Welcome to the world of online marketplaces, where the options are endless, and the choices can be overwhelming. Two of the most popular online platforms for buying products from China are Alibaba and 1688.
If you’re an international buyer looking to purchase products from China, you might find yourself torn between these two platforms. Both are well-known and have their own unique features that cater to different types of buyers.
But which one should you choose?
In this blog post, we will delve into the differences and similarities between Alibaba vs 1688, and help you decide which platform is the right choice for you. We’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each platform, as well as how to buy from them.
By the end of this post, you’ll have a clear understanding of which platform is the best fit for your buying needs. So, let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Brief Overview of Alibaba vs 1688
Alibaba and 1688 are two popular online marketplaces that connect buyers and sellers in China. While both platforms offer access to a wide range of products, they differ in terms of their target audience, pricing models, and overall user experience.
In this chapter, we’ll take a closer look at each platform’s key features and how they compare to one another.
1) Overview of Alibaba
Alibaba is a well-known online marketplace that was founded in 1999 and is based in Hangzhou, China. The platform offers a wide range of products from various suppliers and manufacturers, making it a popular choice for international buyers.
One of Alibaba’s key features is its extensive network of verified suppliers, which helps to ensure product quality and minimize the risk of fraud. This is especially important for international buyers who may be unfamiliar with Chinese suppliers and manufacturers.
In addition to its supplier network, Alibaba offers a variety of tools and services to help buyers and sellers conduct business more efficiently. For example, the platform offers payment processing and logistics services, as well as tools for managing orders, shipping, and customer communication.
Although the majority of the sellers are of Chinese origin, the website also has foreign sellers. Also, vast numbers of the products you can find on Amazon are outsourced from Alibaba.
a) Alibaba Company’s Background
The founder is Jack Ma. He was working as an English teacher in Hangzhou when he founded Alibaba which became a giant company in e-commerce. Alibaba Group Holding Limited launched Alibaba.com in 1999.
It provides B2B sales services using an online platform. In 2014, the company raised an initial public offering of US$25 billion. At that time the market value of the company reached $231 billion and became one of the largest IPO worldwide.
In 2018, Alibaba gained recognition to be the second-largest company in Asia. It broke the record of the $500 billion valuation mark.
In 2020, the company ranked in 6th place for the highest global brand valuation. It is now one of the largest e-commerce companies and the fifth-largest artificial company.
As of 2/1/2023, Alibaba’s revenues reported $131,191 Million and the market value reported $317,334 Million. The company ranked in 7th place among World’s Most Admired Companies.
b) Pros of Alibaba
There are numerous advantages to using Alibaba as an online marketplace for sourcing products from China. Here are some of the key pros of using Alibaba:
- Wide Range of Products: Alibaba offers access to a vast array of products, ranging from electronics and machinery to clothing and accessories. This makes it easy for buyers to find what they’re looking for, no matter how niche or specific their needs may be.
- Verified Suppliers: Alibaba’s supplier verification process helps to ensure that buyers are dealing with legitimate and trustworthy suppliers. This helps to minimize the risk of fraud and other scams, which is especially important for international buyers who may be unfamiliar with Chinese suppliers.
- Customer Relationship: Alibaba receives commendation because of its good customer relationship among its international clients. The seller’s membership fee on Alibaba costs thousands of dollars annually. The company ensures that only legitimate suppliers are uploading their information on the platform. There is English staff working in shifts to attend to customer inquiries and concerns.
- Payment System: Alibaba has its trade assurance which is using third-party escrow payment. It is safe to transfer the funds to Alibaba’s account. Then, escrow will hold it until such time that you receive your goods in good condition. The payment options are convenient such as TT wire transfers or PayPal for small order quantities.
- Customizable Pricing: Alibaba’s pricing model allows buyers to negotiate prices and place bulk orders to receive discounts. This makes it possible for buyers to get the best possible price for the products they need.
