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What is Alibaba? Everything You Need to Know

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Alibaba Group Holding Limited, commonly known as Alibaba, is a Chinese multinational technology company specializing in e-commerce, retail, Internet, and technology. Founded in 1999 by Jack Ma and 17 friends, Alibaba is headquartered in Hangzhou, China, and is one of the world’s largest and most successful e-commerce companies.

Alibaba has transformed the way people shop online and has become a household name in the e-commerce space. This means that, these days, whether someone is a seasoned entrepreneur or a curious consumer, understanding Alibaba’s role in the global marketplace has become essential.

So read on for an overview of Alibaba, including how to get started on Alibaba.com as both a seller and a buyer, and a glossary of key Alibaba terms and companies under Alibaba Group.

Table of Contents
An overview of Alibaba
Get started on Alibaba.com
Companies under the Alibaba Group
Quick summary: Alibaba

An overview of Alibaba

This table presents an overview of the most searched questions about Alibaba.

QuestionAnswer
What is Alibaba?Alibaba is a Chinese conglomerate known for its e-commerce platforms, cloud computing services, and digital payments.
What is Alibaba about?Alibaba is primarily about facilitating online buying and selling through its various e-commerce platforms, as well as providing cloud computing and digital payment services.
What is Alibaba.com?Alibaba.com is a global wholesale marketplace where businesses can buy products in bulk from manufacturers and suppliers.
What is Alibaba Group?Alibaba Group is the parent company of Alibaba.com and other subsidiaries, including Taobao, Tmall, Alibaba Cloud, and AliExpress.
Does Alibaba manufacture products?No, Alibaba does not manufacture products. It operates as an online marketplace connecting buyers with sellers, manufacturers, and suppliers.
What is Alibaba’s website?The Alibaba website is Alibaba.com, which is a global wholesale marketplace where businesses can buy products in bulk from manufacturers and suppliers.
What is Alibaba’s mission?To make it easy to do business anywhere.

Get started on Alibaba.com

Alibaba.com, commonly known as Alibaba, is a global B2B marketplace operated by Alibaba Group. As the primary company of the Alibaba Group, it is important to understand how it works.

Getting started as a seller

To get started as a seller on Alibaba.com, follow these steps:

1. Create an account

Visit Alibaba.com and sign up for a seller account. Direct manufacturers or factories, wholesalers, or middlemen set up seller accounts.

Provide the required information, including

  •  Business details
  •  Contact information
  •  Verification documents

2. Choose a membership level

Sellers should decide on the membership level that best suits their business needs. Alibaba.com offers different membership tiers with varying benefits and features.

3. Complete verification

Alibaba.com’s verification services confirm that sellers are legally registered companies.

Complete the business verification process to build trust with potential buyers.

Undergo verification checks:

  • A&V check: Provide documentation to verify your business license, contact information, business type, and company location.
  • Onsite check: Allow Alibaba.com personnel and a third-party verification company to inspect the physical premises, production facilities, and operations.
  • Assessed supplier (optional): Undergo an independent third-party verification process, such as by Bureau Veritas or TÜV Rheinland, to have the claims and capabilities verified.

4. Obtain verified supplier status

Once sellers have completed the required verification checks, they will be eligible to become a verified supplier on Alibaba.com.

This status is indicated by the verified supplier badge, which helps build trust and credibility with potential buyers.

verified supplier

5. Set up your store

Once verified, set up the online store on Alibaba.com. Alibaba provides sellers with a multi-page store totally dedicated to businesses to display products. There is no need for coding and web development skills to create a store.

Set up your store

Globally, customers can find that store and autotranslate stores in 18 different languages.

Customize the store profile, upload product listings, and provide detailed descriptions, images, and pricing for each product.

Use Alibaba’s built-in AI tools for uploading products and writing listings.

Gold users can use the product showcase tool to boost the ranking of their listings.

6. Enable Trade Assurance if it’s available

Trade Assurance is an Alibaba payment service that protects buyers’ payments in case any issues arise during shipping or with product quality.

Sellers who activate trade assurance show up higher in search results and have the chance to be featured in sales, promotions, and product showcases.

