AliExpress was NOT created for dropshipping but has become the most popular platform for dropshipping in the world, but why?
AliExpress has hundreds of millions of low-priced unique products that aren’t being sold in brick-and-mortar stores. On top of that most people either don’t know about AliExpress, don’t know how to use AliExpress properly or simply don’t trust AliExpress.
All this makes for the ideal platform to dropship from, doesn’t it?
It has a purpose and can be used effectively, but to think of it as an opportunity to create a long-term and profitable business isn’t a smart move.
In this article, I’ll explain why AliExpress should be used as a stepping stone in your business, how you should use it effectively and what you should do instead.
How AliExpress Dropshipping Works?
Ok, so you have AliExpress with all these products to sell, but how do you actually make people buy them from you and ship the products directly to your customers?
There are several steps, but this is a very simplified version of how AliExpress dropshipping works:
- Decide what you want to sell
- Create a Shopify store based around your niche
- Upload AliExpress products to your store
- Run Facebook ads for those products
- Fulfill the orders
- Scale your ads when needed
This is how most people will run an AliExpress dropshipping business and there are a lot of them..
This may sound a little daunting when you first start out but it’s relatively simple. With platforms such as Oberlo and DSers, they make uploading products and fulfilling orders a much faster and easier process. They do charge a monthly fee for this and personally, I wouldn’t use them.
Is AliExpress Dropshipping Worth it?
AliExpress is useful for finding unique winning products and for testing products before you move on to the next stage of your business. Apart from that, there are far better options to use that would mitigate the potential problems with AliExpress.
Finding Winning Products
Nothing will beat AliExpress when it comes to searching for products. They have the largest range possible and are constantly adding new products.
The key is to find products that people haven’t seen before and that they won’t find in most retail stores. This does not mean you can’t sell normal household products, it just means you can’t sell the same type of normal products you’ll find in a retail store.
For example, you can sell normal products such as kid’s toys, lamps, slippers, kitchen gadgets, outdoor lights or blankets. But sell a variant of these products your customer wouldn’t have seen before.
You could type in any of these products and thousands of different variants will come up. You’ll find people haven’t seen most of these variants making them a unique product for dropshipping.
AliExpress is the ultimate product research tool. If you can think of a product, odds are AliExpress already has it.
The hard part is searching through the millions of products until you find one you believe has the potential to be a winner.
That’s where product research tools come into play. These tools are not essential but can help identify current trending products on AliExpress.
Validating the potential of a product is another way to use AliExpress. Because of how simple it is to upload products to your Shopify store, you can test products easily to see if they are worth pursuing in the next step of your business.
If you’re going to create a dropshipping store, I recommend either a niche or one product store. However, a general store can be beneficial in the testing stage. This way you can add products from a variety of different niches to your store to test.
Once you have found a product or products that are generating consistent sales through Facebook ads, you can then create a niche or one product store based around these products.
If you are making consistent sales, don’t be tempted to scale your ads whilst you are still dropshipping from AliExpress. You will encounter problems and these problems will only be exacerbated the more you scale.
Is AliExpress Safe for Dropshipping?
You may have heard all sorts of horror stories when it comes to dropshipping with AliExpress, I certainly have. Overall, whilst there are several problems that can occur using AliExpress, most of these issues are avoidable.
AliExpress is safe for dropshipping as long as you are working with experienced and reputable suppliers on a relatively small scale. AliExpress has a refunds and disputes section which helps protect dropshippers from being scammed by unethical suppliers.
The issues you will face with dropshipping from AliExpress are:
- Suppliers running low on inventory
- Slow shipping times
- Inferior product quality
- Suppliers not shipping products at all or to the wrong person
- Sending poorly packaged products
- Sending products with the receipt you paid for the product
- Other dropshippers copying your product and ads
These are just some of the potential issues that may arise. Now all these problems can be dealt with on a small scale, but if you scale your business, the problems will scale too. For a full breakdown of shipping times, check out my article on how long AliExpress takes to ship to different countries.
Can you Still Make Money with AliExpress?
Yes, you can be profitable with AliExpress, but to make long-term profits that can replace your regular income is difficult.
The profit margins with AliExpress dropshipping are not as high as purchasing a product in bulk. To make any significant profit, you’ll need to sell products for 2 to 3 times the product price including shipping. This will differ depending on the actual cost of the product.
When you factor in advertising costs, merchant processing fees, VA costs and other fees you may be paying for, you will need to price your products correctly. If you’re selling a $3 product, you may need to sell that for 6 times to be profitable, but if you’re selling a $50 item, 2 times may be enough.
