Drop shipping is a supply chain management method in which the retailer does not keep goods in stock but instead transfers its customer's orders and shipment details to either the manufacturer, another retailer, or a wholesaler, who then ships the goods directly to the customer.
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What Is AliExpress Dropshipping?
Written by Andrew Roach on April. 30th 2019
Dropshipping is a business model that allows entrepreneurs to start an online business and sell products to their customers without ever actually stocking the items themselves.

But it isn’t a new business model.

Huge companies like Amazon, Sears, and Zappos have all used this business model for a while in their early years.

And it isn’t just the big companies who use dropshipping to start an online business – an estimated 33% of the entire ecommerce industry uses dropshipping as their primary inventory management model.

Dropshipping is a model which has some very clear advantages, like not carrying an inventory, which allows entrepreneurs to concentrate more on important things like bringing in new customers and scaling their businesses.

Want to know exactly why dropshipping is adopted by such a large portion of businesses across the globe? In this article we’ll do a deep dive on what dropshipping is, why AliExpress dropshipping is so popular, and why you should care about this business model if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store.

Ready? Let’s dive in. 

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What Is Dropshipping?: How Dropshipping Works
At this point you might be asking yourself, how does dropshipping work?

Maybe you’ve heard the term before, or maybe it’s your first time hearing the concept – don’t worry, it’s simple to understand regardless.

Essentially, dropshipping is a business model that allows entrepreneurs to start an ecommerce store without every stocking inventory – dropshipping entrepreneurs will have suppliers who store their products in their warehouses until they make a sale.

Whenever dropshipping entrepreneurs make a sale they’ll need to contact their supplier, who will then ship their products directly to their customers doorstep.

Benefits of AliExpress Dropshipping
Dropshipping is a business model which offers entrepreneurs a bunch of advantages, especially when they’re looking to start an online business.

You control your margins – you aren’t bound to a suggested retail price (MSRP) and you can decide your retail prices on your own.
You don’t need to be an established business entity before getting started with your store (although you will need one as you grow.)
You have access to a catalogue of millions of products that you can add to your store through Oberlo using AliExpress dropshipping.
How to Start a Dropshipping Business
dropshipping business model
1.How to Start an AliExpress Dropship Business: Can You Dropship Products Easily?
Yes, you can easily dropship thanks to tools like Oberlo. Oberlo is an essential tool if you’re looking to start an ecommerce store using the dropshipping business model. 

2. Will My Customers Know If I’m Dropshipping
We can’t make any guarantees about this. If you’re using AliExpress dropshipping to run your business, we recommend reaching out to suppliers to let them know that you don’t want any promotional materials included in your packages. The best way to avoid any suspicions from your customers is to build a professional Shopify store, and provide a high-quality service for your customers.

3. Why Should Someone Buy From My Store Instead of the Supplier?
Because you’re better.

Call it better marketing execution, which reached the prospective customer first.

Call it branding, which drives people to buy from you.

Call it creating a store that people trust.

Call it the value you offer by providing extra services or content.

Call it technology that allows your customers to shop more easily.

Don’t get preoccupied asking questions like “why wouldn’t customers just buy from my supplier instead?” Think about it – when was the last time you purchased products directly from a supplier rather than a brand? 

4. Shipping Takes Too Long With AliExpress Dropshipping, Will My Customers Wait?
Your task is to define your shipping policy, and then display it on your store’s website to set clear customer expectations.

With the commonly favored ePacket delivery option, it typically takes only 7-14 days for a package to reach the US from China.

In addition, some suppliers keep their most popular products in US warehouses, which will mean your delivery will be even quicker.

5. What About Quality Risk and Copyright Infringements?
You’ve probably heard stories about the ridiculously bad quality of Chinese products. Sadly, some of these claims are true. As usual, though, there are two sides to every story.

In reality, you can easily run into a bad supplier no matter what their geographical location is.

In the end, you need to be cautious when it comes to choosing your AliExpress dropshipping suppliers. 

6. Do AliExpress Dropshipping Suppliers Speak English?
When it comes to AliExpress dropshipping, lots of the suppliers who you’ll be interacting with will be Chinese, which means that their English isn’t always perfect. However, you can always contact the suppliers in advance to get a sense of their level of proficiency before doing business with them.

Larger suppliers are typically quite responsive as they’ll have sales teams managing your orders and can answer your questions via live chat or email.

7. Is AliExpress Dropshipping Favored by PayPal?
PayPal is one of the most well-known and widely used payment gateways, so it makes sense that many ecommerce entrepreneurs want to use it for their businesses. 

From a customer’s perspective, PayPal is a great system as it tends to favor customers over merchants. If a customer has a payment dispute or wants a refund, for instance, it’s likely that PayPal will take the customer’s word and respond accordingly. All of this is meant to protect the many millions of people who use PayPal to make purchases every day.

In order to create a more stable and secure experience for customers, PayPal has set some precautions in place that can make using it as a payment gateway a bit of a hassle. For example, PayPal puts limitations on the money in your account in advance. These limitations are based on your business history, track record, ability to provide proof of delivery on time (via tracking numbers), your business’s physical location, and many other factors. Holds on your funds can sometimes last for months, which can end up being a problem when you’re trying to grow your business. 

As AliExpress dropshipping becomes increasingly more popular, PayPal is also adapting some of its policies to make it a friendlier environment for ecommerce entrepreneurs who dropship, and there certainly are merchants who have success with this option. That said, we still suggest exploring other payment gateways. Some of our top picks in this regard include Stripe, 2Checkout, and Shopify Payments. Shopify Payments in particular is a great choice if your store is hosted on Shopify because you can accept payments directly with this inbuilt system, which eliminates the complication of utilizing a third party payment gateway. Note, however, that Shopify Payments isn’t available in every country.

