How to Source From 1688.com in English

Access 10s of thousands of suppliers.
Seth Kniep
Mar 17, 2021
Build your Amazon product
1688 gives you massive advantages over Alibaba.

1688 was built as a repository of suppliers for Chinese retailers. This brings both challenges and huge advantages.

1688 challenges:

  • It's difficult to navigate.
  • It's all in the Chinese language.
  • There are fewer suppliers than Alibaba.

But, these are actually advantages because they filter out your competition.

1688 advantages:

  • It has many suppliers that are not on Alibaba.
  • Suppliers often offer much lower prices than on Alibaba.
  • Fewer of the suppliers are shady.
Why Source on 1688 Over Alibaba?

Today, I will teach you how to...

  1. Translate 1688.com into English.
  2. Find your product on 1688.com.
  3. Evaluate the 1688.com listing.
  4. Vet the supplier on 1688.com.
  5. Contact the supplier and negotiate.
  6. Pay your supplier.

Step 1: Translate 1688.com into English.

Use or download the Google Chrome web browser.

Find the Google Translate Chrome extension in the chrome web store. Search "Google Translate Chrome extension" in Google Search.

Click Add to Chrome.

Add Google Translate to Chrome

Click Add extension.

Click Add Extension

You should see the confirmation message "Google Translate has been added to Chrome" in the top right corner of your browser window.

Google Translate Added to Chrome

Navigate to 1688.com and a message should automatically pop-up prompting you to translate the site into English. If it does not, click the Google Translate Chrome extension icon in your browser window. 

Make sure English is selected. 

Translate 1688.com to English

You can now search for products across one of the most powerful sourcing websites on the internet no matter what language you speak.

Step 2: Find your product on 1688.com

There are 3 ways to find a product:

1. Upload a photo on 1688.com

Click on the camera icon in the search bar to upload a photo of your product. The website will try to match your image with products based on the shape and design.

Search 1688 by Photo

However, if you search a toaster, 1688 may suggest a microwave oven because they have the same shape.

Additionally, you cannot use this method unless you have a 1688 account.

To have an account, you must have an ID registered with Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, or South Korea.

Using a VPN (virtual private network) won’t let you bypass this requirement. 

2. Search on 1688.com using the English keyword.

Type your keyword in English into the search bar and hit search (搜索).

Type English Words & Search

For example, you can type "golf bag" and get relevant results.

But there's a problem: you only get 291 results when searching "golf bag." There are far more suppliers on 1688 than that. You can improve this by conducting your search in Chinese.

1688 English Keyword Search

3. Search on 1688.com using the Chinese translation of your keyword.

Use Google Translate or Google Chrome to find the Chinese translation of your main keyword.

For example, you can type "translate golf bag to chinese" in Google Chrome and get your translation.

Translate Your Keyword Into Chinese

Copy and paste your translation into the 1688 search and press the search button.

Notice your search gives you 3,725 results—thousands more results than searching "golf bag" in English.

1688 Chinese Keyword Search

Use Chinese translations to get far more results on 1688. Once you are interested in a search result, move on to the next step.

Step 3: Evaluate the 1688.com listing.

You need to understand how 1688 diverges from consumer sites like Amazon and other sourcing websites like Alibaba. The rules on 1688 are not quite the same...

The advertised price on the listing is not exact.

Many suppliers advertise lower prices than they typically offer. They want to draw you in with unrealistic expectations.

Sometimes these prices are accurate but only for when you order very high quantities. Never take a listing at face value. Always ask.

Advertised Price is Not Exact

The advertised minimum order quantity (MOQ) is usually accurate.

A minimum order quantity is the minimum number of units you must buy in order for the supplier to accept your order.

For perspective, 250 units is a small MOQ. A large MOQ would be 5,000 units or more.

Usually, expensive products (over $25) have small MOQs.
Inexpensive products (under $25) have large MOQs.

When you order above the MOQ, you can usually get lower prices.

The fewer units you order, the higher the price per unit.
The more units you order, the lower the price per unit.

The 1688 supplier's MOQ is listed under Starting batch.

For example, this supplier's MOQ is 1 or more:

MOQ is Usually Accurate

The MOQ is so low because the price per product is a more expensive product to source than many (about $120 per pair of shoes).

When a product picture is posted on the supplier's listing, that does not mean the product is in stock.

