AliExpress Dropshipping – A Step By Step Guide To Getting Started

AliExpress dropshipping is the easiest way to start an ecommerce business if you are on a budget. You don’t have to worry about inventory or shipping and there are little to no upfront costs to begin.

Normally, the hardest part about starting a dropshipping business is finding a reliable supplier.

But thanks to AliExpress and dropshipping apps like Oberlo, CJ Dropshipping and AliDropship, finding products to sell and automating a dropshipped online store is easier than ever.

This step by step guide will teach you how to get started with AliExpress dropshipping and educate you on the pros and cons of running a dropshipping business.

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What Is AliExpress Dropshipping?

AliExpress Dropshipping

AliExpress dropshipping is an ecommerce business model where a store takes orders online that are fulfilled by an AliExpress merchant.

The beauty of AliExpress dropshipping is that you don’t have to carry any inventory. Your primary responsibility is to take orders online and AliExpress ships the products directly to the end customer.

In other words…

  • You don’t have to worry about storage costs.
  • You don’t have to deal with shipping and fulfillment
  • You don’t have to invest any money upfront for inventory

Overall, AliExpress dropshipping is the cheapest way to start an ecommerce business.

For less than $30, you can easily open up a store on Shopify, get a few sales funnels set up and immediately start selling online.

What is AliExpress And Why Is It So Cheap?

What Is AliExpress

AliExpress is an Ebay-like service based in China that is owned by Alibaba. It’s a marketplace where individuals from all over the world can buy wholesale direct from Chinese companies.

Editor’s Note: Sellers on AliExpress can be individuals, small businesses, trading companies or factories.

The main difference between AliExpress and Ebay is that AliExpress is much larger and far less expensive.

Because AliExpress is based in China where the labor costs are substantially less, you can find products on AliExpress that are significantly cheaper than anywhere else.

The huge disparity in cost allows you to make a profit by selling an item at US prices and having it shipped directly from China.

Here’s a quick example to illustrate the difference in price.

This snoring mouth guard costs only $1.73 per piece on AliExpress

Snoring Mouth Guard

But on Amazon, it sells for $26.00.

Amazon mouth guard

As you can see, the markup for this product is crazy high.

Imagine selling a product for $26 and buying it for only $1.73 without any upfront cost of inventory!

Is AliExpress Dropshipping Profitable?

money

AliExpress dropshipping can be extremely profitable if you find great products and keep your shipping costs down.

Even though products on AliExpress are very inexpensive, you must pay to ship the product to the end customer from China.

Luckily, shipping from China is extremely cheap thanks to ePacket shipping.

Because of a 144 year old agreement called the Universal Postal Union (UPU) treaty, companies in China can ship small packages directly to consumers in the United States at ridiculously low rates which are far less than any American company.

For example, shipping a small package to Fairfax, Virginia, from North Carolina costs $1.94. But shipping a package from Shanghai, China to Virginia only costs $1.12.

This is not a typo. It literally costs less to ship a parcel from China to the US than within the US!

But these cheap shipping rates only go in one direction.

USPS To China

To ship a mouth guard to China from the US would cost $23.50! But to ship from China to California only costs a Chinese vendor less than $2!

This huge shipping cost discrepancy is what allows AliExpress dropshipping to be a viable business.

Using our mouth guard example above, you can sell a snoring mouth guard for $26 and pay a Chinese vendor on the order of $5 (including shipping) to have it shipped directly to a customer in the United States.

That’s a $21 dollar profit with zero upfront risk!

How AliExpress Dropshipping Works

AliExpress Dropshipping

AliExpress dropshipping works by listing a product on your online store that can be purchased on AliExpress at a lower price.

Here’s how it works.

  • You find a product on AliExpress at low prices.
  • You list the product on your own online store.
  • When a purchase is made, you buy the same product on AliExpress and have it shipped directly to the end customer.
  • You keep the difference in cost as profit.

