Are you considering Alibaba dropshipping but not sure if it’s the right choice for your online store?
In this article, you’ll learn how to dropship using Alibaba, its pros and cons, and alternatives for a successful and hassle-free dropshipping business.
In the end, you’ll be able to decide if the platform is a suitable supplier for you.
- What Is Alibaba?
- The Difference Between Alibaba and AliExpress
- Can Individual Sellers Dropship With Alibaba?
- How to Dropship From Alibaba
- 1. Plan Out Your eCommerce Business
- 2. Select Suppliers
- 3. Negotiate With Suppliers
- 4. Create a Store
- 5. Setup Integrations
- 6. List Products and Start Selling Online
- The Pros and Cons of Alibaba Dropshipping
- Alibaba Dropshipping FAQ
- To Summarize
What Is Alibaba?
Alibaba is a B2B service founded in 1999. Since its creation, the marketplace has expanded worldwide, connecting Alibaba suppliers and buyers.
In the last two decades, it became the world’s largest eCommerce company, earning around $135b in 2022 despite the pandemic and recession.
The Alibaba Group includes three Chinese online marketplaces: Alibaba.com, Taobao, and Tmall.
Alibaba provides services and features which simplify product sourcing, procurement, and administration. Its network allows sellers to contact suppliers worldwide and acquire products at wholesale marketplace prices.
Sellers can also dropship products with Alibaba when partnering with wholesalers that stock products and fulfill orders.
Keeping an account is free, and the platform doesn’t charge selling fees.
The Difference Between Alibaba and AliExpress
Alibaba requires a minimum order quantity, allows you to negotiate with sellers, and gives financing options. The platform also offers private labeling and negotiates shipping.
Alibaba doesn’t sell to individual consumers. The marketplace is used by businesses looking to source in bulk and is suitable for finding partners who produce original designs or private-label products.
AliExpress is a B2C retail marketplace. It doesn’t require minimum quantities but also doesn’t offer options like private labeling and negotiating with sellers or shipping – although the AliExpress shipping options are advantageous and often free. The platform doesn’t offer financing options.
Small businesses and private persons use AliExpress to purchase single units and small product batches.
Both platforms offer a variety of products, secure payment processing and support in the case of disputes.
Can Individual Sellers Dropship With Alibaba?
For individuals, dropshipping with Alibaba is possible, although not as straightforward as using AliExpress.
Most suppliers working with Alibaba only ship large orders for retailers. However, you can source unique products once you find the right partners and suppliers that keep stock and fulfill dropshipping orders.
Get an edge over the competition since many suppliers listed on Alibaba aren’t on the AliExpress dropshipping suppliers list or other marketplaces.
The marketplace maintains a dedicated page for dropshipping to make it easier to find suitable suppliers and top-selling products. Alibaba’s dropshipping center also offers resources like videos and blog articles to assist sellers in finding quality suppliers and creating dropshipping stores.
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How to Dropship From Alibaba
Let’s go through a step-by-step guide for starting an Alibaba dropshipping shop – from writing a business plan to listing and selling products in your online store.
1. Plan Out Your eCommerce Business
Store owners who write a business plan are more prone to make informed decisions, as it helps draw clear strategies for acquiring customers, partners, and resources. Businesses with a written plan have around 30% higher chances of success.
- A business plan contains objectives, strategies, and timelines to accomplish them.
- During planning, you’ll become aware of document requirements. It’s also the moment to consider whether you need additional funding, like bank loans, and how to obtain it.
You may prepare a simple, lean business plan if you intend to learn on the go while growing a small flexible business. Such a project requires only critical data, including unique selling propositions, target audience, sources of revenue, and partners.
However, if you intend to receive funding, write a traditional business plan. Include a detailed business description, financial projections, market research, sources of income, and funding needs.
In both cases, include recurring fees like renting an office, day-to-day operations, administrative and business-license costs, hardware and software, subscriptions for your eCommerce builder, hosting for the website, and eventual expenses, like hiring a web designer.
