Alibaba held their first ever UK conference today in London. Targeted at Alibaba customers, who ranged from start-ups and one-man-bands to the procurement departments of larger companies, the Alibaba Open Sesame 2010 conference taught about global trade, both how to export and how to source products and services. Hugely popular, the conference was way over subscribed, leading to a last minute change of venue to accommodate the 100 plus delegates.
The over-riding theme of the event was to answer the “How do I get started” question, whether that be related to sourcing product overseas, or getting start selling your products or services to International customers. The event kicked off with Sarah Todd from UK Trade and Investment who spoke about the advice and investment available to businesses wishing to expand internationally. It’s well worth contacting UK TI if you’re looking to trade internationally and are looking for help to get started.
An interesting session was the Entrepreneur Exchange, hosted by “Go Global” author Emma Jones, during which three businesses shared their experiences of sourcing through Alibaba. Kate Castle of “BoginaBag“, Ben Creighton of “Bond St Boxing” and Gifford Hooper of “Applied Automation Marine Electronics” really opened my eyes to the possibilities of Alibaba.
I had been under the mistaken impression that Alibaba is simply a marketplace for wholesale goods, although that is partly true. Where Alibaba really comes into it’s own however, is connecting businesses with suppliers that can manufacture and even design custom made products to your own requirements under your own brand label.
The three entrepreneurs shared how they took products from a concept to a finished product in the shops by working with suppliers found on Alibaba, along with tips on how to use the site.
Next up was Jeremey O’Hare from the British Library Business and Intellectual Property Centre. Jeremy spoke about how the free-to-use resources at the British Library can assist businesses with Patents, Trademarks, Design and Copyrights. Also the Library has a vast array of business directories, both print and online such as Experion. Normally these reports would cost thousands, but the Library will even assist with downloading custom reports so that you can literally walk out making phone calls with a custom prospect list of companies, director names and contact numbers.
The day finished with a walk though of the Alibaba websites showing where to get started and how to find the suppliers and manufacturers that you’re looking for. If you want to get started on Alibaba it’s probably worth looking at AliExpress to start with. This allows goods to be purchased from Aliababa Gold suppliers in small quantities and with Escrow so that your money is protected until you have the goods and are happy with them. When you’re looking for larger quantities or are looking for custom made products then Alibaba.com is the destination you should head for.
10 Top Tips for international product sourcing
The Alibaba Open Sesame 2010 conference ended with 10 Top Tips for international product sourcing:
- Be clear on the brief – When speaking or writing to foreign language speakers use simple language and pictures where possible to ensure there are no misunderstandings.
- Plain in advance – The more you plane the better your suppliers can help you. Give plenty of time for design, manufacture and shipping.
- Choose the right factory – Talk to many factories before making your decision, ask for references and check payment terms.
- Establish long term relationships
- Know your local countries legislation, product safety and compliance. Don’t expect your supplier to be the expert
- Know your price – what’s included in the quote, does it include shipping and landing costs?
- Ask for a sample – Be prepared to pay for samples, but negotiate the cost of the sample off your first order
- Placing the order – Make sure you know the products your ordering, the pricing, shipping terms and delivery dates
- Quality Control – Do your checks with samples and on the completed order
- Shipping – Get your own quotes and recruit a shipping agent as it’ll be more cost effective