Who ‘s Better for Import & Dropshipping: Alibaba vs AliExpress?
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On June 12, 2020, by Meaghan Brophy
As the writer for a variety of retail publications and a speaker at trade shows, Meaghan has given content and advice for indie retailers. She is the retail and e-commerce force of Fit Small Business.
This article is part of the larger Dropshipping series.
Table OF INHALTS
When to make use of Alibaba
Whether To Use AliExpress
Alibaba against AliExpress
Comparison of Ease of Use
Comparison for Customer Support
How To Get A Quote from Alibaba
Alibaba Tips for Buying
Questions concerning FAQs
Alibaba and AliExpress are online marketplaces. The key difference between Alibaba and AliExpress is that Alibaba is for B2B transactions only, while AliExpress is for customers only. Alibaba allows companies buy vast amounts of goods directly at wholesale prices from producers. AliExpress offers products at competitive retail prices with no minimum order requirements.
When to make use of Alibaba
For companies who want to import large amounts of bulk goods to resell online or in-store, Alibaba is best. Alibaba does not have dropshipping, and is suitable for existing or growing companies that have facilities at a time to receive and store hundreds or thousands of wholesale goods. To build a free account, visit Alibaba.
Whether To Use AliExpress
AliExpress is an online marketplace where U.S. buyers can make purchases from manufacturers and resellers. AliExpress has no minimum order requirements but slightly higher prices. Many sellers on AliExpress offer dropshipping, making AliExpress the better choice for small or startup businesses that want to sell products online without having a warehouse. Visit AliExpress to create a free account.
When to Use an Alternative
If you are a new or startup ecommerce business, using an all-in-one platform to manage your website, store, inventory, and orders is often the easiest option. Shopify does all of this, and has apps you can use to manage dropshipping and order fulfillment with suppliers such as Oberlo. Visit Shopify for a free trial.
The broader Alibaba Community comprises Alibaba and AliExpress. Alibaba Group has another online marketplace, which is a middle ground between Alibaba and AliExpress, called Alibaba Wholesale. Alibaba Wholesale is designed for small to medium-sized companies, but with smaller minimum order volumes than Alibaba, and provides wholesale pricing.
Alibaba has the lowest prices in terms of price per item, Alibaba Wholesale has slightly higher prices, and AliExpress has the highest prices (although they are still usually lower than any retail price in the United States). Alibaba Wholesale could be a good match for you if you are a small company that wants to import goods, but in smaller quantities.
How We Measured Alibaba vs AliExpress
We looked at importing and dropshipping functionality, ease of use, and what form of company each marketplace is better suited for in order to determine Alibaba versus AliExpress. We also considered the cost and logistics of shipping, price, and the ability to customize goods.
Based on: We compared Alibaba to AliExpress
Price: We looked at whether wholesale or retail prices and the general cost of products was provided by each solution.
Ease of use: We explored how easy it is to use each platform to position orders, track shipping, and locate items.
Dropshipping functionality: We considered whether or not dropshipping is provided by the marketplace and how companies can position dropship orders.
Ability to customize goods: We looked at whether consumers would purchase custom, white label, or private label items from suppliers on the marketplace or not.
Shipping costs and time: All markets and their manufacturers are based in China, so average shipping times, processes, and costs have been studied.
Product processing time: Certain products are ordered, so we looked at the average time between the placing of an order and the delivery of products.
Buyer protection: We considered what security or money-back guarantees buyers receive from Alibaba and AliExpress.
It's a bit like comparing apples to oranges to compare Alibaba and AliExpress as they don't do exactly the same thing. Alibaba tops our list, however, because it is developed exclusively for corporations. Alibaba provides very low wholesale prices and options, which AliExpress doesn't, to customize products or build private label brands.
Alibaba vs AliExpress: Features & Pricing
Online marketplaces (think eBay or Amazon) where you buy products from third-party vendors are both Alibaba and AliExpress. They both sell merchandise at prices far below what you would find on any retail site located in the United States, but only Alibaba has real wholesale prices. With Alibaba, for large quantities of products, you negotiate quotations directly with suppliers. You may buy one-off or limited quantities of items with AliExpress, or have them delivered to your customers.
