AliExpress is a popular marketplace for sourcing items. With dropshipping being such a popular ecommerce business model, it’s no surprise that people would be interested in AliExpress dropshipping.
If you want to start a successful dropshipping business, then AliExpress is a valuable tool for product sourcing. You don’t need to make your own products, carry inventory, or handle the order fulfillment. It’s a low-cost way to sell in-demand products.
But is AliExpress the right way to go? Should you use the platform to source products? How will it work with your ecommerce platform? Let’s look at what AliExpress is, how to find the right products and suppliers, and how to make sure this approach is right for your business.
What is AliExpress?
AliExpress, founded in 2010, is a massive online marketplace with billions of products for sale. Alibaba, a major ecommerce company out of China, owns the store.
See more: Alibaba vs. AliExpress
Since most sellers are manufacturers overseas, it’s easy to find trending products at lower prices. You can find products to suit a wide variety of niches, from home décor to women’s clothing and jewelry, electronics, and more. The product categories are a great way to research possible niches.
What is Dropshipping?
Dropshipping is an ecommerce business model that allows you to get started with little capital. There’s no need to carry any inventory or handle shipping.
When a customer places an order, it gets sent directly to the supplier for processing. The end customer never knows a third party is involved.
Why Consider AliExpress Dropshipping
Though AliExpress is an online retailer, many sellers know that customers are resellers interested in selling products through their own dropshipping business.
With AliExpress dropshipping, there’s no upfront cost so that you can test products without an extensive budget.
Many sellers offer existing product photos and descriptions you can use on your ecommerce store to make the process easier. That said, it’s essential to know that there are many other businesses out there selling the same thing.
It’s important to edit the product descriptions to put your own spin on things and make sure they fit within your brand positioning. That may mean investing in higher-quality photos and custom descriptions.
Dropshipping with AliExpress is as easy as purchasing the product from the site and entering your customer’s address after receiving the order. Thankfully, though, with ecommerce platform integrations, you can automate the process.
Integrating your dropshipping store with AliExpress makes it easy to import products, add your pricing markup, and automatically send the order to the supplier once the customer submits payment.
Dropshipping with AliExpress Step-By-Step
Getting started with an AliExpress dropshipping business is as simple as following five steps.
Conduct Product Research and Choose What to Sell
Because so many sellers are out there selling the same products you will be, it’s necessary to make sure you find something in demand. That’s where product research comes in. While it’s tempting to go with the hottest products you can find, that may hurt you in the end as trends change.
We’ll cover how to find the right products later in this Alibaba dropshipping guide.
Setup Your Online Store with an Ecommerce Platform
Once you have an idea of what you’re going to sell, choose an ecommerce platform to build your online store. We’ve done a lot of research in this area for you, but Shopify is one of the best ecommerce platforms for dropshipping.
Set up your own online store with basic information. At a minimum, include:
- Home page
- About page
- Contact page
- Shipping policies
- Refund and Return policy pages
To create your shipping policies, refund, and refund policies pages, look at what AliExpress says about the same areas.
AliExpress dropshipping products don’t usually come with a refund. It’s up to the individual seller, so consider this as you evaluate dropshipping suppliers.
Some sellers offer free returns if you open a dispute within 15 days of receiving the order. The product cannot be used and must be in its original packaging.
You’ll have to have the customer return it to you, and then you can refund their order or offer a replacement as needed.
AliExpress does not support item exchanges. If you choose to do so, you’ll have the customer send the item back to you and then place a replacement order yourself, using the customer’s address.
Keep this in mind as you create your refund and exchange policies. You want to keep customers happy, so it may mean losing a bit of money on a sale from time to time.
Generally, customers run into one of two issues: the product never arrives, or they’re simply unhappy with the purchase.
If the item doesn’t arrive, you’ll have to contact the supplier to resolve it or use AliExpress’ Buyer Protection.
