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Alibaba versus AliExpress: which is best for sourcing and selling?

Alibaba versus AliExpress: in today’s article you will find out which one to choose to supply your e–commerce with thousands of low-cost products and sell them on the online market in your country or abroad. 

You’ve probably already heard about these two Chinese giants competing with Amazon. But maybe you don’t know the main differences between Alibaba and Aliexpress, or the advantages and aspects to look out for as a merchant.

Let’s start by trying to better understand these two big marketplaces.

What is Alibaba?

Alibaba is a platform specialized in B2B commerce, i.e. between companies and not aimed at the final consumer.

On Alibaba you can buy everything: raw materials, household items, electronics, clothing, furniture and much more. 

This marketplace is a showcase of everything that China produces, thanks to small and large companies that can also supply your e–commerce.

What is AliExpress?

Unlike Alibaba, AliExpress doesn’t just target merchants, but also the final customers.

It is therefore a B2B and B2C platform with a website that can be navigated in a very easy and intuitive way.

All major payment methods are accepted, plus it is possible to buy through Alipay, a system launched in 2004 in China by Alibaba.


Alibaba versus AliExpress: which one should you use for selling your products?

Now let’s imagine that you want to expand your market by using a new channel to sell your items. You no longer want to sell only through your website or platforms like Amazon or Ebay.

This channel could be AliExpress, which allows you to reach customers from all over the world and has very competitive commissions (only on sales) ranging from 5 to 8%. Moreover, to start selling on AliExpress you don’t have to pay any membership fees.    

This platform is also particularly suitable for dropshipping businesses, that is, for those merchants who do not have a warehouse but rely on suppliers also for logistics.

In this case, even if customers can find your products on AliExpress, you can take on the role of mediator able to guarantee fast delivery and excellent customer service.

Alibaba versus AliExpress: which one should you use for sourcing products and materials?

Which of the two platforms should you use if your e-commerce aims to sell a large amount of products and needs a continuous supply of items? Alibaba or AliExpress? 

A little above we said that Alibaba is specialized in B2B, so you can easily understand that this marketplace is ideal for ordering bulk products at a very low price.

However, you must also be sure that your warehouse is supplied with quality products, so it is essential to choose the right suppliers.  

On Alibaba it is possible to send a request for a quote and evaluate which is the most convenient manufacturer. Not only that: the agreement with the supplier can also take place privately, by negotiating on the price.

There is a reason why we talked about large quantities of items: on Alibaba, in fact, you will always have to pay close attention to the MOQ, which stands for “Minimum Order Quantity”.

What does it mean? It means that the supplier will only produce the items you request if they exceed a certain threshold of units. You won’t be able to order only 5 or 10 items of a certain category, but hundreds or thousands. 

After having seen who these platforms are targeting and some fundamental elements that can help you choose one or the other depending on your type of business, let’s analyze the main differences between the two Chinese e-commerce giants.

Key differences between Alibaba and AliExpress

We already talked about the most important difference: Alibaba is specialized in B2B, while AliExpress is also aimed at final customers.

On Alibaba you have to pay attention to the minimum quantity of articles to order, while on AliExpress you can buy even a single product to resell it. 

As for the methods of purchasing, AliExpress is not very different from Amazon. Browse through dozens of categories and choose the items you may need, for example, to start a dropshipping business.  On the contrary, on Alibaba you have to ask the supplier for a quote with your specific requests.

Finally, on AliExpress the prices are fixed and set by the manufacturer, while on Alibaba you can negotiate and try to get a lower price than the starting one.

App AliExpress

And what about the similarities? What do Alibaba and AliExpress have in common? Read on and find out!

Key similarities between Alibaba and AliExpress

On both platforms, what immediately stands out is the price of the products. Low, if not very low. A great advantage for you to get the highest possible margin by reselling products imported from China. 

Then we can’t help but mention flexible payment methods like bank transfers, credit cards and Alipay.  

Lastly, let’s not forget the user-friendly interfaces, which allow you to discover hundreds or thousands of products that can be right for you.  

After all this information, are you ready to sell via Alibaba and AliExpress? Wait a moment and discover our tips!

Tips for using Alibaba

After talking about the unbeatable convenience of Alibaba, we have to add another element to your advantage if you want to turn to the sellers of this platform: product customization.

In fact, thanks to the agreements you can make directly with Chinese companies, it is possible to customize objects with the addition of your logo or create “tailor-made” items, according to your needs and those of the final buyers.

Furthermore, products from China do not always possess all the certifications required by the authorities of other countries.  But through Alibaba you can ask the supplier to produce goods according to the regulatory standards of your target market.

If you buy products in large quantities on Alibaba you have to pay close attention to the time of realization and delivery of the items, not to mention the time spent to find the ideal supplier and negotiate the price. 

And what if you want to use AliExpress to boost your business?

Tips for using AliExpress

On AliExpress you will find finished products that cannot be customized. In addition, the price, even if low, will be slightly higher than that of the items you can buy on Alibaba.

A great advantage of AliExpress, especially if you manage a small e-commerce, is the possibility to purchase minimum quantities of items, without having to respect the MOQ.

We are talking about items ready to be shipped immediately, so delivery times will not be long, as is the case with suppliers on Alibaba. 

However, you may receive non-compliant products that do not meet the certification standards of Western countries, and this could be a problem in case of checks by the authorities. 

Find out more in our guide on how to Sell on AliExpress.

Who owns Alibaba and AliExpress?

Maybe you don’t know that Alibaba and AliExpress have the same owner, the Chinese businessman Jack Ma, one of the richest in the world.

The name “Alibaba” occurred to the founder one day while he was sitting at a cafe in San Francisco. He thought it sounded good and asked for opinions from 30 people he met by chance for their opinion.

The name Alibaba sounded familiar to everyone, Indians, Germans or Chinese and so Jack Ma chose it for the company he founded along with 18 other brave entrepreneurs.

Alibaba, the first of the two platforms to be launched, was born in 1998, while AliExpress in 2010.

A comparison between AliExpress and Amazon

We could say that AliExpress is the Chinese Amazon. It is also very popular in Russia, as it is the most visited e-commerce in that country. 

Perhaps the most interesting comparison is that between the diffusion of AliExpress in China and Amazon in the United States.

Amazon in fact holds 47% of the electronic market in the United States (2020 figure), but AliExpress is not far behind given that it controls a market share that corresponds to 58.2% of retail e-commerce sales of the entire China.

This single data is enough to help you understand the popularity of AliExpress and its “big brother” Alibaba and to tempt you even more to take advantage of these portals to supply your warehouse and sell items imported from China.  

How to easily manage AliExpress shipping thanks to ShippyPro

ShippyPro supports you in your business strategy providing you with a practical integration of its shipping management software with AliExpress.

You will be able to start selling through AliExpress by importing your orders to ShippyPro and printing shipping labels in one click.

ShippyPro Team

ShippyPro is the complete shipping software for online and offline retail. With Label Creator, Track & Trace, Easy Return and Analytics features, our software simplifies your shipping operations. ShippyPro integrates with over 170 carriers and 60 sales channels, making it compatible with a wide range of products and use cases.