Pricing & Features on Alibaba
To buy goods from suppliers, Alibaba has no upfront or membership fees. To get a quote, you can search the web, find products or suppliers you like, and contact them via email or chat. The platform does not have a built-in shopping cart. So, Alibaba is a little different from AliExpress because you can't just click the “purchase” button. Alibaba offers the lowest price per item, which is great for retail companies. Minimum orders differ, but there are typically at least a few hundred parts per component. Alibaba, however, provides interest-free financing for 60 days, which makes it more affordable to position bulk wholesale orders.
Features of Alibaba include:
Alibaba Pricing of Goods
Alibaba has a model for wholesale pricing that is tailored for business clients. The cost of a commodity prior to any retail markup is wholesale pricing. Buying directly from suppliers usually provides the lowest prices for companies trying to resell goods, which ensures that companies will make a high profit margin on sales. Alibaba directly links purchasers with suppliers. AliExpress, albeit at higher prices, has some of the same goods as Alibaba.
Low wholesale prices for Alibaba but higher minimum orders
Alibaba Minimum Requirements for Order
The smallest amount of merchandise you can buy is the minimum order requirements. This is a dollar sum occasionally, but with Alibaba it is usually a certain number of items. Alibaba and AliExpress, including eBay and Amazon, are made up of individual retailers, so the exact criteria vary.
As the items are sold at a much lower price, Alibaba sellers usually have minimum order requirements ranging from 50 to 1,000 parts. You can buy individual products using AliExpress.
Dropshipping by Alibaba
Most suppliers do not offer dropshipping on Alibaba because they sell only in bulk. You can, however, be able to find a few that do, with careful searching through supplier sites. Through using a shipping company to pack and ship your orders with goods that you buy from Alibaba, you might also find a solution, but you will still be buying the items in bulk. In contrast, dropshipping is provided by most AliExpress providers.
Custom Goods & Private Label Alibaba
Since you purchase the goods directly from the maker, Alibaba is the better option for buying custom and private label products. With Alibaba, for a very low price, you can easily get items with your logo, store name, or custom sayings because they are added by a third party during the development process, instead of afterwards.
There are also several Alibaba suppliers who will produce products according to your design, so you get a completely unique product. Usually, the products are already pre-made with AliExpress, so there are few customization choices and they are typically more costly.
Lead Time for Alibaba
Depending on the source, the product you are ordering, how large your order is, and if it is being personalized, the exact lead time for your order will vary a lot. Thirty days is a good bet for commodity development from the time of payment.
It's necessary, however, to bear in mind that finding the right supplier, negotiating a quote, obtaining samples, and finalizing your order can take you a while. Plus, this can take anything from a few weeks to a few months if the product is imported from overseas. So, expect the process to take a few months in total.
Alibaba has a network for freight procurement built into the application. Alibaba Freight, powered by Freightos, is a new marketplace that allows U.S. retailers and companies to compare their wholesale orders with pricing, book, manage and monitor ocean and air shipping. The shipping costs, methods, and time available before Alibaba Freight would vary depending on the supplier from which you ordered, and it was a fairly opaque operation.
In the United States, several Alibaba suppliers have warehouses. So, if one of those suppliers buys premade goods, they can give you items directly from their U.S. warehouse, which would be quicker and far less costly. With AliExpress, as there are limited amounts, the goods will normally be delivered by air.
Pricing & Features by AliExpress
AliExpress is a giant online marketplace owned by the Alibaba Group that is available in the United States to retail and business buyers. AliExpress provides very affordable retail prices, dropshipping, and has a built-in shopping cart that allows individual items to be purchased by customers. Stock prices for AliExpress are higher than for Alibaba, but lower than for other retailers located in the United States.
Features of AliExpress include:
Product Pricing for AliExpress
In a number of categories, similar to Alibaba, AliExpress sells goods from third-party vendors. The key differences are that AliExpress has slightly cheaper rates, and anyone can place an order directly via the website on AliExpress. You do not have to directly contact suppliers and negotiate a quote. On AliExpress, the per-item prices are higher than on Alibaba. Buyers can, however, place much smaller orders and also get free shipping.
