Should I buy my vending machine from Alibaba or a Chinese manufacturer?

Posted October 13, 2021

Should I buy my vending machine from Alibaba or a Chinese manufacturer?

The vending market in Asia, especially China, has exploded in size over the last decade. From 2014 to 2019 the unattended vending market In China grew from $250 million (USD) to over $4.5 billion (USD). In that same period dozens of new vending manufacturers were founded in China that have now become some of the largest producers of vending machines in the world.

To say that China is now the world’s leading manufacturer in unattended vending machines and kiosks would be an understatement.

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Chinese vending machines have cutting-edge technology

Trust us, we have scoured the North American market for vending manufacturers on par with contemporary Chinese vending technology, and we haven’t been able to find a viable option. Whether we are considering touchscreens, contactless payment/ordering systems, interactive displays, or elevator/conveyor delivery systems, Chinese manufacturers are years ahead of everyone else. They have become the innovators in unattended kiosks and vending systems.

There are often concerns about “quality” regarding Chinese manufactured parts and equipment, and we initially had those same concerns… that is until we looked around our offices and saw the vast majority of electronics and appliances we currently owned were manufactured in Chinese factories for American brands: HP, AT&T, Apple, General Electric, and Xerox just to name a few.

Bottom line, if you want the most innovative, eye-catching, and convenient technology for your customers, considering Chinese manufactured vending technology is a “must”.

Should you order from China or a U.S.-based distributor?

Many U.S. customers exploring the vending machine market will inevitably discover Alibaba in their online searches, and many consumers will ask, “Should I buy from Alibaba or a Chinese manufacturer, or buy from a distributor in the U.S?”.

The answer is more nuanced than a simple black-and-white “either/or” scenario. There are circumstances in which it would make perfect sense to buy direct from Alibaba or a Chinese manufacturer. There are others in which it might be extremely detrimental to not buy from a U.S. manufacturer or distributor.

You should buy your vending machine from Alibaba or a Chinese manufacturer IF

  • …you have experienced vending technicians on your team that can communicate with Chinese time zone tech support. Most Chinese tech support is available in English, so language barriers aren’t a big issue, although details can be hard to understand on both ends. The real issue is more “time-of-day”: support is typically after 8pm EST.
  • …you have access to local designers, vinyl printers and applicators to customize the graphics of the machine.
  • …you are prepared to program any touchscreens with product images, descriptions, ads, graphics, etc, yourself.
  • …you have additional hardware/parts or you purchase additional hardware/parts to modify or repair your machines stateside.
  • …you are willing to wait 4-5 months to receive your machine(s). This is the reality of overseas machine purchases, even if your Asian time zone sales rep promises otherwise. Overseas shipping is extremely congested and expensive post-pandemic.
  • …you are willing to wait weeks, even months, for parts to ship from overseas. See above.
  • …you want to save thousands on the machine itself, but can also pay thousands in shipping fees per machine.
  • ….you are ready to deal with Chinese and U.S. customs and have accounted for the current 25% U.S. tariffs in your machine cost.

You should buy your vending machine from a U.S.-based manufacturer or distributor IF

  • you want your support to be U.S. time zone based.
  • …you want the machine graphics to be designed and customized before shipping.
  • …you want the touchscreen’s photos, prices, descriptions, ads, graphics, etc, to be set up for you.
  • …you do not have the hardware/parts, nor do you want to invest in them, in order to modify or repair your machine.
  • …you want to order parts in the domestic U.S.
  • …you want to have the option to pay with a credit card. Overseas orders are often limited to Western Union or wire transfer.
  • …you want to be able to have the parts overnighted, if needed.
  • …you are willing to pay a premium for domestic support and services, but with affordable parts, shipping and support available within minutes.

In short, if you have the experienced vending team and parts inventory to support your own machines, buying from Alibaba or a Chinese manufacturer can make a lot of sense. BUT, if you’re just starting out or you don’t want to have to develop the support team and inventory, let our support team and our parts inventory take all of that load off your growing business.

The reality is, even some of our largest customers with their own teams of service technicians still chose to do business with a U.S.-based machine distributor like the Discount Vending Store because we offer that extra layer of support, parts and service that Chinese manufacturers simply can’t provide.

If your machine is not customized for your product, you’re not making maximum profit. If your machine is broken down, you aren’t making any money. Having your machines customized exactly how you want them, and keeping your machines running in a timely fashion is the advantage of sourcing your machines from The Discount Vending Store.

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