Comparing Alibaba.com and AliExpress.com

By John J. Capela

Alibaba.com and AliExpress.com are both owned by the Alibaba group, but they have two different business models. Alibaba.com is a business-to-business (B2B) site that provides a trading platform for both buyers and sellers to exchange information. The majority of companies provided by Alibaba.com are manufacturers or resellers who trade in large quantities. This site is appropriate for small to medium-sized businesses that are looking for either large quantities or highly customized goods.

On the other hand, AliExpress.com is better suited for the small business interested in sourcing smaller quantities of ready-made consumer goods. This site allows you to order as few as one item and make payment using credit cards, Western Union, or bank transfers.

The table summarizes the differences between the two sites.

The Differences between Alibaba.com and AliExpress.com
Category Alibaba.com AliExpress.com
Minimum order quantity (MOQ) Suppliers tend to have high MOQs. Most suppliers suggest an MOQ of only 10 units.
Pricing There are no fixed prices. After you provide the supplier with
the product specifications, the delivery terms, and required
quantities, the supplier will get back to you with a price, which
can be negotiated.
The supplier lists the products and prices for different
quantities, and they are not up for negotiation.
Custom-designed products Custom products and private-label merchandise can be
provided.
Products are already manufactured, so there’s no
possibility of either custom or private-labeled products.
Quality/risk The buyer requires more product knowledge to minimize quality
concerns.
You get what the supplier offers.
Scheduling/lead times Receiving the products can take months, because you have to
select the supplier, confirm the samples, and negotiate the
price.
The products are already manufactured, so you don’t have
to worry about any time-consuming order processing or production
lead times.