AliExpress is a retail platform that has been around for years. It was the driving force behind the dropshipping business model skyrocketing to popularity in the 2010’s, and it’s still used today by beginner dropshipping stores. While AliExpress isn’t well-suited to help businesses grow and scale, it still remains as one of the best options to test new products.
What We Are Going to Cover
- Why you shouldn’t use Aliexpress to scale
- Why you SHOULD consider Aliexpress for testing
- Tips and watch outs for using Aliexpress correctly
Why you shouldn’t use Aliexpress to scale
AliExpress is the grandaddy of all dropshipping platforms, even though it’s not technically a dropshipping platform. These days, however, you don’t want to depend on Aliexpress for scaling up or running consistently high volume stores. While you have to give the platform credit, as it really helped to support the explosion of dropshipping, it doesn’t offer a sustainable supply chain solution.
Customers have gotten smarter, and have higher expectations. Back in the day you could fill a general store with all sorts of generic random products, offer 1-2 months shipping, and make a lot of money. Customers might still complain, but, in those days the negative impact of customer complaints was much lower.
These days, too many complaints will get your Facebook account restricted or get your funds held by paypal, stripe, etc.
Customer complaints are a big issue when it comes to fulfilling with AliExpress. Aliexpress sellers have fewer options for cost-effective and reliable shipping options.
The main shipping line for AliExpress is Epacket. For the foreseeable future, it is no longer competitive in pricing, speed, and reliability. The majority of Aliexpress sellers do not have reliable access to special lines (Yunexpress, etc.) that are now the gold standard of cost effectiveness. Aliexpress standard shipping is decent though! Use that when you can.
Aliexpress sellers aren’t set up like a real supply chain – they’re basically like China’s Amazon that ships worldwide (e.g. they are not just for dropshipping).
Additional ways AliExpress is not set up to be a legitimate supply chain option:
- The sellers on AliExpress won’t hold enough stock to support real scaling.
- Imagine if they usually get 10 orders per day of a product…5 of them are for random customers, 5 are for one dropshipper testing
- Lead times are 5 days to get more stock
- They carry 50 units in stock at any time, plenty enough for 5 days of orders before they need to order more
- One dropshipper scales up to 100 orders per day all of the sudden…you do the math
- Typically the sellers don’t manage factories directly to resolve product quality issues, or other issues.
- Most Aliexpress sellers sell a large variety of products, at relatively lower volume each – they don’t have the volume or the time / energy to work with factories to resolve quality issues…easier for them to just refund or resend than to resolve the issues
- Inventory numbers are fake. Every AliExpress seller does it, and Aliexpress as a platform doesn’t care, so it is what it is.
- Aliexpress, by its nature, is a transactional platform – you pay them for every order as it comes in, like any other customer.
- They never know when a dropshipper might stop purchasing from them, and it’s hard for them to justify inventory risk or extra effort for a dropshipper that could leave in a week
Why you should consider Aliexpress for testing
All that said, Aliexpress is still the best option for testing products before scaling.
They’re basically like China’s Amazon that ships worldwide – for testing, this is a positive! They might not have enough stock to support scaling, but like Amazon, they surely do have SOME stock of what they are selling. This is actually a big benefit compared to dropshipping agents…no matter how good the agent is, they still have to get stock for new products.
AliExpress is also very beginner-friendly! It is so simple to put up a product page and start ordering from Aliexpress right away during the testing phase. If you’re only running at 10-20 orders per day, they’ll probably do fine…any more than that you should be finding an agent or looking into third-party logistics companies (like EcommOps).
If a product fails, just fulfill the remaining orders and you can walk away super quickly and move on to the next product. There is no sourcing or quoting process needed. The downside to using an agent to test products, is a good agent is going to take some time to source and quote products. If you’re testing a bunch of products all the time, all this time adds up, especially the % of winners won’t be high.
Tips and watch outs for using Aliexpress correctly
Using AliExpress to test products is a great choice, but there are still good ways (and bad ways) to make use of the platform. Let’s take a look at some of the do’s (and some of the don’ts) of using AliExpress:
- Do your homework on sellers that offer your product. Every seller is in a different situation. Choose 5 to 10 options and shortlist the top 3 or so with high seller ratings (ideally 95%+). Some great sellers are honestly better than many agents.
- Don’t worry as much if the the listing doesn’t have as many product ratings for what you are looking for – many sellers constantly offer new products that are selling well.
- Way more important to find a great seller who just starting selling a certain product vs a mediocre seller whos been selling a product for a while
- Have 1 or 2 backups lined up just in case something happens to your main seller so you can smoothly transition to others.
- Currently, I’d suggest using Aliexpress standard shipping as the right balance of cost and reliability…it works fine
- Epacket is still not working well
- AVOID very cheap options, small post, untracked etc…those will hurt you even during testing
- Some sellers do have options to use some special lines like 4PX, UBI, etc…opt for those if you can (more on this in a future module)
- Do try to communicate with your seller(s), even if you don’t plan on working together for the long run
- Ask them about what shipping lines to use, pictures of the product, how much stock they have (though they might not be honest)
- Remember it’s a human being on the other side, you could be surprised with how much they can help you with
- Use apps to help bulk fulfilment easier – do NOT waste your time manually putting in orders
- Use DSers – it works the best
- If you find a great seller, consider asking for a VIP link (a special link just for you) and/or CSV fulfillment as a stepping stone before scaling up
- Again, some great sellers could be better than most agents, and some sellers CAN actually support your dropshipping scaling to a certain degree
- If you find a great one there’s no reason to rush to find an agent, you can start scaling to decent levels with an Aliexpress seller while you look for the right one
- Don’t believe when listings say they have US / EU / Local shipping – most of the time they’re using a special line and just giving the last mile tracking
- Check this video for more details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwEYyjm2q_E&t
- Don’t believe stock numbers
- Communicate in simple, straightforward English
- Most sellers don’t know English very well and use translation tools. Complicated words, misspellings, slang, etc WILL lead to misunderstandings
If you test a product on AliExpress that’s successful, you don’t want to stay on AliExpress very long. You’ll need to move on to other services that are more equipped to help you scale. For small stores that may have outgrown AliExpress but aren’t ready for a 3PL, a dropshipping agent may be the best option.
For established businesses that anticipate high numbers, or are getting more than 500 orders a day, then it’s time to consider partnering with a 3PL that specializes in China fulfillment, like EcommOps. We help businesses establish real supply chains that are reliable, resilient, and flexible. Our benefits include:
- Bilingual Mandarin/English support
- Warehousing locating in Shenzhen, China
- Order fulfillment
- Inventory management
- Help businesses transition away from testing and dropshipping to genuine supply chains
If you have questions about product testing on AliExpress, or need help transitioning successful products off AliExpress, we’d love to help. You can fill out our webform, and we’ll be in touch!