Red Flags of Alibaba Series: #5 Watch Out for the Use of AI in Communications

Mar 22, 2024 | 0 comments

Unfazed by the chirping squirrel outside my window, my next “Red Flags of Alibaba” piece is here.

The 5th red flag has to do with AI.

Ever have a great conversation or email exchange with your factory online?

With details being confirmed and your PO put in, you can now finally shift focus back to the rest of your business.

Then 6 weeks later when doing your inspection you discover your order was riddled with errors:

➤ The wrong material was used, even though they agreed to update it

➤ The product box is 5 cms too long, causing the product to shift around

➤ The card stock on your marketing inserts is too thin

The list goes on. This brings us to:

Red Flag 5: Getting Lost in Translation With Your Factory

Enter generative AI that has transformed translation. Making for flawless, errorless text with exceptional grammar—commas in all the right places.

But this same AI—like ChatGPT or other programs—can sometimes mask misunderstanding about product specs or requests. The false sense of security that all details are correctly understood can lead to all sorts of unwanted outcomes.

So what can a brand do to avoid this?

(1) Request confirmation in multiple formats

Beyond just text, ask for drawings, diagrams or even a quick video explanation.

Better yet? Jump on a video call. When needed, you can enlist the help of a trusted sourcing agent or translator.

(2) Use simple language and avoid jargon

As brands, it helps to simplify the language while still clearly expressing our requests. Specify measurements, materials, and requirements in simple clear terms.

Note that the metric system is largely used in Chinese manufacturing. So, we’ll want to get our measurements in inches and pounds converted over to centimetres and kilograms (or to smaller units of measure).

(3) Sample, sample, sample

What better way to ensure requirements are met than with a perfect pre-production sample in your hand?

It largely confirms that requirements have been understood.

(4) Do an onsite inspection or audit

If possible, get a third-party to inspect your goods before shipment. If you have the budget, even consider getting them inspected halfway through production to ensure everything is going as planned, to spec.

(5) Regular check-ins

Set milestones and regular touchpoints with your factories.

The more often you speak with them and check in, the less likely something is to go wrong during production.

(6) Cultural understanding and patience

Even though some factories can speak and write in English very well without using AI, differences in how information is processed or prioritized may come up.

Overall, so much of success in sourcing comes down to understanding and developing strong communication with factory partners.

Understand this and set yourself up for continued success.

As always, happy sourcing!

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