How does AliExpress work? Here’s a practical guide.
How does Aliexpress work? When talking about Made in China products, you will almost certainly associate them with the name of platforms such as AliExpress or Alibaba. Two eCommerce platforms that offer their customers Chinese products that could very well be interesting to European customers.
In this article we will focus on AliExpress, we will explain in detail how it works, what can be found on it and if it is a viable option for wholesale and dropshipping purchases.
What is AliExpress?
AliExpress is a Chinese platform that deals with online sales of products from Chinese companies. In fact, it is a website that brings together a lot of small producers who sell items of all kinds, from clothing to electronics, from accessories to sporting goods and much more.
This platform was created by the Alibaba Group back in 2010 and it brings together a large number of small Chinese producers who, thanks to this eCommerce, we are now able to sell their items directly to consumers around the world.
In short, this website operates like Amazon and eBay with the particularity, however, that the sellers are mostly Chinese and the site does not sell any product of its own, it only works as a showcase for others.
AliExpress is not the first Chinese eCommerce market to go online. Its predecessor is a website known as Taobao, which was aimed purely at the Chinese public. AliExpress, on the other hand, sells exclusively outside China: Chinese customers, in fact, have no way of accessing the platform. This website is especially successful in Russia, Brazil, the United States, and Spain.
Lately, its use has been growing in the European Union too, in Italy for example, in the last year, AliExpress has been particularly successful, as many clients have been looking for a variety of different products, like small appliances and clothing. AliExpress has been translated into all the major languages in the world, like English, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, French and Polish.
How does AliExpress work?
AliExpress works exactly like all the other generalist platforms that deal with online product sales. Basically, on AliExpress you can find any kind of products.
On the website, all articles are divided into different categories, in order to help the client to easily navigate within the platform.
More specifically, these are the most popular product categories explored by users:
- Clothing for men, women and children
- Consumer electronics
- Sporting goods
- Articles for beauty and health
- Motorcycle and car accessories
- Shoes and accessories
- Cell phones and telecommunications
- Home appliances
- Gardening goods
Within each category, there are other subdivisions to make the search easier, fast and intuitive. Each product, then, is equipped with a detailed card, accompanied by photos and an explanation of the features as well as the purchase price.
If you like one of the products you see on AliExpress, all you have to do is to add it to your cart and proceed with the payment.
AliExpress accepts all kinds of electronic payment, from credit cards to prepaid cards, but also other methods such as Paypal and Western Union. The preferred payment method, however, is Alipay, a virtual system very similar to Paypal but all, completely Made in China.
The price of the product indicated during the purchase, however, does not equal to the final amount that you will have to pay. To the price of the product, you must also add taxes, for example in EU you need to add VAT and all the customs fees for all products which cost more than €22.
Finally, a note on the shipping times. Given the origin of the goods, the shipping times are quite long, the average waiting time quite often exceeds 1 month.
Who uses Aliexpress?
When it was launched in 2010, AliExpress was aimed purely at an entrepreneurial audience as it was a site specialized above all in B2B, ie business to business.
From the outset, however, the difficulties of dealing with such complex customers, as can be a foreigner company that buys wholesale to sell to the final consumer, made the AliExpress project not very fruitful.
Thus we saw a sudden change of tracks and this marketplace began to address a client base made up mainly of final consumers.
Today this platform is open to all those looking for particular products, of variable quality but all with the same characteristic of having very affordable and accessible prices.
The great variety of items that can be found in this marketplace make it a reference point for those, who want to buy single products or a few units of the same, well aware that the site does not allow the purchase of over one hundred pieces of a single item.
Is AliExpress reliable?
You are probably wondering how reliable Aliexpress can be, and whether it can be used for bulk purchases or to sell in dropshipping, trying to take advantage of the convenient prices of the products offered on the site.
Let’s start by assessing its reliability. It is certainly impossible to set up a general rule because Aliexpress does not sell its products directly but merely serves as a showcase for Chinese producers, even very small ones, who want to open up to wider international market.
This is why you could very well find some very reliable suppliers, but the majority is not someone you would want to do business with. In fact, it is not uncommon to receive products that are completely different from the photos posted on the site, or in much longer times than those stated on the product page.
