Amazon vs. AliExpress

Amazon and AliExpress are two mega online marketplaces for direct-to-consumer goods catering to the global market. While prices are generally cheaper on AliExpress, product quality and sellers may be less reliable and shipping times are long, whereas on Amazon you pay higher prices for greater ease of communication with sellers and significantly faster delivery times. Who you choose to use will likely depend on this tradeoff.

  Amazon AliExpress
Online Marketplace    
Direct-to-Consumer Items    
Third Party Sellers    
Own Name Brand Products    
24/7 Customer Service    
Free to Use    
Customer Protections    

Intro

Being two of the biggest names in eCommerce, and both starting with the letter ‘A,’ it can be easy to confuse Amazon and AliExpress.

We’ve written this article to clarify what exactly each platform can be used for and what types of people may benefit from using them - whether you be a consumer or a business owner.

There are some key differences of note between the two, which we will cover, so that by the end of the article you will have a better idea of what platform is going to be best for your needs.

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Hint: We mention dropshipping a lot in this article. In case you haven’t heard of it, dropshipping is a popular eCommerce business model where people list products to sell online, but when an order is placed by a customer, the supplier of that product fulfills that order directly on behalf of your business, meaning you never have to have inventory on hand. Interested in finding out more? We’ve come up with a guide to get you started dropshipping in just five steps!

General Overview

Does it surprise you that Amazon is currently the 12th most visited website in the world? For an online marketplace, that’s very impressive, especially competing with social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, and Google itself.

Founded in 1994 as a marketplace for books, Amazon has come leaps and bounds since then, making it one of the most valuable companies in the world.

AliExpress didn’t come around until later, originating in China in 2010. It’s parent company, Alibaba, is a wholesale marketplace, but it didn’t have a solution for consumers who wanted to buy items individually. With increasing globalization, it saw a huge opportunity launching AliExpress and since then, they’ve never looked back!

While both are known for their inexhaustible product ranges, there are notable differences between the two.

AliExpress is known for its extremely low prices (for example you can buy a 50 piece set of gel pens for $0.95 USD), but paradoxically, cheap prices come at a cost. With no vetting process, any supplier can list on the site, which means that quality can vary and receiving a product you’re actually happy with can sometimes feel like the luck of the draw. This is coupled with long shipping times (expect up to 45 days long).

Generally, Amazon has higher prices (a 10 piece gel pen set costs $8.99), but the quality of products are high and having warehouses around the world means efficient shipping times. There is ease of seller communication with no language barrier and decent customer support is available around the clock.

General Overview Amazon AliExpress
Online Marketplace    
Company Origin USA China
Retail Suppliers    
Wholesale Suppliers    
Bulk Pricing    
Buy Per Unit    
Extensive Product Search Filters    
Range of Shipping Options    
24/7 Customer Service    
Free to Use    
Mobile App Available    
Customer Protections    
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Tip: Are you here as a business owner? We know how tricky it can be to come up with bestselling product ideas, which is why we’ve come up with a list of low-cost, high-profit margin products to get you started.

Amazon Marketplace

What is Amazon good for?

Amazon is a great go-to for all sorts of products at reasonable prices, which are usually slightly lower than in physical stores or other online retailers.

There is a huge selection of products available, which means you can compare products and suppliers without ever having to leave the platform. You can make confident buying decisions by having lots of options to appraise before choosing one.

The key benefits of using Amazon include:

  • Fast and cheap shipping times: Standard shipping in the US is only 4 to 5 days.
  • Good 24/7 customer service: Available in a range of different languages.
  • Customer reviews: Can boost your buying confidence.
  • Subscribe & Save: You can subscribe for eligible goods to be periodically delivered and save up to 15%.
  • Amazon Prime: You can become a Prime member for access to exclusive deals and faster shipping options, alongside their TV and movies streaming service.

Even though you might be paying slightly more for products on Amazon, than their AliExpress substitute, you can be assured that your order will arrive faster and is likely to be of decent quality.

What are good products to look for on Amazon?

  • Electronics
  • Homeware
  • Appliances
  • Books
  • Sports and Outdoors
  • Health and Beauty
Screenshots of Amazon Marketplace

Dropshipping with Amazon

Amazon can be used for dropshipping. It can be a place where you list items to sell and your supplier will pack and ship them out to your customers for you.

