Dropshipping is an excellent way to start an ecommerce business without worrying about inventory or shipping. It’s as simple as listing a product for sale on your website and sending an email to your supplier to ship the item on your behalf whenever you get an order.
While starting a dropshipping business is a great way to launch an ecommerce business from scratch, digging deep through the web to find a reliable supplier can be tough. However, with a dropshipping tool like Oberlo, you can find millions of products that you can dropship, including products from AliExpress.
Explore this guide ✈️
How to Get Started with Dropshipping in 2021
Learn how to find high-margin products, add them into your store, and start selling — fast.
What is AliExpress?
AliExpress is an enormous marketplace with more than 100 million products available for sale. It was founded in 2010 and is owned by Alibaba, one of the world’s largest ecommerce companies, based in China.
Because most of the AliExpress sellers are overseas manufacturers, you can find trending products at a lower price. Within AliExpress, you’ll find products ranging from women’s clothing and jewelry to electronics and home decor. It’s a great place for sourcing products if you want to sell stuff online.
Does AliExpress allow dropshipping?
Yes! AliExpress makes it easy to find products to sell in your ecommerce store without having to worry about inventory or shipping. You can start dropshipping today, for free, by using Oberlo to find and add AliExpress products to your store in only a few clicks.
Here’s how it works:
- You add the products you’d like to sell from AliExpress to your store.
- You set a price with a markup.
- When you receive an order, you pay for that product at wholesale prices.
- The AliExpress seller ships the order directly to your customer.
Why use AliExpress for your online business?
While AliExpress may position itself as an online retailer, most sellers on AliExpress understand that a large number of their customers are resellers and are much more interested in dropshipping.
Dropshipping with AliExpress is also pretty easy. There’s no upfront cost or fee, so you can test out products without a big financial commitment.
Many sellers on AliExpress have existing product photos you can use on your store, and basic product descriptions are provided as well. However, when selling a commodity product don’t forget the importance of differentiation through positioning and how you polish the small details—it’s usually worth your time to invest in better photos and handwritten product descriptions.
Lastly, dropshipping using AliExpress is as simple as buying a product from the site and inputting your customer’s address after receiving their order.
Below, we’ll share in more detail what to look for in a product and seller and how to position yourself for success. But truthfully, it’s not any more complicated than what I described above. Dropshipping through AliExpress is a great way to get started selling online once you have everything setup.
Discover more: The Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping
Why would someone buy from your store if they can buy the same products on AliExpress?
With an AliExpress dropshipping business, your competitive advantage won’t be your price or unique proprietary products. Your competitive advantage will be reaching and serving your customers faster and better than your current competition—in other words, marketing, operations, and support are how you win.
Good marketing alone is a competitive advantage. Marketing is how you help customers find, evaluate, and buy your product—it’s meant to improve a customer’s experience with your store in addition to driving revenue. Marketing is also the umbrella of activities you do in pursuit of building a brand, like selecting the right domain name and creating content that’s helpful and entertaining.
Last, but certainly not least, is your customer support—a key differentiator, especially if your current competition provides lackluster service or provides a frustrating shopping experience. You can significantly improve your level of service by quickly answering customer questions and making it a priority to help them fully solve any issues they run into when buying from your store.
Can you dropship products from AliExpress to Amazon?
Technically, it is possible to dropship products on Amazon with AliExpress if you can fulfill Amazon's dropship sellers policy, but it's not really viable. That's because to sell AliExpress dropshipping products on Amazon you have to ensure your AliExpress supplier does dropshipping in alignment with Amazon's policies and that is a tough ask. However, if you're interested in pursuing this option, you can try to:
- Find a dropshipping supplier that lets you source products from AliExpress (browse for one in the Shopify App Store).
- Contact the supplier of the product you want to sell and ensure it can meet the requirements in Amazon's dropshipping policy to remove any information identifying a third-party.
- Create a Shopify store and connect it to the app that lets you source inventory from AliExpress.
- Add products to your Shopify store.
- Add the Amazon Sales Channel to your store.
- Create and manage Amazon listings from your Shopify admin.
Setting up your AliExpress dropshipping store
Now that we understand how AliExpress can help you source products as a dropshipper and why it’s important to correctly position your store, let’s move on to getting your store set up.
How to choose which AliExpress dropshipping products to sell
The first part of setting up your store is selecting a niche market, or the selection of dropshipping products you’re going to sell. If you don’t know where to start, start with the product categories AliExpress has and begin listing options based on what interests you the most or what you’d feel the most confident selling.
Once you have a distinct dropshipping niche in mind, it’s time to start choosing a few products you want to resell on your store. In this example, I chose running shoes as my store niche.
As with many categories on AliExpress, there’s a huge selection of products to choose from. This can be overwhelming and may lead to headaches if you don’t select a quality product from a reliable supplier.