Buyers automatically purchase from sellers that have enabled trade assurance because their payment is secure now.

Enable Trade Assurance

7. Reply to inquiries

After listing products, sellers will start receiving inquiries from buyers.

Reply to inquiries

Alibaba.com daily receives over 500K inquiries.

According to Alibaba, inquiries that are replied to within four hours have 30% more follow-up responses from customers.

Sellers can use these Alibaba apps to get notified when inquired:

8. Promote your store

Sellers need to promote stores and products to reach a wider audience.

Promote your store

Alibabab offers the following tools for marketing the store:

With these few simple steps, sellers can set up their businesses on Alibaba.com.

Getting started as a buyer

1. Registering as a buyer on Alibaba.com

Login to the Alibaba website and register as a buyer.

Explore account features and settings.

This is Alibaba’s buyer dashboard.

Registering as a buyer on Alibaba.com

2. Search for products

Navigate Alibaba.com’s platform to find products of interest.

There are many ways to find products on Alibaba.com

Here are the best ways to search for products.

Use the search bar

Simply write keywords on the search bar at the top of Alibaba’s homepage. For example,”women’s handbags.”

Alibaba will show you products according to input keywords.

Use the search bar

Use image search

Click on the image icon on the left side of the bar.

Use image search

Select the required photo from the gallery and upload it.

Upon uploading, buyers will see products relevant to their uploaded photo.

Use filters

Use a filter to refine the search further.

Filters are on the left side of the website.

Use filters

For example, a buyer is searching for a women’s handbag.

On top, there are options for suppliers, price, and MOQ.

At the bottom other filters depend upon the type of product like material, color, material, season, etc.

Use Alibaba’s RFQ feature

If someone doesn’t like to explore the above methods, they can use Alibaba’s RFQ (request for quotation) feature.

Use Alibaba's RFQ feature

This feature makes product search a breeze. Buyers can access it at the top of the homepage of Alibaba.

A Request for Quotation (also referred to as an RFQ) is a sourcing request feature where a buyer submits details of the product they need to the Alibaba.com platform instead of an individual seller.

This is how it works:

Buyer submits RFQ ►Alibaba.com reviews RFQ ►Suppliers submit quotations ► Alibaba.com screens quotations ► Buyer receives quotations ►Trade begins

This feature is suitable for buyers who need customized products.

3. Evaluating sellers

There are many suppliers for products on Alibaba.com. So, it may be a challenge for buyers to select the best one.

Here are some proven tips to find the right seller.

Find the right supplier category

Alibaba has categorized its suppliers into the following categories:

  • Trade Assurance: Alibaba acts as a mediator, protecting all orders made under this program.
  • Verified Suppliers: Alibaba verifies the company details and manufacturing capabilities of suppliers through third-party companies like SGS and SUV.
  • Verified Pro Suppliers: These are Alibaba’s Verified Suppliers with a proven track record of successful transactions.
  • Gold Suppliers: These suppliers hold a paid membership on Alibaba to enhance their selling capabilities. Identified by a “Gold” icon, they are both “Verified” and may offer “Trade Assurance” services.

All buyers must know about supplier categories to make informed decisions.

New buyers should generally opt for trade assurance suppliers.

Check suppliers overview

There is a supplier overview under product pictures. This overview includes suppliers’ business history and performance on Alibaba.com.

Check suppliers overview

 Additionally, also look at the information in their profile.

Don’t forget to check suppliers’ information in their profile history and reliability.

Read customer reviews and ratings of the suppliers.

Use supplier filter

A supplier filter is an excellent feature for shortlisting required suppliers.

Click on all suppliers at the top of the homepage. Then, supplier filters will pop up on the left side of the page.

Compare multiple suppliers

After shortlisting sellers, customers can compare offers of these shortlisted suppliers with the “compare feature.

Compare multiple suppliers

Click on the Compare button.

Click on the Compare button

Choose different products to compare product features, supplier features, online performance, and trade capability.

Contact sellers

After shortlisting sellers, contact sellers to inquire about your queries.

At Alibaba, buyers directly speak to sellers.

Click on the “Contact Seller” or “Chat Now” icon on the product detail page to initiate communication.

