Noob’s Clues: How Far To Open the Kimono?

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Noob’s Clues: How Far To Open the Kimono?



Alibaba.com is attractingthousands of new users in fast-growing markets like India. Most of them areusing the Internet to do business for the first time. Like all newbies, users face a pretty steep learning curve. “Many suppliers are really not aware of how e-commerce operates,” says Pushkar Shinde, who manages customer support and training for Alibaba.com in India. “They have been doing offline business, and when it comes to online they don’t know what a buyer might be looking for or how to display a product over the Internet.

We talked with Shinde about some of the common questions and issues that confront new users. As a result of that conversation, we’ve decided to launch a series of blog posts, called Noob’s Clues, designed to dispense basic tips on how to get the best results from Alibaba.com.

Noob’s Clues No. 1: Your Online Profile

When filling out their Alibaba.com profile, many first-time suppliers are stingy with corporate information such as annual sales statistics because they don’t want to tip their hand to the competition, says Shinde. They are accustomed to the offline world, where they can court buyers personally and keep tight control over what the client knows and does not know about their businesses.

Things work differently in electronic marketplaces. On Alibaba.com, buyers are searching a public arena populated by millions of suppliers, sifting through a mountain of onlineinformation fromcompaniesthat oftenare sellingpretty much the same products. Manufacturers that disclose little about themselves up front tend to get eliminated early in this selection process.

Look at it this way: Online dating and matchmaking sites report that people who post photos of themselves get a lot more action than those who hide their faces. Same thing goes in the commercial world. By “opening the kimono”—revealingmore information in your Alibaba.com profile than the other guy—you are giving buyers additional reasons to choose you over the competition.

This doesn’t mean you should post your balance sheet online, of course. But Shinde says there is plenty of information that can help buyers in their decision-making process that can be disclosed publicly without doing yourself any harm. If your company is ISO certified or has won business awards, these factsare worthmentioning, Shinde suggests. Also recommended are photographs of key company contacts and, for Alibaba.com Gold Suppliers, videos showing company employees and facilities such as assembly lines. It can even be a good idea to disclose (accurate) financial data such as annual sales and how much of your revenue comes from exports. “This adds confidence,” Shinde explains, “because as a buyer I see that I am dealing with someone aware of how exports are done. The more up front you are about what you can and can’t do, the more preferred you will be.”

The goal is to give buyers as many reasons as possible to trust you—and on the Internet theprimary way to establish trust is through truthful disclosure. Compared with the offline world, “a lot more of the (sales) process happens up front,” says Shinde. “Either you are in or you or out. You can’t be secretive and expect to make money, not in the online space.&quot

Next up on Noob’s Clues: Keywords That Click. We’ll be covering more topics for new users in the weeks ahead. If you’ve got a question you’d like to see covered, post it below in Comment. For additional e-commerce pointers, check the Alibaba.com website by clicking .

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