- Quality of Products: In terms of quality, Alibaba has extensive experience handling international customers and can offer higher-quality products. The sellers are already aware of the design requirements for their overseas buyers. Most of the Alibaba sellers are selling on Amazon through the FBA service under a private label. Therefore, the manufacturers can cater to the special requirements needed for shipping to Amazon’s warehouse.
b) Cons of Alibaba
While comparing Alibaba vs 1688, Alibaba has some potential drawbacks to using the platform. Here are some of the cons of Alibaba:
- Language Barriers: Alibaba is a Chinese platform, which means that many suppliers and manufacturers may not speak English fluently. This can make communication and negotiation more difficult, especially for buyers who are not fluent in Chinese.
- Minimum Order Quantities: Many suppliers on Alibaba require buyers to place minimum order quantities, which can be challenging for small businesses or individual buyers who may not need large quantities of a particular product.
- Pricing: Customers find it misleading on the prices and MOQs which are displayed on the Alibaba website. But only after communicating with the seller, you will receive the actual quote. So, if you would compare the real price of different sellers, it would be time-consuming for price comparison.
- User Interface: In terms of the user interface, customers find the mobile and desktop versions of Alibaba.com confusing. The messenger app is outdated and can lag.
Suggested reading: Is Alibaba Safe and Legit to Buy? Read to know more
2) Overview of 1688
1688 is an online marketplace based in China that is primarily geared toward local Chinese buyers. The platform offers a wide range of products, including clothing, electronics, furniture, and more, and is known for its competitive pricing and large selection.
One of the key features of 1688 is its focus on domestic suppliers and manufacturers. This means that buyers can often find products at lower prices compared to Alibaba, which primarily caters to international buyers.
Additionally, 1688 offers a wider variety of products, including many that are not available on other platforms. Like Alibaba, 1688 offers a variety of tools and services to help buyers and sellers conduct business more efficiently.
However, these tools may be less accessible for international buyers, who may face language and communication barriers when trying to navigate the platform.
a) 1688 Company’s Background
1688.com is also a subsidiary of the Alibaba Group of Companies in China and was established in 2010. Before, it only served as a platform for sellers in sourcing their items for e-commerce in China. Then later, it becomes the source of products for eBay and Amazon sellers.
It is only for China’s domestic market with Chinese language support. The service caters to B2C, B2B, manufacturing, and wholesale businesses. Many businesses opt to source their products from 1688 for their relatively cheaper prices.
It is the largest wholesale website for Chinese locals. Many trading companies also purchase their products from 1688 with over 50,000 legitimate sellers.
b) Pros of 1688
Just like Alibaba, there are several advantages to using 1688 for buying high-quality goods from China. Let’s have a look at a few of them below:
- Competitive Pricing: One of the main advantages of using 1688 is its competitive pricing. Since the platform primarily serves domestic Chinese buyers, it often offers lower prices than other platforms like Alibaba. This can be especially beneficial for buyers who are looking to source products in large quantities.
- Direct Contact with Manufacturers: 1688 allows buyers to directly contact manufacturers and suppliers, which can help to streamline the transaction process and minimize the risk of miscommunication. This can be especially helpful for buyers who are looking to place large or custom orders.
- Customizable Pricing: Like Alibaba, 1688 offers customizable pricing options that allow buyers to negotiate prices and place bulk orders to receive discounts.
- Local Expertise: Since 1688 primarily serves Chinese buyers, the platform offers a wealth of local expertise and knowledge. This can be especially helpful for international buyers who may be unfamiliar with Chinese business practices and customs.
- Mobile App: The mobile app messaging app is far better than its international counterpart.
b) Cons of 1688
While there are many benefits to using 1688, there are also some potential drawbacks to be aware of. Here are some of the cons of using 1688 as an online marketplace:
- Language Barriers: 1688 is primarily a Chinese platform, which means that all suppliers and manufacturers do not speak English fluently. This can make communication and negotiation more difficult, especially for buyers who are not fluent in Chinese.
- No Support for International Buyers: Unlike Alibaba, 1688 is primarily geared towards local Chinese buyers. This means that the platform’s tools and services are not accessible to international buyers, who may face additional challenges when trying to navigate the platform.
