What is Alibaba, and how does it work

 If you’re a company or an online merchant looking to buy and sell products online, chances are you’ve come across the big online marketplace called Alibaba. 

Purchasing from Alibaba can be a great way to buy and resell goods online at a low cost. Although trading products from Alibaba carries some risk, business owners can minimize this risk by taking precautions like conducting thorough research before engaging a supplier.

Are you worried about how to explore this huge marketplace, get trustworthy suppliers and negotiate adequately with them? Then you are in the right place. In this article, we run the rule on everything you need to know about Alibaba, how it differs from other e-commerce platforms, and how to shop on the website. Let’s dive in.

What is Alibaba?

What is Alibaba

The Alibaba Group, which specializes in eCommerce, retail, and technology, was founded by Jack Ma in 1999. Based in China, it is the parent company of many significant businesses and has additional operations in more than 200 countries and several regions. Chinese marketplaces owned by the Alibaba group- Taobao, Tmall, Aliexpress, and Alibaba.com, are used by hundreds of millions of people each year and are home to an enormous number of merchants and products.  Virtually all products can be found on these websites, which is why they’re widely used worldwide by businesses who buy in bulk and sell online. 

What is Alibaba.com

What is Alibaba.com

Alibaba is a Chinese e-commerce giant that acts as an online B2B marketplace to connect buyers and sellers all over the globe. It also serves as the most complete directory for linking buyers worldwide to suppliers, primarily from Asia. 

Alibaba.com is part of the Alibaba Group and has thousands of product offerings across different categories. Over 3000 businesses worldwide rely on it for security and reliable services.

With this platform, buyers can purchase large quantities of products in bulk at low prices and sell online on platforms like eBay, Amazon, Shopify, etc., for higher prices.

Alibaba enables customers to develop custom products from scratch using their own designs, bargain directly with manufacturers, and save a lot of money. It also offers an effortless way to find inexpensive goods to sell online profitably, which is why many online merchants use it.

Numerous tools and features on the platform are intended to make B2B buying and selling easier, and it sustains hundreds of millions of traffic every year.

Is Alibaba the same as AliExpress?

Is Alibaba the same as AliExpress

People often wonder if Alibaba is the same as its sister site, AliExpress. Alibaba and AliExpress are both massive Chinese marketplaces, but they differ in that Alibaba is mainly for business-to-business transactions while AliExpress caters more to consumers, i.e., a retail market. 

Put simply, AliExpress offers products at retail prices to anyone without a minimum order quantity, while Alibaba serves both large and small businesses interested in placing bulk wholesale orders. AliExpress was created primarily with consumers in mind, and because minimum order quantities are smaller and products are often premade, it is often more expensive than Alibaba, where you can buy directly from the manufacturers.

Alibaba Wholesale is a middle-ground platform between AliExpress and Alibaba. The MOQs are much lower here to encourage consumers who want bulk orders but don’t have enough to meet the requirements of Alibaba.

Purchasing wholesale goods from Alibaba may be beneficial if you plan to start selling online goods at competitive prices. 

Alibaba vs. Amazon

Amazon is another popular online marketplace known all over the world for its great number of product listings and online sellers. The major difference between Alibaba and Amazon is that Alibaba is a wholesale marketplace where companies can find products, while Amazon is a platform where companies can sell their goods online. Businesses purchase products in wholesale from Alibaba and sell them on retail markets like Amazon. Also, products on Alibaba are non-branded, so they can easily be customized by companies before reselling on Amazon.

How does Alibaba work?

How does Alibaba work

If you’re looking to get your hands on a product, Alibaba will connect you with the best vendors in China (or anywhere in the world). It is easy to search for what you need- you can browse by category, price range, shipping time, and much more. 

You’ll need to first register for an account to order products from Alibaba. Once you’ve done this, you can browse through the site’s offerings and find something that interests you. You’ll notice that each product page has several tabs: “Product Information,” “Selection,” “Reviews & Ratings,” and “Buy Now.”

