AliExpress and Alibaba are two of the biggest names in the e-commerce space.
The platforms offer their customers several benefits from low prices to product creation and customization.
What sets them apart? Who are they targeted at? Which is more suited towards bulk importing, and which platform is better for dropshipping?
This guide examines the intricacies between both platforms, along with their features, comparison, and how to use them.
This guide examines the services, their value proposition to different classes of people who might want to use their services, and more. The guide will cover the following aspects:
- 1 What is Alibaba?
- 2 What is AliExpress?
- 3 Comparison: How they differ for E-commerce Clients
- 4 Dropshipping on AliExpress
- 5 Dropshipping on Alibaba
- 6 Which works for you?
- 7 AliExpress & Alibaba FAQs
- 8 Conclusion
What is Alibaba?
Alibaba Group Holdings was created in 1999 in Hangzhou, China. The Group owns the Alibaba platform— one of the largest business-to-business (B2B) services for wholesale trade in the world. The platform has hundreds of millions of users and the ability to connect suppliers and manufacturers with business owners worldwide.
Alibaba has a long history of helping to improve suppliers’ reach and giving them the resources they need to ship their products across borders. Alibaba currently has a lot of dropshipping wholesalers and suppliers, although buyers will also love the ease with which they can find products here too.
As of 2019, the platform had over 900 million annual active customers. The platform has more than 80,000 workers, and it currently controls 60% of the Chinese e-commerce market.
Alibaba has also divested its business interest. The conglomerate includes names like Alibaba.com (English), taobao.com (Chinese), AliExpressm, and Tmall.com. The Group also has interests in multi-screen entertainment, news, film, and department stores in Asia.
How Alibaba Works
Alibaba is the largest marketplace for B2B procurement. Anyone can order from Alibaba. There are features on the platform that allows you to communicate and negotiate price, minimum orders, and shipping options with the manufacturer.
To get started, visit Alibaba.com to register. You’ll be asked for your email address. We strongly advise against using your email address, unless you don’t mind receiving email pitches from manufacturers in your niche.
Once you verify your email address, fill out your personal information. This includes username, country, company name, and phone number. Once that’s complete, you’re ready to hit the road and start bulk purchasing on Alibaba.
What is AliExpress?
AliExpress is a retail company based out of China and owned by Alibaba Group Holdings. It launched in 2010, and it enables Asian sellers to sell affordable products to the international community.
Like Alibaba, AliExpress offers a wide array of products, from jewelry, furniture to cars, and other machines. It sells virtually anything legal in China and can be shipped to other parts of the world. These exclude products like ebooks, weapons, and digital media.
How AliExpress Works
To use the platform, you need to signup for an account. This process should take two to three minutes maximum. You can signup manually by entering your email address in the signup form or by using your social media accounts.
Once this step is complete, AliExpress will ask for other personal details and several questions to customize your shopping experience for you.
When your profile set-up is complete, you’ll be able to browse the platform for your desired products through the categories page or via the search bar. As with other e-commerce platforms, you can purchase a product by selecting the Buy Now button or by adding them to your Shopping Cart.
AliExpress is especially famous for providing items at cheaper rates than a lot of its competitors – including Amazon. While Amazon offers some custom features such as one-day delivery and the Amazon Prime service, AliExpress offers competitive prices for products.
Shipping on AliExpress is low-cost. Depending on your shipping address and the courier of your choice, you might have access to tracking information. Most users will also have to wait for a month of six weeks before their products arrive.
Comparison: How they differ for E-commerce Clients
In this section, we’ll look at how well both platforms perform for e-commerce clients.
E-commerce shoppers want affordable pricing and speedy delivery for their orders. Alibaba was built for businesses to import wholesale products they can resell to the final consumers. It’s a B2B platform, which is why it’s not suited for individual e-commerce clients.
You might search through the marketplace and find manufacturers whose MOQ is one unit, but their prices would be high because the platform wasn’t built for retail sales. So, when it comes to value for an average customer, Alibaba has little to none. Production time is longer, deliveries aren’t so fast, and you don’t have the convenience to sit at home and purchase from the marketplace whenever you would like.
On the flip side, AliExpress doesn’t have such stringent restrictions. You can’t find minimum order quantities on any of the products on AliExpress. Think of the platform as your regular Amazon store—only with lower prices and longer shipping time.
AliExpress is more suited for individual e-commerce shoppers and startups who want to buy or sell products online to international customers without having a warehouse. You can easily dropship products from AliExpress to your customers anywhere in the world.
AliExpress products are slightly higher than the extremely low items on Alibaba. But, when you compare their prices to products on Amazon, you’re getting an incredible deal. The shipping costs are often free—especially to the U.S, and the products come with a Buyer protection guarantee.
Dropshipping on AliExpress
AliExpress has a dropshipping service known as Alidropship. The service is an automated solution that works like all dropshipping platforms, while also providing specialist services like e-commerce marketing and software development.
Alidropship allows customers to import high-margin, low-cost items to their online stores. The service builds on AliExpress’s notoriously low prices for products so that users can maximize their profits. Users will also be able to experiment with product selections and costs since the service doesn’t charge them any upfront fees to begin dropshipping.
To use Alidropship, you need to pick a product that you think is affordable. Check the rating to see how reliable the product is. You can also look at the seller’s transaction history to view their successful trades.
As stated earlier, the affordable prices that you get on AliExpress are one of its most significant advantages. Products are much cheaper than what you can get on a lot of other e-commerce platforms, so you can buy in bulk and maximize your profits rather well.
