Are you considering a dropshipping business but you’re concerned about using AliExpress? You’ve come to the right place. The following problems are issues I have faced and as a beginner to dropshipping, you need to be aware of them before you jump in uninformed.
As a complete newbie, let me give you a quick rundown of AliExpress dropshipping.
AliExpress is one of the largest online marketplaces in the world and online retailers can simply list their products on their Shopify store and sell them at a marked-up price. AliExpress suppliers will then ship the products directly to the retailer’s customers on their behalf.
These are the most common issues, but unfortunately not the only problems. Being conscious of the problems before they arise is the best way to reduce the chances of them affecting your business.
1. Long Shipping Times
This is probably the number one deterrent for dropshipping with AliExpress. Shipping can be very slow and this can cause problems as consumers have gotten used to the fast shipping times of Amazon.
If you’re living in the US, you can make an order from Amazon and have the product within 4 to 8 days. The most popular shipping method for AliExpress dropshipping is either ePacket or AliExpress Standard Shipping. With these options, you’ll be looking at 15 to 25 days.
There are faster shipping carriers but their fees are far too high to make them a viable option. For shipping times from AliExpress to multiple countries, I suggest you read my article first.
Check out this screenshot of shipping times for a dog collar to be shipped from China to the US. Yes, you will have much faster shipping but it’ll cost you an extra $15 which will eat away at all your profits.
ePacket and AliExpress Standard Shipping are the best value shipping carriers that will provide reasonable shipping times at low prices.
Because there are millions of suppliers on AliExpress, they don’t all do huge volume when it comes to the number of orders they process. The problem with this is the best shipping carriers in China only deal with suppliers who do large volume.
This is why you’ll often receive faster shipping times when you’re working with a dropshipping agent as they are often dealing with multiple dropshippers and thousands of orders a day giving them access to the fastest shipping lines.
Another thing that can slow down the shipping times is the long processing times. Many suppliers are waiting for more orders to be placed so they can make a larger order from their manufacturer to bring down their product price. This means your customers are waiting longer so they can save money.
2. Unreliable Suppliers
This is a big problem and not one that should be underestimated. Many (not all) of the suppliers will be very unreliable and will cause you all kinds of problems.
They are in this business to make money and they look at you as though you are a sale. They are most likely dealing with many dropshippers and you are not their priority.
These are just a few of the issues I’ve encountered or I’ve had friends encounter:
- Products being shipped to the wrong address
- The wrong products being shipped
- The product hasn’t been shipped at all
- They changed the product to a more inferior quality version to save money without notifying the seller.
- They ran out of stock and said nothing
- They sent the product with the receipt the seller paid
- Product price changes
The list goes on and on. On top of all that, when you do try and email them about these problems you’ll often find they’ll ignore you.
Never deal with only one supplier. Once you have a product you want to sell, source multiple suppliers who stock the same product. Relying on a single supplier is a disaster waiting to happen.
3. Poor Product Quality
When it comes to quality, AliExpress has a poor reputation. The general consensus is that dropshippers are unethical people who deliberately sell inferior products to make a dollar.
Is this true? It can be a lot of the time which is why dropshipping has this reputation. Personally, I think the stigma around dropshipping is a little unfounded.
AliExpress does have a lot of substandard products which is a problem and why I have put it on this list. However, I do believe dropshipping has improved and the successful dropshippers are realizing that providing a quality product and creating a great customer experience is key to a long-term business.
The biggest issue is sifting through the crap until you find quality products as it can be a little hit and miss. Always work with experienced suppliers with a good track record. A supplier with cheaper products isn’t always the supplier you should work with.
Always order samples before you start selling specific products. Don’t assume because the supplier has a good rating and the product images look good that the product is also good. I’ve been fooled several times.
Be aware of the following products:
- Trademarked and copyrighted products are all over AliExpress. Don’t sell them unless you want to be sued.
- Electronics are notorious for being faulty. Always order samples first and test them.
- Clothing is risky. It is often sized wrong, the quality isn’t as it states and there are lots of refunds with apparel.
- Health or supplement products I’d stay away from, you don’t really know what in them.
- Safety products or anything that can cause harm to people. There are to many legal issues to can arise.
For more information, I recommend you read my article on AliExpress Product Quality – What’s it Really Like?
Always check your government website to make sure you can legally sell certain products. For the United States click here to see which products are prohibited.
4. Returns and Refunds are a Pain
One of the most frustrating aspects of dropshipping. This is mainly due to the fact that you are responsible for dealing with returns and refunds even though the chances are it’s not your fault.
Why do people want a refund? Because the product isn’t what they expected, the product is broken, the product took too long to arrive, the product never arrived, whatever the reason, it’s most likely out of your hands.
Dealing with refunds through AliExpress is generally a bit of a pain. Depending on the issue you may need evidence that the product is faulty or not as described. This means your customer will need to send through photo evidence.
If this isn’t enough evidence for your supplier you may need to open a dispute. All this is a lot of work for a product that is not worth much money. Most of the time it’s easier to absorb the cost yourself and move on.