Alibaba works quite simply;

You should have done some research on current hot-selling products, which will help you make a proper product sales plan and adjustment.

With so many product categories on Alibaba, it can be overwhelming to figure out what to sell. Search for product keywords on Google Trends, Amazon, Twitter, and Alibaba to discover trending products and hot-selling products in your niche. This way, you can be sure to get products that are in demand currently in the market.


You can find various products from different industries through Alibaba.

You can find various products from different industries through Alibaba.

There are numerous large and small suppliers to patronise. A buyer can easily shop for products from thousands of different sellers with just one click. Alibaba has a powerful search engine that offers thousands of products, and you can find the items you require by browsing the marketplace or posting a Request for Quotation (RFQ).

The marketplace is simple to browse through because it functions like any other search engine. You simply input a search query and check search results. Alibaba also allows buyers to use image searches to facilitate search results. Various filters and sorting options are available, including Supplier type, product type, minimum order quantity, and certifications.

This assists customers in focusing their search for the right products from potential suppliers. You can also post a Request for Quotation in the RFQ market if you can’t find the ideal item that meets your requirements, and suppliers will get in touch with you if they can complete your desired order. 

You can also register as a seller on Alibaba and get customers.

You can also register as a seller on Alibaba and get customers.

Are you trying to sell instead? Then you can list your products on Alibaba’s site. You only need to create a profile for your business, list and organize your products, and stay in touch with customers. With an upgraded Gold account, you can also create a website on Alibaba that increases the reach of your products.


Who uses Alibaba?

Who uses Alibaba

 Alibaba.com is a B2B website. Although companies and wholesale firms mostly use Alibaba, the website is actually open to anyone. Yes, anyone can buy and sell on Alibaba. Most typical purchasers are retail retailers, wholesalers, supplier agents, and manufacturer suppliers whose products will be resold to a company or re-sold to a third-party supplier. Sometimes, the manufacturers buy raw materials through Alibaba but sometimes use Alibaba for the sale of finished products. You can place orders for goods on Alibaba directly from manufacturers, whether you’re an individual or a business looking to import from China.

Why Buy from Alibaba?

Why Buy from Alibaba

Millions of consumers order goods from Alibaba.com every year, making it one of the biggest online marketplaces in the world. There are many reasons why people choose to shop on this B2B eCommerce platform, and here are the biggest among them:

The platform is trustworthy

Alibaba is a trustworthy platform. To reduce incidents of scams and low-quality products, they offer verification badges and trade assessments to legitimate sellers so buyers can trust their orders.

Tools for global sourcing

Alibaba is a tool for global sourcing of products, as it is accessible to millions of buyers from any part of the world. It is also home to many categories of potential suppliers and unique product categories from different niches.

It’s easy to use

Alibaba is a very easy-to-use platform, and buyers can easily find products and connect with manufacturers on Alibaba. Their website operates with artificial intelligence that allows messages to be translated to whatever language buyers speak, making it easy to communicate with suppliers.

Pay Later options

When you negotiate well with the supplier, Alibaba enables buyers to buy products and pay later. This is usually in the form of initial deposits, then final payments after products have been received, or through escrow services.

Millions of products to choose from

There are millions of unique products to choose from different niches on the platform, making it the first choice for online merchants from different parts of the world.

Custom-made products

Buyers can design custom-made products from scratch and have them ordered straight from the manufacturers on Alibaba. This has aided businesses that carry out private labeling. They can brand their products and then sell online on other websites like Amazon or eBay.

Low-cost of goods 

Most products sold on Alibaba can be obtained in bulk at very affordable prices.

High Number of Potential suppliers

There are also many manufacturers available, and buyers are spoiled for choice in selecting the products they require.

Who Should you buy from Alibaba?

Who Should you buy from Alibaba

There are two major categories of businesses featured on Alibaba: Manufacturers and Wholesale suppliers. 

