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Alibaba.com vs. AliExpress: Which Is Best for Dropshipping?

Best market for finding dropshipping suppliers

Dropshipping is a great business endeavor, but those who are getting started are faced with many decisions to be taken. Dropshippers have to decide where to host their online stores, which fulfillment partners to choose, and where to find fulfillment partners. 

Alibaba.com, AliExpress, and many other online marketplaces offer some degree of dropshipping support, so it can be difficult to know which one is right for your needs.

In this post, we’ll compare Alibaba.com and AliExpress to determine which is better for dropshipping to provide dropshippers with a clear pathway to all of their dropship sourcing needs.

Let’s get started by reviewing what dropshipping is and how it works.

Table of Contents
What is dropshipping?
Alibaba.com vs. AliExpress: what’s the difference?
How to dropship from AliExpress
How to dropship from Alibaba.com
Start dropshipping

What is dropshipping?

Two boxes waiting to be dropshipped
Two boxes waiting to be dropshipped

As a refresher, dropshipping is an e-commerce business model that involves outsourcing order fulfillment to a third-party vendor. Basically, dropshippers sell the items on their websites or storefronts, but they have another company hold the inventory and send out the orders as they are purchased.

This business model is popular because it doesn’t require much capital to get started, and it is fairly easy to scale. Plus, since dropshippers don’t hold any inventory, they can run their businesses out of their homes or on the go.

Alibaba.com vs. AliExpress: what’s the difference?

Alibaba.com and AliExpress for dropshipping
Alibaba.com and AliExpress for dropshipping

Alibaba.com and AliExpress are two e-commerce marketplaces owned by the same parent company, Alibaba Group. The main difference between the two is that Alibaba.com is geared towards B2B wholesale transactions with large quantities, and AliExpress is a B2C marketplace. 

Since Alibaba.com is a wholesale marketplace, online retailers can find manufacturers selling products at more competitive wholesale prices. On AliExpress, it is possible to find dropshipping suppliers and fulfillment partners. Although many people consider AliExpress a wholesaler, it’s actually a retail site, so you’ll pay retail prices.

Dropshipping from Alibaba.com is a bit easier than dropshipping on AliExpress. That’s because there is a dedicated dropshipping marketplace on Alibaba.com, so there is less guesswork as to which suppliers are willing to dropship. Plus, Alibaba.com has over 1 million dropshipping products to choose from.

It is also worth noting that some suppliers offer customization on Alibaba.com. Custom products offer a definite benefit over the generic or private label on AliExpress since it allows dropshippers to sell items that reflect their branding.

AliExpress comes in handy for dropshippers that are just starting out since they can buy in smaller quantities. New dropshippers with smaller operations can order items from AliExpress to be shipped directly to their buyers.

With all of that said, Alibaba.com is the best choice for regular dropshipping operations.

How to dropship from AliExpress

Tablet showing AliExpress e-commerce marketplace and a pair of cards
Tablet showing AliExpress e-commerce marketplace and a pair of cards

As we mentioned previously, AliExpress is an option for dropshippers who want to source small quantities of products. 

That said, dropshipping on AliExpress is a little different than dropshipping in the traditional sense. The third-party supplier still fulfills the order, but the dropshipper has to place each order.

The process looks a little something like this:

  1. Your customer places an order on your online storefront.
  2. You make an order for those products on AliExpress with your customer’s shipping information.
  3. The AliExpress seller fulfills the order as usual.

In this case, the AliExpress seller won’t necessarily know that you’re placing the order on behalf of your buyer. The sale will come through like any other sale. 

Since AliExpress is a B2C platform, you can also use this site to build your consumer-facing storefront.

How to dropship from Alibaba.com

Alibaba.com dropshipping home page
Alibaba.com dropshipping home page

Thanks to Alibaba.com’s dropshipping marketplace, finding a dropshipping fulfillment partner is quite easy. 

Dropshippers can get started by creating an Alibaba.com account and connecting their consumer-facing storefronts on other platforms, including Shopify, eBay, WooCommerce, and Squarespace, to streamline the fulfillment workflow. Once the dropshipping store is connected, retailers can automatically add items from Alibaba.com.

From there, all you have to do to get started is head to Alibaba.com’s dropshipping home page and start looking for products. Browse featured items or search for something more specific. 

When you find a particular product that you like, you can add it to your import list or you can start an order. If you want any customizations, click “Customise Now” on the product page before you add it to your list or start an order. The customization options are typically listed in the box under Lead Time.

How to customise on Alibaba.com
How to customise on Alibaba.com

It is a good idea to do your due diligence and order a sample unit of a product before you add it to your e-commerce store so that you’re familiar with the quality. Reach out to the supplier to see if they’re willing to sell a single item as a sample. Of course, this is optional, but it allows some aspect of quality control.

Once your items are imported to the digital storefront, it’s time to start selling.

Start dropshipping

Although it’s possible to dropship from AliExpress as a short-term solution as a start-up, Alibaba.com is a more suitable option for long-term dropshipping growth.

Not only does Alibaba.com have a dedicated marketplace for dropshipping that creates major ease of use, but there are thousands of wholesale suppliers who are equipped to form partnerships with dropshippers. With millions of dropship-ready products available, you’re sure to find the items you need on Alibaba.com. 

Plus, Alibaba.com allows bulk transactions, which comes with benefits of its own. You can negotiate with tons of different suppliers and manufacturers to find the best price on dropshipping items.

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