Alibaba Dropshipping 101: All You Need to Know to Start Dropshipping in 2022

Martin

Are you interested in Alibaba dropshipping? Want to start your own dropshipping business and source products from Alibaba? If so, it means that you have neglected the recent rumor that dropshipping is dead. Good for you!

According to Statista, dropshipping was quite popular in 2020. And that trend is likely to continue into 2021, 2022, and so on.

If you want to learn more about Alibaba dropshipping and how to source products from Chinese suppliers, you have come to the right place.

So, let’s get started.

Alibaba dropshipping: The marketplace explained

The Alibaba Group is a Chinese company that specializes in retail and e-commerce. The company was founded in 1999. And its main purpose was to connect Chinese manufacturers and suppliers with global wholesalers and retailers.

alibaba group dropshipping

Today, it is actually one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world. Several online marketplaces are owned by this company. And some of these marketplaces include Alibaba.com, AliExpress, Tmall, and Taobao. Take a look at the picture below to see which companies Alibaba owns.

alibaba corporation

In this article, we will refer to Alibaba.com as Alibaba. Now, let’s discuss what kind of company Alibaba is and what it does.

alibaba dropshipping dashboard

It is a huge B2B (business-to-business) online marketplace, meaning that it can help you connect your business with other companies and conduct business all in one place.

And you can source literally any kind of product from there. It is almost easier to list what you can’t find on Alibaba.

But, joking aside, it is a big marketplace with millions of products and a large number of reputable and trustworthy merchants.

Sure, you might get scammed from an unreliable vendor on Alibaba, similar to other marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. But Alibaba offers Trade Assurance. This is a verification program that allows you to only work with verified, reputable suppliers.

But is Alibaba dropshipping allowed? You will just have to keep reading to find out.

Does Alibaba support the dropshipping business model?

Technically, you can start Alibaba dropshipping and make money online through your dropshipping store. Alibaba does support the dropshipping business model.

But it is actually a bit harder to find and work with dropshipping suppliers on Alibaba compared to dropshipping with AliExpress.

Why? Because the majority of suppliers or merchants on Alibaba typically sell a large number of products to retailers and wholesalers. Many Alibaba suppliers are not able or willing to sell and ship a single item to your customers.

But this does not mean that you can’t start dropshipping with Alibaba. Just read on to find the right approach to take.  

Pros and cons of Alibaba dropshipping

Before we go any further, we must create a list of the pros and cons of Alibaba dropshipping.

And we hope that our pros-and-cons list will assist in your future decision-making process and help you make a sensible decision regarding Alibaba dropshipping.

Pros

  • Huge product selection. Alibaba offers customers a huge selection of products. On the marketplace, you can find products across many categories, including Apparel, Textiles & Accessories; Bags, Shoes & Accessories; Electronics; Gifts, Sports & Toys; and more. More interestingly, the number of Alibaba items available for dropshipping is constantly growing.
  • Wholesale pricing. The marketplace is an excellent place to buy products at wholesale prices and then resell them and make a good profit margin. Simply put, Alibaba merchants who sell their products in large quantities often set very low prices for their products. As a result, retailers or those who buy these products can enjoy a good profit margin.
  • Possibility to negotiate prices with suppliers. Unlike with AliExpress dropshipping, with Alibaba dropshipping, you can bargain the price of an item with the supplier. To do so, you need to start the ordering process and move to the ‘Negotiate with Supplier’ section. In short, as a dropshipper sourcing from Alibaba, it is possible for you to negotiate a better price.
  • Product customization options. Many products listed on the marketplace are customizable. But what does this mean? This means that many Alibaba suppliers are willing to customize their products in a way that will please you and your customers. This is great if you are interested in private label dropshipping.

Cons

  • MOQ. One of the most common challenges many dropshippers face when searching for products and suppliers on the marketplace is the Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ). It is the lowest amount of a certain item that a supplier is willing to sell. Sure, many Alibaba suppliers do not sell to the end-consumer. They sell in bulk to wholesalers. However, some suppliers on the marketplace will allow you to buy as few as one item from them. Also, it is important to point out that the MOQ is almost always negotiable on Alibaba.
  • A bit challenging to find dropshipping suppliers and products. Again,it can be a bit challenging to find Alibaba suppliers/sellers that are willing to offer dropshipping services. Yeah, it is hard but not impossible. But more about that later. (We will more thoroughly analyze it in one of the following sections.)
  • Long shipping times and high shipping costs. Shipping from China to, let’s say, Europe or the United States, may be pricey due to the distance. When it comes to the shipping times, if an order is shipped by boat, your customer may wait for a couple of weeks to receive their order. But if it is shipped via air, your customer will surely receive their order faster. Each supplier on Alibaba has their own shipping times and costs. So, it would be wise to negotiate with a potential supplier to lower potential shipping times and costs.

