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Home  > Guides to grow your business  >  Guides for online sellers  

1688 vs AliExpress: Which is better for product sourcing?

Between 1688 and AliExpress, which is better for businesses based in Australia and New Zealand? Let’s find out.

Key takeaways

  • 1688 caters to wholesale buyers, whereas AliExpress is focused on retail customers
  • 1688 has comparatively lower wholesale product pricing
  • International shipping is offered on AliExpress but not 1688
  • International buyers can pay 1688 suppliers through WorldFirst’s Cross-border Pay. 
  • AliExpress directly supports international payment methods

Introduction

1688 and AliExpress are online marketplaces based in China that allow overseas buyers to source bulk products at competitive prices. Australian businesses can directly source products through 1688 or AliExpress to expand their SKUs while keeping steady margins.

While both marketplaces share the same parent company (the Alibaba group), their approaches, target markets, and features vary significantly. 

Let’s take a look at 1688 vs Aliexpress in detail to find out which one of the two is right for your business. 

Table of Contents

What is 1688?

1688 is one of China’s biggest online B2B wholesale marketplaces, connecting buyers with manufacturers and wholesale sellers. It offers direct access to Chinese factories for procurement purposes. It has more than 120 million registered users and 10 million suppliers.

What is AliExpress?

AliExpress connects global B2B and B2C buyers with Chinese sellers. Established in 2010, it is a subsidiary of the Alibaba Group, a prominent multinational conglomerate in China. While it also hosts many Chinese suppliers, AliExpress sells exclusively outside China.

1688 vs AliExpress - The main differences

1688 AliExpress
Best suited for Wholesalers and large businesses Small businesses and dropshippers
Support for international payments Through WorldFirst's Cross-border Pay (跨境宝) solution Credit cards, PayPal, Alipay, Bank transfers, and third-party payments
Product range/quality Varied quality products targeted for wholesale at a lower cost Varied quality products targeted for retail at a higher cost
MOQ Typically as low as 1-2 products No minimum order quantity
Shipping Only domestic shipping Worldwide shipping
Dropshipping Only domestic dropshipping International dropshipping
Contacting sellers Can contact sellers directly Can talk to the sellers via the message button on the platform
Pricing Comparatively lower wholesale Comparatively higher than 1688
Target audience Wholesale buyers, businesses, drop shippers Individuals, businesses, drop shippers
English language support Limited Multi-lingual

Pricing

Prices on 1688 are generally lower and more competitive because users buy directly from factories and wholesalers without involving a middleman. However, buyers should factor in additional costs such as shipping, customs duties, conversion costs, and taxes for international orders.

Prices on AliExpress may be marginally higher for individual items compared to 1688 since this is more of a B2C platform. While some sellers offer free shipping, others charge a shipping fee. 

For instance, look at this cross-body bag available on 1688.com. The bag is 

¥125.00 (~AUD $27) if you order 1-10 units of the bag. The pricing decreases to ¥120.00 if you order 10-999 units of the bag. 

The pricing does not include shipping, as 1688 suppliers do not offer international shipping. You will have to partner with a shipping company to get your products from China to Australia.

The same bag on AliExpress costs AUD $81.99 You get 5% off on the total order value if you are placing an order for more than two bags. The seller is also offering free shipping to Australia.

But even with free shipping, this is a three-fold price increase, as compared to 1688.

  • 1688 is more cost-effective, and you can get a lot better pricing for bulk orders. But you will have to find a shipping partner and try to find a way to communicate with sellers on a primarily Chinese platform
  • AliExpress is better for smaller orders. The website is in English, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost in translation. You also don’t have to deal with the hassle of finding a shipping partner 

Payment methods

1688 does not support international payment methods. 

WorldFirst’s Cross-border Pay (跨境) is the exclusive payment solution for pay 1688 suppliers. The exchange rate is more competitive than direct bank transfers, and there are minimal transfer fees. 

Here are the steps to use Cross-border Pay (跨境宝/KJB):

  1. Register for a 1688.com account
  2. Register for a World Account
  3. Convert funds to CNH in your World Account
  4. Authorise your World Account to link your payments to 1688.com via Cross-border Pay (跨境宝 /KJB)

*This payment solution is available to users in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and British Virgin Islands only. 