If your customer is unhappy with their purchase, it typically comes down to expectations. In this case, it’s best to offer a refund and talk to them about it. Often, it’s because they didn’t fully understand what they ordered.
Use their feedback to adjust your marketing, especially if you’re running into repeat issues with the same product.
If the product is damaged, ask the customer to provide photos. Then, send them to your AliExpress seller and proceed accordingly.
After your basic store content and policies are finished, it’s time to move on to the fun part – getting your products in place and launching your store.
Use a Dropshipping App to Import Products
Your ecommerce platform should have an app marketplace that makes it easy to connect to various dropshipping platforms to import products.
The alternative is to process all your orders manually.
When a customer places an order on your website, you purchase the item on AliExpress and enter your customer’s name and address.
Leave a seller note to let them know you’re dropshipping, so they don’t include any material that gives you away.
You can start a spreadsheet that tracks the products, retail price, your cost, the AliExpress listing, and more.
Once the supplier ships the item, you’ll receive an email with tracking information. You’ll want to take that information and send it to the customer.
While this approach would work well in the early stages of your business, it is far too
time-consuming to handle when you reach a high order volume. It also has room for a lot of error potential. You could accidentally send the wrong item to the wrong person.
Launch and Market Your Store
It’s time to launch and market your store after your products are imported, and you’ve made the necessary edits to price, photos, and descriptions.
How you market your store is entirely up to you. You’ll want to have a decent budget for things like social media advertising, email marketing, and content marketing. As you grow, you can expand those strategies and reinvest in the actions with the highest return on investment (ROI).
Because you’ll be selling the same items as other dropshipping stores, your competitive advantage won’t be a proprietary product or your pricing. So, how will you beat out your competitors?
Your competitive advantage comes with your marketing, operations, and customer support.
Wait for Customers to Place Orders
When effective, your marketing efforts should bring in customers who place orders in your store. With the right automation in place, you don’t need to do anything after placing the order. You’ll maintain customer service before, during, after the order ships.
Finding Suppliers for Your AliExpress Dropshipping Store
Without suppliers, you won’t have products to sell. Many AliExpress sellers offer the same products, and while it’s tempting to go with the best price, that’s not always the safest approach.
As you choose the suppliers, consider:
Price Isn’t the Only Indicator
A lower price shouldn’t be the deciding factor unless you’ve done your research. If all other things are the same, it makes sense to go with the lower-priced supplier. There are some instances where a lower product price may mean dealing with a supplier that:
- Isn’t as responsive
- Takes too long to ship items to customers
- Has a lower quality product
Pay Attention to Feedback
As you evaluate suppliers, look at the store rating and read feedback. Top-quality suppliers have a positive feedback rating.
If the store is poorly rated, or lacks a lot of positive feedback, proceed with caution. If you see that the store is new, you can always order a product sample and see what happens. However, with no feedback, there’s greater risk involved.
You should also pay attention to the product rating and feedback. If there are a lot of reports of poor quality or not working as expected, opt for products with higher ratings.
Not all AliExpress items are created equally. If you routinely sell items that customers aren’t happy with, you’ll damage your brand’s reputation and make it challenging to build a steady stream of revenue.
Approach Branded Products with Caution
When dealing with branded products, you’re potentially opening yourself up to legal troubles. Many famous brands have counterfeit products available at wholesale prices, making them seem like a good deal.
The problem is, the fakes will never outright say they’re fakes – and if you’re caught passing them off as legitimate items, that’s more than just upset customers.
To sell branded products legally, you must be a licensed reseller, and that only happens if you work out a partnership agreement with the brand. (That’s time-consuming and may lead to additional startup costs.)
To be safe, opt for unbranded products. Avoid selling anything that features someone else’s logo.
Look for Responsive Suppliers
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to suppliers to get answers. The suppliers that are quick to respond are the ones you want to work with. If you don’t get a response at all, that’s a good sign the supplier won’t be a good partner for your business.