How to start dropshipping with Alibaba

For first-time dropshipping entrepreneurs, Alibaba dropshipping might seem a bit challenging. In this simple guide, we are explaining how to start dropshipping from China to the USA almost immediately.

However, the marketplace is a perfectly safe place to find dropshipping products to sell online, provided that you know how to do that the right way.

But how do you know what to watch out for? And how can you start sourcing from Alibaba like a seasoned entrepreneur? Do not worry – we are here to help you out with this.

Before you start dropshipping with Alibaba, you need to use dropshipping product research tools to find what to sell online and identify a dropshipping niche. Then, here are the steps you will want to follow.

Read More: Choosing the best dropshipping niche in 2022.

1. Create an account

To start dropshipping with Alibaba, you need to create an Alibaba account. So, simply go to Alibaba.com. Then, go to the Login page and click “Join Free” to register a free account.

You will be asked to provide certain information, including your name, country, e-mail address, phone number, company name, trade role, etc.

As for the trade role, you need to select “Buyer” because you are looking to source products from Alibaba and resell them through your own dropshipping store, right?

2. Find suppliers and products

Finding dropshipping suppliers on Alibaba is probably the most challenging part of starting an Alibaba dropshipping business. That’s why we will discuss everything you need to know about this in more detail.

There’re three common ways to search for products and suppliers on Alibaba.

• Do your own search and ask your potential suppliers if they offer dropshipping services

You can do your own search and find suppliers that are willing to dropship and do the order fulfillment process for you on Alibaba.

But keep in mind that this is the hardest option to find dropshipping suppliers and start dropshipping with Alibaba.

Namely, if you choose this option, you can filter by “Products” or “Suppliers”. 

alibaba dropshipping guide

You can search for products based on product descriptions, (e.g., “beauty products for women,”). After typing that keyword in the search bar and selecting “Products”, thousands of results will appear.

alibaba product research
What to look for on a product page?

Now let’s see what you need to look for on a product page. In this article, we will use a product description example and listing for a “men’s jacket”. And here is what you need to look for on a product page on Alibaba:

alibaba product page
  • Unit price and FOB. One of the first and most important things you will definitely want to check before you start Alibaba dropshipping is the product price. In the example above, you can see that the unit price is $8.00 – $12.00. Unit price is the price for a single item. When it comes to the FOB, you can see that you need to click on a link to find out the FOB price of the jacket. FOB is an acronym that stands for “Free on Board,” meaning that the supplier bears all the costs of delivering the product to the nearest port. And you, i.e., the customer, will have to pay to get the product from that port to its final destination.
  • Minimum order quantity (MOQ). Another key consideration here is the MOQ or the minimum order quantity. In the same example, you can see that the fewest number of units you need to purchase at one time is 500 pieces. Sure, this might be negotiable. And it is possible for you to find Alibaba dropshipping suppliers that have a MOQ of one product. One important thing we want to mention here is that oftentimes, the minimum order quantity of a product is visible front-and-center. But, sometimes, you must scan the page to find that information.

Another option is to select “Suppliers” and search for manufacturers or suppliers specializing in a certain product (e.g., beauty products for women.)

alibaba dropshipping suppliers
What to look for in a supplier?

You can use the left sidebar to find the right supplier for your product.

alibaba supplier types

It would be wise to use the filters “Trade Assurance” and “Verified Supplier”. This way, you can find and work with inspected, verified, and reliable suppliers.

In addition, “Fast Dispatch” and “Ready to Ship” are also great options to check. Why? Because there is a greater likelihood that suppliers that meet these criteria offer dropshipping services.

When contacting a supplier, you need to ask them if they are able and willing to ship their products directly to your customers.

• Use the Alibaba Dropshipping Center

If you want to start Alibaba dropshipping and find dropshipping suppliers and products on Alibaba in no time, using the Alibaba Dropshipping Center is a smart choice.

alibaba dropshipping 101

The Alibaba Dropshipping Center is a free tool that can help you quickly search for dropshipping products with fast processing times, low shipping costs, and no MOQ on Alibaba.

It has a few important features, including:

Search Products
search  products to sell

Thanks to the “Search Products” feature of the Alibaba Dropshipping Center, you can find products without a minimum order quantity. Just select a category (consumer electronics, apparel, home & garden, etc.) and you will see many products under that category.

best products to sell from alibaba

Take the category “Apparel”, for example. There are a variety of clothing items in this category, and all of them have fast processing times and no MOQ.

Import List
alibaba import list

But aside from allowing you to find great dropshipping products and suppliers, the Alibaba Dropshipping Center also lets you add your chosen products to your import list with one single click. You can find the products you have added by using the “Import List” feature.

My Store
my store profile

This is also one of the key features of the Alibaba Dropshipping Center. Here, you can connect your WooCommerce or Shopify store to Alibaba.

Once you have done this, importing products from Alibaba to your dropshipping store is quite easy.

To do so, you simply need to find products, add them to your import list, make them ready for their listings (add product names, descriptions, images, variants, etc.), and hit the “Push to store” button.

