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Once you have an idea for your product, you need to find a manufacturer to produce your product. Sourcify can find your factory for you, or you can search for one on your own. Before you start landing any sales, you’ve got to source a factory. Finding a manufacturer can be stressful. Alibaba is one of the fastest and easiest ways to find a factory for your e-commerce brand and a great way to get in touch with affordable factories with a lower MOQ (minimum order quantity). 

When you think about finding a manufacturer, there are certain keys to look out for. Below is a list of eight top traits to look for in your factory:

Trading Companies 

The most important thing you want to look for in your manufacturer is that they actually are a manufacturer. On Alibaba, There are many import/export companies and trading companies. While these may be useful to work with, it is usually easier to cut out the middleman and work directly with a factory. To tell if a company is a trading company, look for names ending in “Trading Co.” or “Export Co.”. Your factory should have some proof of their production capabilities on their page or website, such as photos of the floor or inspection certificates.

Trade Assurance/Verification

One feature on supplier’s pages on Alibaba is Trade Assurance and Verification. Trade Assurance is provided by Alibaba as a consumer protection in the event that your supplier fails to meet deadlines, order quantities, or product quality standards. This should not be relied upon, but instead regarded as a minimum qualification for potential suppliers. A verified supplier on Alibaba is one who has met certain inspection standards. Again, this should not be completely relied upon and you should look for their business certifications. While searching, it is important to remember that the factories on Alibaba aren’t necessarily sorted in any meaningful way, most suppliers can pay to be higher up on a search.

Market Locations

On a supplier’s “Company Profile” section of their Alibaba page, it will show several key details of the company. One of the most important details is where in the world that they typically sell most of their product. Generally speaking, a company that sells a lot of products to North America and Europe may have higher quality products and be more well-versed in dealing with those markets. Below is an example of a breakdown you might see:

As you can see, this company sells most of their product within China and in North America. Use this profile information to help you find a supplier with experience selling in your potential market.

Experience

Alibaba has many useful metrics shown on the profile page of a company. An important stat is how long your supplier has been on Alibaba. This will be featured very prominently next to the factory’s name. Ideally, your factory should have at least 3-5 years on Alibaba. This doesn’t necessarily mean the factory is 3-5 years old, just that they’ve been on Alibaba that long. You’re better off dealing with a factory that has experience on Alibaba.

Certifications

When you look at the company profile of the supplier you’re researching, there will be a section devoted to the third-party business certifications they have attained. The most important one to look for is the ISO 9001 certification. This certification is about quality management and is given out if a factory meets the minimum standards for quality control. Other popular certifications are the ISO 14001 and SA 8000, indicating environmental regulations and health and safety standards respectively.

Response Rate

Alibaba sellers will always have a response rate listed on their company profile. It represents the percentage of inquiries that they generally respond to. This is an important figure to take into consideration, given that it can save you a lot of time that you would’ve spent reaching out to unresponsive factories. Look for a response rate as high as you can find- many are 100% or close to it. Don’t settle for one with a rate less than 75%. 

MOQ

The Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) is the lowest number of a product a factory will produce in a production run. Factories vary widely in their MOQ and it will change depending on the product you are potentially ordering. Based on your market research, you’ll need to decide for your brand what kind of number you’re looking to produce in your first run. Once you’ve decided, check out what the MOQ for similar products on Alibaba is with the suppliers you’re researching. This will give you an idea of the MOQ if you’re ordering a custom product. This potentially the most important factor in deciding on a factory. Your order quantity is something you shouldn’t compromise on.

Offsite Website

Often, a manufacturer will have a link to their own website on their Alibaba company profile. A company shows a lot through their website. Look out for videos of the factory floor, photos of products, and business certifications. Their website may also boast qualifications that aren’t featured on their Alibaba company profile.

All of these factors should be considered when vetting a factory on Alibaba. You can’t be too careful when choosing a manufacturer to build your brand with. Once you feel like you’ve found a good fit, be sure to move the conversation off Alibaba onto another platform like WeChat or Skype. Making this step is an exciting part of the process of getting your product off the ground.

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