Learn more about how to write a business plan on our blog. After that, you also can download templates from the United States Small Business Administration.
2. Select Suppliers
Finding a suitable Alibaba dropshipping supplier is the hardest part.
First, search Alibaba’s list of Verified Suppliers for certified vendors with dropshipping products aligned with your niche. Observe prices, overall quality, shipping options, and supplier credibility.
Verified suppliers should be capable of resolving issues that may arise while creating your dropshipping store, even in a multilingual capacity.
While searching for suppliers who best fit your criteria, experiment with different filters such as Alibaba Trade assurance, Ready-to-ship, or Fast dispatch. Suppliers who fulfill these requirements are likely to dropship.
You could be wondering – is Alibaba safe? We recommend sticking with suppliers working with Trade Assurance, an Alibaba payment-protection system to safeguard orders – we’ll touch more on that later.
Once you select some prospective products, check their minimum order quantity – you’ll want a MOQ equal to one to dropship – you might need to search the page using keywords like “minimum” or “MOQ.”
Prices will vary considerably depending on the order amount – make sure the single-unit prices are competitive enough for your online business.
In most cases, you’ll have to negotiate the shipment rates.
Check how trustworthy the supplier is and if they have good reviews. Also, look up their business address on Google Maps.
3. Negotiate With Suppliers
Once the suppliers tick all these boxes and meet your verification requirements, it’s time to contact them, especially if there’s no clear MOQ information.
Alibaba has a messaging tool – try keeping to this channel for communication. Some suppliers may prefer other ways of communication, including phone calls, emails, or WeChat.
You might experience language barriers in this step and need to use tools like Google Translate. For clarity, communicate using simple, concise sentences and bullet points wherever possible.
Some suppliers may refuse to fulfill single orders despite what they say on their storefront, while others may increase their prices or apply high shipping costs.
Compile a list of potential suppliers and contact them simultaneously. Ask for documents and information such as a business license, addresses, phone numbers, and, ideally, photos from the production facility. Much of this step is already done if you stick with Alibaba’s verified suppliers.
Here’s an email sample you may adapt to communicate with prospective suppliers:
My name is Sam, from XYZ Company.
We’re looking for a reliable partner to dropship the Product YYY for customers in the United States and Canada.
We have a few questions:
- What is your minimum order quantity?
- Do you work with dropshipping?
- What is the cost per unit of the mentioned product?
- What are your payment terms and options for new customers?
I would like to order a sample. Can you please tell me the cost of a sample, including shipping, to:
<Insert your company address here>
After negotiations and finding the perfect supplier, you must choose an appropriate payment method. Alibaba’s suppliers usually work with bank transfers, credit and debit card payments, PayPal, and ESCROW.
ESCROW is the safest payment method when dropshipping with Alibaba, but it’s slower than a bank transfer. This tool is a third-party solution that keeps the full payment from reaching the supplier’s account until the buyer confirms satisfactory delivery.
4. Create a Store
Before creating an Alibaba dropshipping store, you need a buyer account. Go to alibaba.com and click on Sign up.
Check the confirmation email in your inbox and click on the link. You’ll be directed to a registration form, then to the Buyers Club form.
Input all the required data – you can alter this later.
5. Set Up Integrations
Next, you’ll need to connect your Alibaba account to your eCommerce store. Go to the Alibaba dropshipping center and select where you created your shop. Access the integrations anytime in the banner on the front page or by clicking on My store on the left side menu.
If you don’t have an eCommerce store, it’s time to create one. Alibaba integrates with the following platforms:
- Shopify and Ecwid are website builders focused on eCommerce. Shopify allows you to build a standalone website, but Ecwid requires an external site with hosting and a domain name.
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- eBay is a marketplace and convenient option if you’re just starting with eCommerce.
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- Squarespace is an all-in-one solution focused on content and curated aesthetics.
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- WooCommerce is one of the most advanced eCommerce business platforms.
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Printify has integrations with Shopify, eBay, Squarespace, and WooCommerce. Consider creating a store with diversified dropshipping products from Printify and Alibaba. Or add Alibaba merch to your existing WooCommerce or Shopify store with products from Printify. This would save you subscription costs and diversify your catalog.
