At an estimated 810,000 paid suppliers way back in 2010, Alibaba is by far the largest online B2B sourcing portal. That doesn’t mean it has no competitors though – there are certainly many Alibaba alternatives out there. We’ve gathered a few here, although be aware that there is a (very) long tail of generic imitators, many of which are so similar they can be difficult to tell apart.
A Word of Caution about All B2B Sourcing Platforms
It shouldn’t need saying here, but unfortunately it does: B2B sourcing platforms like Alibaba, Global Sources and the rest should be seen as simple listings for suppliers. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that these platforms can do any work for you apart from searching for suppliers. It’s perfectly possible to find fraudulent activity, scams and very low-quality companies on any of them. As always, exercise caution and due diligence (see also: avoiding scams on Alibaba).
Global Sources is the best known Alibaba alternative, but they actually have relatively different business goals:
“Alibaba is trying to build an SME ecosystem through its subsidiaries Alibaba.com, Alipay.com, Taobao.com, AliExpress and AliLoan. Global Sources is targeting larger, more established exporters who are interested in its multi-media platform (exhibitions, online, print, private buyer events).
With each passing quarter, it is clear that these two companies are not exactly knocking on the same doors across China.”
General perceptions are that Alibaba is something of a huge free-for-all with massive variety in its community, whilst the community of suppliers on Global Sources is much smaller but generally more professional and higher-quality. This may be due to the fact that getting listed on Global Sources is significantly more expensive than doing so on Alibaba, and that Global Sources verifies all listings. As a result, there is a greater proportion of larger, more established suppliers on GS.
Also bear in mind that Global Sources started business in 1970, which makes it ancient by Internet standards. In other words, they’ve been doing this for longer than anyone else, if you feel that counts for something.
Doba is a little bit different as a platform to Alibaba and Global Sources. Rather than being a sourcing marketplace, it offers a global drop shipping service. It aims to offer an integrated service that covers many more aspects of being an importer or trader, from sourcing to sales to delivery. This approach may appeal to those who like the idea of the process being handled for them, but put off those who prefer to control things more closely themselves.
If you want to meet your supplier face-to-face one of the best Alibaba alternatives is to pay a visit to Yiwu market in Zhejiang Province, a.k.a. the “largest small commodity wholesale market in the world”. Certainly this might be a good way to go if you are a sourcing a smaller, more generic product as there could well be hundreds of suppliers meeting your requirements, all camped within the same building and waiting for your visit.
Don’t worry if you can’t make it all the way to Yiwu yourself, there is the option to browse their virtual market where you can find the market’s suppliers and view their wares from the comfort of your office.
Bring on the Generic B2B Market Platforms
We mentioned above that there are numerous ‘generic’ B2B market platforms that seem to function in an extremely similar way to Alibaba and Global Sources. The first group of these here are the more popular of these, and then we’ve listed some examples of the very generic Alibaba-imitator type sites. These categorisations may well be unfair – if you think they are, let us know in the comments. After all, these platforms only seem ‘generic’ because they don’t occupy the top of the list.
DHGate is relatively popular amongst these generic B2B marketplace platforms. One feature that makes it stand out is its system of handling payments itself, and only passing payment to seller when buyer confirms receipt of goods. It also tends to offer sellers with lower MOQs than other platforms.
TradeKey was set up in 2005, and is small but growing fast. It’s based in Karachi and seems to have big ambitions, but other than that there doesn’t seem to be a great deal to distinguish it from the other generics.
Made-in-China is also a relatively old B2B platform, having been operating since 1996.
And the Generic Global B2B Market Platforms
After the B2B platforms listed above, you arrive at an endless long tail of highly-similar platforms each trying to be Alibaba alternatives. Search for a few of these and you’ll struggle to distinguish them:
These sites use almost identical layouts, identical functions and use various permutations of the same language for their taglines: “connecting”, “global”, “largest platform” etc. If you know of any advantages these platforms have, do share your knowledge in the comments.
- The Top 20 China Sourcing Websites
- Directories of Chinese suppliers & manufacturers – QualityInspection.org
- The lack of transparency in China supply chains – QualityInspection.org
- Why Alibaba Is Not Your Complete Answer To China Sourcing – China Law Blog
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