Alibaba vs AliExpress: Which One is Better for Dropshipping?

Alibaba vs AliExpress: Which One is Better for Dropshipping?

Alibaba vs AliExpress: Which one is better for Dropshiping? It is the most common question when anybody think to start a dropshipping business. Both are online marketplaces but the main difference between Alibaba vs AliExpress is: Alibaba is exclusively intended for B2B transactions, whereas AliExpress is open to consumers.

AliExpress and Alibaba are both the parts of Alibaba Group of companies. That means, both of these companies are owned by the same company, but they are vastly different from each other.

Alibaba vs AliExpress

Alibaba vs AliExpress: What Is Alibaba

Alibaba is the world’s biggest online commerce company. Its three main sites are Taobao, Tmall and and have hundreds of millions of users, and host millions of merchants and businesses. 

Alibaba Home Page

Alibaba is the most popular destination for online shopping, in the world’s fastest growing eCommerce market.  It brings hundreds of millions of products in over 40 different major categories, including consumer electronics, machinery and apparel.

The suppliers on Alibaba are mostly manufacturers or re-sellers who trade these items in large quantities and wholesale rates. Alibaba is suitable for small to medium-sized businesses who are looking to source large amounts of products in bulk.

For payment, it support various payment methods. It also offers secure payments and trade assurance.

Alibaba vs AliExpress: What Is AliExpress

Aliexpress was launched in 2010 by Alibaba Group as a B2C platform for Chinese companies to sell products. It’s also as popular as Alibaba. It is much suited for small businesses that are only interested in buying smaller quantities of products.

AliExpress allows you to order as few as a single product and make payments using debit/credit cards, AliPay, Western Union, Bank, and some suppliers even accept PayPal on AliExpress.

AliExpress Home Page

Alibaba Vs AliExpress – Top Differences

Category Alibaba AliExpress
Minimum order quantity (MOQ) Suppliers have quite high MOQs sometimes more than 100 units. Most suppliers have an MOQ of only 1 unit.
Pricing No fixed prices for products. Once you provide the supplier with your requirements, quantity, etc they will provide you with a price quote. It is negotiable. The prices are fixed for different products and quantities. No negotiation here.
Customized products Products can be customized and private-label merchandise can also be provided. No private-label merchandise available and product customization isn’t available either.
Quality/risk The buyer needs extra product knowledge to minimize the risks and quality concerns. You can only get what supplier provides.
Shipping times Shipping can take months since the products are often manufactured to order and then shipped. Products are already manufactured and read to be shipped. So the shipping doesn’t take much time.

Minimum Order Quantity

Minimum order quantities are the smallest amount of product you can purchase.


With Alibaba the minimum order quantity is usually a specific number of products. Both Alibaba and AliExpress are made up of independent sellers, like on eBay and Amazon, so the exact requirements vary.

Alibaba sellers typically have minimum order quantities that range from 50 to 1,000 pieces because the products are being sold at a much lower price.


AliExpress allows you to order a single item from their store and you have to accept the customize aspect of the product. The products on AliExpress are already manufactured, and there is no option for customization. You don’t have to worry about any minimum order quantity.


Since the number of products and the minimum order quantity varies on both platforms, the pricing is also varied.


Alibaba has a wholesale pricing model that is specially designed for business customers. For businesses owners who are looking to resell products, buying directly from manufacturers typically offers the lowest pricing, that means businesses can make a high profit margin on sales. Alibaba connects buyers directly with the suppliers and manufacturers.
You can ask them for the price quote. The price quote is according to your requirements for the product. 


AliExpress offers products from the third-party sellers in a variety of categories, just like Alibaba. The main differences are AliExpress has slightly higher pricing and anyone can place an order directly through the website, you do not need to contact the suppliers directly and negotiate a quote. The product costs on AliExpress are higher than on Alibaba. However, buyers can place smaller orders and often receive free shipping.

Customized Products


Alibaba is the perfect place for purchasing customize and private label products because you are purchasing the products directly from the manufacturer. With Alibaba, you can easily get products with your logo, store name, or materials for a very low price because they are added during the manufacturing process.

There are also many suppliers that will manufacture products according to your design, so you are getting a truly unique product.


Since all the products available on AliExpress are sold “As it is”, there are no options for private-labeling at all. You can not have the customized products in any ways. You can not put your brand logos, store name or material with the products. So, AliExpress is better for small-time dropshipping businesses.

Quality of Products


In online business, there are always risks and concerns involving the quality of the products. On Alibaba, you get the full opportunity to inspect the product before the manufacturer produces a large number of products for you. You can ask the manufacturer for a sample (for free or a discounted price) and check the quality of the sample before placing a large amount order.


