AliExpress is a China-based retail website owned by the Alibaba group.
AliExpress does not sell products to consumers directly. Instead, it’s more like a directory of thousands of independent sellers and small businesses that can use the site to list their products and make sales to customers all over the world.
Many of the products are available at factory prices that would normally only be available to retailers. However, you don’t have to buy in bulk to shop on AliExpress and you don’t have to have a special retail account to shop there.
Shopping on AliExpress is no different to shopping on another marketplace like Amazon or eBay. There are thousands of sellers on the platform, each of which has their own storefront.
When you’ve found products you want to buy, just create an account, place your order and pay online. AliExpress doesn’t accept PayPal payment but you can pay with all major credit cards and some online wallets. Sellers often offer a discount for buying in bulk, which is handy for eCommerce business owners and resellers.
However, it’s important to read the shipping options carefully and take note of where your items are coming from. Shipments from China can take several weeks and you may be charged import and duty taxes on top of the price of your order.
What’s the Difference Between AliExpress and Alibaba?
Many people get AliExpress and Alibaba confused but they are actually two separate websites offering different services.
You can’t shop directly from Alibaba. It’s a directory of manufacturers offering wholesale prices for bulk orders.
If you want to order products from a manufacturer you find on Alibaba, you’ll place the order directly with the factory and you can request customizations or create your own white label products.
All products have a minimum order quantity, which may be several hundred items. You’ll also have to consider restrictions and taxes on importing items in a high quantity.
Rather than ordering directly through the website, Alibaba provides contact details for manufacturers so that you can get in touch with them directly to organize your order and payment details.
Alibaba can be a cost-effective way to source products but it’s not the best option if you’re new to eCommerce. You’re better starting with sourcing products from AliExpress or another supplier and considering it as an option at a later date when you have more experience.
Using AliExpress for DropShipping
AliExpress is a popular platform for dropshippers due to its wide range of products and cheap prices. It’s easy for anyone to setup an online store selling products from AliExpress.
Rather than buy the products in advance and hold them as stock, you can list AliExpress products at a marked-up price and have them sent directly to the customer when they order a product on your site.
There are even plugins and software available that will allow you to import products from AliExpress right to your storefront, complete with photos and descriptions. All you need to do is set your own price and then place the orders with the AliExpress seller when they come in.
Finding Product Ideas on AliExpress
Even if you’re not dropshipping or buying stock from AliExpress, it can be a great place to get ideas of new products you can sell.
There are thousands of products on the site covering pretty much any category you can think of. By taking a look through the popular and trending products, you can get some inspiration for what you can sell in your own online store.
It’s simple to do this manually but can be quite time-consuming. To speed up the process there are a few software packages available designed to help you find product ideas in AliExpress and filter searches based on various criteria.
Is it Safe to Source Products on AliExpress?
Some of the products sold on AliExpress come straight from the brands and are exactly the same as what you would buy in a shop in the US or elsewhere in the world, but for a much cheaper price.
However, there are also a lot of low-quality replica products on AliExpress, although the platform has made steps to crack down on these sellers in recent years.
AliExpress has a robust rating and review center so make sure to shop from a highly-rated seller who has sold a lot of products and has good reviews. It’s also always a good idea to choose a shipping option with tracking.
However, if something does go wrong, AliExpress has a buyer protection program. You can open a dispute with a seller and request a refund. This may take a while but you’ll get your money back in most cases.
The quality of goods on AliExpress can be variable, so if you’re planning on dropshipping products it’s highly recommended to order a sample product first. Once you’ve checked the items yourself, you can order from that seller and have them send items directly to your customers with confidence.
While most of the sellers on AliExpress are based in China, there are also some US-based retailers. If you’re dropshipping products to mainly US customers, choosing a US-based supplier is a good idea as shipping times will be much shorter.
Selling on AliExpress
As well as sourcing products from AliExpress, it’s perfectly possible to open a seller account and sell products directly on their marketplace.
To register as a seller you’ll need to sign up for an Alipay business account and provide proof that your business is genuine. The proof required depends on which country you’re based in but may include details such as a tax number and company registration or operating license.
You’ll pay a commission of 5-8% to AliExpress for each sale you make on the platform.