Alibaba Dropshipping Explained: A Guide For Beginners

In this article, we’ll explore Alibaba dropshipping.

 min read
May 7, 2024
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We’ve used Alibaba to find suppliers. However, we usually choose Alibaba when we want to create custom products or buy in bulk.

But you can find suppliers that sell individual products, making Alibaba a great option for dropshipping.

This article will explain how to use Alibaba for dropshipping, help you decide if it’s the right option for you, and much more.

Let’s get into it.

Key Takeaways

  • Alibaba dropshipping is using Alibaba to find a supplier for your products.
  • You can source almost any product from Alibaba.
  • Alibaba is a business-to-business marketplace. So, generally, it’s a better option for bulk purchases. However, some suppliers will accept individual orders. You can use the filters to find these suppliers.
  • AliExpress is part of the same group as Alibaba. AliExpress is the business-to-consumer option and integrates with more dropshipping automation software, making it a better choice for dropshipping.

What Is Alibaba Dropshipping?

Alibaba is a marketplace you can use to find dropshipping suppliers.

Let’s break that down.

What is Alibaba?

Alibaba is a Chinese business-to-business e-commerce platform. 

Alibaba has over 20 million products available from over 200,000 suppliers.

There is often a minimum order quantity as it's designed for businesses to buy in bulk. 

There are suppliers that offer a smaller quantity. This makes it possible for dropshippers to use Alibaba, but it’s not necessarily the most straightforward option.

However, Alibaba does have another platform in its family. AliExpress. AliExpress is a business-to-consumer platform that offers individual product purchases. AliExpress might be a better place to find a supplier for your dropshipping store.

What is Dropshipping?

Dropshipping is a method of selling online that doesn’t require you to hold stock.

It works as follows:

  • Find a product to sell and list it on your website.
  • Source the product from a supplier. In this case, we would use Alibaba to search for a supplier.
  • When you receive an order on your site, you contact the Alibaba supplier to place the order. The supplier then ships the order directly to the customer.

We’ll look at exactly how to do this later in the article.

Can I Dropship With Alibaba? 

Yes! Alibaba is a popular choice for dropshippers to source their products. 

It’s generally a safe and legal place to find suppliers. There is also a wide range of products.

Often, the suppliers on Alibaba are either the manufacturers or work with the manufacturers. Working directly with those that made the products means you can source products cheaply.

However, this often means that the suppliers have a high minimum order quantity. 

But there are suppliers that accept individual purchases, so it can be used for dropshipping.

Another benefit of using Alibaba to find your dropshipping supplier is that it integrates with automation software. Automation software automatically manages your order and fulfillment process. Saving you tons of time and effort. 

Should I Do Alibaba Dropshipping? 

If you can find a supplier that has your product available, offers a fast shipping time, and has a single item minimum order, then yes! Alibaba could be a great option for your dropshipping store.

However, as it’s a business-to-business platform, it can be difficult to find a supplier that accepts individual orders. 

Let’s look at the pros and cons in more detail. They’ll help you decide if it’s the right choice for your dropshipping store.

Pros of Dropshipping with Alibaba

  • Low Prices - As a buyer, you can connect directly with the manufacturers on Alibaba. Cutting out the middleman makes prices cheap. 
  • Huge Variety of Products - With over 2 million products, you can find almost any product you want.
  • Integrates with Dropshipping Software - Alibaba is a popular marketplace for finding dropshipping suppliers. So, dropshipping software, like AutoDS, has created an integration that connects your dropshipping store with Alibaba. AutoDS has several tools, like price and stock monitoring, order fulfillment, and more.
  • Prices are Negotiable - Working directly with manufacturers means you can negotiate prices. Usually, the larger the quantity of your order, the cheaper the price.
  • Customizable - If you want to personalize a product, add your own logo, or use your own packaging, you can do this easily on Alibaba. Most businesses listed on Alibaba are manufacturers, so they can customize the products before shipping.
  • Variety of Payment Options - Choose how you want to pay. Options include wire transfer, credit card, online transfer, Western Union, and more.

Cons of Dropshipping with Alibaba

  • Slow Order Processing Time and Shipping - Products are often made to order. Therefore, it can take a while for the orders to be processed. And many of the manufacturers are based in China. So, if you’re selling in Europe or the US, shipping can be slow.
  • Minimum Order - Alibaba is a business-to-business marketplace, and most manufacturers expect a minimum order of at least 100 pieces. This isn’t ideal for dropshippers, who need to order one piece at a time.
  • Better Options Available - AliExpress is usually a better option than Alibaba for dropshippers. It’s designed for individual orders, and there is more advanced automation software that works with AliExpress compared to Alibaba. 