Take a look at our complete guide on 1688 to learn how to place orders and pay suppliers on the platform

Since AliExpress was established for a global customer base, it accepts international payments through various payment options such as credit/debit cards, PayPal, and AliPay. However, if you are juggling high forex costs through these payment methods, you can also manage your AliExpress payments through WorldFirst.

Product range and quality

While 1688 lists products from over 16 categories and 1,700 sub-categories from over 10 million suppliers, AliExpress has over 100 million products listed across different categories, such as food, bags, jewelry, and more.

MOQ

The MOQs for each product on 1688 can be as low as 2. However, low MOQs mean high prices. Buyers can get bulk pricing on 1688 with high MOQs.

On Aliexpress, buyers can even purchase single products, but that comes at the cost of high pricing per unit.

Shipping

1688 only offers domestic shipping, and there is no support for international shipping or dropshipping. However, international buyers can use third-party logistics or freight-forwarding services to facilitate cross-border shipments.

AliExpress supports international shipping, and most sellers on the platform also offer international dropshipping services.

Buyers on AliExpress can choose from different shipping methods and carriers, with some sellers offering free or faster shipping. However, some sellers charge shipping as high as $50 per delivery. It’s important to note that buyers on Aliexpress often don’t have the flexibility to choose their preferred shipping partner as the sellers manage that part.

Take a look at our exhaustive guide about how to set up your AliExpress dropshipping business.

Contacting sellers

1688 allows buyers to contact sellers directly. You can find the seller’s contact details on their profile, including their WeChat IDs, phone numbers, and even factory addresses. It’s also possible to communicate with the sellers using 1688’s chat tool, Aliwangwang. 

Most sellers on 1688 speak Chinese and have a limited understanding of English, making communication challenging. Alternatively, you can partner with 1688 sourcing agents who can manage all the seller communication, product sourcing, and shipping on your behalf.

AliExpress only allows communication through their platform via the ‘message’ button on the store and product page. It doesn’t connect buyers directly to the sellers. The marketplace supports communication in multiple languages, such as English, Chinese, Russian, Italian, Spanish, French, and Turkish.

Target audience

1688 is a wholesale platform serving businesses looking to source products in bulk from China. AliExpress caters to wholesale and retail customers, offering a wide range of products for individual consumers and small businesses worldwide. 

Support for English language

1688’s website is primarily in Chinese but can be translated to English via web browsers. Most sellers on the platform speak Chinese and have a limited understanding of English, which can hinder effective interaction, negotiation, and issue resolution for international buyers.

In contrast, AliExpress is entirely in English, serving its global clientele with an English user interface, customer service, and communication channels.

Which is better - 1688 or AliExpress?

While 1688 and AliExpress are popular e-commerce platforms, they serve distinct markets and have unique features tailored to their target audiences. 

Understanding these differences can help buyers choose the platform that best aligns with their needs, whether seeking wholesale quantities, retail purchases, or a combination of both.

FAQs

Can I use AliExpress in Australia?

Yes, AliExpress can be used in Australia. It is accessible worldwide, allowing users in Australia to browse and purchase products from sellers on the platforms. AliExpress sellers also directly ship products to Australia.

What is the main difference between 1688 and AliExpress?

The main difference between 1688 and AliExpress lies in their target markets and business models. 1688 is a wholesale platform primarily serving businesses looking to source products in bulk from China. AliExpress caters to wholesale and retail customers, offering a wide range of products for individual consumers and small businesses worldwide. 

 Is it OK to dropship from AliExpress to Australia?

Yes, dropshipping from AliExpress to Australia is a common practice. Many e-commerce entrepreneurs in Australia use AliExpress as a source of products for their dropshipping businesses due to its vast product selection, competitive price, and convenient shipping options.

Is there an English version of 1688?

While 1688 primarily operates in Chinese, the browser can automatically translate the site into English. Additionally, Alibaba Group, the parent company of 1688, offers an international wholesale platform called Alibaba.com, which is available in multiple languages, including English, and serves customers worldwide.

Disclaimer: The information contained is general only and largely our views. Before acting on the information you should consider whether it is appropriate for you, in light of your objectives, financial situation or needs. Although information has been obtained from and is based upon multiple sources the author believes to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy and it may be incomplete or condensed. All opinions, estimates, mentioned products/services and referenced material constitute the author’s own judgement as of the date of the briefing and are subject to change without notice. WorldFirst shall not be responsible for any losses or damages arising from your reliance of such information.

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