Verifying a supplier is crucial when you want to source products from China. There are a handful of ways you can make sure that a supplier is real, high-quality, and a good fit for your business:
Many suppliers on sites like Alibaba aren't suppliers at all. Their trade companies, which are middlemen between you and the factory. While this isn't inherently harmful (trade companies can help you get quality products), your business will end up paying much, much more than it needs to. Working directly with the factory is always the most cost-effective strategy.
Visiting a factory is a great way to guarantee that you're not working with a middleman, but there's more benefits than that. You can see if the factory has the capacity (or engineering capability) to make the kind of product you want, and you can see how other product orders are handled.
Many businesses don't have the resources to conduct a physical inspection of a China-based factory, but that doesn't mean you should skip an inspection entirely. Videos and photos of the factory can help to ensure supplier quality (and to make sure that you aren't working with a trade company).
This is a straightforward way to make sure you're working with a legitimate factory and not a trade company or an outright fake. Any legitimate supplier will be able to provide this basic paperwork to prove that they're real. If they refuse, you should consider other supplier options.
The likelihood of you being a supplier's first client is very, very slim. You can always ask for references of other clients they've worked with so you can see how other businesses' experience with the factory was. Some clients wont’ reveal companies they work with, so this method will depend on the supplier and the industry.
The sampling process is pivotal to making sure that a supplier has the technical capability of producing your products to your specifications. This is especially important if you're making a prototype, or if you plan on placing a large volume order. Sampling is a standard practice, so do not skip this step when choosing a supplier for China product sourcing.
If you're concerned about your ability to properly vet a factory, then you should consider using a sourcing specialist (also called a sourcing agent), like Kanary. We have established relationships with excellent factories, and we can find new factories (and properly vet them) so you can be sure to have the perfect match for your manufacturing needs.