8. How Can an Established Business Benefit From Dropshipping?
When it comes to dropshipping, learning by doing usually works best.

AliExpress dropshipping is the ideal model for first-time entrepreneurs. It’s totally understandable that an established business wouldn’t change its order fulfillment model and adapt to dropshipping, but it’s still worth considering in these scenarios as well.


Simply, dropshipping is a great model that you can use to quickly test new product ideas regardless of the size of your business.

In addition, you can add a new product category within a few days and if it proves to be successful, you can stock the products in your warehouse as you usually do. This way, you reduce the risk of stocking the inventory before knowing what sells. It increases your business flexibility.

9. How Does AliExpress Work? 
AliExpress is an ecommerce website which offers a huge catalogue of products. Consumers can use AliExpress to find products to purchase online for their personal use. Entrepreneurs can use AliExpress to find and source products for their ecommerce businesses. You can use Oberlo’s Chrome Extension to import products directly into your Shopify store with just a few clicks. Whenever you make a sale using AliExpress dropshipping, you can then purchase your products from the AliExpress supplier, who will then ship them to your customer.

Becoming adept at dropshipping requires time, careful research, and planning. I still prefer it because its the easiest way to kick-off your online business and it’s totally awesome for testing new product ideas. It requires low starting capital, and therefore you have the ability to try your hand at ecommerce with limited risks.

There are lots of helpful apps and services available to use in conjunction with dropshipping, including Oberlo and Shopify. These can facilitate and automate the more complicated aspects of the dropshipping process, and eliminate some of the pitfalls we’ve discussed in this post. With these tools, you can devote your time to maximizing profits through developing the right marketing techniques and solidifying your brand. You don’t have to concern yourself with storing inventory, which only further accelerates the formation of a successful business. To learn more, check out the Oberlo app or have a look at our blog for information about the leading dropshipping apps and platforms.

About Author: Andrew Roach

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The Definitive Guide to Dropshipping with AliExpress
Written by Corey Ferreira on June 28th.  2019
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 start an ecommerce business, digging deep through the internet to find a reliable supplier can be tough. However, with Oberlo, you can find millions of products that you can dropship like products from AliExpress.

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What is AliExpress?
AliExpress is a gigantic marketplace with a wide selection of products. Because most of the AliExpress sellers are overseas manufacturers, their prices are very competitive. Within AliExpress, you’ll find products ranging from women’s clothing and jewelry, to electronics and home decor.

What is AliExpress dropshipping?
AliExpress makes it easy to find products to sell on your store without having to worry about inventory or shipping. Add the products you’d like to sell from AliExpress onto your store, set a price with a markup, and whenever you receive an order, you pay for that product at wholesale cost and the AliExpress seller ships the orders directly to your customer.

AliExpress homepage

Why AliExpress for dropshipping
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 comparatively easy. There’s no upfront cost or fee, so you can test out products without a significant financial commitment. You can start dropshipping today, for free, by using Oberlo to find and add AliExpress products to your store in only a few clicks.

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 differentiated 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 ordering the product on AliExpress after getting an order and inputting the customer’s address.

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.

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 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 has 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.

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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 dropshipping products to sell
The first part of setting up your store is selecting a niche, or the selection of 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.

AliExpress categories

Once you have a distinct 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. It 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, 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, I 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 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 but it’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 when looking for a new product, I’ll start by sorting products by the most orders.

AliExpress sort by best

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 as well. Just to get a second opinion on sellers on products, 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, unbranded, 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.

AliExpress product image

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 setup your Shopify store and have a product category and supplier in mind, it’s time to start adding products to your store. This step is important to cover in detail because it’s not as simple as using the images and description of the AliExpress listing and placing that 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 with the status of their purchase.

Shopify order tracking

Tracktor is an app on the Shopify App store that can enable real-time order tracking and status lookup to your online store.

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 quickly add products to your store.

Find your first product with Oberlo

Oberlo helps thousands of people find products to sell on Shopify. With Oberlo, you'll never worry about shipping, packaging, or holding inventory—and you can get started for free.

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.

AliExpress seller Excel sheet

Alternatively, you can use Oberlo which can handle all this for you, including 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 allows you to grow without worrying about having to manually order dozens of (or more) products on AliExpress.

Using Oberlo for AliExpress dropshipping

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 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 & invoices, please!” Oberlo can do this for you when you’re making a purchase on AliExpress.

AliExpress confirm order seller message

As I mentioned earlier, try and select ePacket shipping if the supplier is in China and if it’s available as a shipping option. Many suppliers will offer this shipping option 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.

AliExpress manage order delivery

Head over to your Shopify admin and fulfill that order. Be sure to enter the tracking number, too.

Shopify edit tracking info

If you’re using Oberlo, the order will be fulfilled automatically for you, 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 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 arrives 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 receive 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 the reliable and quality suppliers are, and who are not. You should consider building relationships with the reliable ones. This will allow you to get better prices and priority order processing.

I’ve found most of the suppliers on AliExpress use Skype. 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 dropshipping with Oberlo
The best part about AliExpress dropshipping is that it allows you to quickly test and validate store 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 from your store 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.

Try it out and report back. Have any questions? Leave your question and comment below. I engage with and respond to everyone.

About the author
Corey Ferreira

Corey Ferreira is a passionate entrepreneur, coconut water lover, and content creator at Shopify.
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