The Ultimate Guide for Purchasing from AliExpress,Alibaba, 1688 & Taobao

China online marketing courses and service - Shopify - The Ultimate Guide for Purchasing from AliExpress,Alibaba, 1688 & Taobao
buying from china channels

How to buy from China? How to drop shipping from AliExpress, 1688, Alibaba and Taobao?

No matter if you source products for your physical stores or online store, buying from China is an excellent choice. You can import to Vietnam, USA, European countries, or any other countries all over the world.

You can find the manufacturer or wholesale supplier for a wide range of products, such as different types of socks, clothes, bags, fitness equipment, squeeze lip gloss tubes, or white label products etc.

There are 6 channels that you can use for sourcing products directly from China:

  1. Alibaba
  2. AliExpress
  3. DH Gate
  4. 1688
  5. Taobao
  6. Offline marketplaces

Let’s get to know more about these six channels, including introduction, platform features, ways to find the suitable supplier, tools for communicating with sellers and protect yourself from buying from suppliers.


1.1 What’s Alibaba?

Alibaba belongs to Alibaba group, found in 1999 in Hangzhou city of China. Jacky Ma is one of the founders of Alibaba. It’s an B2B marketplace. You can source products in 10 different categories, including Agriculture, Food, Textiles, Sports, Toys, Machinery, Bags, Shoe etc.

Alibaba companies usually sales in bulk, you may get good price if buy in bulk from China.

Not all the suppliers on Alibaba have factory in China, some of them are traders.

alibaba website

1.2 Is Alibaba legit? Is Alibaba safe?

Yes, Alibaba is legit and it’s a safe platform like Amazon. But you will need to check the Alibaba reviews of Alibaba manufacturer before you make an order.

1.3 How does Alibaba work? How to buy from Alibaba?

Alibaba works similarly as other eCommerce platform.

  • You type the keywords or product name on the search bar,
  • Select the country you want to source from, and the relate certification you may need to filter the suppliers.
  • Make an order.
  • The wholesale supplier will arrange shipment from China. You confirm the receiving the goods, the supplier will get the money from Alibaba.

1.4 How to find suppliers?

Finding the right supplier for your product may take some time, filter the supplier first. Select the supplier type, supplier country, product certification, minimum order quantity etc. Then check with price and communicate with the wholesale to get more details.

alibaba search page

1.5 What’s trade assure?

Alibaba trade assurance protects online orders on Alibaba platform. You may get the money back if you are not satisfied with the product quality after 30 days delivery.

Trade assure is free service for buyers. You may choose to order from Trade assure suppliers. If you pay via PayPal or other payment ways that transfers the money directly to the suppliers. Then the Trade assure can’t protect your online orders.

1.6 How can I pay for the product?

There are different payment ways, such as Credit card, Debit card, T/T, West Union, Online Bank Payment etc.

1.7 Alibaba shipping costs

The shipping cost is quite different when the order quantity varies. You will need to check the exact shipping costs with the supplier.

1.8 How long does shipping take from china

It really depends on the products you buy and the shipment solution you chose, it would be much quick if ship by Air. Better to contact the seller to get the information. Just give them the quantity you want to order, your address and zip code.

1.9 Tools for communicating with supplier

You may download an Alibaba App, it’s available for both Android and Apple store. You could communicate with the wholesale on the app.

Or you may use webpage to contact the exporter, you will need to sign in first. It’s free, and you can sign in with your social media account, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn or Twitter.

alibaba app


Alibaba is a nice choice if you want to order bulk products export from China to USA or other countries.  There are some Chinese trade companies selling on Alibaba.

You already knew how to buy at Alibaba, make sure you check the background of suppliers first, check the factories pictures, the certification etc. Though Alibaba is safe and legit, but there might be some scammers out there. Make sure using the Trade assure and make payment online to protect you from scam on Alibaba.


2.1. What’s AliExpress? Who owns AliExpress? Where is AliExpress located?

AliExpress is retail platform which was launched in 2010, the owner is Alibaba Group.

You can buy from Chinese customers, including clothing, consumer electronic, watches, shoes etc. A lot of products are free shipping.

aliexpress homepage

2.2 How to find suppliers?

  • Type product keyword into the search bar
  • Choose the price range, country, free shipping, free return etc.
  • Click on the specific products to check more details or contact the supplier.

Five Tips for finding good supplier:

  • Check the store score and years of store.

Try to buy from a store has 90 score and more than 3 years on AliExpress.

  • Read the reviews of the products, especially the negative reviews.
  • Check the price first on 1688 or Taobao, you will know the estimated cost of the product. Don’t buy the lowest price with a lot of negative reviews.
  • Keep away from the patent products.
aliexpress hoodie search

2.3 AliExpress vs Alibaba

  • Minimum quantity (MOQ)

AliExpress is retail marketplace, you may buy it one or two pieces.

Alibaba has MOQ, you will need to buy in bulk, for example 100 pieces or 500 pieces.

If you want to buy in bulk, Alibaba would be your choice.

  • Shipping cost

Alibaba: The seller uses own logistic carriers. For small quantity, the shipping cost may a little expensive. For large quantity, they can arrange to ship by Sea.

AliExpress: AliExpress is cooperating with different logistic companies, such as 4PX, Yanwen, Post etc. Thus, sellers on AliExpress can get very cheap shipping if they use their service. That’s why many products are for free shipping.

  • Customized product

Alibaba: You can use your logo or design at a certain quantity. Many factories in china are selling on Alibaba. They provide white label service

AliExpress: Most sellers don’t have white label service.