Try not to think of AliExpress as a way of being profitable. The real money comes after AliExpress when you take your business to the next level.
If you can test a bunch of products on AliExpress and come away with some potential winners, that’s a win even if you broke even.
Dropshipping without AliExpress (Better Alternatives)
Even in the beginning stages, you can test products with AliExpress if you wanted, but you don’t really need to. I don’t!
There are several alternatives that may be a better option for some people. Often these platforms deal directly with manufacturers so their product prices are similar to AliExpress and often a little cheaper.
AliExpress is essentially a platform of millions of individual suppliers you can connect with. Those suppliers don’t have access to the best shipping lines from China because they are not doing large enough sales volume.
However, the alternatives below will do much a much larger volume of sales. This means they will have access to much faster, more reliable and better value shipping lines. This is a big advantage if you don’t decide to use AliExpress.
This platform’s website looks similar to AliExpress. They are free to use and you can upload any of their products directly to your Shopify store.
CJ is a marketplace of products but behind those products is a team of dropshipping agents who work directly with manufacturers and suppliers.
Their product range isn’t close to that of AliExpress but they can source products for you that they don’t already stock.
Salehoo is made up of 2 main aspects of their platform. They have their supplier directory which consists of over 8,000 suppliers from around the world. Then they have Salehoo dropship which was launched in 2021.
Salehoo Dropship costs $27 a month for their basic package which should be enough for most people. You can import up to 500 AliExpress products for this.
This platform is a little different from the others in the fact that most of its suppliers are not based in China. 80% of their suppliers are based in the US or Europe.
This may be a better dropshippers looking for domestic suppliers with faster shipping. They have several paid plans to choose from but check out their 14-day free trial before committing to anything.
They integrate with all the major platforms including Shopify, Wix, WooCommerce and BigCommerce.
Zendrop is the newest of these AliExpress alternatives. They are similar to CJ Dropshipping in many ways but they do charge a monthly fee.
They have a very large selection of products and they have a unique product sourcing feature. If you find a product on AliExpress that they don’t stock, you simply add the data of the product you want and they source it for you usually within 24 hours.
Dropshipping after AliExpress
So what do you do once you have started making some consistent sales with AliExpress or one of the alternatives? You have 2 main options:
Your first option is to get yourself a dropshipping (Sourcing) agent. If you want to continue to dropship from China, an agent can help you with many aspects of your business.
A dropshipping agent is essentially a middleman between yourself and the manufacturer. They are the same as any supplier you work with but they can do a lot more for your business. They can:
- Source Products
- Check for Quality
- Negoiate pricing
- Warehouse Storage
- Provide custom packaging
- Organize product customization and private labeling
- Ship your products
- Scale your business with your needs
- Order fulfillment
A good agent can be extremely beneficial to your business, but a bad one can be detrimental to your business. The problem is it can be tough to find a trustworthy agent.
Domestic Shipping with a 3PL
Your next option after dropshipping from AliExpress is to order the product in bulk from Alibaba. This has many advantages over AliExpress but the obvious downside is the risk of paying for a large amount of inventory without knowing if it will sell.
On Alibaba, every product has a different MOQ (minimum order quantity) depending on the product and the supplier. These MOQ’s are negotiable so don’t assume they are set in stone.
Once you have made a bulk order, you can then have the shipment sent to your country. You can then either have the order shipped to your home and ship the products individually yourself. This may be an option in the beginning stages if you have the space and time to do so.
The other option is to have the order shipped to a fulfillment warehouse (3PL). This is a far more realistic option once you start to scale your business as fulfilling potentially hundreds of orders a day at home will take up to much of your time.
Fulfillment warehouses will ship your individual products to your customers as each order comes in. They will charge various fees for each of the services they provide, but this may be a worthwhile expense if your margins make sense.
Some of the best 3PL’s to use for dropshipping are:
Summary (My Opinion)
After reading all that is AliExpress good for dropshipping? Ultimately it’s up to the individual but personally, I don’t think it is. It can be used in the initial stages to validate the potential of a product if you want, however, I don’t even use it for that anymore.
I use it as more of a product research tool to help me find profitable products and then use other platforms to sell the product.
The number of problems that can occur and often do occur doesn’t make it a viable option for me. There are a lot of reputable, experienced and trustworthy suppliers on there. But there are a lot that will deceive you and happily screw you over given the chance.
The most important piece of advice you should take from this article is to NEVER scale your dropshipping business with AliExpress. It won’t end well.