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When we look to source products in 2022, 90% of us will begin in the same place. No, not with a business trip to Guangzhou to tour factories, but a virtual tour across the offerings of Alibaba. Widely regarded as the largest and most exhaustive marketplace for entrepreneurs, it’s a great start, but it’s not the only option. There are now a number of Alibaba alternatives for dropshipping in 2022, and it’s about time you considered them.
With global online sales forecast to reach 22% of all retail sales in 2023, it’s never been a better time to build an online business. Dropshipping is one of the most accessible business models for beginners, but it’s also one of the most competitive, and it’s important to differentiate your business. This starts with your product, and alas your supplier.
Let’s take a look at the best Alibaba alternatives for dropshipping in 2022.
What is Alibaba?
Alibaba is a global directory of manufacturers and a platform where you can find items to sell online. For those looking to source dropshipping products, Alibaba allows access to the broadest and most exciting options. With tens of millions of products, the global trading platform offers business owners the ability to create a comprehensive and diverse product catalogue. Based in China, the platform is generally known for it’s access to low-cost products at source.
The platform has an easy-to-use search function for finding products, suppliers based around the world (but generally just China), and a range of shipping options. Most reputable sellers do have minimum order requirements, so it’s not for the faint hearted or those looking to shop for personal use. It’s important to note that Alibaba is not the seller, or the manufacturer of the products. The platform simply facilitates connection to sellers based across the world, and it’s up to business owners to make connections with these sellers. In the world of print on demand, creating relationships with sellers is important as they will ultimately be fulfilling your product and sending it directly to consumers.
Why look for Alibaba alternatives for dropshipping?
Alibaba is the big boy. With a celebrity CEO, millions of suppliers, tens of millions of products and a campus in Hangzhou to rival Silicon Valley, they are more often than not the first stop for entrepreneurs looking to source dropshipping products. However, while they are the first, they are often not the last, with many subsequently looking for new avenues to source products.
If Alibaba is the go-to platform, why are business owners looking for an alternative to the Amazon of supply? Here’s why:
- 👌 Quality While Alibaba has a broad range of suppliers, the large volume means there are also a lot of middlemen, trading companies and bluntly put, bad apples. You need to kiss a lot of frogs to find a winner.
- 🗺️ Diversification If you are sourcing from the same supplier as everyone else, how will you differentiate yourself? Most likely by having to offer cut-rate prices and slashing your profit margins.
- 📱 Choice Many reliable suppliers purposely choose NOT to be on Alibaba. If you rely only on Alibaba, then you won’t find them.
Alibaba alternatives for dropshipping
There are a number of alternatives to Alibaba on the market to source winning dropshipping products. While these platforms won’t help you decide on a winning product, they can help you find a winning supplier – the other half of the battle.
Global Sources have over 45 years’ experience in international trade. They offer an online directory of suppliers similar to Alibaba. In fact, to the naked eye, they could look like the same site.
While they look the same, the offering is notably different. Global Sources suppliers typically operate at a higher quality. They often have more experience in the export market, so are more likely to understand the needs of dropshippers.
Because of this, these suppliers expect more from buyers. Company background checks are standard and suppliers will require proof of purchase volumes. Many suppliers listed in Global Sources’ online directory also exhibit at offline fairs, which adds to their credibility. They are willing to invest time and money into buying booth spaces, so have more skin in the game than an online middleman who can disappear overnight.
- Strong in mobile electronics, fashion accessories and gift items
- Better user experience
- Higher quality suppliers and less hidden middlemen
- Smaller selection of suppliers
- Requires more work to get suppliers to engage
Bottom line: perfect for those looking to move from Alibaba to a more reputable platform to find suppliers. Not a viable option for those who don’t already have an established business.
Think of Aliexpress like Alibaba’s little sister. Same parents, different people. While they belong to the same company, Alibaba serves businesses, while Aliexpress serves customers. Put simply, any customers can access the manufacturers products via AliExpress, rather than having to go through the businesses after they buy from Alibaba.
AliExpress does have limitations, namely no ability to order large quantities and significant problems with shipping times. On the contrary, you do get extremely low startup prices, worldwide shipping, and virtually endless private label products from the online marketplace.
Alibaba’s little sister offers a perfect opportunity to test a product in the market. Before setting up an ongoing relationship with suppliers via Alibaba prior to product testing – Aliexpress allows you to bring the product to fruition and garner whether or not there is demand. It’s not long-term, but it is an alternative worth considering if you’re starting out in dropshipping.