How To Get Started With AliExpress Dropshipping

Making money with AliExpress dropshipping requires 3 basic steps.

  • You must perform keyword research to find profitable products to sell
  • You must find reliable AliExpress suppliers to dropship your products
  • You must create an online store website to take orders

Step 1: Find Profitable Products To Sell

Product Guidelines

To find profitable products to dropship from AliExpress, you should follow these guidelines.

  • The product should not be fragile and easy to ship.
  • The product should be trendy and impulsive.
  • The product should not be readily available in brick and mortar stores.
  • The product should have a strong value proposition and/or coolness factor.
  • The product should be priced around $50 with at least a 200% markup.

If you are not a creative person, you can also use the following tools and websites to help brainstorm products to sell online.

  • AliExpress Hot Products – AliExpress publishes their most popular products on a weekly basis to give you an idea of the hot products selling online.
  • Amazon Best Sellers – Amazon puts out a best sellers page of their top selling products which is updated on an hourly basis.
  • Jungle Scout Opportunity Finder – Jungle Scout is a tool that scrapes every Amazon listing into a database that you can look up to find popular products to sell.
  • Ebay Best Sellers – Ebay provides a best sellers list where you can easily find out what’s popular and selling right now.

Step 2: Find An AliExpress Dropshipping Supplier

There are 2 ways to find AliExpress suppliers online.

The first way is to simply type in the product that you want to sell on AliExpress and purchase it from the supplier directly.

AliExpress Shopping

Here’s how to find a reliable AliExpress supplier.

  • Look For Suppliers With a 90%+ Feedback Rating – To find the feedback rating, navigate to a supplier’s page and click on the “feedback” tab. From here, the feedback score will tell you the seller’s sales volume and the percentage of positive feedback received.

    AliExpress Ratings

    Do not use any supplier who has not shipped out at least 100 orders with a 90%+ feedback rating.

  • Never Sell Branded Products – Luxury brands do not sell on AliExpress and almost every name brand on AliExpress is fake or counterfeit. If the price sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Use Responsive Suppliers – When you run an ecommerce business, you will eventually run into product quality issues and late deliveries. As a result, you must make sure that your supplier is responsive and helpful.

    To test a potential supplier, message the supplier with a question and see how quickly they reply and how helpful they are. If you don’t get a response or if you can’t understand their messages, move on to a different supplier.

  • Pay Attention To Your Shipping Options – The most optimal AliExpress shipping method is ePacket delivery which takes 7-30 days. If the supplier does not support ePacket, you may want to find a different supplier. ePacket is by far the best AliExpress shipping method.
  • Always Order Samples – Before you sell a dropshipped product to a customer, you should first buy it yourself and examine it for quality. Always buy every product you plan on selling in your online store to make sure it’s what you expect.
  • Do Not Include Packing Slips – You should ask your supplier to not include packing slips or invoices in the shipped package. Ideally, you do not want the end customer to know that you are dropshipping from AliExpress.

Oberlo

The second way to find an AliExpress supplier is to use a dropshipping service or app.

A dropshipping app is a tool that connects your store to AliExpress and automates the ordering process from AliExpress suppliers.

By connecting your Shopify store to AliExpress via an app or plugin, you can instantly import millions of products to dropship WITHOUT manually entering in each product or browsing AliExpress.

Many dropship service companies will also pre-vet AliExpress suppliers and products in addition to handling the back end operations of your business.

Here’s a shortlist of AliExpress dropshipping companies.

  • Oberlo – Oberlo is a dropshipping platform that allows you to easily find and list products from AliExpress. Over 30,000 products are offered and there’s a seamless integration with Shopify.
  • CJ Dropshipping – The CJDropshipping app allows you to instantly import thousands of AliExpress products directly into your ecommerce store. All product descriptions are synced directly with AliExpress so you don’t have to manually enter in products.
  • AliDropship – The AliDropship app allows you to quickly list products from AliExpress into your Shopify or WooCommerce store.

Go here for a more complete list of dropshipping suppliers.

