How to Source Products from China?

Complete Guidance for finding products from China in 2024

How to source products from China? Whether you plan to source your products from China or you already have experience in sourcing products from China for your business, you will encounter the complexity of securing quality production with reliable manufacturers. 

To help add clarity to the process, our team here at Supplier Linkup has put together a complete guidance of Product Sourcing for businesses interested in sourcing products from China. We outline the best practices and tips, from finding options for products, negotiating prices, making contracts, and ensuring quality and delivery control, to effectively procure products.

Options to find products from China

Sourcing Products from Online B2B Platforms

The first and easiest way that comes to mind to find products is to go online. You can upload an image or type in keywords on popular platforms. The most famous platforms include Alibaba and Made in China. These platforms are popular for sourcing products from China, serving both local and international buyers. Domestic B2B platforms like 1688, Baidu, and HC360 cater to Chinese businesses, offering a wide range of products across various industries. For foreign trade, Alibaba, Global Sources, and Made in China are prominent, connecting Chinese suppliers with buyers worldwide. Intermediary platforms like AliExpress and DHgate focus on retail and wholesale trade, while specialized platforms such as 53huoyuan.com, Gongbangbang, and Marco Polo Net offer specific product categories. These platforms provide diverse services like supplier verification and secure payment methods, facilitating smooth transactions between buyers and suppliers.

CategoryPlatformDescription
Domestic B2B Platforms1688Operated by Alibaba Group, 1688 is a leading wholesale marketplace in China, offering a wide range of products.
BaiduChina's largest search engine, also provides B2B services, connecting buyers with suppliers.
HC360 (Hc360.comA comprehensive B2B e-commerce platform in China, covering various industries and sectors.
Foreign Trade B2B PlatformsAlibabaOne of the world's largest B2B marketplaces, Alibaba connects businesses globally, facilitating trade between China and other countries.
Made in ChinaAnother popular platform for sourcing products from Chinese manufacturers, particularly for international buyers seeking Chinese-made machinery.
Global SourcesA platform specializing in facilitating trade between Chinese suppliers and international buyers.
Intermediary PlatformsAliExpressOperated by Alibaba Group, AliExpress is a retail marketplace connecting Chinese sellers with international consumers.
DHgate (Dunhuang)An e-commerce platform focusing on small and medium-sized businesses, DHgate facilitates wholesale trade between Chinese suppliers and global buyers.
Specialized Platforms53huoyuan.comSpecializes in products like clothing, bags, and electronic products.
GongbangbangFocuses on wholesale industrial supplies.
Marco Polo NetSpecializes in wholesale machinery and hardware products.

Going online is easy, but finding the right factory can be tough, especially on platforms like Alibaba and Made in China, unlike Amazon or eBay, Alibaba and Made in China don’t take commission fees; instead, they earn revenue from membership fees, they encourage both trading company and factories, where tags like “Gold Plus Supplier” and “Verified Suppliers” are often tied to paid memberships. For instance, Alibaba’s international site offers two membership options: a regular one known as “Export Pass” for 29,800 yuan per year, and a premium one called “Gold Supplier” for 80,000 yuan per year. Similarly, China Manufacturing Network charges 31,100 yuan for Gold membership and 59,800 yuan for Diamond membership.

PlatformMembership TypeMembership Fee (per year)
AlibabaExport Pass29,800 yuan
Gold Supplier80,000 yuan
MadeinChinaGold31,100 yuan
Diamond59,800 yuan

Many of the suppliers labeled with these tags are trading companies collaborating with factories to showcase their products. Most factories, especially small and medium-sized ones, focus on manufacturing and internal sales and often rely on trading companies to sell their products. For example, one ‘Gold Supplier’ Alibaba account can have 8 sub-accounts. The factory may choose to manage 4-5 of these accounts themselves, leaving the remaining ones to cooperate with more experienced trading companies. Alternatively, this scenario can occur when a factory has an e-commerce team, and trading companies are enlisted to manage both domestic and international accounts.

 

Besides, competition is fierce on these platforms, similar to Google Ads, products promoted through keyword searches may not always be of high quality or well-rated, but rather products advertised for visibility. In summary, navigating these platforms can be challenging due to the predominance of foreign trade companies, making it crucial to carefully evaluate and select the right partner.

Sourcing Products from Professional Exhibitions

For a significant sourcing effort, we recommend arranging your time to attend B2B exhibitions where you can gain access to major companies and manufacturers in the industry. This traditional method allows you to source products and negotiate directly with factories. Apart from well-known international exhibitions, such as the Canton Fair, there are also events like the China (Shanghai) International Technology Import and Export Fair, and the China (Beijing) International Fair for Trade in Services, among others.

Trade FairDescriptionWebsite
China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair)Established in spring 1957 and held in Guangzhou twice a year, the Canton Fair is China's longest-running, largest-scale, most comprehensive international trade fair, serving as a vital platform for promoting China's foreign trade.cantonfair.org.cn
China (Shanghai) International Technology Import and Export Fair (CSITF)Also known as the Shanghai International Technology Import and Export Fair (CSITF), it is divided into four sections: Intelligent Manufacturing, Next-generation Information Technology, Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection, and Biomedicine.csitf.cn
China (Beijing) International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS)Co-sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China and the Beijing Municipal People's Government, CIFTIS, since its establishment in 2012, has served as a significant platform for promoting trade in services and facilitating international economic cooperation.ciftis.org
China International Import Expo (CIIE)Initiated in 2017 by President Xi Jinping during the "Belt and Road" International Cooperation Summit, the CIIE is a significant measure by the Chinese government to support trade liberalization, promote global trade, and advance an open world economy.shanghaiexpo.org.cn

Sourcing products from an Agent

If you are new to sourcing from China or if you want to target quality manufacturers directly to outsource part of your production line, the best option is to hire a sourcing agent. A sourcing agent can compare prices from different channels and guide you directly to the factory. They utilize their resources and skills to negotiate prices and find the best solution for your sourcing needs.