1. Sellers can use the Inquiry form by clicking on the contact supplier icon. The inquiry form has all the basic details for asking sellers about their products and shipping times.

clicking on the contact supplier icon

2. Chat Now is a simple chat room where anyone can chat like they would on any instant messaging platform.

Buyers can track records of all messages within “My Alibaba” in the message center.

They can also use the Alibaba.com mobile app for fast communication.

In this step negotiate all details about the product with sellers like MOQ, shipping, price, and customization.

4. Know payment terms

At this step, buyers have decided on the seller to work with.

Now, buyers should be aware of Alibaba’s payment terms as Alibaba supports many payment options.

Buyers’ private information is safe on Alibaba. All payments on Alibab.com are protected by strict SSL encryption and PCI DSS privacy protocols.

Alibaba advises buyers to never pay outside the platform.

Alibaba supports over 27 currencies, so buyers save on conversion fees.

Alibaba accepts the following payment methods:

  • Credit/Debit cards
  • PayPal
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • Afterpay/Clearpay
  • Popular local options through the online checkout

Alternatively, buyers can choose to make bank-to-bank wire transfers with escrow protection using official bank information provided by Alibaba.com.

Here are details about payment.

payment terms

5. Ship the products

After sending payments, buyers look for shipping arrangements.

Alibaba offers a variety of shipping options for buyers to choose from when placing orders with suppliers:

Shipping options on Alibaba

1. Freight forwarder: Buyers can arrange for a freight forwarder to handle the international shipping of their goods. This allows for more control over the shipping process and potentially lower costs.

2. Supplier shipping: Many Alibaba suppliers offer their shipping services, which can be a convenient option. Buyers should carefully review the supplier’s shipping terms and costs.

3. Alibaba logistics: Alibaba has its own logistics services, including Cainiao Network, which provides shipping and fulfillment solutions for buyers.

4. Express delivery: For faster delivery, buyers can choose express shipping options like DHL, FedEx, or UPS, which are available through Alibaba’s platform.

By following these steps, buyers can effectively navigate Alibaba to run their businesses successfully.

Understanding Alibaba vocabulary

Like every platform, Alibaba has a vocabulary, and buyers must understand it to use Alibaba effectively.

Alibaba Vocabulary:

MOQ: MOQ means Minimum Order Quantity. This is the least quantity of specific products that sellers sell.

OEM: OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturing. Buyers can come up with their specifications, requirements,  and detailed visions of their product and hand them off to an OEM factory. The OEM will start making customer products from scratch. It’s ideal for customers that need customized products.

QC: QC stands for Quality Control. Alibaba has multiple terms for the quality control process. Following are QC process terms.

IQC: IQC stands for Incoming Quality Control. It means controlling the quality of raw materials or anything that enters the factory for manufacturing products.

OQC: OQC stands for Outgoing Quality Control for finished products

IPQC: In-Process Quality Control (IPQC) involves monitoring and assessing product quality at every stage of the manufacturing process.

FOB: Free on Board (FOB) means that the seller is responsible for delivering the goods to the nearest port. However, the buyer assumes responsibility for shipping from that point onward, including any associated fees.

CIF: Cost, Insurance, and Freight (CIF) requires the seller to cover the costs and freight, including insurance, to bring the goods to the named port of destination. However, the risk is transferred to the buyer once the goods are loaded onto the ship.

Companies under the Alibaba Group

Alibaba Group is a diversified technology conglomerate with a vast ecosystem of companies spanning many categories:

  • E-commerce
  • Digital media
  • Cloud computing,
  • Logistics
  • Financial services

Alibaba’s subsidiaries drive its growth and leadership in the digital economy.

Here are company details for all categories.