A "holding spot" 1688 listing may still appear even when the product is not in stock. The pictures are examples of either what they do have in stock or what they can make. Always ask the supplier.

1688 Product

Once you are happy with the listing, evaluate the supplier.

Step 4: Vet the supplier on 1688.com

Click the Company tab.

Click the Company Tab

Now you can scroll down and ensure the supplier meets the following conditions:

First, ensure they have been established for at least 3 years.

This greatly reduces the chance that the supplier is fraudulent. Scammers come and go. Legitimate businesses endure and grow.

Scroll down to where it says Established or search for this word on the web page (Command + F on Mac, Control + F on PC). 

For example, this company has been established since 2014:  

Established 3+ Years

Second, ensure they have 50-500 employees.

  • If they have 50 or fewer employees they are likely a trading company. A full scale factory usually cannot produce a product at high volumes with few employees.
  • If they have more than 500 employees, they probably are a large company that does massive wholesale production. Companies of this size are not as flexible on smaller first time orders. 

Scroll down and find employee count. You can find this by doing a page search on the web page (Command + F on Mac, Control + F on PC).

For example, this company only has five employees. They are likely a trading company.

Employee Count

Trading companies aren't bad, but they come with a markup. And this defeats one of the primary reasons for using 1688: lower prices.

Third, ensure their building is at least 200 sq meters.

For perspective, 200 sq meters is 2157 sq feet or about the size of a half a basketball court.

Companies with a 200+ sq meter building size have a lower chance of secretly being a trading company.

Office Area

Fourth, ensure they offer delivery guarantee.

If the company page shows the Delivery guarantee badge, this means that when you order a batch of products, the supplier deposits 3,000 RMB into a third party escrow account. The supplier will not get their money back until you have confirmed successful delivery of the product.

Delivery Guarantee

Unless you are able to open a 1688 account, you cannot order using the 1688 website or directly benefit from Delivery guarantee. Regardless, the Delivery guarantee badge increases the supplier credibility.

What to Look For in a Supplier on 1688.com

Step 5: Contact the supplier and negotiate.

The most common method of communication on 1688.com is Alitalk.

If you have a 1688 account, you can access Alitalk when you click that little blue raindrop guy. It’s a chat service like WhatsApp or WeChat.

Alitalk

Here is the challenge: the vast majority of 1688 suppliers who use Alitalk expect to speak in Chinese because they assume you are a Chinese retailer. 

Instead of getting a Chinese passport and learning a whole new language, there is a much easier solution: contact them directly. 

Contact the supplier on WeChat.

WeChat is one of the top messaging applications used by Chinese citizens.

The best part: it translates from Chinese to English and from English to Chinese.

Download WeChat from the App store or Google Play store for free. 

Create an account.

Tap the Contacts button on the bottom menu.

WeChat Contacts

Find the supplier's mobile number on 1688.

On the top menu, click Contact.

1688 Contact

Find their mobile number.

1688 Mobile Number

On WeChat, tap the human outline with + in the upper right corner.

Tap the Outline

Type in the supplier's mobile number..

Tap search.

WeChat will tell you if someone with this number has a WeChat account.

If yes, send them a chat!

How to Contact a Supplier on 1688.com Without an Account

When reaching out to a supplier:

First, find out if the supplier can build your product.

Be as specific as you can when you describe your product down to the millimeter. For example, don't say, "made of steel." Say the exact type of steel. List out exactly what your product should be able to do.

Second, negotiate a price.

Do not negotiate on a sample. Chinese suppliers will think you're an ametuer. Instead, negotiate when it comes to ordering large volumes of your product. This will save you a ton more money in the long run, and your supplier will respect you for it.

Step 6: Pay your supplier.

Payment options on 1688 are wonderful. But...

You can't use those options unless you have an account. And you can't have an account unless you have a government issued ID in one of the qualifying southeast Asian countries.

Instead, perform all of your actions off of 1688.

Once you've determined the cost of your shipment, request a proforma invoice (P.I.) from your supplier.

A proforma invoice is a quote. This document will list quantity, kind of product, and terms of the purchase.

Request that your supplier do the 30/70 deal.

This deal means that you pay 30% of the cost now and 70% later.

Wire 30% of the funds through an international transfer to your supplier.

The wire will usually cost $30-40 in fees with your banking service.