Supplier Verification Checks

After targeting the suppliers, you may need to verify the company’s information to confirm whether they are a factory, a trading company, or a middleman. The common practice is to request the company’s name and then verify the information through the national credit system. This provides details such as the foundation date, registered capital (whether paid or unpaid), number of employees contributing to social security, operational risks, local websites, and other relevant information. Based on this information, you can determine if it is a factory or a trading company. Typically, trading companies are registered in cities, while factories tend to be located in economic development zones for better supply chain management and favorable economic support policies. Alternatively, they may rent space in rural or suburban areas to reduce rental costs.

Send us a request if you need to verify the information of the factory.

Negotiate the Price

After you or your agent targets suppliers, you may begin bargaining on price. An interesting dynamic often observed is that customers will typically ask, ‘How much is the price?’ while suppliers will counter by questioning, ‘How much do they want?’ Therefore, if you aim to negotiate the price down, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your business’s growth needs.

Sample Products

Starting with a trial is completely understandable. All the suppliers can arrange the sending of sample products before you make a decision. Additionally, if you have specific production requirements, you can send a sample to the suppliers to check the quality. For instance, if you need a cardboard product, you can provide engineering pictures showing size, weight, sealing requirements, pattern, and color. However, if you lack actual data on these specifications, sending a sample is advisable. The supplier can then produce a model sample for you to verify if it meets your expectations.

Price based on Quantity

Regarding negotiations, after receiving the sample, you can proceed with small-batch deliveries. Negotiating a better price may be possible if you have monthly demand. However, considering the costly nature of international logistics, you may achieve a lower total price by ordering containers of goods at once. Supplier Linkup not only negotiates prices on your behalf with suppliers but also recommends the best logistics solutions for delivering your goods.

Sign a Contract to Source the Products

Non-disclosure Agreement

If seeking production sourcing, it’s advisable to consider signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) for various reasons. These include the need to safeguard product patent technology when collaborating with suppliers, especially in the design of new products/services, and during consultation processes. NDAs are essential to protect company product technical secrets such as design progress, engineering details, and test results, as well as operational trade secrets like negotiation details, customer lists, and financial information. By signing an NDA, both parties can ensure the confidentiality of sensitive information shared during the sourcing process, covering aspects ranging from product development to business operations.

Payment Terms

For corporate accounts, various payment methods are available including Telegraphic Transfer (T/T), Letter of Credit (L/C), Documents against Payment (D/P), and Documents against Acceptance (D/A), as well as Open Account (O/A) arrangements. These methods facilitate international transactions by providing flexibility and security in payment processing. On the other hand, private accounts commonly utilize services such as Western Union, PayPal, SpeedRemit, and T/T for transferring funds, catering to individual needs with efficient and reliable money transfer options.

Quality Control

Quality control is super important to maintain sustainable quality. The price can vary greatly if the quality of the materials is changed even slightly. At supplier Linkup, our best practice is to have our team physically on-site to check on production. If you find a supplier by yourself, we suggest you ask the supplier for photos and videos of your product throughout the process. This can be done when the materials for production arrive, during the manufacturing process, and before the products are delivered. Checking at every stage can ensure your products match the exact quality standards, and the factory will not delay the schedule to meet your marketing timetables.

Delivery Inspection

The size and packaging of the product’s outer box affect how much it costs to ship. Before sending the products, you need to make sure you’re using the container space efficiently. You also need to double-check things like size, weight, color, and packaging based on the contract terms. If possible, get a professional or a third party to inspect the goods to avoid problems later. Also, check documents like labels, product names, weights, and sizes carefully to prevent returns.

FAQ

Most popular: Alibaba, Made in China, Global Sources.

  • A sourcing agent assists buyers in finding suppliers or manufacturers for specific products or goods.
  • Sourcing agents usually work on behalf of the buyer, helping them navigate the process of finding suitable suppliers, negotiating prices, and ensuring product quality.
  • They may provide services such as factory audits, product inspections, and overseeing the production process to ensure compliance with the buyer’s requirements.
  •  Sourcing agents typically charge a fee or commission for their services, which is usually negotiated with the buyer.

A trading company and a sourcing agent are both entities involved in facilitating international trade, but they operate in slightly different ways:

Trading Company:

  • A trading company typically buys goods from manufacturers and sells them to customers in different markets.
  • They often hold inventory and may handle aspects like packaging, shipping, and sometimes branding.
  • Trading companies may have established relationships with multiple manufacturers and act as intermediaries between the manufacturer and the end buyer.
  • They may also engage in other services such as quality control, logistics, and financing.

Sourcing Agent:

  • A sourcing agent assists buyers in finding suppliers or manufacturers for specific products or goods.
  • Sourcing agents usually work on behalf of the buyer, helping them navigate the process of finding suitable suppliers, negotiating prices, and ensuring product quality.
  • They may provide services such as factory audits, product inspections, and overseeing the production process to ensure compliance with the buyer’s requirements.
  •  Sourcing agents typically charge a fee or commission for their services, which is usually negotiated with the buyer.

In summary, while both trading companies and sourcing agents play roles in facilitating international trade, trading companies buy and sell goods themselves, whereas sourcing agents assist buyers in finding and negotiating with suppliers.

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