The same goes with returns it’s just easier to count it as a loss. It’s not worth it to send a faulty product back to China.
Not to mention your trying to organize all this when there is a language barrier. This is why it’s best to avoid products that are commonly returned and refunded.
5. Lots of Competiton
Dropshipping is growing in popularity and AliExpress is the most popular platform for dropshipping. Even with the millions and millions of products to choose from, you’ll still be facing a tonne of competitors.
The main reason for this is everyone can see which products are currently selling well. So even when you find this hidden gem of a product other dropshippers haven’t discovered yet, before you know competitors will swarm you.
As soon a product starts selling well, the order count will start ticking over which everyone can see. You’ll have other dropshippers watching it, you’ll have suppliers telling other dropshippers about it, then you’ll have product research tools telling dropshippers, then you’ll have YouTubers telling other dropshippers.
It never ends and you have no chance in hell of being discrete and keeping it a secret.
If you do find a great product you don’t want the world to know about, you should work with a dropshipping agent. A trustworthy agent won’t tell others about the number of sales you’re doing. If you’re doing well they’re doing well.
My advice is once you have found a profitable product, stop using AliExpress and either use an agent or order in bulk and have a fulfillment center (3PL) ship your products.
6. Too Many Middlemen
AliExpress is not only competitive for dropshippers, it’s also very competitive for suppliers. Most AliExpress suppliers are just regular people in China working from home. They are placing an order with their supplier and marking up the price and selling to you.
They are essentially doing the same as you and purchasing products at a low price and reselling them at a higher price without even physically coming into contact with the products.
The problem is the products you are purchasing are often going through several middlemen before reaching you. This often means some products are at a much higher price than if you purchased the product in bulk directly from a manufacturer.
Although the products on AliExpress are still relatively low and you can still make a decent profit margin. However, compare the prices with what you’ll get purchasing in bulk directly from a manufacturer and you’ll see a big difference.
7. Frequent Chargebacks
Chargebacks can be a big problem if you encounter them. They happen when a customer disputes a purchase they made from you with their credit card company and the credit card company then charges the amount back to your customer.
The customer may do this if they feel like they were screwed over in any way. They may feel as though the product isn’t as described, the product may be faulty or it just took too long to get to them. Whatever the reason if the customer isn’t happy, they may request a chargeback.
Chargebacks are like strikes against your name and your payment processor can freeze your account depending on how many you’ve had and if you lose a dispute against the chargeback. It’s common for Paypal to freeze online retailer’s accounts for prolonged periods of time and enables them to withdraw their funds.
Click here for PayPal’s policy regarding chargebacks.
Because AliExpress is a very flawed business model, many of the issues listed above are likely to happen at some point if you’re providing your customer with a poor experience. All this increases the chances of a customer requesting a chargeback from their credit card company and making your business more difficult to run.
8. Low Facebook Feedback Score
Just like chargebacks, Facebook feedback scores can really make it difficult to do business if your customers are not happy with their shopping experience.
After a customer has made a purchase from you through one of your Facebook ads, they’ll receive a survey from Facebook asking how their whole buying experience was. The main points of this are:
- Was the product of high quality?
- Was the shipping process fast and efficient?
- How was the customer service?
If your average rating falls below a certain level which Facebook determines, they can put restrictions on your account or completely block your ability to run ads.
If you’re dropshipping quality products with fast shipping, this won’t be an issue. Unfortunately, this is not always possible with AliExpress and poor feedback scores can happen.
Because Facebook is the go-to advertising platform for dropshipping, it can really impact your business.
9. Inability to Scale Successfully
So let’s say you’ve started dropshipping on AliExpress and you’ve found yourself a profitable product with consistent sales. Don’t be tempted to start scaling your business with AliExpress.
AliExpress is manageable on a small scale. All the problems listed above are very frustrating but can be managed if you’re selling 10 or even 15 products a day. But if you start selling 50 or 100 or 500 products a day, all these problems will be compounded.
You’ll be facing endless customer service, suppliers will inevitably make mistakes, they’ll run out of stock, you’ll have chargebacks, low Facebook feedback scores and the list goes on.
The amount of stress it will cause and the amount of potential money you could lose from it will not be worth it. You have many far better options once you find yourself a winning product:
- Work with a dropshipping agent (They may only work with you once you reach a certain number of daily sales)
- Use CJ dropshipping, scaling with them will be far easier. It’s better to use them from the start and avoid AliExpress altogether.
- Purchase in bulk from Alibaba and have the order shipped to a 3PL and have them individually ship the products for you.
As you can probably tell dropshipping with AliExpress is fraught with peril. It’s surprising that it’s still the platform people flock to for their dropshipping business.
There are far better alternatives out there that can mitigate many of the risks. Using suppliers such as CJ Dropshipping, Zendrop or Salehoo Dropship may be an option until you are ready to make a bulk order of a certain product.
They are still middlemen taking a small cut of your profits, however, you often find the product prices are the same or sometimes even lower than AliExpress because they are dealing directly with manufacturers. You are not dealing with multiple middlemen like you do on AliExpress all taking a piece of your profits.