There are no minimum orders on AliExpress and free shipping deals
Minimum Order Criteria for AliExpress
While many companies use AliExpress to source goods, the website operates more like a retail platform in the sense that there are no minimum order requirements and a purchase can be made by anyone. Typically, Alibaba sellers have higher minimum order requirements, and while anyone can contact a seller for a quote, the sellers normally work exclusively with companies.
Dropshipping by AliExpress
The best alternative for dropshipping is AliExpress, since you can order one-off goods instead of huge shipments. Dropshipping is a feature provided by many sellers of AliExpress. There's also a plugin feature for WordPress called AliDropship that you can add to any WordPress site to sell AliExpress dropship goods. There are also several third-party solutions to sell AliExpress dropship products, such as the Oberlo app from Shopify.
Custom Goods & Private Label by AliExpress
As you purchase directly from a manufacturer who can produce goods according to your requirements, Alibaba is the best option for sourcing custom and private label goods. With AliExpress, you buy premade items that can not normally be personalized.
Lead Time AliExpress
Since the goods purchased through AliExpress are already made, the lead time for AliExpress orders is much shorter than for Alibaba orders. Usually, AliExpress orders are delivered immediately, though they are typically delivered from overseas. And you will usually receive orders with free shipping within 30 days of ordering.
Shipping Costs & Time by AliExpress
Via a program called ePacket, AliExpress provides free delivery to U.S. consumers. This free shipping is available for retail customers and for consumer dropship companies using AliExpress. Items purchased on AliExpress will usually come from overseas, and delivery will take 12 to 25 days. Package monitoring is provided by ePacket, so you and your clients can see where your orders are. Since AliExpress sales are much smaller than Alibaba wholesale orders, although it still takes time, the shipping logistics are simpler and less costly.
Alibaba vs AliExpress: Ease of Use
Alibaba and AliExpress have websites that look identical and are both intuitive to navigate and very quick to use. However, particularly if you are not experienced with placing wholesale orders, AliExpress is a little easier. On Alibaba, you need to directly reach out to providers and negotiate quotes.
The websites of Alibaba and AliExpress look very close.
Ease of Use for Alibaba
If you are an experienced wholesale buyer, Alibaba can be very easy to use. However, Alibaba might be a tough place to start if you have never put a wholesale order before. Suppliers have no duty to respond to your quote queries, so if you are not certain what details they are searching for or what questions to ask, the process can be frustrating. Likewise, it can be frustrating to follow the shipping, import and payment processes.
Ease of Use for AliExpress
Similar to any retail store, AliExpress works and has a built-in shopping cart, so no direct contact with suppliers is needed. The buying process is much simpler and much quicker than with Alibaba.
Alibaba vs AliExpress: Service to Customers
Alibaba and AliExpress are both online marketplaces based in China that consist of third-party sellers, so the experience you have purchasing through these marketplaces can vary greatly depending on the individual seller. However, in order to ensure a successful shopping experience, all marketplace sites have rules and complaint procedures in place.
Customer Service by Alibaba
When buying from Alibaba, companies specifically negotiate with vendors, not Alibaba itself. Alibaba, however, has assistance centers, group forums, and places for formal grievances and disputes to be filed. Alibaba support can also be contacted by buyers via live chat. Via Alibaba, there is no phone help. You will, however, be in direct contact via email with your suppliers.
Customer Service by AliExpress
Similar to Alibaba, AliExpress has a live chat option on the website, but does not offer phone support. AliExpress also has dispute management services on the website for reporting suppliers or requesting refunds.
Alibaba vs AliExpress: Customer Reviews
Reviews for both Alibaba and AliExpress are mixed. The experience you have buying from these marketplaces can vary a lot depending on the supplier you purchase from. They all have varying policies and standards of quality that may or may not be what you are expecting.
Alibaba Customer Reviews
Though there have been many reports of scam businesses on Alibaba, there are also many fantastic reputable manufacturers on the site. Alibaba has taken many steps in recent years to crack down on issues like product quality and counterfeit goods. Many experienced wholesale buyers have a positive experience with Alibaba because you can purchase custom products for low prices.