- Payment System: When it comes to payment methods, there can be some challenges when buying from 1688. Many domestic factories are accustomed to receiving payments through domestic payment methods like cash, domestic bank transfer, Alipay, or WeChat. However, for international buyers, using these payment methods can be cumbersome and may not be feasible due to currency exchange issues. Additionally, PayPal is not a commonly accepted payment method on 1688 which can further complicate the payment process for international buyers.
Chapter 2. Differences & Similarities b/w Alibaba vs. 1688
Alibaba and 1688 are both online marketplaces that connect buyers with suppliers and manufacturers in China. While there are some similarities between the two platforms, there are also some key differences to be aware of.
Let’s understand them further in detail!
1) Similarities between Alibaba vs. 1688
Alibaba and 1688 serve slightly different markets, they share many similarities that make them both popular choices for buyers and sellers. Let’s understand a few of them!
One similarity between Alibaba and 1688 is that their names have similar pronunciation sounds. This may not have any practical significance, but it is worth noting.
b) Owned by Alibaba Group
Both Alibaba and 1688 are owned by the Alibaba Group, one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world. This means that they both have access to similar resources and expertise.
c) Multiple Sellers
Both platforms have multiple sellers of products, and they don’t manage the product stocks themselves. Instead, sellers have their own stock and are responsible for order fulfillment. This means that buyers can access a wide variety of products from multiple sellers on both platforms.
d) Negotiable Prices
Another similarity between Alibaba vs 1688 is that prices are negotiable, especially for larger quantities. This provides buyers with the opportunity to get better deals on products and can help to reduce the overall cost of purchasing.
e) Fraud Detection Measures
Lastly, both Alibaba and 1688 have measures in place to detect fraud and remove fake and dishonest sellers from the platforms. This helps to ensure that buyers can trust the sellers and products listed on both platforms and reduces the risk of purchasing low-quality or counterfeit products.
2) Differences b/w Alibaba vs. 1688: Comparison Table
Alibaba’s website profile is user-friendly and intuitive, but it feels cluttered sometimes.
Its user interface is easy to use yet it may not be user-friendly in the long run as it requires knowledge of the Chinese language and culture.
Credit Card, Bank Transfer, Visa, MasterCard, Alibaba Trade Assurance
Bank transfer, Alipay
Generally higher due to additional fees and higher quality standards
Lower product pricing due to direct sourcing from the Chinese manufacturers
|Minimum Order Quantity||
Usually large MOQs
Small or no MOQs
English, Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Turkish, Dutch, Korean, Japanese, and more.
Multiple product options from various suppliers
Wide range of products mainly from Chinese suppliers
24/7 customer support via online chat, Emails, and phone calls.
Customer support through Emails and phone.
3) Side-by-Side Comparison of Alibaba vs. 1688
a) User Interface
Regarding the user interface, the battle between Alibaba and 1688 is a tale of two platforms. They both have different user interfaces designed to cater to their respective audiences.
Alibaba has established itself as a global leader in e-commerce. However, its user interface must meet the standards other international e-commerce giants like Amazon and eBay set.
The website feels cluttered, making it challenging to navigate and find what they want to purchase.
On the other hand, 1688 is a more streamlined option. Its user interface is easy to navigate and also visually appealing. You can find what you’re looking for without getting lost in a sea of information overload.
So, in terms of the user interface, 1688 gets our vote. However, it only operates in the Chinese language which may be a problem for Non-Chinese users.
b) Payment Methods
Alibaba and 1688 offer different payment methods to their users.
When we talk about payment methods, Alibaba is the clear winner for international buyers. With a global audience in mind, it offers various payment options catering to different needs.
Whether you prefer using a credit card, bank transfers, or e-wallets like Alipay, Alibaba has got you covered. The platform also offers Trade Assurance, which is a payment protection program.
Above all, Alibaba accepts all major cards, like,
- American Express
To read more about top Alibaba payment methods, read our detailed blog here.
On the contrary, 1688 primarily uses e-wallets like Alipay for payment processing. Alipay is a popular payment platform in China, similar to PayPal, that allows users to make secure online payments. In addition to Alipay, 1688 also accepts bank transfers and other forms of payment.