Step 3: Create An Online Store

Shopify

When starting an AliExpress dropshipping business, you should use either Shopify or WooCommerce as your ecommerce platform.

Both Shopify and WooCommerce are two of the most popular ecommerce platforms in the world with full support for most dropshipping services and apps.

For example, services like Oberlo, CJ Dropshipping and AliDropship allow you to automatically import products into your shopping cart at the push of a button.

When an order is placed on your store, the dropshipping app will automatically make a purchase on AliExpress with your customer’s shipping address.

By using an AliExpress dropshipping app, your business is highly scalable because the software takes care of orders and fulfillment.

AliExpress Dropshipping Risks

ePacket

The biggest risk to AliExpress dropshipping is that your shipping costs are highly dependent on ePacket shipping which is slowly getting phased out.

During President Trump’s time in office, the United States placed major pressure on the Universal Postal Union to change the terms of ePacket shipping because ePacket provides China with a huge one way advantage over the US in terms of shipping costs.

Over the years, ePacket has contributed to the big flood of cheap Chinese junk being sold to the US.

As a result of the Universal Postal Union negotiations (effective July 1, 2020), USPS will gradually phase in higher shipping fees over the next 5 years on packages from all international destinations.

These higher fees have the potential to destroy any profit that can be made with an AliExpress dropshipping business.

Editor’s Note: There are other cheap AliExpress shipping methods available but they are either too expensive or take too long to deliver. ePacket is by far the best AliExpress shipping option.

The other major risk of AliExpress dropshipping is poor quality merchandise. In general, quality control on AliExpress is not very good and you must work with a good supplier in order to succeed.

However, buying from AliExpress is safe because they offer a buyer protection program. If your product doesn’t arrive on time or as described, you can get a full refund.

The Pros And Cons Of AliExpress Dropshipping

The main benefit of AliExpress dropshipping is that it is the cheapest and least risky way to start selling online. It also requires the least amount of setup compared to other ecommerce business models.

Meanwhile, services like Oberlo and CJ Dropshipping provide an app that automatically imports AliExpress products directly into your online store and handles ordering as well.

Here are the pros of AliExpress dropshipping.

  • You have instant access to a database of millions of products to sell.
  • You can start AliExpress dropshipping for very little money.
  • You control the pricing for your products.
  • You don’t have to pay upfront for inventory and there are no minimum order quantities.
  • Your dropshipping software handles all of the ordering and fulfillment for you.

Here are the cons of AliExpress dropshipping.

  • Shipping times are extremely long. Even ePacket takes 7-30 days. Other AliExpress shipping methods can take up to 60 days.
  • Quality control can be a problem.
  • AliExpress suppliers may not speak English.
  • Your prices on AliExpress may change at any time.
  • The success of your business depends on the quality of your AliExpress suppliers.

For more info on quality control and shipping times on AliExpress, read these AliExpress reviews.

Is AliExpress Dropshipping Worth It?

dropshipping

AliExpress dropshipping is worth it if you want to start an ecommerce business on a budget with low upfront costs.

However, running a profitable dropshipping business is getting much harder because of Amazon.

Many AliExpress suppliers are listing their products directly on Amazon at cheaper prices with faster shipping.

In general, my colleagues who are the most successful with dropshipping tend to either sell large, big ticket items or products that can be upsold with accessories or services.

It also helps to dropship products that are conducive to content marketing and customer education.

That being said, dropshipping can be a good way to dip your toes in the ecommerce waters especially if you have very little upfront money to invest in your business.

You can start out with a dropship store, find out what sells well and then choose to stock or private label your winners.

Looking Beyond AliExpress Dropshipping

If you followed MyWifeQuitHerJob.com for any length of time, you probably know that I’m not a huge fan of dropshipping as a long term business model.

Not only are the margins lower but you don’t have any ownership of your brand.

Because there will be other vendors selling the exact same item as you, it’s difficult for your shop to stand out.

