Buying products in bulk often represents a significant cost-saving strategy for businesses. In fact, it is one of the reasons why international B2B buyers visit Alibaba.com, where they can access the world’s largest marketplace of wholesale suppliers.
But, as with many aspects of product sourcing, there are several moving parts to keep in mind. For starters, do bulk purchases really make sense for your business? What should you look for as you evaluate wholesale products suppliers? Finally, how do you navigate this sometimes complex landscape, and what tips can help you buy successfully?
We’ll explain all you should know in this quick guide to buying bulk items on the Internet.
Why buy in bulk online?
There are several reasons why people choose to buy in bulk. For B2C buyers looking for great deals on household supplies such as groceries, snacks, or other bulk foods to stock their pantry with, sustainable shopping and low prices are prime reasons.
But from a B2B viewpoint, there are even more reasons to buy wholesale, apart from finding ridiculously low prices on bulk foods.
- Reduces sourcing costs: Buying in bulk provides potential cost savings on purchases. One study finds that a 10% larger package can lead to a 5% decrease in unit price when buying goods from a grocery store1. In addition, bulk purchases typically come with better deals, such as discounts if you buy a particular weight in ounces, pounds, or kilograms.
- Makes you money: If the purchase is for manufacturing or resale purposes, bulk buying can also be profitable. Buying input products at wholesale price gives you a potentially higher profit margin on your next sale.
- Provides great stock: For buyers that have decided to start a trading business or want to engage in dropshipping, bulk buying offers excellent sourcing opportunities. Remember, buying goods for cheap does not necessarily mean that you’re getting low product quality. Once you find a seller with great products and even better prices, you can enjoy a steady flow of high-quality, low price goods.
- Room to scale at will: Lastly, due to the convenience it promises, bulk purchases can be an excellent catalyst for growth. If your business is at the stage where frequent growth spurts are happening, having a trusted bulk supplier will help you cope with increased demand.
Criteria for selecting the right wholesalers & bulk buying websites for your business
Although bulk buying can create a massive advantage for your business, picking the wrong supplier can wipe off those gains easily. A lot depends on finding the right online supplier, including product quality, shipping, and the ease of the whole process.
There are several options that buyers can explore when looking for bulk suppliers. Local US options include Costco (including Instacart), eBay, Amazon, and Boxed, while Alibaba.com represents a popular international option. So how do you find the right supplier on these Internet bulk buying websites? Asking these questions can help:
- Have you assessed your needs? Bulk buying represents a great deal for most businesses, but not all. Suppose you don’t have the sales history, storage space, or projected sales that justify bulk purchasing. In that case, it will be a waste of time and money. Besides, clarifying all of these points beforehand helps you understand what bulk suppliers you should be looking for and the products to buy.
- Is the seller reliable? Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s easier to assess potential supply partners. Asking how reliable the supplier is will usually be a great place to start. If you are sourcing from the US, a Costco membership gives you access to great deals on a wide range of products from reliable suppliers. On Alibaba.com, you can assess reliability by looking out for suppliers that are tagged “Gold Suppliers”, “Trade Assurance”, or “Verified Suppliers”.
- Do they have great reviews? Reviews are an indication of what previous customers think about the supplier’s performance. This helps you understand whether they have good customer service, know about the product, deliver on time, provide great shipping terms, or any other information you need to know. Alibaba.com makes finding this information accessible. Click on a supplier’s profile to see their reviews and track record.
- Are they flexible? While competitive prices are a huge factor in selecting a bulk supplier, flexibility is arguably more important. A supplier may advertise high prices initially, but if they’re flexible, you could potentially get lower prices, in addition to other perks such as flexible minimum orders, payment terms, etc.
Five tips for buying in bulk online
Now that you know how to find great wholesale suppliers let’s turn to tips that can help you buy successfully. Bulk buying is an art in itself, meaning you need to know the right strategies to make the most of the process. Here are a few tips that can help:
- Contact the manufacturer: First, you need to know that the supplier may not always be the manufacturer. Thousands of businesses are listed on Alibaba.com, including manufacturers, wholesalers, and bulk suppliers. Sometimes it pays to contact the manufacturer directly instead of a wholesale distributor. With the manufacturer, you’re more likely to access the lowest prices possible. If they don’t handle sales, they will inform you and direct you to a wholesaler who can help.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate: The typical B2B buying process involves a lot of back and forth between buyer and seller. When you’re buying thousands of units of one product, you have more than enough leverage to ask for what you want. Suppliers also know that you’re making a big commitment, so they will be willing to bend in areas you don’t expect.
- Get a sample first: It is essential to be absolutely sure that the products you are contemplating are right for your business. Requesting for and receiving a sample upfront helps you confirm this at almost no cost. With a sample in hand, you can be sure that you’re buying suitable goods that have a long shelf life. Some of the types of products that easily fall into this category include:
- Hardware such as electronics, video games, and accessories
- Toilet paper
- Auto parts
- Paper towels
- Bulk food items like rice, bulk flour, beans, and jars of preserved tomatoes
- Keep a close eye on shipping: There are various shipping options you can use to transport your products to your destination. Standard options include ocean freight and air freight. But depending on the size of the wholesale lot you’re buying, the option you pick can improve your profit margin or wipe out your gains. Ocean shipping is typically cheaper for a wholesale lot of relatively heavy goods. But air freight can make more sense if you’re purchasing lighter goods in large quantities. The shipping terms offered by the supplier will also be critical. Shipping may be Ex Works (EXW), Free on Board (FOB), or Cost, Insurance, Freight (CIF). Assess each of these to figure out which terms work best for you.
- Prepare sufficient storage: Finally, bulk buying implies that you have a secure place to store the products before sale or use. If you do not have adequate bulk stores, then there’s a risk your inventory will be damaged, or you may end up paying more to find proper storage.
Buy in bulk online from Alibaba.com
If you have decided to explore sourcing bulk purchases for your business, there’s no better place to start than Alibaba.com. There are thousands of sellers to choose from, including direct purchases from manufacturers and licensed wholesalers. In addition, the platform does not require any membership fees.
All you have to do is go to www.alibaba.com, create a profile, search for the products you want, and finalize a sale with the supplier. The platform also protects your purchases when you close your cart and complete checkout with a supplier covered under Alibaba.com Trade Assurance.
So visit the platform, sign up today, and start enjoying great deals on bulk purchases from sellers all over the world.