However, it’s crucial to know that 1688 may not offer as many payment options for international buyers as Alibaba. The reason is that 1688 mainly focuses on the Chinese market.
To conclude the payment methods of Alibaba vs 1688, Alibaba offers more options than 1688, but both platforms prioritize secure payment processing.
c) Pricing and Price Transparency
Exporting products can involve various overhead costs, such as customs fees, import taxes, and logistics. Although both platforms, Alibaba and 1688, offer a wide range of products, there are notable differences in their pricing systems.
One of the most significant advantages of buying from 1688 is that the prices are generally lower. It is because 1688 suppliers mainly target the Chinese market. Many suppliers on the 1688 website are factories, which allows you to buy directly from them at factory prices.
However, another advantage of 1688 is its transparent pricing system. It has the prices mentioned clearly on the website, including the cost of freight, which helps buyers make informed decisions. Moreover, 1688 also incentivizes bulk purchases.
In contrast, Alibaba prices can be relatively vague. You may also see in the picture above that the freight needs to be negotiated with the supplier.
Furthermore, the buyers on Alibaba may also need to negotiate with the supplier for the final price, which can be uncertain.
Long story short, 1688 offers lower prices and a more transparent pricing system than Alibaba. Therefore, buyers looking for cost-effective purchasing options may find 1688 to be a more optimal choice.
d) Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)
Regarding minimum order quantities (MOQs), there’s a stark difference between Alibaba and 1688.
Alibaba is known for its relatively large MOQs, which can reach hundreds or thousands of units for low-priced goods. Large MOQs add a burden on the pockets of the buyers who search online marketplaces for sourcing small orders.
Conversely, 1688 offers much smaller or even no MOQs. It even allows you to buy just one unit of a needed product, making it an ideal platform for small sellers or those looking to kickstart a new online selling business.
Consequently, 1688 alleviates your concerns about overstocking and depleting your funds to make bulk purchases.
Hence, 1688 features lower MOQs than Alibaba. So, it is worth checking out when looking for a platform with more flexibility relating to MOQs.
e) Language Accessibility
Language accessibility is crucial for e-commerce marketplaces as it directly affects the ability of customers and suppliers to communicate effectively.
Alibaba is a reputed marketplace offering its services globally, so it’s no surprise that it supports multiple languages. Many of its sellers have even hired English-speaking staff to bridge language barriers because they acknowledge the importance of effective communication.
In comparison, 1688 is exclusively in Chinese, which may pose a challenge for non-Chinese buyers. Many suppliers on the platform also do not have command over the English language, giving rise to communication issues.
Although a translation feature is available, it may only sometimes be accurate.
So, in terms of language accessibility, Alibaba takes the lead in its efforts to cater to a vast customer base worldwide.
You might als0 like to read: DHgate vs Alibaba : Which is Better? Review & Comparison Guide
Chapter 3: How to Buy from the Alibaba Wholesale Platform?
1) Sourcing Products From Alibaba
You can search for millions of products available when buying from Alibaba. You can find both trading companies and manufacturers. There are filters for the location of the suppliers, certifications earned, minimum order quantity, and product prices. You can also check if they can offer free samples or not.
Note: Please note that if you ask for one sample, the supplier may not charge you, but you need to bear the freight cost. It will guarantee your products will be shipped but will not give you quality guarantees.
If you order large volumes, most suppliers will ask you to deposit through wire transfer. Then, you can pay the remaining balance once the items are ready for shipment.
2) How to Look for the Best Suppliers on Alibaba?
When looking for the right suppliers, do not settle for a few options. Explore the suppliers based on their credentials. Gold suppliers are premium members of Alibaba. They provide comprehensive ways of promoting their items and maximizing product exposure.
However, do not solely base your trust on Gold membership, you can also check those assessed Suppliers. Aside from their Gold membership, they are also Hongkong Gold Suppliers and Taiwan Gold Suppliers.
Note: Their company information has been checked through factory audits, verified main products, and passed the assessment reports.
Another thing, check the results page for Supplier Response Rate. This would give you an idea of the response rate of the suppliers.