This is great for dropshipping, right?  But bear in mind that the Alibaba Dropshipping Center is only compatible with Shopify and WooCommerce stores. Also, the product categories it offers are kind of limited.

• Hire a dropshipping agent

If you are not interested in doing your own search or using the Alibaba Dropshipping Center, then you may want to hire a dropshipping agent.

Well, many dropshipping agents do product sourcing and fulfillment from AliExpress. However, there are not too many agents out there that are willing to help you make the entire Alibaba dropshipping process easier.

But you can read our previous article to learn more about how to find a dropshipping agent.

3. Evaluate potential suppliers

Unless you hire a dropshipping agent, you must evaluate and create a list of potential suppliers. Remember that the ideal dropshipping supplier is the one who:

  • Carries the product you want to sell;
  • Is able to ship directly to your customers;
  • Allows you to buy one item at a time;
  • Has wholesale prices;
  • Has good reviews;
  • Is verified and offers Trade Assurance.

Yeah, we know that it is not easy to find a supplier that offers all this. But we hope that you can find one that meets at least some of these criteria.

Once you have created a list of several potential suppliers, you need to contact and negotiate with them.

4. Contact and negotiate with them

Now that you have identified a few potential suppliers, you need to contact them and negotiate a deal. To do so, you need to click on the “Contact Supplier” button or use the “Chat Now” instant messaging tool. Take a look at the picture below.

contact supplier on alibaba

When contacting the supplier, make sure you:

  • Introduce yourself and provide some info about your dropshipping business;
  • Describe what you are interested in;
  • Ask them if they offer dropshipping services.

Then, you need to negotiate agreeable terms with them. Just try to do so like a professional and strive for a win-win solution. In short, be reasonable when negotiating with them.

For instance, if one item costs $15, do not ask the supplier to drop the price to $3. You want to negotiate a fair price without offending the supplier, don’t you? Plus, you do not want to be dismissed as a non-serious buyer, right?

5. Add products to your store

Want to seamlessly add dropshipping products from Alibaba to your online store?

Although most integration tools are suitable for sourcing AliExpress dropshipping products, some can help you add products from Alibaba to your dropshipping store within a few clicks.

As mentioned above, the Alibaba Dropshipping Center allows you to start Alibaba dropshipping with Shopify or WooCommerce. But that’s not all that it has to offer.

Namely, the Alibaba Dropshipping Center has partnerships with a few companies.  Some of these companies are Modalyst, Spocket, Syncee, and Dropified.

This means that you can unlock some new features when using it.

Or more specifically, you will be able to use many other e-commerce platforms for your online store (not only Shopify or WooCommerce), import dropshipping products to your online store within a few clicks, automate the order fulfillment process with Alibaba suppliers, and so on.

How to start Alibaba dropshipping with Shopify

As you can see, the Alibaba Dropshipping Center along with its partnerships can help you start dropshipping with Shopify and source products from Alibaba.

But Importify is another powerful tool that can help you import dropshipping products from Alibaba to Shopify. So, now, let’s see how to use it to source products from Alibaba for your Shopify store.

  • Install Importify and subscribe to one of its pricing plans.
  • On the Home Page of Importify, select Alibaba.com.
  • Find the item you want to sell through your dropshipping store and click on it to get more details about the item.
  • You will see the “Add” button on the left side of the product page. If that’s the product you want to import to your store, tap the “Add” button.
  • Then, you will see a window where you can edit your product details, including the product title, description, etc.
  • Once this has been done, simply hit the “Add to your Shopify” button.

That’s it. If you follow the steps above, you will successfully add dropshipping products from Alibaba to your Shopify store using Importify.

Alibaba Dropshipping FAQ

What is the difference between AliExpress and Alibaba dropshipping?

Both AliExpress and Alibaba are large Chinese online marketplaces.

But the main difference between them is that AliExpress sellers can sell their products to the end-consumer, whereas Alibaba sellers usually engage in B2B transactions.

As we have already said, it is easier to find and work with dropshipping suppliers on AliExpress than on Alibaba.

However, Alibaba dropshipping has its own advantages. And Alibaba can be a great platform for dropshipping entrepreneurs.

Is Alibaba dropshipping worth it?

Well, dropshipping with Alibaba can be a great option for you if you know the right approach. The marketplace was known as an excellent place to purchase products in bulk.

And it was not suitable for dropshipping because of the high minimum order quantity requirements. But, this has recently changed thanks to the launch of the Alibaba Dropshipping Center.

Sure, it is up to you to decide whether you want to source products from Alibaba for your dropshipping store. You know your business goals and needs better than anyone else.

Final thoughts

Do you agree with us that Alibaba is not only suitable for wholesalers and retailers, but for dropshippers as well? Are you ready to become an Alibaba dropshipping store owner?

Do not waste your time, and go after that! Just remember that this role asks for focus, hard work, and, of course, resilience.