AliExpress/Alibaba Drop Shipping

From the Featured Article Series:
The Best Drop Shipping Companies 2018

By Milo Cruz | Last Updated: September 10, 2018

Table of Contents

If you’re planning on starting a drop shipping business of your own, AliExpress is the quickest way you can build up your product line.

In this guide, we’ll talk about how to use AliExpress (and Alibaba) to find the best products for drop shipping, as well as some tips to running your business.

Let’s get started.

AliExpress vs Alibaba for Drop Shipping

Before anything else, let’s make sure you’re not confusing Alibaba for AliExpress.

The two may appear similar to each other, and they are, for the most part. Except for one key difference:

AliExpress lets you purchase products in single quantities. This set up works with drop shipping because you can order only what you need to fulfill an order.

On Alibaba, you won’t be able to do this. Most of the suppliers you’ll find will require you to buy in bulk. It’s a marketplace that serves the more traditional retailer who purchases inventory upfront.

In other words: AliExpress is suited for drop shipping, Alibaba is not.

Advantages of AliExpress

So, what’s so great about AliExpress?

AliExpress instantly puts millions of products right at your fingertips, and practically all of them can be drop shipped. It’s the quickest way to source products for your drop shipping business.

AliExpress catalog of products

The entire catalog is conveniently divided into easy-to-navigate categories, and there’s plenty of advanced tools to help you narrow down your searches.

This lets you build a complete product line in a very short span of time. If you already have a niche in mind, all you have to do is to do a quick search and you’ll likely find a good selection to get started.

And did we mention it’s completely free to use?

That’s right. Compared to other services, AliExpress doesn’t require a membership or subscription to use.

Disadvantages of AliExpress

AliExpress isn’t without its shortcomings, though.

Most of the suppliers there are based in China. This leads to longer shipping times, and language barriers can also sometimes be a problem. You’ll also have to be wary of the occasional bad supplier.

The biggest drawback, however, is that returns are difficult to address. Most AliExpress suppliers won’t accept them, which means you’ll have to resolve those situations yourself.

Alibaba for Drop Shipping

Let’s rewind back a bit, shall we? We said that Alibaba isn’t really designed for drop shippers. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s totally useless to you.

In fact, Alibaba does have some practical applications. You might want to source products in bulk on Alibaba if you:

  • Want to negotiate for better prices.
  • Need a custom variant produced for you.
  • Plan to add a logo to the design.

Generally speaking, you’d only want to do these if you’re sure you can sell the entire inventory and still end up with a profit. Since you’re just starting out, this isn’t likely. But it’s a viable strategy in the future – especially for successful businesses – so keep it in mind.

How to Find the Best Products/Niches on AliExpress

Let’s tackle the question that everyone’s asking: How do you find the best products to drop ship on AliExpress?

The answer is a complicated one, so let’s break it down one step at a time.

Step 1: Choose Your Store Location

Where you choose to set up shop affects your niche choice. Let’s compare your three main options:

  • eBay: Drop shipping on eBay is popular because it’s one of the biggest marketplaces on the internet, and very easy to get into. It also has a very lenient policy on drop shipping, making it an ideal platform to experiment with all sorts of products and niches.
  • Amazon: Amazon’s stance on drop shipping is much stricter than anywhere else. You’ll have to adhere to some pretty tight restrictions, so you’ll have a lot less flexibility. Fees are also generally the highest on this platform, making small margin products categories difficult to compete in.
  • Independent Store: You’ll have the most freedom when drop shipping to your own independent store. This option also gives you the most opportunities to add to your brand. The tradeoff is you’ll have to drive traffic to your store yourself, so you’ll want a more focused niche that will allow you to effectively promote your business.

Pick what works for your goals. We recommend eBay if your strategy is to list as many products as possible; and an independent store if you want to focus on one niche and build a real business to support it.

Step 2: Look at What’s Available and How They’re Performing

Go to AliExpress and find products you can sell.

A good way to get an overview of the market is to type in the name of a product or niche in the search box. Sort the results by number of orders and you’ll see the best-selling products first.

how to find best selling products on AliExpress

If the top products are making plenty of sales, you might want to consider getting a piece of that action. Find similar products and start from there. You’ll be a little late to the party, but could still make some money for little effort.

On the other hand, if you’d prefer to ride a trend early (or even start one), you’d have to dig a bit deeper than the AliExpress search tool.