3. Important Things to Know When Buying from Alibaba
- Check reviews for superior quality products: Before purchasing from a supplier, take some time to check the reviews left by other buyers. Look for products with positive reviews, especially those that mention the quality of the item. This can give you an idea of what to expect in terms of quality and help you avoid products with negative reviews.
- Use wire transfers for larger transactions: For larger transactions, it’s recommended to use wire transfers instead of other payment methods like credit cards or PayPal. This can be more secure and help protect against fraud.
- Start with small purchases for first orders: To get a feel for a supplier and their products, consider starting with a small purchase for your first order. This can help you evaluate the quality of the product and the supplier’s reliability before committing to larger purchases.
- Know exact product specifications for wholesale orders: When buying products for wholesale, it’s important to know the exact specifications and features of the product. This can help you avoid misunderstandings with the supplier and ensure that you receive the product you intended to buy.
- Negotiate with suppliers for MOQ, quality, and lead time: It’s often possible to negotiate with suppliers for things like the minimum order quantity (MOQ), quality, and lead time. Be willing to ask questions and negotiate to get the best deal possible.
Chapter 4: How to Buy from the 1688 Wholesale Platform?
1) Sourcing Products from 1688
You can go to the online platform 1688.com and translate the website into English. Use the Google Chrome browser to translate the web page to your preferred language. Then you can search for all the products you need from the search box.
There are thousands of suppliers in 1688. You can use the camera icon in the line of the search bar. In this part, it is recommended not to translate Chinese into English.
You can save the image of the products you are searching for and upload it in 1688 by clicking the camera button. Then, you can find great collections of products available. Another option is searching for products, just type using the name of the products in the search box and filter.
2) How to Look for Best Suppliers on 1688?
You need a sourcing agent to communicate with the Chinese sales staff of 1688 who act as a middleman in your transaction. You can check the supplier’s information when you open the seller’s home page.
Not to mention, you can see the number of employees to know if the company is small (100-500 employees), a mature business (500-1000 employees), or a wholesale business.
Another thing is to look for a powerful business icon. It would give you options for three basic elements – Good Quality Products, On-Time Delivery, and High Sales Volume.
Hiring a Sourcing Agent for Care free Purchasing
EJET Sourcing is a highly recommended sourcing company that can assist you in purchasing products from Alibaba and 1688 with utmost ease and security. Their team of professionals and experts in product sourcing can provide you with the best quality products from reliable and legitimate suppliers.
Here are some of the reasons why EJET Sourcing is the best option for you:
- 100% Security: EJET Sourcing ensures that you purchase from legit suppliers without any issues in the quality and payment process. They take the responsibility of ensuring that the products are of the best quality and that the payment process is secure.
- Reliable Suppliers: The sourcing company has a vast network of reliable and trustworthy suppliers. They thoroughly vet their suppliers to ensure that they meet the necessary standards and can provide you with high-quality products.
- Quality Assurance: EJET Sourcing conducts thorough quality checks on all products to ensure that they meet your specifications and requirements. They ensure that you receive products that meet your quality standards.
- Expert Team: The sourcing company has a team of professionals and experts in product sourcing who can assist you throughout the purchasing process. They are dedicated to ensuring that you get the best products and services.
Still confused? Contact their sourcing consultant Sunny Qiu for a free consultation call!
3) Important Things to Know When Buying from 1688
- All 1688 suppliers are required to have valid government business licenses to operate as a seller, ensuring the authenticity of the products.
- Verify the seller’s information by checking their store details, including business registration, address, registered capital, and date of incorporation, by clicking on “View Business Registration Information.”
- To source products on your own, you’ll need a Chinese bank account linked to your Alipay account.
- You’ll also need a Chinese phone number for SMS verification and a Chinese warehouse or address to receive your products.
Chapter 5: Which is Better for Dropshipping: Alibaba vs 1688?
Dropshipping originated in China. If you are new to this business, you need to understand that Alibaba has four major websites. It includes Alibaba International Station, 1688, Aliexpress, and Taobao. We will review Alibaba vs 1688 in terms of dropshipping reviews.