You also have very little control over your customer service.

For example, if your dropship vendor often ships out products late, that will make your company look bad.

If your dropship vendor is out of stock on an item you just sold, you are responsible for contacting the customer.

If you want to be in the ecommerce game in the long run, you really have to own your own brand and sell private label products.

When you own your own brand, you are in full control of your own destiny.

  • You get to set the price
  • You control where you can sell your products
  • No one can copy your brand or trademark
  • Your margins are much higher (>80%)

Running a private label ecommerce store often requires a little more upfront investment but you avoid being at the mercy of external factors that can put you out of business.

In the grand scheme of things, AliExpress dropshipping should be a stepping stone on your ecommerce journey.

Because when it comes to entrepreneurship, the faster and easier it is to start a business, the less sustainable it will be.

Frequently Asked Questions About AliExpress Dropshipping

faq

How does dropshipping work on AliExpress?

AliExpress dropshipping works as follows. When a customer makes a purchase from your online store, you then order the same item from AliExpress and have it shipped directly to your customer's address. You do not have to carry any inventory upfront.

Is AliExpress dropshipping free?

There is no upfront cost for AliExpress dropshipping. Because you don't have to carry any inventory, you can experiment with different products without any monetary risk.

Can you dropship from AliExpress to Amazon and Ebay?

Both Amazon and Ebay have disallowed dropshipping from marketplaces like AliExpress. If you are caught, you risk getting your account suspended or banned.

How long does AliExpress take to ship?

Orders from AliExpress can take anywhere from 2 weeks to a month depending on the vendor. As a result, you have to set delivery expectations with your customer up front.

Is Shopify and AliExpress dropshipping dead?

Because epacket shipping rates are going up dramatically, AliExpress dropshipping is getting harder.

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Related Posts In Dropshipping

About Steve Chou

Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com

His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times,  Entrepreneur and MSNBC.  

He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.

In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts

To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.  

Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses. 

37 thoughts on “AliExpress Dropshipping – A Step By Step Guide To Getting Started”

  1. Naseem Ansari says:

    Thank you so much for the sharing article. I have been reading your articles and they are really very helpful for me.

  2. Danielle Ogilve says:

    This has been very insightful! I agree, long term e-commerce businesses would do better if it were their own brand. Either that or they’d really have to buy in bulk for bigger margins.

  3. Jeremy Robinson says:

    Agreed!

    I’ve been saying this forever: even while there were still meager profits to squeeze out of this model in a few niche categories, it was obviously never going to be a sustainable business model – unless you have the infinite scale and infrastructure of Amazon.

    No one is in the “E-commerce business.” Ecommerce is simply a channel through which one sells products and builds a BRAND.

    1. Oscar says:

      Agreed 100%. It allows one to test products that work and then build a niche store.

  4. Alex says:

    I personally think this is great. I have multiple products on Amazon and my own website, and this will certainly benefit me and others who don’t take “shortcuts”. We were unfairly undercut by Chinese sellers for far too long.

  5. Kristi says:

    I couldn’t be happier. I’ve been struggling to stay in business for years selling my own original artwork on products. Aliexpress is FILLED with COUNTERFEITS of my work and thousands of other artists. How on earth can you compete with LOW-QUALITY knock-offs of your OWN artwork when they are selling them for pennies on the dollar. And guess what, if your name is in the design for copyright/trademark purposes and someone buys the ugly pixelated version, what do you think that does to your reputation?! Even worse, when they title it with your TM’d business name in it! Yeah, not at all going to be sorry to see counterfeiters struggling…. And not sorry to see people who sell the counterfeit goods struggle either. Do a little research and find LEGITIMATE items elsewhere. Because guess what, counterfeiting is a crime and it’s not victim-less and it doesn’t matter that you were “just selling it and had no clue”, you were involved in making money off of someone else’s work.

  6. Jeffro says:

    We should indeed thank the President! China has been filling the U.S. with counterfeit crap manufactured with cheap, underage labor that often defies any reasonable health standards as well! Now these Chinese manufacturers can keep their garbage in their own yard.

