AliExpress vs. TaoBao
AliExpress and TaoBao are both online direct-to-consumer marketplaces, serving different markets. While both are owned by Alibaba Group, they are not the same. AliExpress was launched as the global platform for Chinese sellers to reach international buyers whereas Taobao was developed for the Chinese market, or at least those that speak Mandarin!
|Third Party Sellers|
|Global Market Focus|
|Chinese Market Focus|
It’s easy to wonder whether AliExpress and Taobao are the same, considering they are both based in China and have the same parent company, that being Alibaba Group.
However, while they are both online marketplaces for third party suppliers to sell their products, they serve different markets. AliExpress was launched to serve the global market and allow Chinese suppliers to reach international buyers whereas Taobao is the go-to marketplace for buyers within China.
In this article we explain the difference between the two platforms, which is cheaper and then in our opinion, which one we think is better. Then we answer some frequently asked questions such as, can you buy from Taobao in the US?
Without much further ado, let’s get into it!
Heads up: Are you considering using AliExpress or Taobao to source products to sell online? We’ve come up with a list of low-cost, high-profit margins items to get you started!
What is the Difference between AliExpress and TaoBao?
AliExpress was launched in 2010 as Alibaba Group’s attempt at connecting Chinese suppliers to the global market. It worked! AliExpress now has millions of customers worldwide and reported (approximately, when adjusted for the exchange rate) USD $72 billion of revenue in 2020.
On it, you can find millions of cheap products in all sorts of categories from electronics to homeware. The AliExpress site is available in a range of languages and offers shipping to most locations worldwide.
You can also use AliExpress to dropship. This is where you sell AliExpress items under your own business name at a higher price (you pocket the difference), but get the suppliers of those items to fulfill your orders directly, meaning you never have to hold your own inventory. Of course, there’s more to a dropshipping business than that which you can learn more about here.
Taobao was launched in 2003 as an online retail marketplace for Chinese buyers. Like AliExpress, you can find a virtually inexhaustible range of cheap products on Taobao, but it may not be the right platform for international buyers to use.
The Tabao site is currently only available in Chinese, which makes it pretty inaccessible, unless you know Mandarin, of course. You could use Google Chrome to translate each page you visit, but this is likely to be a clunky experience, plus there’s the potential that it will lead to translation inaccuracies. That probably won’t exactly instill buying confidence!
Taobao also has a larger range of products than AliExpress (they topped 1 billion in 2016). Check out our side-by-side comparison table below:
|Parent Company||Alibaba Group||Alibaba Group|
|Third Party Sellers|
|Site Available in English|
|Global Market Focus|
|Chinese Market Focus|
Tip: AliExpress can be used to dropship worldwide! Check out our guide on how to start a dropshipping business in 5 steps.
Is AliExpress or Taobao Cheaper?
Taobao is generally cheaper than AliExpress because it is used to sell to the domestic Chinese market. On AliExpress, suppliers can get away with charging higher prices to international customers, who generally have more disposable income and are less price sensitive.
However, prices on AliExpress definitely aren’t something to frown about. Even if they’re slightly higher than you’d find on Taobao, they are still some of the cheapest to be found on the web, and certainly cheaper than buying similar items in your home country.
Is AliExpress or Taobao Better?
Taobao really does lead in terms of price and product selection, but because the site is only available in Chinese, it might not be a usable option. Unless, of course, you want to brave it using the Google Chrome browser translation feature.
Ultimately, AliExpress, is still a great option to go with as an international buyer, and it is likely to improve even more in coming years, as more sellers start using the platform - not that the platform is anything to scoff at currently. You’ll probably find it just fine for your needs.
If you really want to use Taobao, though, it might be time to whip out the Mandarin language dictionary, or at least get a Chinese friend to help you buy from the site.
Tip: Want to find out more about dropshipping? Check out our guide on how to get started on AliExpress.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I buy from Taobao in the US?
Heads up, the Taobao website is only available in Chinese, but, if you’re an English speaker who is determined to use it, then you can use the Google Chrome browser translator to use the site. Beware, that while possible, this may not be the easiest process to execute if you aren’t using the original Chinese version of the site.
- Step 1: Set up a Taobao account
- Step 2: Add your US address to your account.
- Step 3: Add items to cart selecting a shipping carrier to the US from the ones available.
- Step 4: Pay using Credit Card (easiest for international customers).
Does TaoBao ship to the US? How long does it take TaoBao to ship to the US?
It is generally accepted that shipping takes 3-5 weeks to the US. You’ll also have to get the supplier to first ship it to a transfer station in China before they ship it to the US. Unlike AliExpress, shipping using TaoBao is never free and not a few dollars. Depending on how large and heavy your product is, shipping fees are around $15 or higher!
How do I browse Taobao in English? Is it possible?
The Taobao site is currently only available in Chinese. You can always get a Chinese speaking friend to help you buy from the site, if you don’t speak the language yourself.
Another option is to use Google Chrome to translate the page, but beware of translation inaccuracies.
Can you use an AliExpress account on TaoBao?
Nope - you will need to set up a separate Taobao account, even though both sites are owned by Alibaba group.
There are many other online marketplaces based in China that might be better for your needs.
Below we’ve linked some other options to check out (we promise that all these sites are available in English!)
Do you have further questions about AliExpress, Taobao or SaleHoo? Reach out to one of our team members via live 24/7 customer support chat and we’ll be happy to help.
Otherwise, we hope this article has helped you understand these two platforms a bit better: similar but definitely not the same!