1) Reviews in Dropshipping from Alibaba
Alibaba is equivalent to 1688 but caters internationally. Half are Chinese manufacturers, while half of them are foreign trade services. The price is also inexpensive but you have to meet certain MOQs.
There is a need for manufacturing time so this is recommended for big businesses with lots of stocks but not suitable for dropshipping.
2) Reviews in Dropshipping from 1688
1688 does not support English, and you may find it challenging to search for goods and read product reviews. The communication with the suppliers may take time for dropshipping details.
Not to mention, you can have a wider choice of goods. The prices are also cheaper for your dropshipping business. When you choose a reliable sourcing agent such as EJET, you can get photos or videos of the products. This way, you can compare the quality and texture.
The payment does not support International methods like MasterCard, Visa Card, or international bank transfer, so you will need an agent to pay for the goods. Also, your agent can help you consolidate multiple items from multiple suppliers into one order.
The dropshipping cost is higher since you have to pay for the agent fee, products, and domestic and international shipping.
But, the advantage of 1688 dropshipping is the wholesale price of the goods with better quality. You can grow your business in the long term with your better experience shopping in 1688.
Overall, 1688 dropshipping is more suitable for a business that wants to build its marketing strategy for private labels.
Chapter 6: FAQs about “Alibaba vs 1688”
1) Which is a more recommended platform, Alibaba vs 1688?
Alibaba vs 1688 in terms of recommended platform, depends on how equipped you are in trading. As you know, Alibaba caters to international customers and can handle international trade. While, if you go for a cheaper price, 1688 can be the best option.
Many products from 1688 are bottom price direct from the factory. They have over 50,000 small to medium sellers providing products for Amazon, eBay, AliExpress, etc.
Access to more first-hand resources is here, but if you don’t understand Chinese and there is no agent to work for you, it would be challenging. You can only buy from 1688 if you have a Chinese bank account or Alipay.
2) Which is a safer platform to buy from China, Alibaba vs 1688?
Alibaba vs 1688 in terms of being a safe platform, they both are safe to use. All the suppliers of the products are filtered and legitimate to sell. The risk and safety part comes with:
- how you deal with the suppliers
- how you conduct your research
- how do you compare from the list of best suppliers
- how well do you understand from sourcing products to the shipment process
- how you work with a reliable sourcing agent, etc.
3) Which is less complicated in shipping, Alibaba vs 1688?
Alibaba vs 1688 in terms of which one is less complicated in shipping would be Alibaba. This is especially if you would not hire a sourcing agent since you need a Chinese address or warehouse when you purchase from 1688.
For Alibaba, you just have to complete the shipping details and the supplier can ship your items to your address. They ship via FedEx, DHL, or UPS. For US delivery, if your shipment is under $800, there is no duty charge.
Alibaba shipment via air may take from 3-10 business days. If you use a sea freight service, it can take from 30-45 days to deliver.
4) Does 1688 also provide a similar option to Alibaba Trade Assurance?
Unlike in Alibaba where you can prevent from being scammed with their Trade Assurance, the best way to shop from 1688 is to look for a sourcing agent. It is highly recommended if you would want to look for trustworthy suppliers.
5) Is there a 1688 website in English?
There is no English version of 1688 in English. However, to translate the web page, you need to use Google Chrome browser and translate it. Either you can download the Google translate extension to the Google Chrome extension, or click the right button then “translate to English.”
Please note that when you translate the web page into English, you can see a blank middle part. Don’t worry as you can still follow the guide. If you are still having a hard time understanding the page, better to look for someone who is fluent in Chinese to do the translation for you.
Sourcing products from China can give you a great experience. There are lots of platforms where you can get your goods at the lowest price. It also means choosing between e-commerce which is good for your business. This article helps you weigh the pros and cons of using Alibaba vs 1688.
For beginners with smaller order sizes, Alibaba is a better option. The English support and experience in handling international clients will make it easier for smooth transactions. For seasoned procurement in China, 1688 can give the business a competitive edge.
While Alibaba is a key player in the B2B e-commerce industry, suppliers and buyers globally have used the platform to scale their businesses. On the other hand, 1688 is the primary source of domestic buyers with a wide range of suppliers at the lowest cost.