Wires scare sellers because you won't be able to get this money back. However, you haven't sent them all the money so you still have leverage.

After your supplier has manufactured the product, hire a product inspection company.

You can find a good product inspection company within our private members community. Our members will be happy to refer you to quality product inspection companies that they have used.

Send your product inspector the same list of specifications that you sent the supplier. Anything on your contract with your supplier is enforceable. If the product is a leak-proof water bottle, then have the inspector test it for leaks. If it is supposed to be durable, have the inspector drop the product from shoulder height. Be sure to test any moving parts and potential points of failure.

Your product inspector will take dozens of photos and maybe video of your product at the factory. Your inspection report might be 25 pages long.

This simple process will cost $200-500. And that's much better than losing $20,000 on a bad batch of products. Why do I say $20,000? Because that's exactly what happened to me. I skipped a product inspection, got stuck with unsellable products and had to eat the whole $20,000 that I spent on the order. Don't repeat my mistake.

Your potential on Amazon FBA is much bigger than hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars. We have dozens of students who are now millionaires after acting on the training they received in the Just One Dime membership.

If your product inspection shows you that your product needs fixing, go back to your supplier and have them fix the problem. Be polite, yet firm. You are the boss. As long as you were specific on the proforma invoice, you can leverage that 70% of the payment still owed to your supplier.

Most suppliers don't have problems with the product because the 30/70 deal holds them accountable.

Request a commercial invoice from your supplier.

The commercial invoice is international proof of your purchase. This is not the same as a proforma invoice. It is similar to a bill of lading but with more detail.

It is the exporter's (supplier's) responsibility to create the commercial invoice.

The commercial invoice is important to have in case:

  1. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audits you. Your business can and should write-off business costs on its taxes. The IRS may require proof of your tax write-off expenditure. In other words, you need the commercial invoice to prove your business expense.
  2. Amazon requests the commercial invoice. If you get a complaint against your product claiming that your goods are "not authentic," then your commercial invoice proves that your goods are authentic. Amazon might also require a commercial invoice if you try to get into a gated product category or a new program like Brand Transparency.

The only time you have leverage for your supplier to give you a commercial invoice is right before you pay the remaining 70% of funds.

Your supplier will send you the commercial invoice in Chinese. Translate it yourself with Google Translate.

If and when Amazon or the IRS request a commercial invoice, send them both the Chinese and English translated versions.

Wire the remaining 70% of funds owed to your supplier.

Make sure to get a tracking number from your supplier or freight forwarder. This way, you can track your units all the way from China to Amazon's fulfillment center(s).

How to Pay a 1688.com Supplier Without an Account

Do you plan on using 1688 to source your products? Let me know in the comments.

Recap:

Step 1: Install Google Translate Chrome extension.

Step 2: Find your product on 1688.com by searching the Chinese characters for your keyword. 

Step 3: Evaluate the 1688.com listing.

  • The advertised price on the listing is not exact.
  • The advertised MOQ is usually accurate.
  • Just because they have a product picture does not mean the product is in stock.

Step 4: Vet the supplier on 1688.com. Ensure:

  • They have been established for at least 3 years.
  • They have 50-500 employees.
  • Their building is at least 200 sq meters.
  • They offer delivery guarantee.

Step 5: Contact the supplier and negotiate.

  • Download WeChat.
  • Find the supplier's mobile phone number.
  • Contact the supplier.

Step 6: Pay your supplier.

  • Once you've determined the cost of your shipment, request a proforma invoice (P.I.).
  • Request that your supplier do the 30/70 deal.
  • Wire 30% of the funds through an international transfer.
  • After your supplier has manufactured the product, hire a product inspection company.
  • Request a commercial invoice.
  • Wire the remaining 70% of funds owed to your supplier.

Next steps

If you choose to source from 1688: 

  1. Find 10 listings that are your product.
  2. Filter out suppliers that do not meet the criteria .
  3. Find the remaining suppliers’ mobile numbers.
  4. Contact them on WeChat.

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Seth Kniep

Married a pearl. Fathered 4 miracles. Fired his boss. Turned a single dime into $104,857. Today, a self-made millionaire, Seth and his team of 8 badass coaches teach entrepreneurs how to build passive income on Amazon.

Dead serious about building income on Amazon with eight successful coaches in a community of badass Amazon sellers? Join the Amazon FBA Mastery membership.

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