  7. Blue says:

    I know everyone is commenting on this from a seller’s point of view. No more competition from China. As a poor, years out of college, making minimum wage person who is taking care of a sick mother and has yet been able to find another job I think this is devastating. The only little gifts I was ever able to afford for myself or others were because of the highly marked down items that came from AliExpress and seller’s on eBay and now thanks to tRump that’s dead.

    I know most people think about themselves and what is best for their bottom line and screw the little guy who can’t afford the $25 version of what they want but could spend the $5 on it and didn’t care about waiting a little longer.

    This was a great and informative post about how it benefits you and everyone that has been able to afford to start a business and find success. It means I still can’t afford to shop at your store and now won’t be able to shop from theirs either. Great.

    1. Dan says:

      If I could ship something to China for $1, then I might me OK with China only paying $1 to ship something to me. But as Steve has pointed out, it costs over $20 to ship a similar item to China.

  8. Morgana says:

    Thank you for such a clear and informative article!

  9. GAUTAM PARIJA says:

    I am not sure when the U.S. will fully implement this… But then epacket covers many other countries like the UK, Australia, and others. What’s the plan there?

    1. Jon says:

      Lol, yes very US centric post!

  10. Ivy says:

    I have experience in retail. When dropshipping was introduced, I was hesitant to be a part of it and still up to now. I just feel the quality of the products might fall short on a particular brand I am carrying.

  11. Maggie Tuczapska says:

    Great article and nicely explained the reasons why dropshipping from China can be a less viable option – or will go away for good. They put so many people out of business, and the items are pure and utter Cr*p! I always believed in an old-fashioned way of finding local/national wholesalers and selling the stock you actually have in stock. You are happier, as you don’t need to stress about the way your products are labeled and packaged, and a customer is happy, as they don’t need to wait 3-4 weeks for the product. Yay for traditional ecommerce and thanks for another excellent article!

  12. Jane says:

    Thanks for the article! I dropship with AliExpress and I can’t imagine my business without one special tool – AliDropship plugin. It helps me to add products and fulfill orders automatically. I manage products, pricing, sales, and profits with a single panel. My store has a good income, so I can’t say that AliExpress dropshipping is dead.

    1. Phillip says:

      Yes, still viable today. But how much of a hike in shipping can you absorb? Starting July 2020.

  13. Jack says:

    I’ve been drop shipping for several years already. I started with Oberlo, but now I use AliDropship. All the time I see that ‘dropshipping is dead’. I failed twice, my niches were bad, but now I have 9 online dropshipping stores with a stable income.

  14. ivan says:

    Who made them officially dead?

    1. Dan says:

      USPS

  15. Dave says:

    I am finding that pulling products from oberlo end up being from aliexpress which is offering the same products on line at our cost. From that standpoint alone there is no competing with aliexpress to have a store online. For instance the oberlo dropshipper charges 17 dollars for something, and aliexpress charges the same price for the same item. All any one has to do is google the item and thats it, you dont stand a chance. Sounds like oberlo is actually aliexpress in disguise.

    1. Aldude says:

      That is exactly the same conclusion I just came to, well written.

  16. Chad says:

    this is great, read similar similar stuff in The Atlantic’s “Trump Changes Terminal Dues” article.

    But when is this change happening, its been a few months now?

  17. Dominique says:

    Except that e-packet shipping has not been overturned and aliexpress dropshipping is not dead. There’s a reason that all of the rich multi-million dollar companies get their product from China theres definitely a huge business benefit to it and aliexpress makes it so your average person can benifit too. Aliexpress has plenty of quality products. Let’s not act like China has a monopoly of cheap products or counterfeits. Plenty American companies make cheap crappy stuff and they would counterfeits too if our laws were more lax but instead you get “great value” brand. Sourcing quality products is part of business and you will see plenty of 4.5 star + rated products.

