August 11, 2016 by Andrew Minalto - 1 Comments

Product Sourcing on Alibaba.com – Buying Requests vs Searching Manually?

alibaba-sourcing

A little while ago I took a look at one of Alibaba’s new tools – the AliSource Tool. You can check out my full review of that here: Alibaba’s AliSource Tool – Does it Work?, but basically it’s a tool that allows you to automatically post a buying request for any item you find on Alibaba, AliExpress, Amazon, or eBay.

And in my review I spoke a little bit about how I personally don’t use buying requests and instead prefer to search for suppliers for a product manually.

There are a number of reasons for this, such as:

  • It allows me to apply my filters when looking at potential suppliers;
  • I can do some preliminary supplier verification;
  • I can ask specific questions;
  • Quality over quantity – this is really the main reason! I prefer to select and talk to a view different companies so I can get a proper feel for them, makes notes etc. rather than just being contacted by countless companies that I know nothing about.

BUT, this is all personal preference, it’s how I prefer to source products and find suppliers but for some people the ease of posting a buying request may be more beneficial.

So today I want to do a little test – I’m going to put buying requests up against manual searching and see which comes out on top!

How this works is very simple:

  1. I’ll select a product.
  2. I’ll post a buying request for that product using the AliSource Tool.
  3. I’ll manually search on Alibaba.com for suppliers myself (but in order to simplify the process, the only filter I’m going to apply is that they have to be a Gold supplier).
  4. I’ll compare the results (pricing and MOQ), in order to see if there is any real difference between the two sourcing techniques or if it really is just a matter of personal preference.

Alright, it’s time to get to it then!

Just as a reminder, I select products on a fairly random basis for these tests, it’s not based on profitability or anything like that!

Product No.1

Okay, for our first product I’ve chosen a 2L waterproof bag which I came across on AliExpress:

waterproof-bag

While on the product page, I simply click the AliSource Tool bookmark button and this buying request opens and the information is automatically pre-filled for me:
ali-source-form

I add an estimated order quantity of 500 pieces and add a further message asking that the supplier sends me a full price list, including the MOQ and quantity price breaks, and then I simply hit the Submit Buying Request button and I’m done!

submitted

Next I head to Alibaba myself, and search for a “2L waterproof bag”

2l-waterproof-bag

The first and third listings both look exactly like the product we’re sourcing, with one supplier being a 2 year gold and the second being a 1 year gold.

If I scroll down a bit further through the results, I come across a few more listings that look perfect:

travel-bag

And this time we have a 4 year gold supplier, a 2 year gold supplier, and a 7 year gold supplier.

That gives me 5 gold suppliers in total, which is more than enough. Ordinarily I would just speak to them via live chat, but none are actually online now as it’s a bit too late in China (which is 7 hours ahead), so instead I’ll send the exact same message to all 5:

first-contact

And that’s it! Now all I need to do is wait to hear back from my suppliers – both the 5 I’ve messaged specifically, and the others that should be contacting me from my buying request!

But, as just testing one product can be misleading, I’m going to choose a second one to repeat the exact same process with.

Product No.2

I decided to go with a common/popular item for our second product, and you can’t get more common than an iPhone case!

iphone-case

To be more specific, I’ve chosen this faux marble iPhone 6/6S case, which I also found on AliExpress.

And once again, I simply click the AliSource Tool bookmark while on the product page to be taken to my buying request:

buying-request

This time I’m giving an estimated order quantity of 1,000 pieces as it’s a cheaper product. I fill that in and add the same message and then hit submit.

Now it’s time to try my manual sourcing again, to see what that brings, so I head to Alibaba and search for “iphone 6 marble case” and sure enough the first result is again exactly what I’m looking for:

marble-case

When I scroll further down there are countless listings for the same/similar “marble” iPhone cases, which is exactly what I expected and why I choose a popular product such as this:

iphone6-marble-case

To keep things consistent, I’ll again choose 5 suppliers to message – simply editing the same text so that it asks about iPhone cases, rather than a waterproof bag 😉

I’m sticking with my filter of only contacting gold suppliers and for this product we have:

A 4 year gold, two 2 year golds, one 1 year gold, and one 3 year gold.

product-list

As you can see from the timestamps of my messages in the above screenshot, this is an incredibly simple process. It’s literally a matter of scrolling down through the search results and copying and pasting the same message to multiple suppliers – it couldn’t get any easier!

