Alibaba is the world’s largest online commerce company. Its three main sites — Taobao, Tmall and Alibaba.com — have hundreds of millions of users, and host millions of merchants and businesses. Alibaba handles more business than any other e-commerce company.
With all this, it presents enormous opportunity for exporters world over, especially Australians. However, Australian exporters looking to discover the potential of Alibaba.com to increase their global exports need to avoid the most common mistakes exporters make when using Alibaba.
Here the the four biggest mistakes to watch out for:
1. Treating Alibaba.com like a B2C Platform
Alibaba.com is a B2B platform. Exporters use the platform with the goal of finding more buyers globally, typically selling their products in bulk quantities. Despite this, many people go into the platform expecting a sales process similar to B2C and C2C platforms like Amazon or eBay. They expect to list their products then simply wait for orders to come in, not lifting a finger until a payment has been made and it is time to ship the products.
Just as you would not treat a traditional B2B transaction like this, you should not expect this from Alibaba. You need to spend time negotiating with interested buyers, building their trust and coming to an agreement. Put yourself in the buyers shoes – would you spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a bulk purchase without going through this process?
2. Assuming all inquiries are spam
It is no secret that Alibaba users are subject to spam inquiries. Particularly if users get a lot of spam early on in their Alibaba campaign, they start to assume that all inquiries are spam, potentially missing out on interested buyers.
Perhaps a bit different to how Australians are used to doing business, it is not uncommon for buyers from Asia to send short, impersonal messages requesting pricing and product information in order to qualify potential suppliers. These inquiries may seem like spam, but it is not guaranteed that they are, so instead of disregarding them you should qualify the buyer by sending them the requested information and asking them for more specific information such as what their needs are and what port they will be shipping to. Based on their response you should be able to determine if they are in fact a genuine buyer.
3. Not actively using Request for Quotes (RFQ)
The RFQ system is one of the most valuable tools you get access to as a gold supplier. It gives you direct access to warm leads by allowing you to search through buyers who are requesting products specific to your industry.
Unfortunately, many gold suppliers are neglecting this powerful tool. They aren’t willing to take the time to check RFQ’s regularly. Many have the impression that nobody will be looking for what they’re selling, and when they do find somebody, similar to the previous point, the assume it is spam.
It is very quick and easy to check the RFQ system every one or two days to scan for potential buyers, and with over 20,000 new RFQ’s posted every day there is every chance that you will find a new customers using this system, as long as you are willing to put in the work.
4. Poor product listings
Posting a product in Alibaba is not as simple as just adding a photo, title, and description. First you must ensure that as many product details as possible are completed accurately. This includes but is not limited specifications such as ingredients, and logistical details such as the port they will be shipped from, and accepted payment methods. Descriptions should be detailed but concise, and the posting as a whole should be visually appealing.
Secondly, you need to take the time to research the keywords which are frequently being searched relevant to the product, and optimise your listings to ensure that they appear on the front page for those keywords.
Search rankings are decided by a “product score” from 1 to 5. Inside China, 65% of suppliers have a product score of 4.5 or greater, whereas outside of China only 3% of suppliers match that score, demonstrating that there is a large skill gap in posting products and using Alibaba between China and the rest of the world.
Jay Hyland is the senior consultant of iSynergi in Melbourne who has developed real expertise in Alibaba.com – widely known as the world’s largest platform for global trade. Using the Alibaba platform requires specific expertise and an investment of time. iSynergi have the expertise and resources to provide local support and help to bring you success on Alibaba.