It’s also a good idea to let the sellers know what you’re doing. This ensures they won’t include invoices or promotional materials in the package being sent to the customer.
Stick with Free ePacket Delivery Whenever Possible
Because most AliExpress suppliers are in China and other countries overseas, you need to be sure you can get products to customers as quickly and affordably as possible.
Today’s customers want fast shipping, and the ePacket delivery option is among the quickest and cheapest ways to get small products to the United States and Europe.
You may run across an AliExpress supplier that offers ePacket, but charges for it. In those instances, it’s better to choose that supplier than the one that doesn’t offer ePacket at all.
Before selling items, make sure you place a few sample orders. This way, you’re familiar with what the customer will experience. You’ll also be able to test the product quality. If you decide that’s the product you want to sell, you can use the sample to take your own photos, do unboxing videos, and more for marketing purposes.
Place a Few Orders with Your Competition
Find stores like yours that are selling the same products. You’ll see what their customer experience is like and compare product quality.
Choosing the Right Products to Sell
In any ecommerce business, having the right products to sell makes all the difference. This is especially true with dropshipping because there are so many options. If you choose products randomly, it’s hard to develop a niche brand. And, you run the risk of entering an oversaturated market or one that doesn’t have enough interest.
To be successful with dropshipping, you need a target market to sell products to. Those products need to speak to your target audience. Better yet, they should solve a problem.
There are a few ways you can find the products to add to your store, though the ideal solution involves using multiple methods in this list.
Consider Your Hobbies
It’s always good to start with what you know and love. If, for instance, you are an avid chess player, think about things your fellow chess players would buy. You could sell high and chess sets, clocks for timing games, books about how to play, and so on.
No matter your hobbies, it’s always easier to sell what you know. That said, just because you’re interested in something doesn’t mean there’s a high enough demand from others. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure you have multiple ideas on hand to work with. This way, if your main idea doesn’t pan out, you can continue to test with something else.
Use Product Research Tools
There’s nothing wrong with conducting your own product research, but it will be very time-consuming. Thanks to product research tools, you can harvest the power of AI and big data to help you reach your goals faster.
Product research tools are designed to help you find the best products and give you the information you need to decide whether or not you want to sell them.
There are several tools on the market, many of which provide the same basic information about the products you’re looking for. You’ll often find they show the correct prices on different supplier websites. They show the most popular products based on order rate, profit margin, social media engagement data, and sometimes competition.
Many of these tools also make it easy to import products because it’s integrated with your store’s ecommerce platform. If you don’t have an available budget for product research tools, you may find the data available for free is lacking.
Look to Social Media
Search social media for your prospective niche. Start with the platforms that your target audience is most likely to use. Pay close attention to engagement patterns.
Spend time looking at product videos on Facebook. Focus on videos with a lot of engagement. If no one has commented in the last week, chances are the product isn’t exciting enough for its intended audience. The products in the popular videos can spur ideas for products in your store.
Want an easy way to find these videos? Search for “Free Shipping” or “Discount” in the Facebook search box and select the Video tab.
Use social listening tools to find out more about what is engaging and popular at this moment. It can help you online your message with your audience’s language and behavior to create a personalized approach to your marketing.
Explore Trending Products
Trending products are a great way to get started with dropshipping, so you can capitalize on items you know people want.
They shouldn’t be the basis of your entire product catalog, though, because trends can change quickly. You’ll lose sales when certain things start to fall out of trend. And you’ll need to quickly scramble to find replacement products to keep your store up and running.
You can use product research tools like Exploding Topics to help you see whether a product is currently trending or has peaked.
See What Competitors are Doing
Find as many potential competitors as possible. Research their product offerings and see what you can figure out about how they’re sourcing and selling their products.
As you research, try to determine their pricing strategy and forecast potential new products they may sell in the future. You can remain competitive by getting (and staying) a few steps ahead of them.
If your competitors already sell a product you’re considering adding to your store, but you can’t find it at a similar price point, you could run into issues. Push that product down the list for now, and come back to it once you have established a brand with customer loyalty.