How To Use Alibaba For Dropshipping 

Essentially, Alibaba dropshipping is using Alibaba to find a dropshipping supplier from which you can source your products.

Before you start using Alibaba for dropshipping, you’ll need to know the product you want to source.

For tips on product research, check out this article on How to Do Product Research for Dropshipping.

Here, we’ll look at how to use Alibaba for dropshipping. It works as follows:

1. Search Alibaba to find a dropshipping supplier

2. Contact suppliers, compare the responses, and order samples

3. Choose a supplier

4. Add the products to your store and start accepting orders

Let's look at each point in more depth.

1. Find a Dropshipping Supplier on Alibaba

Alibaba’s pretty easy to navigate. It’s similar to other marketplaces. 

You can use the search bar or use the categories to find products.

In this example, we’ll use the search bar as we’ll assume you know the exact product you want to find.

When you start typing, Alibaba will offer product suggestions. You can either continue to type your product name or select one of the suggestions.

Once you’ve searched, you’ll usually get thousands of results. 

We’ve searched for Packing Cubes and got over 10,000 results. 

So, we’ll need to narrow down the results. 

To do this, we’ll use the filters on the left-hand side. There are lots of filters, and the ones you choose will depend on the product you’re searching for. These are some of the ones we use most frequently:

  • Alibaba Guaranteed - Alibaba has certain products that meet its guarantee. The guarantee includes shipping-included prices, guaranteed delivery dates, and guaranteed money-back if there are any order issues.
  • Trade Assurance - Select products that are protected. Alibaba trade assurance provides buyers with a secure way to pay and protects the order in case there are any issues. 
  • Supplier Features - There are three options here. These are the following:some text
    • Verified Supplier - Verified suppliers are those with credentials and capabilities that are inspected and verified by third-party companies.
    • Verified Pro Supplier - These are verified suppliers with over five years of experience. 
    • <1h Response Time - Search for suppliers that reply quickly. 
  • Minimum Order - As we’re dropshipping, we want to enter 1 here. Then, we’ll only be shown suppliers that offer individual orders.

There are lots of other filters you might want to use. Such as Price, Delivery By, Store Reviews, Supplier Country, Management Certifications, Product Certification, etc.

Once you’ve set the filters, you’ll be shown all the products that match.

2. Contact Several Suppliers and Order Samples

You’ve found several suppliers that sell the products you want to dropship.

We recommend contacting around ten suppliers. The suppliers will all offer something different. So, contacting them with the same questions is a great way to compare them and determine which will work for your business.

To contact a supplier, open the product page and click Contact Supplier.

Then, send a message to ask for all the product details. We send a message similar to this:

“Dear XYZ,

I hope this message finds you well. I run a dropshipping store in XYZ market. 

I am interested in adding XYZ products to my store, but I have a few questions I’m hoping you can answer. 

1. Do you allow individual orders?

2. How much does each product cost? Is there a discount if I order a certain amount per day?

3. What is your order processing time? Are the products ready-made? Or made to order?

4. Which shipping method do you use?

5. Which locations do you ship to?

6. What is your return, refund, and warranty policy?

7. Do your products or packaging have logos or branding? Can this be removed?

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,


After you’ve received answers from your ten suppliers, we recommend selecting 2-3 based on the answers and communication. 

From these 2-3 suppliers, request product samples.

3. Choose a Supplier

Based on the answers and samples you’ve received, choose the best supplier.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to decide between the suppliers. So, here are a few of our top tips.

Top Tips for Choosing an Alibaba Supplier and Staying Safe:

  • Verified Suppliers - As we saw earlier, Alibaba has a verification program for its suppliers. Choosing a verified supplier ensures you’re working with one that’s high-quality and reliable. It gives you an added layer of security.
  • Pay through Alibaba and Trade Assurance - Choose a supplier that lets you pay through Alibaba. This allows you to protect your payments, and Alibaba will help you if anything goes wrong with the order.
  • Request Samples - Samples are the best way to check a product’s quality. You can also use samples to check the shipping methods and packaging the products will arrive in. It can help you decide if it’s satisfactory for your customers.
  • Contact and Compare - We always ask multiple suppliers the same questions. Then, input the answers into a spreadsheet. This makes it easy to compare the answers. You can also compare the response time and how the suppliers respond. It’s important to be able to easily communicate and build a relationship with your supplier. 
  • Get an Independent Factory Inspection - It’s always a good idea to check out the factory to ensure that the products and conditions meet your standards. Often, the suppliers are too far away to do it yourself. But there are lots of companies that can do it for you. They’ll give you a report with all the details. Use this information to help you choose a supplier.
  • Request Images and Videos - Ask the suppliers for images and videos of the product. You can also ask for pictures of the factory, creation process, packaging, and anything else. This is especially important if you don’t have the budget or time to order samples or get a factory inspection.
  • Look at Supplier Reviews - Alibaba lets buyers review suppliers and their products. Read the reviews and see what other buyers' experiences were with the supplier. This can help you decide if the supplier is right for you.