Because Amazon already gets a lot of traffic, selling on their marketplace can be a great way to establish a reputation and get sales.

There are a few guidelines you will need to follow, though:

  • You must indicate that the product comes from your business when the item is shipped out. It should not have the contact details of the supplier.
  • You will need to process and manage your own returns.
  • You cannot purchase from other online retailers and have them ship it to your customers.

Another option is to use Amazon’s service, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), where you send your inventory to one of Amazon’s warehouses for them to ship to customers once they’ve placed an order. Although, you will need to pay a fee per order for the privilege.

Who should use Amazon?

As indicated, Amazon is a great marketplace for consumers to find a whole range of goods. It may be best suited for those buyers who want fast shipping and value reliability.

Amazon can also be useful for business owners. If you’re looking to dropship, then you may wish to list your items on Amazon and have your orders fulfilled directly by your suppliers.

Alternatively, you may already have inventory for items you want to sell, in which case listing them on Amazon may be a great way to help customers to find you and get those sales rolling in. Or you can send your inventory to an Amazon warehouse to sell via FBA, by paying a fee per order.

AliExpress Marketplace

What is AliExpress good for?

AliExpress is one of the best places on the internet to source inexpensive products for all sorts of purposes. While you might not be dashing there for a high quality insulated rain jacket, or a handcrafted fine leather handbag, if you’re looking for phone accessories, beauty tools or novelty gifts, then you aren’t likely to be let down.   

The key benefits of using AliExpress include:

  • Extremely cheap pricing: It would be difficult to find cheaper products anywhere on the web.
  • Customer reviews: Can boost buying confidence.
  • 60 Day Buyer Protection: You can receive a refund if you don’t receive your order within this timeframe.

In terms of downsides, it's worth re-mentioning AliExpress’s long shipping times, which their website states can take up to 45 days. This is not so helpful if you want your items in a rush (or even to remember what they are by the time they arrive).

Another downside is that AliExpress is loosely regulated, which means there are hardly any barriers for sellers wanting to list on the site. This means you can get all sorts of less than reliable suppliers wanting to make a quick buck.

To avoid scams on the platform:

  • Read customer reviews.
  • Check the ‘orders’ count for products to see how many have already been sold.
  • Look at the supplier's rating (out of 100).
  • Look at when the supplier opened its store (generally, the longer it's been around, the more legitimate it is).
  • Read seller policies carefully, especially their returns and customer protection ones.

It’s good to understand that AliExpress’s cheap prices come with these pitfalls, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth buying from the site, you will just need to be careful.

What are good products to look for on AliExpress?

  • Jewelry
  • Accessories
  • Storage Solutions
  • Cheap Clothing
  • Novelty items
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Tip: Interested in selling online but not sure what? We’ve come up with a guide to give you some high-profit product ideas and useful market research tools.

Screenshots of AliExpress Marketplace

Dropshipping with AliExpress

Many suppliers on AliExpress are open to dropshipping arrangements if you’re interested in using AliExpress to find products to dropship.

Because AliExpress products are so cheap, you are likely to be able to sell them at a significant markup, which is why finding dropship items on AliExpress is so attractive.

The biggest risk you are likely to face is that suppliers aren’t vetted so we highly recommend ordering samples to check that you are happy with the quality of products before you start selling them to customers.

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Tip: SaleHoo vets millions of AliExpress products and suppliers so you don’t have to. Find out how you can easily and safely dropship with AliExpress using SaleHoo Dropship.

Who should use AliExpress?

AliExpress may be best for consumers who are confident in evaluating suppliers for trustworthiness and don’t mind waiting a month or more for their orders to arrive.

For business owners, AliExpress can be used to source items to dropship. We just recommend that you purchase samples to check their quality before committing to anything.

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Top Alternatives

There are lots of places where you can buy items online, either to use, dropship or resell.

While Amazon and AliExpress are two of the most popular, you may also want to check out some other marketplaces:

All of these marketplaces are free to use, so don’t be afraid to shop around and compare products and pricing.

Q&A Discussion

Do you have any further questions about Amazon, AliExpress, SaleHoo Dropship or eCommerce in general? Reach out to one of our 24/7 customer support team members on live chat to get all your business questions answered!

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