The rating bar will help you to understand a product and whether it’s a great fit. The last thing you want to do is purchase a product in bulk and find that it doesn’t work well. So, only go for products that have high ratings and which you can trust.
AliExpress provides the ePacket Shipping option for users. The service is safe to use and easy to set up. On average, charges for this service on AliExpress range from $3 to $5, which is way cheaper than using DHL or FedEx. While the duration to get to the product’s destination can vary between countries, the service usually takes about 15 to 18 days to deliver.
ePacket shipping service is a collaboration between the U.S Postal Service and the national postal carriers in China and Hong Kong that allows products that weigh less than 4.4 pounds to be sent to the U.S at extremely low rates.
One of the best features of AliExpress is that you can find multiple payment options.
Alidropship offers different payment options for purchases made via the app. For credit cards, you can use VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and Maestro. If you need a more traditional transaction medium, take advantage of Western Union or a wire transfer.
AliExpress also provides AliPay, which is Asia’s reply to PayPal.
On AliExpress, you get some significant level of buyer protection. You can contact customer support and get a return to protect your purchases in case there’s a problem with them. Since orders are smaller, they’re easier to protect and can be managed.
Dropshipping on Alibaba
Alibaba is perhaps the most popular E-commerce platform in the world for purchasing orders in bulk. Every product listed on the Alibaba platform has a Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ), which manufacturers list as the lowest amount that validates an order.
However, some sellers also provide their products with a Minimum Order Volume (MOV) of one. You can dropship from these people and just get your products sent. Since Alibaba is a platform for manufacturers, you might want to order a sample before you start dropshipping with a supplier. This way, you can check the product to ensure things are as expected without surprises. It’s normal to find mistakes after products have been manufactured, but you want to find those errors yourself. Not your customers—as that could damage your brand.
Alibaba suppliers are more flexible with regards to pricing compared to AliExpress suppliers. Since you’re dropshipping, you can negotiate with the buyer, leave special notes for each delivery, and have the supplier send out your orders as though they came from you. The supplier covers the cost of warehousing the product and handle logistics. You only have to worry about sending them your order details. They’ll handle the rest.
Like AliExpress, Alibaba has a certification technique that helps you choose sellers with an excellent reputation on the platform. These are the sellers you want to partner with on your dropshipping journey. On Alibaba, there are three forms of seller verification:
- A&V Check: There are “Gold Suppliers” who have passed the verification and authentication steps from the company and some of its third parties.
- Onsite Check: Staff from Alibaba will verify the company’s basic information and ascertain that their manufacturing facilities exist.
- Assessed Supplier: Third-party verification of the company’s claims considering its products.
Payment on Alibaba is straightforward. The platform offers some of the popular payment methods that you’ll find in most U.S online stores and some more. You can pay through traditional wire transfers, telegraphic transfers, credit cards, and even eChecks.
This could be tricky for dropshippers selling to U.S consumers. Alibaba doesn’t offer the ability to track shipments because suppliers don’t ship their products with a central operator. Every supplier has a separate shipping operator for their business. You should get the shipping policy of your dropshipping supplier along with the quote. This would form part of your cost price.
Alibaba has Trade Assurance, which is payment protection for your orders when the supplier fails to ship on the agreed date or send over subpar products. Trade Assurance covers products from suppliers that have signed up for the service. Not all suppliers are covered. You need to check to be sure your dropshipper’s products are included.
Which works for you?
Eventually, the option of which to choose depends significantly on your preference. In truth, Alibaba has more of a focus on B2B clients. So, end-users (necessarily, people who just want to get something for themselves) or retailers who wish to get a few pieces of a product to sell quickly won’t get much in terms of service.
The deals available on Alibaba are for companies and large-scale corporations. One company agrees to make a transaction with another company, and they enter into more or less a company agreement.
It’s almost the same thing why individuals hardly see ads for Alibaba on Facebook or some other social media platform. The companies on Alibaba aren’t targeting you.
This is where AliExpress tends to step in. While the service also caters to dropshippers, individual sellers and retailers can come here and comfortably find products.
AliExpress & Alibaba FAQs
Are AliExpress and Alibaba the same?
There’s a lot of confusion about this, mainly because they both have the same prefix. To understand these two better, they’re like siblings. The same company owns both services, but they still have some fundamental differences and target audience.
Each of the companies has its specific purpose, operates differently, and is designed to meet the needs of a particular group of people. While Alibaba is a B2B marketplace, AliExpress is more of a consumer-focused service.
Who owns AliExpress and Alibaba?
Both services are owned by the Alibaba Group, an Internet conglomerate that is based out of Hangzhou, China. The company was founded by Jack Ma—one of the richest men in China. The Alibaba Group has grown over the years and is now one of the most valuable brands globally.
Is it safe to buy on AliExpress and Alibaba?
Both companies are entirely legitimate, as long as interfacing goes. However, it’s important to remember that you’re dealing more with people here. Unlike Amazon, these services don’t own inventory of the products that they’re selling. Instead, they connect businesses with businesses – or businesses with consumers, depending on the product.
So, while they are legitimate, there’s always the risk of doing business with a wholesaler or supplier that isn’t so legitimate.
When you’re into e-commerce, sourcing the right products is a matter of life or death for your business. Finding the right supplier to meet your needs is just as important as identifying the right audience. AliExpress is more suited for small retailers and dropshippers, while Alibaba is the best option for your large-scale wholesalers searching for unbeatable prices and bulk orders.