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Alibaba.com B2B E-Commerce Explained: Everything You Need To Know

Miniature of a shopping trolley beside a laptop

Alibaba.com is a global online marketplace connecting business-to-business (B2B) suppliers with buyers looking to invest in wholesale products. Buyers can surf the platform and then connect with a manufacturer on Alibaba.com to order their desired goods. Given that it is a B2B marketplace, the most bought items are those purchased in bulk. Companies looking to replenish their inventories often head to Alibaba.com to find reliable suppliers.

The Chinese-owned global wholesale website is considered one of the largest marketplaces in the world. It generated US$ 129 billion in revenue in 2023 (Macro Trends). With over 200 million products from 200,000 suppliers, this is a massive directory for overseas business buyers. Knowing how Alibaba.com B2B works can help businesses and entrepreneurs find the right stock and make the best connections for their inventory. 

Read on for everything you need to know about how Alibaba.com works and how to make the most of this platform to grow your business in 2024!   

Table of Contents
The global scope of B2B e-commerce
How does Alibaba.com work?
Finding reliable suppliers on Alibaba.com
How to stay safe on Alibaba.com?

The global scope of B2B e-commerce

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B2B e-commerce has a substantial global scope, affecting businesses across several industries and regions. Essentially, a B2B transaction happens between two companies, like the wholesaler and the online retailer. In this kind of commerce, parties benefit at both ends, and each has some negotiating power.

The U.S. Department of Commerce predicts global business-to-business online buying and selling will hit US$ 36 trillion by 2026. This means it is expected to grow by about 14.5% each year for the next decade. With the dynamic rise of e-commerce, businesses need to explore the potential of their ventures online.

How does Alibaba.com work?

A person entering card details in a laptop

The international B2B platform connects buyers and suppliers in a single marketplace. Suppliers manufacture and sell bulk products to buyers who want to invest in their business inventories. They can directly negotiate, order custom products, and add brand names to custom-label products. When good terms are established with the sellers, they can achieve significant cost savings by making repeat purchases.

E-commerce store owners can also use Alibaba.com to discover and connect with suppliers who offer drop shipping relationships. Here is how the process works:

  1. Search for a product or a supplier on Alibaba.com.
  2. Enter the desired product specifications and order quantities.
  3. Contact the supplier to negotiate shipping or manufacturing orders.
  4. Make payment and get your order.

The precise steps for ordering on Alibaba.com may vary according to the products required or dropshipping services. Next, let’s explore how Alibaba.com works for each of these cases.

Finding reliable suppliers on Alibaba.com

Shelves with stacks of products in a warehouse

Buyers need to know the different stages of B2B e-commerce, which can help them build an online presence and close successful deals. Take the following steps to find a reliable supplier for the e-commerce business:

  1. Step 1: Look for the right niche and products: Use the search bar to explore thousands of products. One can filter the search results on the homepage to explore products and identify wholesalers. Look at how many orders and reviews a product has and how well the supplier is rated. Read what other buyers say about the supplier to ensure they can be trusted. Buyers can also order a sample to check the product’s quality and see how reliable the supplier is.
  2. Step 2: Check the MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity): This is the smallest order a supplier is willing to accept. Note that when buyers place large orders, the cost per item the supplier charges may be reduced. Add it to the shipping cost to understand the profit margins.
  3. Step 3: Negotiate: Buyers can ask for more information about the product, make custom requests, and decide on the shipping charges. Once a relationship is established, there are many ways to talk with the suppliers.
  4. Step 4: Evaluate the payment options: Considering the payment methods in the buyer’s region is important. The platform supports multiple payment channels such as T/T, credit card, Online Bank Payment, Boleto, Western Union, Online Transfer, Paypal, Applepay, L/C, D/P, etc. Acknowledging the pros and cons of each method can help the parties to make an informed decision.

How to stay safe on Alibaba.com?

A person using a finger to click on an icon on screen

Safety is one of the main concerns in digital marketplaces. Buyers should know how to protect their set-up and deal with reliable suppliers. Here are some strategies that can help to navigate Alibaba.com safely:

Go for verified suppliers

Buyers may come across fake products, quality problems, and delays in shipping. As a result, customers might also be hesitant to buy from these buyers. Alibaba.com’s supplier verification system helps to tell about reliable suppliers from the ones that should be avoided.

A third party does these verification checks. They can include checking business licenses, contacting the business, and visiting their office. When suppliers are Verified Members or Gold Members, it is proof that they are generally trustworthy.

Alibaba.com recommends Gold Suppliers who have passed the most thorough checks. A gold logo is visible on their Alibaba.com site, showing they are a trusted business.

Talk to the suppliers

Ask questions to the suppliers about their products and business models. Check out the reviews from other buyers to examine their previous records. The Company Profile on the product listings page can show information like trading capabilities and factory inspection reports.

Buyers can move to the next step of communicating with the suppliers if all the information seems satisfying.

Use trade assurance service

Trade assurance is the free service provided by Alibaba.com that protects payments and ensures buyers receive the desired goods. This service helps make trading safer by protecting orders if the supplier doesn’t ship on time or the products aren’t of good quality.

Suppliers who support Trade Assurance have an icon on their profile endorsing their acceptance of Trade Assurance. Once the negotiation is completed, it is time to place the order. During this process, the buyer has to specify product requirements, shipping details, and payment methods.


Sourcing goods through Alibaba.com is considered reliable because of its verification process, inspection services, and guarantees. Additionally, the platform offers many features to help small businesses expand and succeed in the digital landscape. As long as all parties follow basic safety practices, Alibaba.com brings a potentially profitable way to connect with a range of reliable businesses.

Don’t ever hesitate to slide by the deal if it seems to make false claims and promises. There are many reliable suppliers out there. And finally, for more tips on how to get your business off the ground and thriving, make sure to subscribe to Alibaba.com Reads.

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