  18. Henry says:

    This really should be deleted. E-packet is not going away. You know it and I know it.

    1. Fabi Bani says:

      Thank you for your article, however, I was expecting factual statements on when and how much e-packet will increase. It is all your speculations. Also, please keep in mind that many Aliexpress vendors are shipping from U.S. now which eliminates the epacket.

      1. The when is July of 2020. If AliExpress vendors are shipping from the US, then they have to pay for freight forwarding, tariffs in addition to full US shipping costs. The only reason AliExpress was viable in the first place was due to ePacket.

      2. Nick says:

        So let me see if I got this right:
        – it is not OK to buy some article from Aliexpress for less then 2 bucks, and save 24 bucks.
        But:
        – it is OK to buy the same article from Amazon for 26 bucks and give Amazon 24 bucks?

        Bravo. I can see how American dream is quite possible in USA.
        For some.
        And for others – well…
        This is Capitalism, right? When the market is regulating itself, with no “bailing-out” by government, right?
        Except…
        When the ones that should be bailled out are the biggest companies (who mentioned 2008…?)
        And the small firms and families?
        Well… The governmant can’t save them all, right?
        America – the land of opportunities…

    2. Rick says:

      Yes. You are right. Use Amazon or ebay because they are American. Only, and only big, not small, American companies should make profit.
      Anyway, people who are dropshipping and selling in the US aren’t from China. They are people who live in the US, a.k.a. Americans. Chinese companies are suppliers not retailers. Americans are selling to Americans. China never priced up anything.

  19. Lynn Contic says:

    This is great news in my opinion. So happy we finally have a leader strong enough to stand up for us instead of making excuses! It’s obviously that China’s been eating our lunch for a long time and I for one am elated to see it turn around. I’m not interested in marketing their junk or indirectly supporting an oppressive regime who only cares about their own power with no regard for the rights of their people.

  20. Darwin C Smith says:

    Making America Great Again! Go Trump.

  21. Artin says:

    Of course, what you’re saying makes sense. It’s just that private labeling and product ownership needs at lease $20K up front.

  22. DONALD PENDER says:

    Surely this only concerns drop shipping using E packet. Would drop shipping by courier be also affected?

  23. Lloyd says:

    Perhaps this remaining time can be a blessing.
    I’m going to use this time that’s left to try a few different products that seem to be selling well, and get them from several different vendors. Then order whichever ones are the best quality, and order 100’s before the small packet advantage quits. Should give a short-term advantage next summer while the Chinese suppliers dry up, and folks here are trying to get larger shipments in under the tariffs.
    Think it’ll work?

  24. Lloyd says:

    @Blue – you have 9 months left. Pick out what you want from the Ali brothers, and order to your heart’s content!

  25. Rick says:

    Lol! If you scroll down on this page, there is another article titled – The danger of selling on Amazon and horror stories from the real Amazon sellers.

    Take a seat and read that too. Hope it isn’t from the same author.

  26. Oh Geez says:

    Looks more like an anti-Trump rant than anything else. Get a hold of yourself. Amazon is posting total junk products that are knock-offs of real products. Look at the reviews. Fake Chinese products are taking real peoples’ business away from them AND giving them a bad rep when they break after 1 month. Write about that.

  27. 23crayon says:

    honestly, a lot of this game seems to have a lot of privileged people complaining about the wa wa crap they been crying about since they were children….

    nobody makes friends in business. personally, to even question ethics while companies have been bailed out, gone bankrupt etc is absurd.

    at the end of the day, best to walk away with your profits. “success” isn’t measured by how popular your lame brand is. its personal opinion. its a system. regardless of “control” you want, or “authority” you think you need to have, there is always a bigger fish. you will be crushed by litigation, or bought out by capital.

    if you ever want your “brand” to not become subject to these crude forms of business then you need to reach optimum terminal velocity in order to shoot past these barriers/blocks and other problems. other than that, enjoy sucking b@lls and c0ck

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