The basic reason for the popularity of Chinese products is due to their low cost. Any business company that wants to be more competitive in the market will prefer to directly source from China. However, language barriers and the different business culture make China product purchasing uneasy for many foreign buyers.
You must have heard of Alibaba, but do you know 1688.com? It is a wholesale platform owned by Alibaba mainly serving domestic businesses. While Alibaba was designed as an export machine for international trade, 1688 has a wholly China focus, and does business in the local currency RMB.
Overview of 1688 sourcing
1688.com is another well-known brand of B2B e-commerce that belongs to the Alibaba Group. It is almost like Alibaba.com, from where you can find different products, suppliers, and factories.
However, the complete website of 1688 is written in the Chinese language, and hence this platform can serve China's domestic markets.
Pros of 1688 sourcing:
- Full category of Chinese products.
- The best way of finding real manufacturers in China.
- The lowest price for your products.
Cons of 1688 sourcing:
- Language barrier.
- Payment security.
- Difficult to return.
What are the prices like on 1688?
If you want to buy directly from 1688 factories, you probably will have factory direct prices. They're cheaper than what you might find on Alibaba or other China wholesale websites.
If the prices are better, why not buy from 1688 rather than Alibaba?
As 1688 was created for the domestic market, sellers on it are not equipped to serve international buyers. They do not have an export license so are unable to ship their products overseas. They're also not as experienced as their Alibaba counterparts when it comes to understanding the design requirements of Western buyers. It is a bit risky, especially if your product needs to meet stringent quality or safety standards. It doesn't imply that sellers on 1688 offer inferior products, rather, their understanding of acceptable quality is limited to the expectations of the local markets.
What's the use of visiting 1688 sourcing for Amazon sellers?
A way in which 1688 sourcing can potentially work is in comparing the price of a product on this site against what you're charged on Alibaba or another wholesale website. You'll see the markup applied for importers versus the price for the domestic market. As prices on the website are in Chinese currency, you'll need to convert to your currency for the evaluation.
Yet another reason to have a look at 1688 is to find more suppliers for your product or industry. On Alibaba, you and your competitors have access to the same suppliers. Your supplier may also be selling to your competitors, making it difficult for you to differentiate your product on Amazon. Suppliers on 1688 are usually not on Alibaba, and this creates the opportunity to find something different in terms original design and price of product.
Should you buy from 1688?
You can buy from 1688 as long as its suppliers meet the standards of your market and deliver a good experience to your customers. But the actual sourcing process can be complex. Back and forth communication with suppliers is likely to be challenging as they normally don't have English-speaking staff.
Pay Chinese supplier on 1688 will also be a hassle as they only accept domestic payment modes like Alipay and WeChat. You'll need to open an account in a Chinese bank for this or make bank transfers in RMB.
Unless you've been sourcing in China for many years and can speak passable Chinese, you're better off looking elsewhere. There's another way to make the most of the low prices and numerous product categories on the site - use a reliable sourcing agent in China for assistance with procurement.
What's it like to buy products on 1688?
1688 sourcing is different from what you can expect on Alibaba despite their connection. Alibaba is tailor-made to appeal to buyers from all over the world. It has a decent user interface and offers a comfortable navigation experience for the English-speaking buyers.
Your browsing experience on 1688 will depend on how comfortable you find using the English version of a website. Generally, the translations on multi-lingual websites are done poorly and you'll need to grasp what is inferred. Moreover, as prices on the website are in RMB, you'll need an online converter handy when you must crunch the numbers. As already mentioned, the language barrier and suppliers' Chinese-speaking sales staff also make communicating on 1688 difficult.
What to look for when buying products on 1688?
Pretty much the same things you'd review on a China wholesale website. On 1688.com, you can search for products by typing their names in the search box and filtering them based on your exact requirement. Or you can upload product photos on the website and a collection of similar products will come up.
For example, if you saw a hot-selling selfie stick tripod on AliExpress or Amazon, you can save the image on your desktop and upload it to 1688.com. Searching by image is faster than searching by name on bilingual websites. The other thing to note is that 1688 isn't exactly a fast-loading website. So, don't expect a super-fast browsing experience.
Like Alibaba, 1688 also provides supplier profile metrics. You can see the company size and select suppliers based on their reputation for quality, timely deliveries, and sales volume. You can filter suppliers by various criteria, including:
Now, you have got 3 options for buying from 1688.
1. Directly contact the supplier on 1688.com
- You can bypass any middleman and directly buy from China factories.
- Since most sellers here sell only to China domestic buyers hence the price will be lower than Alibaba.
- Most suppliers cannot speak English.
- Many suppliers in this platform have no PayPal account.
- Their bank cards can only accept RMB.
- You need to find a certain alternate payment method that is acceptable to your supplier.
2. Buy through a shopping proxy website
- The procedure is much simple and easy, and the shopping experience is great.
- The whole process is like shopping on AliExpress.
- They can offer PayPal and credit card payment options.
- They will not provide product purchasing service.
- Will not help you to check product quality.
- You need to find your products and suppliers all by yourself.
- Their shipping method is meant for small orders only and will not offer shipping options like air/ocean for your bulk orders.
3. Hire a 1688 sourcing agent
- You will get more services such as product purchasing, finding manufacturers, getting samples, quality control, customs clearance, also shipping, etc.
- Their service will be one-to-one; hence you can get quick and personalized service.
- Many of them are fluent in English, so you can easily communicate with them.
They may prefer big customers and big orders.
For small orders, they will charge a relative high commission.
What can a 1688 sourcing agent do for you?
A 1688 sourcing agent provides a full range of procurement services, so you can focus on your business while they handle factory inspection, order monitoring and quality monitoring. The importance of these services is greater when you want a tight control over product quality and delivery times. Chinese and western notions of quality differ quite a bit, making it vital that you stay on top of your order and ensure that you get what you paid for.
A sourcing agent can also be assistance when you have specific shipping requirements, such as combining orders into one and ensuring secure packaging. Combining orders is a common way to save on shipping costs, but it will require proper coordination at the manufacturing destination, which the agent can handle quite easily.
Finally, having an agent on your side can make certain the rules of return and exchange you wish to negotiate and establish with your supplier. You can define which circumstances will allow you to return or exchange products.
How to find a 1688 sourcing agent?
1688.com has manufacturers, wholesalers, agents, and business services. So, you can search for a sourcing agent directly on the platform. But you'll need to do your due diligence by finding out more about the agent online or making inquiries offline.
If the agent has a website, go through it to check their expertise, product and industry specialization, scope of services and fee. A China sourcing agent with five or more years of experience is preferable to one that has been in business for less than a year.