Examples of AliExpress Dropshipping Websites
Look at these examples to get an idea of what successful dropshipping websites look like. While we can’t 100% confirm these online stores use AliExpress as their suppliers, we suspect it is the case because of the shipping times they present.
Notebook Therapy is a popular Shopify store that sells notebooks, pens and pencils, washi tape, stencils, stickers, and backpacks. The shipping policy isn’t the only giveaway that this is a dropshipping store.
One of their most popular products, the Tsuki Pop-Up Pencil Case, is found elsewhere online in various places – Amazon, eBay, UpPouch, and, you guessed it, AliExpress. There are multiple listings for it, which shows several merchants selling it.
With that out of the way, let’s explore why it’s an excellent example to follow with your own store.
Notebook Therapy has gone above and beyond to build a top-notch quality website. Everything from the layout to the logo and product pages looks fantastic. At first glance, there’s no dead giveaway that it’s a dropshipping store, and that’s what you should aim for in your design.
Another area where they succeed is social media. Their Instagram has 1.5 million followers. Their Pinterest account has 25.2K followers, and it’s clear they use influencers for marketing their products and growing their brand.
How do we know? They have a page dedicated to working with influencers that encourages bloggers, YouTubers, and other content creators to apply.
It’s also worth mentioning that they offer free shipping on all orders worldwide. That is a great marketing tactic since many online shoppers don’t want to pay for shipping, no matter how long it takes.
Trendy Goods Market
Trendy Goods Market is another example of a dropshipping website.
We believe it’s done with AliExpress for the same reasons as Notebook Therapy.
One look at their shipping times tells you the products are coming from overseas. One of their prominently displayed products, a Water Drop GPS Smart Tracker, shows up with several product listings on AliExpress.
They lack branding expertise compared to the team behind Notebook Therapy. The website design is basic, and their social media is nowhere near where it could be.
A quick look at their Instagram profile reveals they’ve got nine posts and four followers. The most recent post is nearly a year old at the time of this writing, dated February 26, 2021.
The site itself is still up and running, but no one seems to be managing the social presence anymore, at least on Instagram.
Facebook shows the most recent post to their page was done on January 19, 2022, but it was gibberish, which almost appears to be a mistake.
Without that to help support their brand, there’s little to prevent people from going to competitors to get the same products.
They’re also not as niche as Notebook Therapy. Overall, they may be a newer brand, but the contrast between the two shows how important it is to think long-term about your branding.
As you plan your dropshipping business, aim to be the Notebook Therapy of whatever niche you decide is right for your online business.
How to Grow Your AliExpress Dropshipping Business
After making a few sales, start growing your operations to make more money.
With time, you’ll be able to figure out your most reliable suppliers so you can start building relationships with them. That’s critical to your long-term success as a dropshipper.
Many suppliers use WhatsApp or WeChat. If you find that you’re frequently ordering from the same seller, ask them for their Skype username or another method of contact like WhatsApp. You can use this to build your business relationship. After you’ve shown them you can bring in repeat sales, some sellers are open to putting your logo on products or even including branded inserts and custom invoices into the packages they ship for you.
Examine your marketing strategy to find out what worked. Invest more money there. Try adding new products and testing them with your audience. Keep repeating tests until you’ve greatly expanded your product offerings.
Expand your marketing efforts. Reach out to influencers.
Start the process over again with another popular niche you enjoy.
Success with AliExpress Dropshipping Starts with Research
For your dropshipping business to succeed, you need to spend plenty of time in the research phase.
If you skip the product research phase and try to sell the first thing that catches your eye, you may find it difficult to impossible to earn a profit.
If you skip the supplier research phase, you may end up working with a vendor that promises products that don’t live up to your expectation or one that doesn’t process and ship orders on time.
If you’re ready to start dropshipping with AliExpress, we’d love to hear about your progress.