The Alibaba Group has played such an essential role in the development of eCommerce that the history of the internet would not be complete without Alibaba and AliExpress. However, even though both stores are from the same group, buyers always have an Alibaba vs AliExpress debate in their minds. Considering how popular these two B2B and B2C stores are, we cannot blame people for getting confused, either. When we got started with online businesses and dropshipping, we had the same doubt. Here is one of the better things we can do, though. We can help you put an end to the Alibaba vs. AliExpress debate once and for all.
In the following ultimate showdown article, we have compared the diverse aspects of Alibaba and AliExpress from a buyer’s point of view. We have compared and contrasted factors like pricing, shipping, dropshipping, minimum order quantity, customization, etc. We have also provided a few quick guides on using Alibaba and AliExpress to buy products for your business/personal needs. In the end, you will have a clear idea of which among the two your business needs. We will get started with an introduction to both platforms — including but not limited to their history.
Alibaba and AliExpress: History
Alibaba: History and Growth
Alibaba is one of the core products of the Alibaba Group, and it has been in the industry for an extended period. Jack Ma, the founder of the Alibaba Group, launched Alibaba.com as a platform that makes a wide variety of products available for everyone across the globe. As a result, many companies, including startups and multi-million ones, use Alibaba to source products quickly by connecting to the right vendors.
Since its introduction over ten years before, Alibaba.com has become one of the world’s biggest and most popular B2B platforms. Every minute, B2B orders are placed on the platform, delivered across the globe. As the name suggests, it is a Business-to-Business platform, meaning that the orders are placed and delivered by businesses.
As for the variety of the available products, many options are available on Alibaba.com and its subsidiaries. You can find suitable vendors for products from more than 40 categories, including electronics, machinery, apparel, stationary, etc. It is almost as though you can find anything you want on Alibaba. If you are looking forward to selling something, Alibaba will have at least one vendor in their collection.
To ensure the best business experience, Alibaba offers a number of tools. For instance, Alibaba can optimize the service based on the business you run. If you want to dropship products, you can find compatible vendors on the platform. Most of the orders placed on Alibaba are in bulk, meaning that the quantity will be more than 100 (more about this later.)
AliExpress: History and Growth
Another core product from the Alibaba Group, AliExpress, is an incredibly huge online marketplace. Unlike Alibaba.com, however, AliExpress is a Business-to-Customer platform. It means a customer can buy products directly from a company. Therefore, AliExpress is widely used by individuals across the globe who want to get desired products at a relatively lower price.
You can think of AliExpress as an alternative to Amazon by many means. Like Amazon, AliExpress features a vast number of products from different categories. Some of the categories you can find include Fashion, Phones, Telecommunications, Computer, Security, Consumer Electronics, Jewelry, Bags, Shoes, etc. In addition, because everything is linked to direct sellers, buyers can receive off-the-charts discounts.
More importantly, AliExpress features a better presence of international brands. The platform also offers its shipping services to different locations worldwide. However, unlike Amazon, AliExpress cannot expedite the shipping process. It means customers often have to wait for a couple of weeks or months before they receive the order.
In many ways than one, AliExpress can be an excellent alternative to what Amazon puts forward. To compete with the online shopping giant, the Alibaba Group has invested in making AliExpress a better and safer space. The simple User Interface, multiple payment methods, buyer protection, and currency conversion options are pretty impressive, to say the least.
Alibaba vs AliExpress: the Main Differences
Now that you know the basics about Alibaba and AliExpress, shall we check out the core differences between the two? We have analyzed how both stores perform when considering pricing, shipping costs, room for customization, B2B-oriented features, etc. In the end, you can understand which one of the two is most suited for you.
Alibaba.com is known for featuring products at the lowest possible prices. There are two reasons. First, the platform is home to so many vendors from each category. Therefore, no matter what products you want to buy, there will be vendors who can provide them at competitive prices. Second, because Alibaba.com is one of those B2B platforms, you can cut down so many intermediaries. We must also keep in mind that China is known for its low-cost labor and scalable infrastructure. Therefore, when you purchase products in bulk, the platform can give you best-in-class prices. Combined, Alibaba becomes the central destination you can rely on for getting high-quality products at the lowest possible rates.