  • Drop shipping business / Shopify

If you are doing drop shipping, we strongly recommend you use AliExpress. You don’t need to keep any stock, and the AliExpress seller will handle the shipment for you. If you use Oberlo, you may import products from AliExpress to your store directly. Super easy and quick. 

2.4 Is AliExpress legit? Is AliExpress reliable

Yes. AliExpress is absolutely legit and reliable. 

2.5 How to drop shipping with AliExpress?

  • Setup your drop shipping store

You may use different solution to build your store, Shopify, Big-Commerce, Mango etc. Create a catchy store for your business.

There is a step-by-step course to create a Shopify store. Check it here.

  • Upload the products to your store

You may use a software or hire someone to upload the products for you. Using high-quality images and writing amazing description for your products.

  • Order products from AliExpress when you got orders.

You may order products from AliExpress when you received orders. You don’t need to keep any inventory.

  • AliExpress seller arranges the shipment to your customer.

After you made an order, your supplier will deliver the products directly to your customer.

  • You track the orders and finish the order.

Send the order number to your customer, and track the orders till your customer received the product without damage or quality issues.

2.6 How long does it take to ship from China?

Most suppliers selling on AliExpress use the shipping service offered on AliExpress, such as Ali Standard, Ali economy, Yanwen, epacket etc. The shipment needs about 15-60 days. If you need fast shipping, you may ask the seller to use DHL, FedEx or UPS etc. But you will need to cover the cost.

2.7 Tools for communicating with supplier

You may download an AliExpress app or use the webpage to contact with the suppliers on AliExpress.

2.8 Alternatives to AliExpress

There are some other alternatives to AliExpress in China: DH Gate, Lightinthebox, Taobao, 1688 etc.


Both AliExpress and Alibaba belongs to Alibaba group, AliExpress is a quick and easy for you to start drop shipping business at low quantity. When you want bulk buy from China or want to create your own brand, you may consider sourcing from Alibaba.

3.DH gate

3.1 What’s Dh gate?

DH gate is an online retail platform, founded in 2004 in Beijing.

dh gate homepage

3.2 How to find supplier on DH gate?

If you want to source shoes wholesales in China, type the shoe name. Then choose the minimum order, supplier type.

dh gate shoe search

3.3 AliExpress VS DH gate

Both AliExpress and DH gate can be a sourcing platform for buying from China. The major difference between them is DH gate can offer discount if you buy in bulk.  And MOQ is more than one piece.

dh gate mug deals


4.1 What’s 1688? Who own 1688?

The belongs to Alibaba group, founded in Hangzhou city of China in 2006. It’s a B2B wholesale marketplace. This eCommerce platforms offers a wide range of product as Alibaba. homepage

4.2 Does 1688 have English version?

No, it only has a Chinese version, so you will need to extension to translate it into other language.

4.3 How to find reliable manufacturer?

Each seller on 1688 has one page which shows the business license, you will need to check the background of the supplier. And each the review of them. Try to select the manufacturers which has more than 5 years of experience on 1688.

4.5 Can they ship international?

Most of them only ship within Mainland China. Some of them can ship it to other countries.

4.6 How can you pay the seller?

You may consider use Alipay, Visa, MasterCard/JCB to pay them, or you can ask someone to pay it for you.

4.7 1688 .com VS AliExpress

1688 offers customized products in a low quantity, and you can lower price than AliExpress. We may say that 1688 is the Chinese version of Alibaba.

Due to the language barrier, it will be easier to communicate with suppliers on AliExpress.

5. Taobao

5.1. What’s Taobao? Who owns it?

Taobao is a B2C marketplace, founded in 2003 and owned by Alibaba group. 

Taobao is one of popular eCommerce platform in China. It has more than 500 million users. The daily active user is more than 60 million.

There are more than 800 million products are selling online. You can find anything you want, no matter a white label product, or you want to find a car part.

taobao homepage

5.2 Can Taobao ship to other countries? And how many days need to ship from China?

Yes. It offers international shipment to these countries, including Canada, USA, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Korea and New Zealand.

Taobao logistic can gather the products your ordered from different stores, then pack them and ship to your address.

Normally, it needs about 14-40 days to ship those countries.

5.3 How can I pay the seller?

You may use Alipay, Visa, MasterCard/JCB to pay the sellers. The cost is 3% of the amount if you use Visa or MasterCard. If you use Alipay, no extra cost needed.

5.4 What logistic company do they use to export from China to other countries?

Generally speaking, they use Ali Stand or 4PX to ship internationally.


Taobao is a great marketplace for importing from China. You may need a translator to contact with the seller when necessary.

6.Offline wholesale market

Do you know how many how many provinces are in China? And are you many wholesale markets in China?

There are 23 provinces in China, and there are more than 50 wholesale markets inside China. Different market has its own local featured products.

  • Yiwu wholesale market

Yiwu wholesale market is one of the popular markets in China, it’s a small community market in Yiwu city, Zhejiang province. It’s built in 1982. It has more than 70,000 stores there. The products cover more than 43 categories, including cosmetic, stationary, textiles, socks etc.

yiwu wholesale market
  • Shenzhen Hua Qiang Bei

It’s in Shenzhen city of Guangdong province of china. This market is focus on electronics and components. It contains 11 big electronic market, such as Sag, Saibo, Zhongdian,HQ-Mart etc.

This market shared more than 50% electronic market in China. This is the center for sourcing electronic products and components.

Know the main market for different product can help sourcing the best suppliers with the best quality.


We have known the 6 main purchasing channels–AliExpress, Taobao,1688, DH gate, Alibaba and the wholesale markets in China. Select the right way to source your product and buying from China. We are sure that it will help you find the reliable suppliers for your business.

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