While it isn’t perfect, I’ve developed a list of criteria for choosing a product. There’s no science to it, but so far it’s helped me select reliable sellers. Here are a few things I look for when selecting a product on AliExpress to dropship:
No brands, fakes, or knockoffs. I skip products with any existing branding to avoid accidentally reselling fakes and knockoffs. Since you won’t be a licensed reseller unless you work out a legal partnership with the brand in question, the risk of selling a product with anyone else’s logo on it is not worth it, even if the product is legitimate. Yes, this may ultimately limit your choices, but it will also save you a lot of trouble, so stick to product categories where a recognizable logo doesn’t matter so much, such as with electronic accessories or clothing.
EPacket delivery with free shipping. Wherever possible, focus reselling products that offer free ePacket shipping. Because a majority of products on AliExpress come from China or Hong Kong, ePacket delivery is not only the most economical but also one of the quickest options to ship small goods to the United States.
It’s important to mention that even if a seller offers ePacket shipping that’s not free, I’d rather choose a seller that offers it over a seller that doesn’t. It’s simply the most cost-effective and reliable shipping option currently available to get products from China to the Americas and Europe.
Over 300 orders. A product with a lot of orders tells me a few things. First, that there’s demand for the product. Second, it tells me the supplier is more reliable than average, as that volume of orders means it’s likely that at least a few are repeat purchases. Sometimes I’ll start looking for a new item to sell by sorting products by the highest number of orders.
Over 4.5 stars rating. I also like to ensure the products I plan to resell have a high product rating (over 4.5 stars), and that the seller has mostly positive feedback. Just to get a second opinion on product sellers, I use a Chrome extension called AliExpress Seller Check.
Using a third-party tool, I’m able to get an at-a-glance overview of a seller that’s more candid and unbiased. I’ve found this to be much more reliable than simply using AliExpress’ rating system.
Low price with a high margin potential. Depending on the product I want to resell, I like to stick with purchasing products within a $1–$20 price range. This gives me more wiggle room around spending marketing dollars to acquire a customer, as these products can be priced at $20–$50 or more. For example, I can find running shoes on AliExpress for around $20 and sell them for $50, which leaves me with a 60% profit margin before accounting for my marketing costs.
Lots of great product photos. Do your due diligence to ensure the photos are actually from your manufacturer and not taken from another retailer online. Doing a quick Google image search will help you see if the product photos are of a real brand and retailer or from the manufacturer themselves.
Communicative, helpful seller. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller questions before placing an order with them. A good reliable seller will answer all of your questions quickly. If a seller doesn’t respond to messages, that’s a big red flag.
Adding products to your store
Once you set up your Shopify store and have a product category and supplier in mind, it’s time to start adding products. This step is important to cover in detail because it’s not as simple as taking the images and description of an AliExpress listing and placing it on your website.
Instead, if you want to position your store for success, there are a few things you should consider:
Write your own product descriptions. The product descriptions for many of the products on AliExpress were not written by copywriters or with the intention of fully explaining the benefits of the products. Having your own unique content will serve your business better in the long run and will help you better convert visitors to customers on your product pages. Finally, you’ll avoid any duplicate content risks if you write original copy across all of your store’s pages.
Let customers know about delivery times. It’s a good idea to include on the product page (or elsewhere on your store) that your customers may need to wait up to 20 days, depending on the supplier, for their order to arrive. Since most suppliers on AliExpress are located in China, shipping times can be longer than average.
Use an order tracking app. With longer shipping times than most people are used to, you may receive emails from customers asking where their purchase is. Use an order tracking app from the Shopify App Store to keep your customers up to date on the status of their purchase.
Offer free shipping. Competitive shipping prices can become one of your competitive advantages, so I highly recommend offering free shipping to your customers by taking advantage of the free/low-cost shipping offered by many AliExpress sellers.
Price products appropriately. Consider pricing your products at about twice the cost. Shooting for a 50% margin will make running the business worthwhile, as well as cover necessary expenses like marketing and support.
Add products to your store with Oberlo. Instead of manually adding products from AliExpress to your website, you can use Oberlo to add them more quickly.
You can also download the Oberlo Chrome plugin to add products you see on AliExpress to your store. This helps automate importing new products as you look for items your customers will love. The Oberlo app does the work for you, you just need to browse and click.
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How to use AliExpress to dropship
Now that you have your store filled with products ready to sell and dropship, what do you do once you get your first order?
Dropshipping with AliExpress works similarly to any regular dropshipper. When you receive an order, purchase the item on AliExpress and enter your customer’s name and shipping address. The AliExpress seller handles the rest.
If you want to do this manually, it might be a good idea to have a spreadsheet handy with a list of all the products on your site, the amount you’re selling them for, the amount they cost on AliExpress, and a link to the AliExpress listing. This way, whenever you get an order, it will be easier for you to find the supplier on AliExpress as well as keep track of price changes.