Often you will also find products of great brands, especially in the field of electronics and telephony, sold at bargain prices. These are certainly fakes, this is a phenomenon occurring quite often on AliExpress and in China more generally.
Beware: buying counterfeit products is a criminal offense and the fault lies not only with the seller but especially with the buyer.
Finally, you must be always vigilant and watch out for scams. In fact, there are several sellers who want to be paid in advance for goods that might not be delivered. Our advice is to always read carefully all feedback and reviews obtained by the seller before proceeding with a purchase and following the safety rules listed on the portal.
Aliexpress and dropshipping
As we said earlier, AliExpress is a general website where you can find products of any kind, present in the Chinese market.
In recent years, many dropshippers have used this platform as a way to easily find products and suppliers for their online stores. Even today, in fact, the majority of dropshippers use AliExpress to refill their stores and ship the products to their final customers.
To save up on time and money, various applications and additions have been developed. They help to quickly import products from the Chinese platform into the online store. However, these applications, as well as the dropshippers themselves, do not put into account the fact that AliExpress is itself a retail site and continue to use it improperly, often encountering many problems.
There are two essential issues to consider if you use this platform for dropshipping:
- Prices are B2C, not B2B, therefore the profit margins are limited;
- The same products can also be found by potential customers of a dropshipping shop, at a lower price (without the margin of the dropshipper).
Furthermore, often AliExpress sellers do not send parcels with the agreed shipping method, they can share false or wrong tracking numbers, thus making it impossible to track the package and offer no post-sales assistance.
This type of problems and mistakes can easily cause the loss of already loyal customers and create problems with complaints and loss of credibility.
AliExpress limits for bulk purchases
AliExpress is mainly a platform intended for consumers and for this reason even wholesale purchases are not recommended. In particular, with regard to imports, one of the main problems concerns certifications.
When you are going to buy one or more products on AliExpress for the first time, the biggest concern of any customer is to run into some kind of payment fraud. This is not the core problem, in fact.
The biggest problem is not that of payments – you can always recover the money defrauded if the purchase was made, according to the rules of AliExpress which provides compensation for the full amount spent – but rather to see the goods confiscated at customs because they do not comply with the EEC legislation, in particular on specific products such as toys, electronic products, and mobile phone products, etc.
Therefore, if you are going to buy products on Aliexpress, you must check the presence of the following certifications:
- CE trademark: must be present on toys, electronic products, accessories for cars and motorcycles, etc.;
- RoHS: electronic products, wristwatches, any type of metal object, etc. ;
- REACH: a trademark which must be present on all beauty products, plastics of all kinds and chemical products of any kind.
The reason why we do not recommend Aliexpress for wholesale or dropshipping
In conclusion, although using AliExpress for small wholesale purchases or for dropshipping shipments may seem very convenient we strongly advise against it if you want to build a solid and lasting business.
The portal, in fact, has long backed its vocation to be specialized in selling to consumers, and for this reason, it does not provide the possibility of B2B purchases.
From all that has been said so far, it is clear that AliExpress is absolutely not suitable for bulk purchases. To summarise, more specifically, what are the reasons that discourage the use of the portal for such a purpose:
- Maximum limit of 100 pieces for the purchase of products;
- The products for sale are not certified for the European market;
- B2C prices accessible to anyone;
- Concrete risk of buying counterfeit products;
- Fixed prices without the possibility of bargaining for a high quantity of goods purchased
- Impossible to request customizations of any kind, the product will reach the recipient as purchased, limiting in this way the marketing options of your company.
On the other hand, there are many problems even for dropshipping purchases. In particular:
- Lack of direct contact with the supplier
- False or incorrect tracking numbers
- Difficulty in obtaining refunds or reships
- B2C prices and not B2B
- No customized products
If your goal is to find reliable Chinese suppliers from whom you can buy stocks of products, or arrange a dropshipping business, and then resell them in your market niche, you should contact Yakkyofy.
We take care of everything: from the sourcing of reliable suppliers to quality control and shipping.
With us, you can be sure of the price of your products and of their quality. Moreover, if you face problems you will have only one interlocutor with whom to interface.
Furthermore, thanks to our online dashboard you can easily keep track of all your orders and shipments without worrying or wasting time on exhausting communications.
Could this be of interest to you? Take a look at our catalog now!