4. Add the Product to Your Store

You’ve found the perfect supplier or manufacturer on Alibaba. Now, you need to add the product to your store or marketplace.

How you do this will depend on your selling platform.

We recommend using automation software. Automation software makes it quick and easy to import products from Alibaba to your store. 

Essentially, you can take the Alibaba listing and add it to your store without having to download and save all the listing details manually. It does the job for you.

We recommend AutoDS. It’ll work for the majority of dropshippers, as it integrates with the following selling platforms:

  • Shopify
  • Facebook
  • Etsy
  • WooCommerce
  • eBay 
  • Amazon
  • Wix

And it works with Alibaba, among other suppliers.

You can sign up for AutoDS and install the app. You can then open the Alibaba product page, click on the app, and import the product. The product details will appear on your AutoDS drafts page. You can then edit the product listing and import the product to your store from this page.

Now, you can start marketing your products to generate sales. 

When you receive a sale, you can contact your Alibaba supplier with the details. 

You may have used automation software, like AutoDS, to import your products from Shopify to AutoDS. If so, you can use software to save time on your order fulfillment.

After you’ve made sales, you can analyze and optimize your business to boost your sales.

Alibaba Vs AliExpress 

Alibaba and AliExpress are both part of the Alibaba Group. The Alibaba Group is a Chinese multinational technology company. 

Both platforms are e-commerce marketplaces. But they serve different purposes. 

  • Alibaba is a business-to-business marketplace. Businesses can search Alibaba to find manufacturers from which to source products. It’s designed for larger bulk orders, and businesses can negotiate the price, customize the products, and choose the shipping options. For selling online, this option is better for private-label or white-label sellers.
  • AliExpress is a business-to-consumer marketplace. It’s designed for suppliers and manufacturers to list their products for individual purchase. AliExpress is the best choice for dropshipping. Dropshippers don’t need to purchase a large volume of stock or negotiate the price for each sale. They can simply order the item instantly. We have a complete article on B2B and B2C. Check it out for more information, benefits, drawbacks, and examples. 

Which Products Can I Source From Alibaba To Dropship? 

With over 2 million products, you can source almost anything from Alibaba. 

For dropshipping, we recommend the following categories: 

  • Home Decor and Organization
  • Clothes and Accessories
  • Pet Products
  • Workout Products
  • Beauty and Skincare
  • Kids Toys
  • Travel Products

We would recommend avoiding electricals, machinery, vehicle parts, and food and beverages. 

Often, these products have certain regulations that vary depending on where you sell them.

Therefore, we recommend sourcing them from local suppliers rather than Alibaba.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What Is The Best Website For Finding A Dropshipping Supplier? 

It depends on the product you’re looking to sell. Generally, we’d recommend starting with AliExpress. AliExpress offers a huge range of cheap products, allows individual orders, and works with automation software. Alternatives include CJDropshipping, Spocket, and Salehoo.

Print-on-demand suppliers like Printify and Printful are also great options for dropshipping.

Is Alibaba Dropshipping Free? 

Alibaba is free for buyers. But there is a processing fee. This is usually 2.99%.

Can I Dropship Alibaba To Amazon? 

Yes. You can dropship on Amazon using Alibaba as a supplier. 

However, it’s more common to use Alibaba as a supplier if you’re using the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) option. This is because Alibaba is more suitable for buying in bulk.

If you want more information on FBA, we have an article that compares dropshipping and FBA.

Can You Dropship On Shopify With Alibaba?

Yes. If you can find a supplier that accepts individual orders. 

AliExpress might be a better option than Alibaba as it's designed for individual orders.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article has helped you decide if Alibaba is the right place to find a dropshipping supplier. 

Before you start looking for a supplier, you need to find the perfect product. Dropship has tools that allow you to find, analyze, and track products. Check it out for free using the 7-day trial.

Try Dropship
Discover winning products to sell today.
Shopify Offer
Start and sell with Shopify $1/month for 3 months.
Try Dropship
Discover winning products to sell today.
Shopify Offer
Start and sell with Shopify for $1 for one month.

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