AliExpress Customer Reviews
Reviews for AliExpress are very mixed. Some businesses use AliExpress to dropship products without any issues. However, many retail shoppers who buy from AliExpress complain of orders not arriving, receiving the wrong product, and issues settling disputes or getting refunds.
How to Get a Quote From Alibaba Suppliers
If you are interested in purchasing wholesale products from Alibaba, you will need to find a supplier with the products you want, and reach out to get a quote. This process is called “Request for Quotation.” If you are new to wholesale buying, the process can be confusing.
Here is how to get a quote on Alibaba:
1. Determine the Products You Need
There are over 8.5 million suppliers on Alibaba, so you want to be specific when searching for a product. For example, instead of “women’s sneakers,” search “women’s lightweight running shoes.”
On Alibaba, specific product searches will give you more targeted results
2. Find Multiple Suppliers to Contact
When finding suppliers from which to purchase products, price is probably the first thing you will consider. However, there are a number of other things to look for, including:
• Trade Assurance: Some suppliers support this feature, which allows you to submit a claim to Alibaba if you are not satisfied with your shipment. Alibaba reviews the claim and may offer a refund. Look for suppliers that offer this, as they are more likely to be reputable.
• Gold Suppliers: Suppliers can pay Alibaba to be listed as Gold Suppliers. If a supplier is not Gold, that doesn’t mean they aren’t reputable. However, it is a safer bet to choose suppliers that are investing in their Alibaba listings.
• Verified (Assessed) Suppliers: Assessed suppliers have had their factories inspected by Alibaba’s third-party service, which has deemed the suppliers as reputable. Always look for Assessed Suppliers.
When searching supplier listings, you can check off boxes to only show suppliers that have Trade Assurance and Assessed Suppliers. It’s a good idea to use this feature, especially if you are new to purchasing wholesale products. The individual listings will show if they are a Gold Supplier or not.
Always look for suppliers that offer Trade Assurance, are Verified, and are Gold Suppliers
3. Submit Inquiries
When it comes time to submit an inquiry or request for quotes, there are a few ways you can do this. First, you can contact individual suppliers directly. In this initial contact, just introduce yourself, say what products you are interested in and inquire about samples. Keep it short, simple, and professional.
Buyers can contact suppliers individually to request samples or additional information
Alternatively, you can use Alibaba’s Request for Quotation (RFQ) service to request quotes from many suppliers at once. This form requires a little more information, but you will end up with a list of quotes to compare, which can be a faster process than selecting and reaching out to suppliers individually. This service is free, but you can pay for faster results or more quotes. Keep in mind that there is no option to only select Assessed or Trade Assurance suppliers when submitting this form, so you will have to check for that after receiving your results.
Request for Quotation (RFQ) forms allow buyers to collect quotes from many suppliers at once
4. Get Samples
Request samples from the suppliers in which you are interested. With samples, you will typically have to pay for shipping. For more expensive products, you may also be asked to pay a fee for the sample, all of which is normal. However, if a supplier does not offer samples, consider that a red flag and choose a different company. Samples allow you to assess and compare product quality before placing large wholesale orders.
Tips for Buying From Alibaba
Alibaba is a marketplace site that is filled with manufacturers and suppliers that have different prices, product quality, and policies. There are always risks involved when it comes to importing products. However, there are some steps you can take to help ensure you are choosing quality suppliers and products, while also protecting your investments. Follow these tips to help ensure a smooth buying process.
Don’t Buy Branded Products
Trademark owners can report and remove unlicensed or counterfeit listings from Alibaba. There are thousands of suppliers on the site, and not all counterfeit listings are caught, and not all brands monitor and report counterfeit goods on Alibaba.
To avoid any counterfeit or trademark issues, do not purchase brand name goods from Alibaba. You may see listings for electronics or handbags at prices that seem too good to be true, and that’s because they are. If you are interested in selling name brand goods, source directly from the brand itself to ensure you are purchasing authentic product and to avoid any potential legal issues.
Do Use Trade Assurance from Alibaba
Alibaba Trade Assurance is a free order security service designed to help buyers and suppliers create trust. If their orders are substantially delayed or if the goods do not meet the requirements specified in the order agreement, Trade Assurance will help customers get a refund. Trade assurance is not a guarantee, but suppliers need to sign up to provide trade assurance and agree to comply with the rules of trade assurance, so suppliers providing this function would usually be more trustworthy.