- Cuts out the middleman of finding suppliers
- Cheaper than Alibaba.com in some cases
- Huge selection of products for your online store
- Difficult to order large quantities in some cases
- Very little buyer protection
- Long shipping times
Founded in 2005, Salehoo has become one of the biggest wholesale and dropshipping directories in the world. With over 8,000 trusted wholesale and dropshipping suppliers, they offer over 2 million recognisable branded products that you can then sell on.
Contrary to the other platforms listed here, Salehoo is a paid service. Salehoo offers a flat price of $67 for access for a year. This fee offers direct access to over 1,000 trusted dropship suppliers who have been vetted and assessed. These suppliers are listed with comprehensive product information, reviews, shipping information and full transparency to ensure you know what you’re getting before you engage in conversation. The bulk of the suppliers are made up of wholesalers, so it’s worth noting that your $67 will also grant you access to these should you want to expand and grow your business in the future.
- 60 day money back guarantee
- More emphasis on wholesale suppliers
- Unrivalled customer service
- Limited product range
- $67 access fee before being able to browse products
Bottom line: Salehoo is a fantastic platform for budding entrepreneurs who are looking to get started with legitimate suppliers that have already been vetted. Due to the access fee, it’s not recommended for those who have never tried the dropshipping business model before.
DHgate is an online directory of suppliers that generally targets small-volume businesses. This means they over significantly lower MOQs (minimum order quantities) than Alibaba. This allows a flexible model for dropshippers to enter the market.
There is a fairly large variety of products on DHgate, however quality is much the same as Alibaba. The platform also features a large number of middle men, however DHgate to offer an escrow service, easy refund functions and buyer protection to keep you safe from any less than stellar activity.
If you’re looking for a like-for-like alternative to Alibaba, DHgate is one of the best alternatives, with the added benefit of more suppliers willing to support the single order quantities needed for dropshipping.
- Wide selection of product options
- Global shipping with buyer protection
- Easy search function
- Unreliable sellers
- Pan Asia shipping means long waits for customers
Bottom line: Wide variety and a low MOQ, but a large range of seller quality.
Lightinthebox is another platform similar to Aliexpress, offering access to a wide range of wholesale stores online. The website is perfect for helping merchants find state-of-the-art products to appeal to their customers. Once you’ve found the products, you’ve got a direct to supplier contact to engage with.
Like many of the dropshipping companies on the market today, the warehouses are located in China, which will result in increased shipping times. This must be factored in when looking at products, as you’ll need to ensure you’re bringing a product to market that can’t be found anywhere else. Suppliers on the platform do however offer significantly lower prices, which allows for greater profit margins.
- Product Variety
- Low prices
- Easy to use navigation
- Low quality suppliers
- Pan Asia shipping means long waits for customers
Bottom line: consider Lightinthebox your entry level alternative to Alibaba. It’s great for low MOQ and cheap goods, but you’re not setting up an established relationship with a supplier from the outset. It’s B2C, but as cheap as B2B.
Banggood is a traditional retailer based in China – much the same as Aliexpress. Where it differs from Aliexpress is in it’s dedicated dropshipping program that offers exclusive benefits. These include reduced prices, unwatermarked images, free shipping to selected countries (ie not Europe or the USA but the thought was there!) and bulk ordering facilities. It all sounds a little too good to be true, and with 200,000 products across 14 categories it’s a great place to start. The negatives? It’s essentially Aliexpress with a dropshipping agreement.
Banggood warehouses will be based in China, and therefore excessive shipping continues to be a problem. This is a problem faced by many dropshippers, and one that isn’t solved by steering away from Alibaba.
- Dedicated dropshipping program with discount prices and automation
- Easy access to branded products
- Low cost products
- Limited product range
- Long shipping times
- Range in quality of suppliers
Do I need to use an Alibaba alternative for Dropshipping?
Short answer, no. You don’t. We know that Alibaba has question marks across quality, diversification and choice. We also know that it works, and offers access to the largest pool of suppliers in the world.
Alibaba is the big fish for a reason. When you look elsewhere, you’ll most likely be faced with other limitations. You may also be faced with unique products, better customer service and exclusive suppliers. 2022 is the year to differentiate your dropshipping business, and it’s important to consider moving outside of the box. With our last of Alibaba alternatives for dropshipping, you’ve got a place to start.