In AliExpress, the product is of high-quality can be a bit tricky. You can not get any samples to ensure the quality before the purchase. You have to pay for the order and get the items shipped to check out the products. In the end, it’s a bit of luck to find quality products and save yourself from getting ripped off.

Shipping Times


The specific shipping time for your order can vary a lot depending on the supplier, the product you are purchasing, how big your order is, and if your products are being customized. Thirty (30) days for product production from the time of payment is a safe bet.

It’s important to keep in mind that it can take you a while to find the right supplier, negotiate a quote, receive samples, and finalize your order. If the product is being shipped from overseas, that can take a few weeks to a few months. So in total, the shipping time will take a few months.


Since the products that are bought through AliExpress are already manufactured, the lead time is much shorter. AliExpress orders are typically shipped right away. So you would typically receive orders (even overseas) within 30 days of purchasing with free shipping.

Alibaba vs AliExpress: Ease of Use

Both Alibaba and AliExpress have similar-looking websites that are intuitive to navigate and pretty easy to use. However, AliExpress is comparatively little easier, if you are not experienced with placing wholesale orders. On Alibaba, you need to reach out to suppliers directly, ask for the price quote and negotiate quotes.


Alibaba is easy to use for the experienced wholesale buyer. However, if you have never placed a wholesale order before, Alibaba may be a tough place for you to start. Suppliers have no obligation to respond to your price quote requests, so the process can be frustrating if you are not sure what information they are looking for or what questions to ask. Likewise, navigating the shipping, importing, and payment processes can be confusing also.


AliExpress is just like any retail store and has a built-in shopping cart, so you don’t require the direct communication with suppliers. The ordering process is much more straightforward and faster than with Alibaba.

Alibaba vs AliExpress: Customer Service

Both Alibaba and AliExpress consist of third-party sellers. So the purchasing experience through these marketplaces can vary greatly depending on the individual seller.


With Alibaba businesses are dealing directly with suppliers, not Alibaba itself. However, Alibaba have help centers, community forums, and areas to enter formal complaints and disputes. Buyers can also contact with Alibaba support via live chat. There is no phone support available. You will be in direct contact with your suppliers via email.


Similar to Alibaba, AliExpress has also live chat option on the website, but does not offer direct phone support. It also has dispute management services on the website for reporting suppliers or requesting refunds.

Alibaba vs AliExpress: Customer Reviews

Reviews are mixed in both Alibaba and AliExpress. The purchasing experience from these marketplaces can vary a lot depending on the supplier you purchase from. They all have varieties of policies and standards of quality that may or may not be what you are expecting.


Though there have been many reports of scam businesses on Alibaba, there are also many fantastic reputable manufacturers also on the site. Alibaba has taken many steps 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 made products for low prices.


Reviews for AliExpress are mixed. Some businesses use AliExpress to dropship products without any critical issues. However, many retail buyers who buy from AliExpress complain of orders not arriving, receiving the wrong product, and issues settling disputes or getting refunds.

Alibaba vs AliExpress – Things You Should Ask to Supplier

Though both the platforms are transparent and offer complete verification of the sellers, it doesn’t mean that you should not assess them yourself. We have prepared a list of questions that you should ask the sellers to ensure they offer the fastest delivery times and lowest costs.

Q. What’s the final price of a product on Alibaba or AliExpress?

You may already know the answer to this question when it comes to AliExpress, but in Alibaba, you have the negotiation option. So, bring the price down to your reach that you can pay, and only then order the product. In most cases, buyers will be reluctant to reduce the price. But it is always better to give a try.

Q. What is the production time for order from Alibaba or AliExpress?

You should know how much time the supplier will take to process your order so that you can provide an estimated time to your customer.

Q. What are the shipping cost estimates for product from Alibaba or AliExpress?

You may not have to ask the shipping cost from the suppliers on AliExpress because that is already provided on the product page, but make sure to ask it from suppliers on Alibaba. This way you will have a rough idea in how many days it will reach to the customer.

Q. What’s the minimum order quantity (MOQ) in Alibaba or AliExpress?

This is often negotiable. You don’t have to worry about minimum order quantity in AliExpress.  

Alibaba vs AliExpress: Conclusion

Sourcing products is a vital part of any retail or eCommerce business. Both Alibaba and AliExpress offer businesses opportunities to buy products from millions of sources at low prices. AliExpress is the best option for dropshipping, as it allows businesses to purchase single products, and has plugins to integrate dropshipping on your website. AliExpress is also the best option for startup businesses that are new for placing wholesale orders and importing products.

If you are an established wholesaler or eCommerce business, Alibaba is the best choice because you can get unbeatable prices on wholesale products, including custom-made and custom-designed goods directly from manufacturers or suppliers. Alibaba is fully free to use, and offers protection for buyers with Trade Assurance and Assessed Suppliers. Visit Alibaba’s official website to create a free account.


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