Alternatively, you can use Oberlo, which can handle all of this for you, making it easier for you to purchase orders on AliExpress and watch for price changes. This approach is not only easier, it saves you a lot of time—your most valuable resource. It lets you grow without worrying about having to manually order dozens (or more) of products on AliExpress.
How does it work? It’s as simple as having the Oberlo app installed in your Shopify store, checking your orders in Oberlo, and clicking Order Product next to each pending order. From there, Oberlo does the rest. It will buy the product from AliExpress for you and insert your customer’s details.
Oberlo will even let you know when a supplier on AliExpress has changed their price or run out of stock and suggest other dropshipping suppliers.
Also, Oberlo can be a dashboard for your AliExpress dropshipping business, allowing you to track all your orders and monitor the status of deliveries.
When ordering on AliExpress, it’s a good idea to let the seller know you’re dropshipping. This way, the supplier won’t include any invoices or promotions in the package being sent to your customer. On checkout, you can leave a message for the seller. I recommend leaving a simple message such as: “We’re dropshipping. No promotions or invoices, please!” Oberlo can do this for you when you’re making a purchase on AliExpress.
Try to select ePacket shipping if the supplier is in China and they offer it as an option. Many suppliers will offer it for free. Oberlo allows you to automatically choose ePacket shipping on checkout for all orders on AliExpress.
Depending on your seller’s processing time, you’ll receive an email shortly letting you know that your order has been shipped.
Click the link in the email to view the order, which will allow you to see the tracking number for the order.
Head over to your Shopify admin and fulfill that order. Be sure to enter the tracking number, too.
If you’re using Oberlo, the order will be fulfilled for you automatically, including the tracking number, and your customer will know their order has been shipped. Feel free to skip the above step if you’re using Oberlo.
That’s it! Now it’s just a matter of waiting for your customers to receive their order. When the order arrives, AliExpress will send you an email asking for confirmation that the order was received. Allow for some time so the customer can contact you if there were any issues with the product or with delivery. This way, you can bring up the issue with the supplier through AliExpress, encouraging them to correct it and hopefully solving the problem for any future orders.
What about refunds and returns?
Many AliExpress or Alibaba dropshipping suppliers don’t offer returns. This means you’ll have to handle returns and refunds in one of a few ways. When there’s an issue with an order a customer placed on your store, it’s usually because the order never arrived or your customer is not happy with their purchase.
For the first case, an order never arriving, you’ll need to bring up the issue with your AliExpress supplier. In this situation, contact the supplier to resolve the issue or use AliExpress’ Buyer Protection.
If your customer is simply not happy with the product, it’s usually a matter of expectations—what they received wasn’t what they expected. I suggest providing a refund and seeing if there are any changes you should make to your marketing to address their feedback (in many cases, the customer simply may not have fully understood what they were ordering). If the product is damaged, ask your customer to take photos and send those photos to the AliExpress seller and go from there.
Growing your AliExpress dropshipping business
Once you’ve made your first few sales, it’s time to start looking at how you can grow your dropshipping business and make more money.
Eventually, you’ll begin to figure out who are the reliable and quality suppliers and who are not. One of the best dropshipping tips I have: build relationships with the reliable suppliers. This will allow you to get better prices and priority order processing.
I’ve found most of the suppliers on AliExpress use WeChat or WhatsApp. If you see yourself frequently ordering from the same seller, it’s a good idea to ask them for their Skype username to develop a business relationship. Once you’ve demonstrated you can bring in recurring sales, some sellers will allow you to place your logo on products or include custom invoices and branded inserts into shipping packages.
Start your dropshipping business with Oberlo
The best part about AliExpress dropshipping is that it allows store owners to quickly test and validate business ideas and products. Unsure if you’re capable of selling a certain product? Add it to your store and test it! And if it doesn’t work out, you can simply remove the item and start testing something else.
Because you’re not carrying or managing any inventory and there’s no upfront cost, there’s little risk to setting this all up. And as I mentioned, you can start for free with Oberlo.
Illustration by Pete Ryan
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AliExpress Dropshipping FAQ
Is AliExpress dropshipping dead?
AliExpress dropshipping is by no means dead. It’s still a profitable and popular business model for people who want to make money online. The big difference is that there’s more competition than in previous years.
How do I start a dropshipping business on AliExpress?
- Choose a dropshipping niche for your business.
- Find dropshipping suppliers.
- Prepare the questions you’ll ask suppliers.
- Create your online store.
- Promote your new dropshipping business.
- Get your first order.
- Follow up with customers.
What is the AliExpress dropshipping center?
The AliExpress dropshipping center helps you find new, winning products for your dropshipping store. It helps you evaluate products before you sell them and connect with different AliExpress suppliers you may not have found on the main app.
Why is AliExpress so cheap?
Items are so cheap on AliExpress because all merchants selling on AliExpress source merchandise from Chinese manufacturers. This drives costs down and helps them offer free or cheap shipping costs, too.