Alibaba Group

China commerce

  1. Taobao: A consumer-to-consumer (C2C) marketplace connecting individual sellers with buyers in China.
  2. Taocaicai: Alibaba’s online grocery retail platform.
  3. Idle Fish: Alibaba’s secondhand goods trading platform.
  4. Tmall: Alibaba’s business-to-consumer (B2C) platform for brands and retailers.
  5. Alibaba Health: Alibaba’s healthcare and pharmaceutical services platform.
  6. Freshipp: Alibaba’s supermarket chain that integrates online and offline shopping.
  7. Sun Art Retail Group Limited: A hypermarket operator in China, Alibaba acquired a controlling stake.
  8. Intime Department Store: A department store operator that Alibaba has invested in
  9. 1688.com: Alibaba’s business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce platform for wholesale trade in China
  10. Taobao Deals: Alibaba’s bargain marketplace app that offers quality products at affordable prices to price-conscious consumers in China’s lower-tier cities, with a focus on fresh produce, daily essentials, household items, and trendy apparel.
  11. Tmall Global: It is Alibaba’s cross-border e-commerce platform that enables international brands to sell directly to Chinese consumers.

International commerce

  1. Daraz: A leading e-commerce platform in South Asia acquired by Alibaba Group, aiming to serve 100 million customers and sellers by 2030.
  2. AliExpress: A global retail marketplace enabling cross-border e-commerce.
  3. Alibaba.com: Alibaba’s business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce platform connecting global suppliers and buyers for wholesale trade
  4. Trendyol: International e-commerce platform under Alibaba Group, offering cross-border retail and serving various regions like Europe and Turkey.
  5. Lazada: Lazada is Southeast Asia’s leading e-commerce platform, acquired by Alibaba Group in 2016 to serve the region’s rapidly growing digital consumer market.

Local consumer services

  1. Ele. me: Ele. me is a leading on-demand delivery platform in China, enabling consumers to order meals, food, groceries, FMCG, flowers, and pharmaceutical products through mobile apps.
  2. Taoxianda: Taoxianda is an online-offline integration service solution for FMCG brands and third-party grocery retail partners.
  3. Amp: Amap is a leading provider of mobile digital maps, navigation, and real-time traffic information in China, offering users access to services like navigation, local services, and ride-hailing.
  4. Fliggy: Fliggy is Alibaba’s online travel platform, providing comprehensive services to meet consumers’ travel needs.

Digital media and entertainment

1. Quark: A business of Alibaba Group that provides young users with a one-stop platform for information search, storage, and consumption, offering tools and services like smart search, cloud drive, AI camera, learning, and documents.

2. UCWeb: A web browser under Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment Group.

3. Lingxi Games: Alibaba’s gaming unit that develops, operates, and distributes mobile games.

4. Alibaba Pictures: An integrated entertainment platform featuring “content + technology” under the Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment Group and Alibaba Investment Limited.

5. Youku: A video website under Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment Group.

6. DingTalk: Alibaba’s digital collaboration workplace and application development platform, which offers new ways of working, sharing, and collaboration through the integration of AI models.

Innovation initiatives and others

  1. Alibaba DAMO Academy: A global research program investing over $15 billion to advance AI, IoT, fintech, and other cutting-edge technologies.
  2. Tmall Genie: Alibaba’s smart speaker brand that provides an interactive AI interface for accessing services across the Alibaba ecosystem.

Logistics

Cainiao: Cainiao is Alibaba’s logistics company dedicated to fulfilling customer orders within 24 hours in China and within 72 hours globally, offering one-stop logistics services and supply chain management solutions at scale.

Cloud

Alibaba Cloud: Alibaba Cloud is a leading global cloud provider offering a comprehensive suite of cloud computing services, including elastic computing, databases, security, analytics, AI, IoT, and enterprise applications, empowering businesses with scalable and secure cloud solutions.

Quick summary: What is Alibaba

Attribute valueValue
Establishment1999
HeadquartersHangzhou
CountryChina
FounderJack Ma
ChairmanJoseph Tsai
Workforce235,216
Annual revenueUS$ 126.49 billion
Total assetsUS$ 256.478 billion
Profit margin129.09%
Net incomeUS$ 10.5 billion
Active buyers40 million
Suppliers200,000
Operating countries240
Product categories40+
Multilingual Support18 languages
Daily Inquiries40K +
Companies under Alibaba32
Major subsidiariesTaobao, AliExpress, Cainio
Notable achievementsRevolutionized e-commerce, expanded globally, diversified business portfolio
ImpactTransformed online shopping, empowered small businesses, facilitated international trade
Future prospectsContinued innovation, expansion into new markets, embracing digital transformation

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