AliExpress is also famous for the savings it offers, but the amount of money you can save is different. In the case of Alibaba.com, bulk orders were a fantastic way to save money. However, AliExpress is widely used for standard orders where the minimum order quantity is one or two. For instance, when you buy a charging cable or a power bank from AliExpress, you do not buy more than one, correct? Even then, AliExpress offers incredible offers compared to other stores like Amazon. It is made possible because AliExpress connects the buyers to some of China’s most popular and effective vendors. In short, you can save a significant amount on every order.
Both Alibaba.com and AliExpress help you save money. However, the amount you can save will depend on whether you want the products in bulk.
Shipping and shipping costs on Alibaba.com are not constant. Instead, they vary from seller to seller. We have to keep in mind that Alibaba.com is merely connecting businesses. The platform, as such, does not store any product in its warehouse. At the same time, you can purchase and track all orders from the central platform. You may also have advanced shipping information if you want to use Alibaba.com for drop-shipping needs. Given that you find a good seller and establish sustainable relationships, you can enjoy better shipping costs in the future. Of course, the shipping rates will keep changing if you want to drop-ship the product to various locations.
On the other hand, you can explore multiple shipping methods and shipping costs on AliExpress. Because AliExpress is a B2C type platform, it can deliver to many countries. Depending on the destination, customers can pick either AliExpress Standard Shipping or another carrier. For instance, in the United States, you can have the product shipped via DHL or some other premium carrier. Of course, while AliExpress Standard Shipping is free, you may have to pay exorbitant amounts (often higher than the product itself) for premium shipping. On the flip side, though, while AliExpress shipping delivers the products in 3-4 weeks, premium shipping will get the product to you in 1 or 2 weeks.
As you can see, because AliExpress focuses on individual customers, its shipping options are more standard. But, on the other hand, you can customize the shipping as per your needs after talking to the vendor.
Alibaba.com is made for wholesale purchases, and you can get the products at wholesale prices for your eCommerce business. The vendor would have already displayed the average costs per number of orders. However, you always have the option to contact the vendor for further discounts and custom deals. You will have to pay other fees while ordering items wholesale as well.
AliExpress is made for individual purchases and is not suitable for wholesale orders. Sure, the platform will not stop you from ordering quantities of the product. However, because there is no minimum order quantity, you will have to pay the total price for all units. Therefore, if you are looking for wholesale rates for products, you should not consider AliExpress.
In short, Alibaba.com is a better choice than AliExpress when it comes to wholesale prices and practices.
B2B vs Private Buyers
Alibaba.com is a famous space among B2B buyers. We are talking about businesses that want to procure stock for their sales. The nature of these businesses could vary quite extensively. Sometimes, a company seeks to enhance its profits by leveraging low prices from China’s industrial growth. Sometimes, a startup wants to source its stock at a reasonable cost and customize them later. At the same time, we can also see many dropshipping professionals who rely on the Alibaba.com B2B platform. Private buyers also buy stock from Alibaba.com, but their numbers are comparatively lower.
AliExpress sees a higher number of private buyers and fewer B2B buyers. As we said earlier, AliExpress is not optimized for wholesale cost. So, even when they can save money on individual products, the pricing structure is not suitable for business-to-business sales. So, businesses stick to Alibaba and keep AliExpress open for private buyers. As far as a private buyer is concerned, however, the savings from AliExpress are attractive for the most part. Buying a product from AliExpress is always cheaper than buying the same from a branded or retail store. It also happens to be the reason for the sustainable growth of AliExpress.
As you can guess from what we have covered in the previous sections, Alibaba.com is the more appropriate choice for your dropshipping needs. As you know, dropshipping eCommerce business requires some level of customization, among other things. You can achieve this level of customization only with Alibaba.com since you are dealing with a vendor directly.
