely to get your attention and often refers to purchasing a sample. If they have a high MOQ and you want to work with them, don’t be discouraged as the MOQ is negotiable.

2. Which province of China is your company located in?

The location of the company you plan to work with is important depending on your requirements. Each province specializes in different materials and products. This provides your manufacturer with the resources it requires to produce high-quality products at the lowest possible prices.

Map of china with a list of each province and the manufacturing materials they specialise in.

Alternatively, if fast and cost-effective shipping is a priority in your business, having a supplier close to Guangzhou/Shenzhen is important. This area has access to the best shipping lines in the country.

3. Are you a trade company or a manufacturer?

Occasionally the company may disclose this on their profile section on Alibaba but sometimes it’s a little misleading so it’s always worth asking.

Manufacturers produce the goods making them the ideal option for sourcing products at the lowest price. Trade companies are middlemen between manufacturers and importers making the product cost higher but they often have lower MOQ’s and more options with custom packaging.

For more information, I suggest you read my article on the difference between a manufacturer and a trading company.

4. Can we communicate through WeChat?

WeChat is China’s most popular mobile messaging service. Most suppliers will prefer this method of communication and it’s much faster and easier than using Alibaba’s messaging service.

5. Do you take any additional time off during Chinese New Year?

Just about all factories will take 15 days off during Chinese New Year which differs every year but kicks off anywhere between late January to mid-February. Some factories can take additional time off, up to 40 days and it’s vital you know this beforehand so you can plan ahead.

6. What kind of delays can I expect with manufacturing and fulfilling orders during Q4 and Chinese New Year?

Chinese factories are very busy in Q4 leading up to Christmas and it’s important for you to be prepared as this will likely be your busiest time. Knowing the kinds of delays you can expect during this period will make managing inventory easier for you.

7. Which payment options do you prefer to use?

Certain suppliers will accept PayPal but trade assurance is the preferred payment gateway for the majority of Alibaba suppliers. Trade assurance is the most secure method of purchasing orders as it provides transaction protection between yourself and the supplier.

8. Does your factory have certifications?

Depending on the type of product you’re selling, you will need certifications depending on the laws of the country you’re selling to.

For example, if you’re selling health or supplement products you may require an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) certification or some electrical items may require an FCC (Federal Communications Commission). Without these certifications, you probably won’t get your bulk order through customs.

FAQ of Product Certifications for China Importing And Amazon Selling

Questions to Ask Alibaba Suppliers about Shipping

9. What is the cost to ship each of the quantities below to (Your country and zip or postcode)?

  • Cost for 500 units:
  • Cost for 1,000 units:
  • Cost for 5,000 units:

The more units you ship at once the lower the shipping cost will be per unit but the bigger the upfront cost. It’s important to work out which option is best for your business. (The units I have listed are an example and you can customize them for your needs.)

10. Which port will my products be shipped to?

This is only applicable if the supplier you’re working with does FOB (Free on Board) Shipping. This is where the supplier will only ship your packages to a specific port and you are then liable for the shipment. It will be up to you to have a freight forwarder or sourcing agent manage the rest of the shipping process.

FOB shipping is not that common, if you want to avoid this make sure to specify this to your supplier. There are many different shipping terms but ideally, you want DDP (Deliver Duty Paid) which means the supplier will ship the goods to your desired destination.

11. Which shipping lines do you have access to?

Not all suppliers will have access or use the special shipping options available. The best options for fast and efficient shipping will be 4PX Express, Yun Express and CNE Express. Often the suppliers who are doing high volumes will receive the most benefits from these shipping lines.

12. What are the expected shipping times for each of the quantities below via your shipping lines to (Your country and zip or postcode)?

  • 500 units:
  • 1,000 units:
  • 5,000 units:

Every supplier will have different shipping options and you need to know the expected times for each option and quantity.

Questions to Ask Alibaba Suppliers about the Product

13. Can you print my logo on the products? If so, at what price and what is the MOQ to do this?

It’s common for sellers to want their logo printed on the product these days so you can expect most manufacturers can provide this service. However, many won’t unless you order a high enough MOQ. It may not be feasible for them to print your logo for 100 units for example.

14. Will I have exclusive rights to any products I private label?

Once you work with a supplier to customize a product to help you differentiate yourself from your competitors, you have to be sure your supplier will then not start selling your product to other sellers. You will need to ensure you have exclusive rights to your line of products.

15. Can you send any additional information about the product?

The specifications of the product you’re interested in should be on the product page but there may be more information you need.

For example:

  • Color
  • Dimensions
  • Materials
  • Variants
  • Bundles
  • Design
  • Certifications

16. What is your policy regarding damaged or defective products?

Alibaba has set rules in place for returns and refunds if you’re using trade assurance but it’s also good to get your supplier’s policies. If there is an issue with shipping or the products are inferior to the agreed quality, you want to make sure you’re protected.

17. How much will it cost to have a product sample be sent express to (Your address)?

Product samples are typically not cheap. I don’t recommend asking for a free sample, although if you sound professional and they believe you are likely to make a large order with them in the future, the supplier may send it for a lower cost.

For more information, I suggest you read my article on How to order samples from Alibaba the right way.

18. How much is the product cost in the following quantities?

  • Price for 500 units:
  • Price for 1,000 units:
  • Price for 5,000 units:

It’s best to ask for the cost of multiple quantities even if you don’t plan to order that amount. Not only does it give the impression you may be making large orders in the future, it also provides you a reference point to compare prices and allows more negotiation power.

Questions to Ask Alibaba Suppliers about Packaging

19. Are you able to provide custom packaging? If so, what is the pricing for this?

Depending on the type of product you’re purchasing, custom packaging may be essential. Suppliers will have differing options which may be adequate for specific products. If you are selling branded goods, especially in the fashion and accessories niche, you will need premium packaging.

20. What is your process for packaging and shipping of fragile products?

This not only refers to fragile products but also oversized packages or items with liquids. If you are selling any of these products you need to confirm how they manage the process because it can require special expertise.

21. How long will it take to manufacture and package the quantities below?

  • 500 units:
  • 1,000 units:
  • 5,000 units:

It’s very important to have an accurate time frame for producing and packaging different quantities. Depending on the quantities of stock you order, you may need to make an order weekly, fortnightly or monthly. If you run out of stock, so does your income.

22. Are you able to include product inserts with the packaging? If so, how much will this cost?

Product inserts can be marketing materials, instruction booklets or whatever you need. Providing discount vouchers for future purchases in your packages will drastically increase your returning customer frequency.

23. Can you put my UPC (Universal Product Code) on each packaged unit? If so, will it cost extra? Most suppliers will provide this at no extra charge but you should try to find out so you can factor it into your overall costs. If you’re doing Amazon FBA it’s important to find a supplier who will do this as Amazon charges for this service.

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