Every day, more and more Kenyans purchase commodities through the world’s leading online wholesale marketplace, Alibaba.
Buying goods on the platform may be easy, especially for the tech-savvy younger generation, more conversant with e-commerce platforms.
However, for others, it can be hectic, costly, and time-consuming, especially when looking for a reliable supplier and buying items in bulk.
This is where the need for Alibaba agents arises.
Who are Alibaba Agents?
These are professionals who help buyers on Alibaba.com securely source for the best vendors and access cost-effective shipping services for their merchandise.
Of course, they charge a fee for the services, depending on the service type and the quantity of merchandise ordered.
Are there Alibaba Agents in Kenya?
There are no official Alibaba agents in Kenya.
However, there are a few brokerage individuals who market Alibaba merchandise online.
It’s advisable to be keen to differentiate between an Alibaba agent and a broker.
Brokers act as middlemen by buying and selling commodities from Alibaba, while Alibaba agents offer a range of services to Alibaba shoppers.
Some brokers selling merchandise from Alibaba have warehouses in Nairobi and Mombasa.
They stock items bought on Alibaba and then sell them to Kenyans for a profit.
There are many China-based shipping agents who you can contact to ship your Alibaba merchandise to Kenya.
They are Chinese-owned trading companies specializing in sourcing, air freight, and sea freight.
Some of the benefits of shipping your Alibaba merchandise with these agents is that they can refund you quickly, especially for undelivered orders below $1,000 and accept simple, secure payments via PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, ApplePay, and GooglePay.
They can also customize your packaging and logo to suit your liking.
How much do Alibaba Shipping Agents Charge?
Alibaba shipping agent charges depend on the quantity of merchandise to be shipped and the lead time (the duration between order placement and delivery).
For instance, a verified shipping agent, Liuzhou Kuien Company, charges between $1.5 to $2 and accepts orders of at least 1 kg for shipping to Kenya.
The best way to maximize on the agents’ pricing model is to place orders in bulk to enjoy economies of scale.
Red Flags to Look Out For When Dealing With Alibaba Shipping Agents
In every lucrative business, scammers, and impersonators will be waiting to swindle unsuspecting individuals of their hard-earned cash.
This is a common occurrence in e-commerce deals like those closed on Alibaba.
Below are some of the main signs of an unscrupulous and untrustworthy Alibaba agent:
- Asking for your visa or Mastercard details
- Asking to pay through alternative payment platforms not accepted by Alibaba
- Unclear terms and conditions of trade e.g., missing information on refunds and returns in case the goods are not delivered as agreed.
- Slow or non-existent response to emails or Alibaba text center messages
- Scanty details on physical address or contact person’s name
One of the main purposes of engaging Alibaba agents when buying goods in the online marketplace is to ensure online safety and secure transaction.
However, falling victim of cybercrime is highly possible, and therefore, due diligence is important when choosing an agent to transact with.
When choosing an agent, it’s advisable to compare the pricing, lead times, and terms of engagement to ensure you choose the most suitable agent for your purchasing needs.
Cross-examination of agents is also a good way of knowing how conversant, reliable, or experienced they are about the market dynamics.
Also, it’s good to keep in mind the fact that you can import your Alibaba merchandise directly without engaging the agents.
Agents are only helpful if you are unsure about the operations of the online marketplace or when looking for new suppliers for specific supplies. That can help you save agency costs and reduce the lead time.
As the Kenyan market for Alibaba grows, we will likely see some Alibaba agents set up shop in Kenya.