If you’re an importer considering sourcing goods in China, you would have to be living under a rock to not know of Alibaba. Alibaba is one of the largest wholesale business to business marketplaces in the world – and you can access it from the comfort of your own home.
Something lesser known, however is that the company that runs Alibaba also offers two sister sites – Aliexpress and Alibaba Wholesale. For some importers, their needs may be better met by one of Alibaba’s sister sites – so we’ve created this blog post comparing the three to help you out.
Alibaba is one of the world’s largest marketplaces; it’s a worldwide trading platform for B2B opportunities. Mainly populated by Chinese factories and manufacturers, Alibaba offers importers a platform in which to reach out to and communicate to their potential suppliers.
As it is a business to business platform, Alibaba does not cater to regular consumers. This means that there are incredibly high minimum order requirements (typically in the thousands) – however, this means that the price per unit is much lower.
When engaging suppliers on Alibaba, you must email and communicate with them before being able to order. Often, you’ll have to negotiate a price – unlike typical online portals, you do not simply add to bag and checkout. This can add a lot of time to the process – and frustration. Often, people will approach Chinese suppliers with the wrong demeanor and get ignored, or may have a sub-par buying experience.
There a lot of reasons that this can occur, but here a few common reasons:
- Suppliers are not the ones fighting for your business; if anything, you’re fighting for theirs.
- You’re making yourself sound too small and unprofessional; all of which leads to you being an unreliable buyer and a waste of their time.
- Your request was too vague; it’s actually a lot harder to provide a quote than people often assume – requests that are too vague don’t encourage response.
We’ve written a post explaining why your relationship with your supplier is such a critical part of your business and helping you understand how best to build one: Building A Relationship With Your Chinese Supplier And Why It’s Important.
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The positive side to this, however, is that there is much more opportunity to converse with your supplier and often customize or alter your product. This negotiation period allows for you to drive the price down, or find economically suitable options for you. Cultivating a business relationship with your supplier can actually be incredibly beneficial for you as an importer because a lot of your final product depends on your relationship with your supplier.
Aliexpress is the retail branch to the Alibaba umbrella. You can find the same manufacturers on both platforms usually, but Aliexpress is open for and targeted at consumers. It functions like any other online e-commerce store and is where many factories sell their goods at market rate.
Due to this, there are no minimum order requirements – but the prices are much higher.
However, the interface of Aliexpress is much more familiar and issue free. As it’s a platform built for consumers, it functions like a regular shop – you add your goods to your cart and buy them. This is a great way to get samples of your manufacturer’s work before you commit to buying from them.
Features of Aliexpress:
- No minimum order quantity – you can buy one item. Like a normal online store, you can buy individual items and there’s no minimum quantity. If you’re ordering a small amount of stock, or just buying a product to conduct market research, Aliexpress could be better.
- Low unit price compared to our market – but higher price than wholesale. Aliexpress prices are, a vast majority of the time, a lot cheaper than what you’d find on Amazon, but compared to wholesale they’re massively higher.
- Free shipping is usually on offer. Most products being sold on Aliexpress come with complimentary free shipping – which can be a massive cost when you import from overseas usually.
- Easy shopping interface; very familiar. Shopping on Aliexpress is as simple as shopping on Amazon!
- Long shipping time. While the shipping may be free, shipping from Aliexpress can take a very long time – up to 60 days!
- No need to talk to suppliers. As with normal online shopping, when you buy on Aliexpress you don’t have to interact with the manufacturer before your goods are shipped out to you; no negotiating or emails back and forth, just a “Buy Now” button!
Alibaba Wholesale is the middle ground between the two. While still operating on a wholesale model, the minimum order requirements are lower than Alibaba, but higher than Aliexpress – and the prices are higher than Alibaba, but less than Aliexpress. It’s almost like the dip-your-toes-in-the-water version.
Alibaba Wholesale, however, comes with some pretty cool features of its own. One is the predicted retail price and the “High Profit Margin” marker.
These are great metrics for importers to look at and are really good indicators of what products are profitable and how much you can expect to make.
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Drop-shipping - Alibaba or Aliexpress?
If you’re looking to start an e-commerce business where you sell goods that have been made in China, you can go one of two ways:
- Drop-shipping or
- Drop-shipping is when you don’t buy or hold physical stock; when a customer buys off you, you buy from a supplier stocking the goods and get them delivered straight to the customer.
- Importing is when you buy the stock from China and get it delivered to you to fulfil the order yourself. You have to buy the stock upfront (usually in bulk), store it yourself and fulfil the orders too.
Now, we’ve already written a post explaining all the pros and cons of Drop-Shipping vs. Importing, so if you’re on the fence about which business model is for you, you can take a read of that. For now, we’re just going to explain which marketplace would be better for drop-shipping and which is a better fit for importing.
Can you dropship from Alibaba or Aliexpress?
As a rule, you can dropship from Aliexpress (a lot of shops on there actually offer drop-shipping as one of their services) but you can’t dropship from Alibaba. This is because Alibaba is a wholesale marketplace so you cannot buy individual units from suppliers – imagine your customer orders one shot glass and you deliver a set of 500 to their door!
Alibaba Vs. Aliexpress
Aliexpress vs Alibaba vs Alibaba Wholesale
In an attempt to discern which of the platforms was the best, we compared the three – and came up with a definitive answer.
Example 1 – A Lego Mug
For our first example, we decided to choose something that you could easily import and sell over here. For this, we chose a novelty mug – great for Christmas and birthday presents, right?
We found this mug across all three platforms and compared the prices for you to see. The first up was Aliexpress, where the mug was posted at a retail price of $7.83.
Next, we found the same product on Alibaba Wholesale. As you can see, the price dramatically dropped – but the minimum order increased to 60.
Finally, we found the same product on Alibaba. The price dropped to $2 – and the minimum order jumped up to 100.
What was our answer?
Each platform is good for different things. If you’re a small importer looking to just start up, Alibaba Wholesale is probably for you. If you want an initial sample, Aliexpress is your best bet. If you’re confident and want to import stock for your shop, then go straight ahead to Alibaba. Each platform is developed for different purposes and suits different needs.
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Hopefully, this cleared things up a little for you. If you found this post helpful, don’t forget to share and follow us on social media!