Which is why I’ve never seen the need for buying requests... as it’s just so easy to do it yourself and you maintain full control of the process.

But maybe I’m missing out and I could uncover some amazing suppliers using the AliSource Tool and by making requests?

Well that’s what this test is all about! I’ve now got two separate buying request submitted and have also contacted ten different suppliers myself.

All that’s left to do is wait for the results!

RESULTS

I initially gave twenty four hours for these companies to respond (which in my mind is more than enough time) BUT while I did get a lot of replies to my messages in that time, I didn’t get any update on my buying requests – so already the idea that it’s quicker is coming into question!

So I extended the time to nearly 72 hours, and let’s see what results we got in the end.

2L Waterproof Bag

Well the first buying request can only really be described as a complete failure. First of all, there were only two replies:

alisource-replies

And to make it even worse, this was one of the quotes:

fake-quote

I wish I could tell you that was a joke, but it’s not – one of the quotes was for zippers!!!

The second quote was clearly from a manufacturer, as it had a very large MOQ:

large-moq

So all in all, a dreadful result for the buying request.

Let’s see how the direct messaging fared.

From the 5 messages sent, I received back 3 full quotes, which isn’t bad (a 60% reply percentage):

quote

The MOQ was constant at 100 pieces, and the price varied quite a bit from $1.95 to $3.33, but overall this was a clear win for manual searching – with 3x more quotes, and MOQs of 30x less with similar pricing…

Product 1 Winner – MANUAL SEARCHING!

I’m starting to feel quite confident in my earlier assessment, but let’s move on to the second product and see what happened there.

“Marble” iPhone Case

Initially our second buying request seems to have produced much better results, with 10 quotations received:

buying-requests

BUT sadly, the large majority of these quotes were for the WRONG PRODUCT!

wrong-product

wrong-product-2

In the end, only 3 of the 10 quotes were for the correct product.

Let’s now look at the numbers:

case-prices

Moving on to the direct messages, and once again there were good results, with 4 full quotes from 5 original messages:

marble-case-prices

One quite interesting point – quote no.3 from the buying request and quote no.4 from the direct messages are from the same company, but the MOQ changes from 10 to 50. This is probably because I had a high estimated order quantity for the buying request, but it does just go to show that you can always negotiate the MOQ – it’s not set in stone.

But getting back to the numbers, and it’s quite hard to call a winner here. Overall while it offered some lower prices, I think the buying request was a failure, because three companies getting back to you simply isn’t enough. Also, a large reason for the better pricing is simply the much higher MOQs, which means…

Product 2 Winner – MANUAL SEARCHING!

Conclusion

And there you have it! The numbers don’t lie and having 1 and 3 companies contact you from a buying request just isn’t good enough.

It was actually much faster and easier for me, in terms of time per quote, to search for and contact companies myself – and I also get a number of benefits from doing it that way as well.

One interesting option would be to test buying requests with the help of a purchasing agent, as Alibaba themselves suggested to me in an email:

buying-agents

Let me know down below in the comments section if that’s something you’d like to see and as always if you have any questions that you want me to answer, post them below and I’ll get back to you within 24 hours, Monday to Friday.

Otherwise, until next time!

All the best,
Andrew

One Reply to “Product Sourcing on Alibaba.com – Buying Requests vs Searching Manually?”

  1. John Edwards

    I have to say regardless of what tools any supplier…platform…software developers create to make life easier for the seller…if there is a fee involved for that service…which is fair enough…you have to question just effective it is for the leverage of your own interests and business…when the core reason for the service is to make a profit out of you?

    Good call on this Andrew…and see why tests ARE ultimately nessarsary to see just how powerful the leverage is against *good old fashioned* manual searching!

    John.

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