Select Evaluated Suppliers
Alibaba has a service called Assessed Suppliers that can be selected by gold suppliers. These manufacturers had a third-party inspection firm inspect their premises. Inspections include factory recordings, tests of basic product consistency, and evaluation reports.
Using a safe payment approach
Often pay through the safe ordering system of Alibaba (which is important for Trade Assurance) or through a tool such as PayPal. Never pay directly to a personal bank account for an order using Western Credit Union or by sending money. Also legitimate suppliers will often ask you to send money to a personal account to escape taxes; this is a red flag and could suggest a scam at worst.
Until purchasing in bulk, test goods
Of course, before making a big wholesale purchase, you would want samples of each product. However, before committing to a large order, it is just as necessary to test each form of product in your shop. For example, if you are interested in selling printed leggings online, but have not sold them before, test the market before importing 1,000 printed leggings by offering dropship sales to ensure that there is demand for such items.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) by AliExpress vs Alibaba
In many respects, Alibaba and AliExpress are related, but serve very distinct roles for retail business owners.
What is your RFQ?
RFQ stands for Request for Quotation, which is a method that can be used on Alibaba by buyers to gather quotes from multiple suppliers at once for a particular product. It can be much easier to fill out an RFQ form than to personally identify and contact suppliers, but you may have less control over the results you get.
What is Wholesale Alibaba?
Alibaba Wholesale is a separate online marketplace that Alibaba Group also owns. Alibaba Wholesale is like a halfway point between Alibaba and AliExpress because, but with lower minimum order requirements, it sells bulk wholesale goods such as Alibaba. For Alibaba Wholesale, the price per product is higher than for Alibaba, but less than for AliExpress.
Is buying from Alibaba safe?
In general, yes, buying from Alibaba is secure. There will always be vendors who do not deliver what they say, just as on eBay or Amazon Marketplace, but there are steps you can take to help ensure that you purchase from a reliable supplier.
What's the difference between Amazon and AliExpress?
Amazon is exclusively for customers. AliExpress offers to customers but also has company dropshipping tools. Some companies source AliExpress goods to sell on Amazon. From a consumer ‘s viewpoint, delivery time is the main difference. Most goods are available on Amazon with free shipping for two days. The majority of goods on AliExpress come from China or somewhere abroad, and it will take 12 to 25 days for them to arrive.
Should I use Alibaba as a dropship?
No, you can't drop ship directly from Alibaba because you buy from bulk selling manufacturers. Source from AliExpress if you would like to deliver dropshipping. The rates are higher, but you can buy individual goods and dropshipping is provided by most suppliers.
How am I supposed to put an order for Alibaba?
Alibaba ‘s website does not have a shopping cart. You need to contact suppliers directly via an inquiry form, email, or chat to position an order. To obtain data from several vendors, you can also send a Request for Quotation (RFQ) form. You will need to directly discuss rates and payments with each supplier and then manage the shipping marketplace of Alibaba Freight, so the buying process is slower and more complex than with a retail website.
What is Trade Guarantee with Alibaba?
Alibaba Trade Assurance is a security service for customers that vendors may choose to sell. For consumers, it is free to use and is intended to help create trust between buyers and suppliers. If their orders ship far later than promised, or if the goods do not follow the requirements specified in the order agreement, Trade Assurance will help customers get a refund.
Product procurement is a critical component of every retail or e-commerce sector. Both AliExpress and Alibaba provide companies with opportunities to procure goods at low prices from millions of sources. The best choice for dropshipping is AliExpress, as it allows companies to buy single products, and has dropshipping integration plugins right on your website. For start-up companies that are new to wholesale orders and importing goods, AliExpress is also the best choice.
Alibaba is the best choice if you are an existing retail or e-commerce business, since you can get unbeatable rates directly from manufacturers for wholesale goods, including custom-made and custom-designed items. Alibaba is fully free to use, and provides buyers with Trade Assurance and Measured Suppliers with security. To build a free account, visit Alibaba.