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Wei Linchao

Wei Linchao

Dropship and Logistics Specialist, the founder of Bestfulfill that help you with order fulfillment from product sourcing, shipping, branding, and customized package.

Taobao vs AliExpress Dropshipping: A Comprehensive Guide

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Taobao and AliExpress are two of the largest Chinese online marketplaces. They are conveniently accessible from anywhere in the world and offer an extensive variety of goods at very friendly prices. Suffice to say, they are a shopper’s version of heaven. 

However, while they are both great platforms for sourcing goods for dropshipping, they are not identical. It is, therefore, essential to evaluate and understand how each of them works so that you can pick the best option to use for your dropshipping business. 

Wondering where to start? Well, wonder no more. In this guide, we will highlight what each platform has to offer and compare Taobao vs AliExpress dropshipping to help you make an informed choice between the two. 

Let’s get right into it, shall we?

A Brief Introduction to Taobao and AliExpress

Taobao and AliExpress are eCommerce platforms owned by the Alibaba Group. They are both retail-oriented and thus sell directly to individual buyers or businesses that may not yet be able to buy in very large quantities. 

It is possible to dropship on Taobao and AliExpress but the process works differently because the platforms are not identical. Let us examine each of them in more detail.

Taobao Dropshipping

Taobao was founded in May of 2003. It is a B2C (Business-to-Customer) and C2C (Customer-to-Customer) e-commerce platform. This means that you can buy goods from wholesalers and retailers (B2C) or from fellow customers that are registered on the platform(C2C). 

It is quite easy for vendors to sign up and begin selling on Taobao. As a result, there are about 8 billion products listed on the platform. Shoppers also flock to Taobao due to its low prices and frequent sale offers on different goods. 

On the downside, everything on the Taobao platform is written in Chinese, and most suppliers on the platform are not fluent in English. You would, therefore, need to learn how to translate Taobao to English to make it easy to navigate the site and find what you need. Alternatively, you could also explore solutions such as: 

  • Using image searches – Taobao has an inbuilt image search option that allows you to upload a photo of the product you are looking for and use it to find suppliers that sell it on the platform. It comes in handy if you do not speak Chinese and are thus unable to run a search using a keyword although it only works on mobile devices.
  • Work with a Taobao agent- professional Taobao agents speak English fluently. You would simply tell them what you need and they will find it for you. 

How Does Dropshipping on Taobao Work?

1.Translate Taobao into English

Open the Taobao website using Google Chrome. Click on the menu button at the far end on the right of your screen then scroll down and click on translate. This will bring up a prompt that enables you to translate the web pages into English. You can learn more about other translation options here

2.Find a Supplier

Use keywords or the image search option to find the products you would like to offer in your dropshipping store. Scroll through the results and pick out the search results that match what you are looking for. If you do not find any suitable results, you can consult your Taobao agent and they can help you find it. 

Pro tip: you could find a wider variety of products by simply changing your browser location to Mainland China.

3.Start Dropshipping

If you do not speak Mandarin, it can be difficult to communicate with sellers on Taobao to find it if they are willing to dropship. It is much easier to partner with a professional Taobao agent and have them handle the order fulfillment for you. They can also handle other tasks such as: 

  • Performing quality inspections of the goods you order from suppliers 
  • Collecting and warehousing the goods on your behalf 
  • Packaging and arranging for expedited shipping of your dropshipping orders
  • Product photography to provide you images to display in your dropshipping store

Pros and Cons of Taobao Dropshipping

Pros: 

  • Taobao has an outstanding variety of goods– it is easy to find what you need and even discover new products that may take a while to pop up on other platforms.
  • Good product quality- most of the products are of great quality as they are made for the local Chinese population which is very discerning. 
  • A great rating system- the Taobao vendor rating system is based on customers’ experiences and can help you avoid unreliable vendors. 
  • Business-friendly prices- the prices of goods on Taobao are, in most cases, considerably lower than those on other platforms. 

Cons: 

  • Language barriers- it can be difficult to source goods on Taobao if you do not speak Chinese. Online translation is also not always very clear and may not capture some parts of product descriptions.
  • Cumbersome payment methods- Alipay is Taobao’s official mode of payment. Its sign-up process for foreigners is rather difficult and payments do not always go seamlessly even for those that manage to set up an account. 
  • Higher shipping costs- while the prices of goods on Taobao are low, the cost of shipping is often high. Moreover, Taobao’s consolidated shipping does not support dropshipping fulfillment and so you would need to make separate arrangements for your customers to receive their orders.

AliExpress Dropshipping

AliExpress was set up in 2009. Unlike Taobao which was designed with a focus on Chinese buyers, AliExpress was made to rival international e-commerce platforms like Amazon. It is a B2C e-commerce platform that hosts millions of suppliers selling retail goods at wholesale prices. 

