If you’re starting a business and wanting to source your stock overseas, then the first thing you need to do is find yourself a decent supplier – but how do you go about this? It’s not as easy as flipping through a catalogue and picking the first one that catches your eye.
The safest way of finding the right overseas supplier is usually to meet them, view some of their work and test the quality of their products before you make a purchase. However, this often isn’t possible. If you’re a first-time buyer looking to dip your toes in the world of e-commerce, doling out the cash to jump on a plane to Shanghai for a week probably isn’t feasible . . . so do you have other options?
Of course you do! In this world of technology and the internet, the world is quite literally at your fingertips – if you know where to look. Which is where we come in. This post is dedicated to sharing ways in which you can find your overseas suppliers both in person and online.
Ways To Find Foreign Suppliers Online And In-Person
Let’s get to it!
Finding Suppliers Online
A vast majority of small or start-up businesses will source their goods online – it’s cheaper, it’s more convenient and you can get the exact same results from your sofa! Where on the world wide web do you find manufacturers? Well, let’s take a look . . .
Some suppliers have individual websites that you can access and buy from; usually these can be found by Googling a product, adding “wholesale” and a country of origin.
Some Chinese suppliers will have websites that you may think look like scams – they might look basic or outdated. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that they’re scams. Don’t be perturbed – a lot of great factories don’t have amazing websites.
Websites such as ‘Made in China’ and ‘Alibaba’ are a very common way to source your supplier when importing goods from China, India, Taiwan or anywhere else on the planet. These websites have many facilities where you can do your checks on the Supplier. Use suppliers with good feedback, they normally have it for a reason.
We understand purchasing goods from someone you have never met may be daunting. Sites such as Made in China and Alibaba offer a connection to thousands of suppliers, often whose main source of business is the site you found them on. Reporting a supplier to the site would get them instantly removed from listings while the matter is investigated. Due to this, established suppliers are often more reliable as they would not take the risk of being unlisted.
Sites such as Alibaba send staff out to the premises of all ‘Verified’ users to ensure that they have operations matching their claims, to give the buyer more peace of mind. The suppliers on Made in China are verified through third party agents that run finance and ethicality checks on all suppliers intending to export goods from China overseas. Alibaba suggest requesting a sample before placing a bulk order to confirm the authenticity of the unverified suppliers.
These sites are known as online marketplaces.
Alibaba is one of the most well-known platforms for sourcing overseas – commonly referred to as “the world’s largest B2B marketplace”. A large amount of our customers utilise Alibaba and manage to achieve great success with it. Due to its popularity, we have a written a few blog posts helping potential buyers navigate Alibaba safely.
Different industries have different trade associations; your industry’s Trade Association may have information about suppliers and manufacturers that come recommended.
Sourcing agents are a good way to source products without needing to lift a finger; you tell your sourcing agent what you’re looking for, they find goods matching your criteria and you then buy them. There are a multitude of benefits to using sourcing agents, but mainly that you have someone on the ground who knows the market searching for quality suppliers for you.
How To Find Foreign Suppliers In Person
Finding suppliers in person is a good way to minimise risk when sourcing goods overseas. You have an opportunity to meet your supplier face-to-face, ask them questions and get an idea of how communication will go between you. (Culture and language barriers can be a real challenge, but at least through meeting your supplier face-to-face you can get an idea of how well you’ll be able to communicate.) In addition to this, you can hold their products in your hand; test their quality. This is an assurance that you are not afforded when buying over the internet.
If you want to meet suppliers face-to-face, but aren’t willing to travel to their countries, you can try visiting trade shows. Trade shows are exhibitions in which manufacturers will display their latest products for you to examine. Although trade shows are a great way to meet your suppliers face to face, there are two possible barriers:
- Trade shows are industry specific.
- Many aren’t open to the public – you have to be established within the industry to access them.
If you have the money to visit the country you are looking to source from, you can always pay factories visits. Suppliers don’t typically mind you paying their factories a visit – but make sure to call in advance!
With large purchases, it’s advisable to take a trip out to discuss operations with any potential suppliers. When importing goods from China this is made easier by the fact that skills and natural resources around the country are often confined to certain cities. As a result, a trip to the right city could let you meet lots of Chinese suppliers that could make your products.
Asking Fellow Importers
This one may be a little more tricky because, in all likelihood, businesses aren’t going to want to spill their business’s secrets to you – however, you can try asking fellow importers for details of trustworthy suppliers.
However you find your supplier it’s a good idea to check that they can offer FOB shipping terms, this will give you the best control over your costs when it comes to shipping goods.
If you would like more support on the topic of how to find reliable suppliers and source high-quality goods, we have linked more helpful articles for you here:
For more information on finding a supplier, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 0203 384 0498.