On the other hand, you have to buy predesigned and manufactured products on AliExpress. Therefore, you cannot demand edits or modifications to the product. For instance, if you are into the world of dropshipping, you will have to paste your logo or choose various sizes. This level of control is not available on AliExpress. Therefore, you have to stick to Alibaba.com if you want the best experience of drop shipping.
At the same time, if you are getting started, you can resell products from AliExpress as the first step. It will give you a clear idea of the real-world impact on the industry. So, you do not have to abandon AliExpress just because you are into dropshipping. As your business becomes larger, however, the shift to Alibaba.com will become inevitable.
Customization is probably the most crucial factor in an Alibaba vs AliExpress debate. We already mentioned it in the dropshipping section.
Alibaba.com connects eCommerce business agencies to vendors in China and Chinese suppliers, enabling seamless communication. Therefore, before placing an order, you can provide sufficient instructions about the order. For instance, you may want to get different products in a single batch or put a logo on all products. You may also want to get a product slightly different than what is shown in the Alibaba listing. Fortunately, all these work like clockwork when you use Alibaba.com for dropshipping or custom procurement needs. It helps you in a few ways. First, you can tailor the products according to your needs. Second, you can ensure the best quality for each product.
On the other hand, AliExpress does not allow customization to a noticeable extent. Of course, you can check out the custom options on the AliExpress product page. For instance, you can choose the length of a charging cable or the capacity of the battery bank. However, you cannot make custom changes to how the product looks and works. Therefore, you have to be careful while placing a business-based order on AliExpress. You may not even be able to talk to the vendor even if you have ordered in bulk. In addition, you have to keep in mind that you could also be dealing with resellers from China or other countries who use AliExpress.
In short, if you want to get customized products in bulk, you have to stick to Alibaba itself. AliExpress does not offer room for customization. It is an aspect where AliExpress is the most similar to Amazon.
We hope we have cleared almost all your queries about the Alibaba vs AliExpress debate in this brief section. Now, we shall explore who should use Alibaba and AliExpress and why.
How to Buy Products on Alibaba?
Are you wondering how you can buy products on Alibaba? Well, we have answered some of the questions you may have about various topics, including how to choose suitable Alibaba suppliers and how to make sure that your products have the highest quality.
Step-by-Step Guide to Buying Products from Alibaba
Here are the steps you have to follow for procuring products from Alibaba. However, please remember that you may need additional steps if you want to leverage features like Pay Later on Alibaba.
1. You have to create a free account on Alibaba by providing your trade role, full name, email address, company name, telephone number, country, and password.
2. Once you have signed in, you have to find the product you want to source. You can choose two ways here. One, you can browse through the available options and pick one. Two, you can post a Request for Quotation. For the time being, we will focus on the first method.
3. Make sure that you filter the results based on supplier type, minimum order quantity, supplier country, certifications, features, etc. After this, you can pick one of the product entries from the page.
4. Now, you can start comparing Alibaba suppliers and vendors. Make sure you watch out for different certifications on Alibaba. For instance, Gold suppliers are paid members, while Verified Suppliers are more secure than the others. There are also Trade Assurance Suppliers, for which you can pay using Alibaba.com payment systems.
5. Once you have selected the Alibaba seller, you have a few options. First, you can buy the product right away. It is the best decision if you think the pricing is good for you. The second option is to get in touch with the seller for a better deal. You may also have a few questions regarding customization.
6. After you have confirmed the requirements with the seller, you can place an order on Alibaba.com. The platform allows you to do that via credit card/debit card/bank payment/wire transfer/Western Union. All these options are super-secure, leaving no space for errors.
7. In this last step, you have to manage the shipping systems for the product. If you want to have complete control over the shipping process, you can use the Alibaba.com Freight program. Using this platform, you can control ocean freight and air freight with ease.
Even if you have not chosen the Freight program, your Alibaba.com account will take care of the fundamental shipping management. However, you may have to wait for weeks for the package to be delivered.
What about Quality Assurance?
Are you confused about what happens to Quality Assurance amidst all these? There are a couple of ways in which Alibaba.com makes this possible.
