By John J. Capela

To get involved in importing, you need to find suppliers from other countries. And if finding international suppliers is of interest to you, there’s a good chance you’ll be using Alibaba.com. It’s by far the largest e-commerce company in the world, connecting suppliers, primarily from Asia, with buyers from all over the world.

You can source products in three ways using the Alibaba.com website: Conduct a product search, do a supplier search, or post a buying request:

  • Product search: Type in the product desired, and you’ll receive an extensive list of potential suppliers. Or you can search using the categories along the left side of the home page. The problem with this approach is that you get an enormous list of contacts but don’t receive any specific information about the supplier behind the products.

  • Supplier search: With this approach, you still list the desired product, but instead of a list of products, you get a list of suppliers that can produce the product. A supplier that specializes in a product will probably offer lower prices, higher quality, and faster delivery.

  • Posting a buying request: With this approach, you provide Alibaba.com with information about your product, price range, shipping terms, and desired method of payment. Your request will then be forwarded to thousands of Alibaba.com Gold Suppliers.

None of the suppliers you’re provided with via sites like Alibaba.com are guaranteed to be honest, so it’s important to conduct research before placing any orders. Due diligence is probably the most important step in sourcing goods from overseas suppliers.