They both sound similar for a good reason, as both are eCommerce sites and are part of the same parent company (Alibaba Group), but they serve two very different functions.
Alibaba vs Aliexpress, the Difference in One Line
Aliexpress is an eCommerce site designed for end-customers purchasing products for themselves, while Alibaba is a directory of manufacturers that businesses reach out to buy products in bulk for the purpose of selling to end customers.
Who Each Site is For
Aliexpress is designed for consumers, and Alibaba is designed mainly for businesses. While the end goal of Alibaba is to buy products you intend to sell under your brand name, it is ultimately a place to make connections with factories overseas that you will partner with to make products.
In this sense, Aliexpress is a B2C (business-to-consumer) site, and Alibaba is a B2B (business-to-business) site.
When to use Aliexpress
Aliexpress is a great site for buying lower-priced items that are either hard to find on typical websites or you don’t care much about the brand you’re buying from and want the best price.
You can get products for a much cheaper price on Aliexpress than mainstream eCommerce sites, but you risk getting lower quality products, a poor customer support experience, and long shipping times as products typically come directly from China.
Still, even with these downsides, Aliexpress is the only place to get certain products for people with niche hobbies or who require specialty items.
When to use Alibaba
If you’re an eCommerce seller looking for your first or a new manufacturer or just starting out in the eCommerce industry looking for your first manufacturer, Alibaba is still the number one site to find a high-quality factory to make your products.
How to Use Alibaba to find a Manufacturer
Alibaba functionally is a marketplace and search engine like many popular sites.
It is a market of manufacturers, and the best way to find them is by using specific keywords in the site’s search.
So, if you’re looking for a new manufacturer, it’s as simple as gathering a few keywords for your product or product category, punching it in the search bar, and start browsing the available manufacturers.
On Alibaba, each factory shows off the type of products they can make, examples of individual products, an estimated cost for a business to buy from them, and various stats to show how legitimate they are (years on Alibaba, yearly revenue amounts, various badges, message response time, reviews, etc.).
If you know what you want to have made, after that, it’s a matter of classic research and due diligence.
To find a manufacturer on Alibaba, follow these steps:
- Know what kind of product you want to be made. The more you know about your potential product (category, industry, specs, design), the better it will be for a potential manufacturer to know if they can make it for you.
- Find out the best keywords to describe your product. Typically your product will have a main keyword (and a few sub-keywords) associated with it, and sellers are mainly found through keywords typed in search by you.
- Browse through every manufacturer you see that makes products similar to what you are trying to get made. Take a note of each factory that looks like it could be a good match and bookmark each one.
- Compile a list of factories that all have the potential to make your product after doing as much research as possible on their prices, capabilities, and product line.
- Message each of the manufacturers. Include information like what you want to be made, your goals for the business in general, how big your first order (and subsequent orders) will be, and any specifics as to whether the factory can produce what you need.
- Good manufacturers are typically good communicators. Some won’t answer at all, and those are non-starters, and you should focus on the manufacturers that do a good job of communicating what they are capable of and if they can work with you.
- Get a sample of your first product(s) and keep working with them until your first order is ready to ship and sell on the market!
Find a new manufacturer or replace your current manufacturer with Alibaba
If you want to start having your products made in large quantities with a quality supplier, are looking to diversify your product line, your current manufacturer can’t make the new products, or you’re trying to switch manufacturers due to declining product quality. You can utilize the steps above to find a manufacturer to fill one of these roles.
Keeping an eye on the manufacturers that exist in your industry of choice can help you see what’s currently being made within your product category, where prices generally are for products, and just how big the landscape is in terms of competition.
Even if you’re a seller that’s been working with your manufacturer for a long time, it’s good to be knowledgeable about what kind of manufacturers are out there. You can use Alibaba to always stay on top of industry trends.
With this post, you now know that Aliexpress is for when you want to buy a low-cost product for personal use and that Alibaba is for businesses to get their product line produced to sell to their customer base.
While finding a good manufacturer is not easy, it is a pretty straightforward process. If you’re growing your eCommerce business by introducing streamlined high-volume production, expanding your product offerings, or diversifying the categories you serve, it’s possible to get financing to fund those big ideas.
So if you’re a seller or potential eCommerce seller, you know it’s time to get on Alibaba and start researching!