All product descriptions, categories, and vendor information on the AliExpress website are in English. Most suppliers are also able to communicate in English and attend directly to customer queries. This makes the platform easily accessible even if you do not speak Chinese.

Further, due to the international outlook of AliExpress, it is more optimized for dropshipping. Suppliers on the platform understand how dropshipping works and you can message them directly and work out a dropshipping arrangement where you share orders with them and they fulfill them. 

How Does Dropshipping on AliExpress Work?

1.Find Suppliers

Log onto the AliExpress website and use keywords to search the product you would like to dropship. The site will offer you a list of product options that you can browse through to find what you need. There are also filters that you can use to refine your search results.

2.Choose a Supplier

Take time to examine the search results. Compare their quality, supplier ratings, and pricing. If all important factors align, reach out to the supplier and find out if they can fulfill your drop shipping orders. 

3.Start Dropshipping

Once all details are agreed upon, you share the orders that customers place in your dropshipping store with your supplier for fulfillment.

Pros and Cons of AliExpress Dropshipping

Pros: 

  • Accessibility- It is easy to find products on the AliExpress site and consult suppliers directly whenever you need to.
  • Competitive prices- The prices on AliExpress are more affordable and often inclusive of shipping.
  • It is easy to pay- AliExpress accepts convenient methods of payment such as credit cards, bank transfers, and Paypal.
  • Buyer protection- AliExpress has a buyer protection provision that you can use to initiate a refund and the refund policy also allows you to send back a product within 15 days of delivery.
  • Shipping support-  AliExpress supports shipping options like Yanwen and ePacket which work well with small packages such as those often sent in dropshipping. Some vendors also offer free shipping from time to time. 

Cons: 

  • Long delivery times– most methods of shipping on AliExpress take about a month or more to get the product to customers.
  • Product quality issues – there are lots of products listed on AliExpress but most of them are cheap because they are low-quality items. 
  • A limited product variety– AliExpress offers millions of products but the varieties are not very unique and you may have a hard time making your store stand out from your competitors.

Taobao Vs AliExpress Dropshipping Compared

Now that you understand how dropshipping works on Taobao and AliExpress, let us compare their differences for the final verdict, shall we?

a. Product Variety

Taobao has both B2C and C2C suppliers and thus has a wider product selection than AliExpress. Taobao also offers a more unique variety of products that your dropshipping competitors may not have access to on other platforms.

b. Pricing

Taobao prices are often quite a bargain. The only problem is, they tend to go up once shipping is added to the price. AliExpress, on the other hand, offers affordable prices too but they are often inclusive of pricing. 

Consequently, AliExpress could be the better platform if you are keen on all-inclusive prices. However, if you will be using a dropshipping agent to handle your fulfillment on Taobao, shipping costs may not inflate the price as much. 

c. Shipping

AliExpress supports multiple shipping options that are dropshipping-friendly. Unfortunately, they take unbearably long to get to the recipient which can be a deal-breaker for most of your customers. In contrast, Taobao does not offer any dropshipping-friendly options but allows you to make your shipping arrangements. 

Suffice to say, none of these platforms offer ideal shipping options and it may be in your best interests to loop in the services of a dropshipping agent to handle order fulfillment. 

d. Product Quality

Product quality standards on Taobao are marginally higher than those of AliExpress. However, on both of these platforms, it is essential to pay attention to seller ratings and prices. In most instances, if the price is far lower than the average market price of the item, the product may be substandard. 

e. Buyer Protection and Return Policies

Both AliExpress and Taobao have, at one point or another, come under scrutiny due to unscrupulous sellers that: 

  • Ship substandard items
  • Ship items that do not match the description
  • Delay shipping well past the agreed timelines or fail to fulfill orders entirely
  • Scammed buyers

These and other challenges led AliExpress to create a more robust buyer protection policy and refunds and return policy. Unfortunately, Taobao is behind on this and has a very short returns window. 

f. Ease of Use

AliExpress is much easier to use than Taobao, especially if you are new to dropshipping. All details are available in English which is widely spoken and the payment options are also more accessible to most dropshipping entrepreneurs.

The Verdict

All factors considered, there is no right or wrong choice between dropshipping on Taobao or AliExpress. Choosing between them only comes down to one question: what do you need? 

AliExpress could be ideal if you would like a simple website that offers everyday dropshipping items at affordable prices. You may, however, have to put up with lengthy shipping times. In comparison, Taobao would be recommendable if you are looking for great bargains and a wide collection of unique products. All you would need is a good Taobao agent to help you navigate the site and other dropshipping functions. 

We, at Bestfulfill, offer a comprehensive range of dropshipping services and have customer care agents to offer you support at all times. Are you ready to start your dropshipping journey? Simply reach out to us with your dropshipping requirements and request a free quote

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