As you may know, all orders placed on Alibaba.com come with order protection and dispute resolution. So, in the event you do not receive the products, you can raise a dispute with the seller. Likewise, if you are not satisfied with the product, you can also leave a seller review. However, considering that the shipping time could be between 15 days to several months, you do not want to take this risk.
Instead, you can ensure Quality Assurance by choosing one of the best sellers on Alibaba for your Amazon FBA private label product. As we said earlier, filtering Alibaba sellers is easy using built-in tags. For instance, Gold Suppliers are paid members whose details have been verified. It also means they are paying Alibaba for using the services. Therefore, buying products from a Gold Supplier can reduce the chances of defective products and manufacturing issues.
Similarly, you should order a few samples before placing a bulky order. There is also another option called Production Monitoring. It is a paid service that gives you tracking information and reports on production. It will help you to ensure maximum quality and get rid of delays. There is also an Inspection mode where the company would check the products for conformity.
In short, if you are willing to pay, you can enable professional-grade inspection for orders placed on Alibaba.
Trade Assurance is a bunch of protocols that Alibaba.com follows for refunds and replacements. As long as you pay using the Alibaba.com payment system, you can receive a refund within 30 days of getting the product delivered.
If you are not satisfied with the product, you can raise a refund request, which the company will investigate. At the end of the investigation, you will receive a refund through the appropriate channel also.
However, these methods only work if you have bought the products from a Trading Assured seller on the platform. It may not work with other options. You also have to keep in mind that the process will vary based on the exact payment system you have chosen.
You have to rely on Alibaba.com Freight when you want to ship products from China to other countries. You can choose between Air and Sea freight, and the service is available to multiple continents. However, based on where you live, you need to deal with the paperwork as well. In some cases, the freight fees could be very high.
Depending on the weight and dimensions of the product, you may have to spend anywhere between $500 to $5000 as the Freight fees. We recommend logging into the Alibaba.com Freight platform and filling in the necessary details to understand the exact freight fees for the products you have in mind. You can use this calculation to decide whether the freight fees would be beneficial for your overall business.
You may also have to rely on other forwarding services for seamless delivery.
Who Should Buy on AliExpress?
Now that we are at the end of the Alibaba vs AliExpress debate, shall we talk about who should buy things from AliExpress?
AliExpress is the most suitable option if you want to save money while buying products for your personal use. These products do not have to be in bulk. The best part is that you do not have to be one of the trading companies to save money on the retail price. At the same time, AliExpress offers a superb buyer protection when you buy these products from trusted sellers.
- Smaller Businesses and Dropshipper
People who own small businesses and are into dropshipping business can also use AliExpress. It is one thing that AliExpress does not offer wholesale buying options. However, the platform allows you to get savings better than retail stores. Therefore, when you get started with your business, AliExpress prices can help you analyze how the business performs. This testing phase will help you calculate the risks before placing a bulk order from Alibaba.com
Other Alternative Comparisons
Who Should Buy on Alibaba Group?
As we have explained above, Alibaba.com has been optimized for business entities. Therefore, if you want to enjoy wholesale buying and buyer protection for your online store stocking, you can count on Alibaba.com. The best part about Alibaba.com is that you can sell products through your eCommerce platform while connecting to international wholesale markets.
The potential for growth on both Alibaba and AliExpress are impressive, but Alibaba dropshipping cannot be beaten. You can also find many dropshipping suppliers on Alibaba. Because AliExpress sells manufactured products, it is not so possible with AliExpress. We must also add that, in addition to factory prices and private label products, Alibaba can also provide Pay Later services. Also, most suppliers on the platform also are quite experienced.
Alibaba vs AliExpress: Conclusion
We hope we have put an end to the Alibaba vs AliExpress debate in your mind. If you still have any doubts about the different aspects of these pointers, do let us know through your comments. We have to mention that you can make the best out of Alibaba and AliExpress if you want the best growth for your online store or private label Amazon brand. Also, do make sure that you are using an eCommerce platform that enables some kind of integration for dropshipping. It will make sure that you can deliver quality products without taking too much time.