This is where market and product research come into play. Sounds complicated? Well, it can be.

The good news is that you can rely on third party services to do all the boring stuff for you. They’ll factor in all sorts of metrics – like sales trends, price, and competition levels – to find the most profitable products.

We recommend SaleHoo for this purpose, but we’ll get to that later.

If you enjoy a more hands-on approach, however, you can also do market research all on your own. Doing so lets you take into consideration external factors that third party services can’t.

Step 3: Consider Outside Factors

Speaking of external factors, what exactly are they? And how do they help you find the best products/niches?

  • Seasonal Demand: Some products follow patterns that you can use to find the next successful niche. Costumes and props, for example, usually see a spike in sales around October. Using this information, you could start looking for related products to ride on that upcoming wave of customers.
  • Real-World Trends: Observe. Talk to your friends, read the news, get on social media. Seriously, it exposes you to plenty of ideas and opportunities – and they’re literally everywhere. Remember when VR was starting to get a lot of buzz about 3 years ago? Imagine if you had started drop shipping VR goggles at the same time – you would’ve probably made a good amount of sales!

Next, identify the following important considerations:

  • The Value You’ll Provide. When considering a product, try to find opportunities to make them better. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. Oftentimes, simply improving its description is enough to make a product more attractive. You can also take it up a notch by building a real brand around your products. Know a lot about boats? You might want to monetize that expertise by building a boat parts drop shipping store.
  • How Much You’re Willing to Risk. When choosing a niche, think of the prices of the products you’ll be selling. You might be tempted to immediately start selling high-ticket items, but what happens when the customer who purchased that $1000 drone wants to have it returned? Yikes! You’ll probably end up with a sizeable loss on that one.
  • The Likelihood Products Will be Returned. Some products are much more likely to be returned. Apparel is a big example. If you’ve ever tried on a pair of jeans, you’ll know where this is going. Imagine if you’re drop shipping jeans and a customer realizes they don’t fit. Yup, expect them to be returned. Try to avoid these products.

When it comes down to it, the best products and niches for AliExpress drop shipping are the ones that would make you money. And making money can be done through different strategies.

It’s really a question of what you’re good at.

Are you the type to just follow pregenerated suggestions to find profitable products? Then market research tools are what you need.

On the other hand, if you’re more of an entrepreneur with a vision, then finding a profitable niche should come much more naturally to you. Just remember those outside factors we talked about to make your brand shine.

And remember, don’t be afraid to experiment and learn from mistakes. With drop shipping on AliExpress, there’s relatively little you’re putting at risk. So test a product out and adjust according to how it performs later on.

The Best AliExpress Drop Shipping Plugins and Tools

For Shopify

If you’re using AliExpress to drop ship products from AliExpress to your Shopify customers, we highly recommend using Dropified.

Dropified features

It’s designed specifically to work seamlessly between those two platforms, and you’ll be able to use its tools to their full potential.

You can read more about what Dropified can do for your drop shipping business in our review of the service, so be sure to check that out.

For WordPress/WooCommerce

If your preferred platform is WordPress, Dropified is still an excellent choice for AliExpress products. You’ll have access to the same set of powerful tools that work very well with WooCommerce and WordPress.

Enabling the service on your store isn’t as straightforward as it would be on Shopify, but it’s still very easy. You just have to copy/paste a few lines of API code into your Dropified account and you’ll be up in no time.

For eBay and Other Marketplaces

If you plan to drop ship from AliExpress to eBay or Amazon, a great tool to get started is SaleHoo.

When you subscribe to their service, you’ll get access to their Market Research Labs, which will make finding the next hot niche a breeze.

SaleHoo Market Research Labs

On top of that, SaleHoo will also connect you with a vast network of pre-vetted suppliers – taking a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. Go to our SaleHoo review to learn more about it.

You can also check out other paid services like DSM tool, it will work alongside SaleHoo to cover every aspect of your drop shipping business.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Now that you understand how AliExpress works with drop shipping, it’s time for you to get started.

It’s a great way to get into the business, thanks to a truly vast catalog of products and the absence of a membership fee. If you follow our tips, you can learn to make money just by finding those gems hidden in the marketplace. There’s also plenty of tools you can use to help you succeed.

Good luck!

And as usual, please feel free to share this knowledge with your friends.