After selecting your eCommerce builder, enter your shop’s URL and click Add store. Alibaba will redirect you to your provider’s authorization page. Carefully follow the instructions to authorize Alibaba to connect – each platform has different procedures. For example, integrating with a Shopify store will require installing a dropshipping app.
6. List Products and Start Selling Online
Go to the Alibaba dropshipping center and click on Search products on the left side menu – you can add products in this section. At this point, you’ll also benefit from researching potential merchandise and Alibaba’s suppliers.
Observe filters like Ship to and Currency for selecting and importing products that can be shipped to your target audience. Also note the local US stock option, which helps to find suppliers based in the US.
Use the Supplier types filter to locate Verified Suppliers and those working with Alibaba Trade Assurance.
Select the desired product and click on Add to Import List. The import list is a resource that allows you to add them to your online store later. Here, you can edit product descriptions, tiles, pricing, fulfillment, and images.
Insert keywords related to your target audience to improve your SEO and visibility in search engines and marketplaces.
Publish the products to your shop by clicking Push to Store. You can publish them in bulk or one at a time. On the left-hand menu, in My Products, you’ll find all of your Alibaba products with product variants and supplier information.
When your customer places an order, Alibaba will sync it automatically to your dropshipping account. In the My Orders section, you can adjust fulfillment and payment terms with the suppliers.
Pros and Cons of Alibaba Dropshipping
Consider the following information to decide whether dropshipping products with Alibaba is the right choice for your business.
- Low costs
- Many unique products
- Ample variety of dropshipping suppliers willing to work with small quantities
- Good customer support
- Alibaba guarantees, like Verified Suppliers, Trade Assurance, and ESCROW
- Potential language barrier with suppliers
- Difficult to ensure quality control
- Perceived lower quality or unsafe products from clients
- Low intellectual property guarantees
- Possible requirement for customs clearance
Starting a Dropshipping Business?
Create a successful dropshipping business in the most secure and easy way with Printify. No need to negotiate with suppliers, no minimum order quantity, no startup costs. We offer over 900 customizable, high-quality products and 24/7 merchant support.
Alibaba Dropshipping FAQ
To sell online with Alibaba dropshipping, you must create a buyer account and have an external store, for example, a Shopify store.
Then, find suitable Alibaba suppliers who dropship. Select what merch you want to sell, create titles and descriptions with product details, generate mockups or acquire product photos and publish them to your store.
The platform has a Dropshipping center with resources for dropshipping, including a search engine for products and suppliers. Small businesses need a buyer account and an external online storefront. Then, they can select suppliers and products and publish their listings.
Alibaba offers services like the Trade Assurance program, a directory of Verified Suppliers, and secure payment options, like the ESCROW service.
Check out Alibaba’s list of Verified Suppliers for vendors that dropship. Compare prices, rates and overall quality, shipping options, and supplier credibility. Use filters such as Trade Assurance, Ready to Ship, and Fast Dispatch to find the most reliable dropshipping suppliers within the Alibaba verification program.
That depends on the products you intend to sell. Alibaba is the best option for large quantities, low manufacturing costs, and customized white-label products, while AliExpress works better for finished products with no minimum orders.
In this article, we covered how to dropship on Alibaba, find suppliers, and integrate with an online store, plus the pros and cons. We also compared aspects of Alibaba to Aliexpress and Printify.
Alibaba dropshipping gives you access to a huge network of suppliers, mainly in Asia. Individual sellers can source products and dropship with the service. However, you’ll have to find suitable suppliers, negotiate with them, and follow up on most of the steps during fulfillment.
If you want a more streamlined and hassle-free eCommerce experience, Print on Demand with Printify is a way more convenient way to dropship winning products.
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Andris is a writer and scholar with 10+ years of experience inside and outside academia. Devoted to his family and a convicted introvert, Andris left teaching to focus on what matters. He loves creating things, playing musical instruments, and walking around forests.