Manufacturers produce goods after every order, and as a result, their MOQ (Minimum order quantity) is often high. Buyers should therefore have a high budget in place before ordering from manufacturers. Buyers ordering directly from manufacturers can also request custom products and packaging, including their company logos, i.e., private labeling.

Wholesale suppliers typically buy products from manufacturers and resell them in smaller sizes. Thus, their MOQ is often lower, and it’s easier to negotiate smaller product quantities with them.

You should select who to buy from based on your budget and the quantity of goods you’re planning to get. When buying from Alibaba, ensure the suppliers have a form of verification badge or trade assurance completed. Alibaba believes these extra verification procedures would reduce the incidence of scams on the platform.

How to buy from Alibaba in 6 Steps

How to buy from Alibaba in 6 Steps

Buying goods on Alibaba differs from buying at a B2C shop like Amazon or AliExpress. This method aims at efficiency and customization and has a number of features: Buying at Alibaba.com is simple and efficient, though there are alternative approaches to determining the user experience. Let’s go through a list of 6 ways to buy products on the Alibaba.com marketplace.

Create an account on the platform and register your details

Fill in your profile. Search and find products. There are numerous products offered on Alibaba, so browse the site and search for the products you need.

Run your product search on the search engine

Use the search tool to find the required product categories. You can also make use of filters to ensure your search is streamlined to the exact qualities you seek.

Compare sellers

It is necessary to compare sellers to find the best price for your product in the market. Comparing sellers would also ensure you get the most trusted vendor to buy from.

Negotiate deals or buy immediately

After selecting the best deal, you can choose to order immediately or negotiate pricing methods and MOQ with the supplier. Here are the most important questions to ask when negotiating on Alibaba.com:

  • Minimum order quantities (MOQs). You should always double-check with the supplier to ensure accuracy, even if the website has already listed the MOQ. Sometimes, Alibaba suppliers allow negotiation on the minimum order quantities they allow if you have a smaller budget in mind.

  • Asking for samples- It is always important to request samples beforehand to be sure manufacturers can create the exact product you desire. Most consumers make use of Ali Express when requesting for samples. You can however negotiate with suppliers and enquire if they offer sampling before bulk orders. Some Chinese manufacturers on Alibaba may even provide you samples for free if they know you have a large order incoming.

  • Duration of production and Manufacturing costs: One important thing to negotiate is the time it will take for the manufacturers or suppliers to get your goods ready. You should also discuss the production cost per unit to see if you can ask for a bulk discount on prices. Both the buyer and supplier should be on the same page with this before going ahead with the order.

  • Payment terms- Alibaba supports many payment options. However, the most low-risk of these options for buyers are PayPal and escrow services. Many suppliers do not like using PayPal except for low quantity orders. Also, most suppliers would demand for the full price to be paid upfront before processing the orders. It is important to agree on a payment method and how much to pay initially before confirming orders with any supplier. 

Place your order

Place your order - Alibaba

Make your order clearly stating the number of products you want from the supplier. Your messages must be concise and clear, to prevent misunderstanding that might arise during translation.

Hire a freight forwarder

Hire a freight forwarder- DFH-Global-Logistics

Choose an Alibaba freight forwarder to ship your products to your destination. DFH is one of the most trusted freight forwarders in China. We can help you confirm your products from the suppliers, repackage and sort them out, and ship them to you at very low costs. We will also sort out customs clearance in the receiving country, so you receive your products stress-free.

With DFH, there’s also room for stockpiling products in our warehouse for free till you’re ready to ship.

Receive your goods

Receive your goods right at your delivery address without any hassles.

6 Tips for buyers on Alibaba

6 Tips for buyers on Alibaba

Alibaba has several features to offer, and all of the above can be used more effectively if used correctly. There are many ways to improve the shopping experience for consumers on Alibaba.com. To facilitate your product search on Alibaba, here are the following tips that could help you get the best results.

Complete your profile

Register and fill in every detail about your company on your profile so that suppliers are keen on doing business with you.

Search more efficiently

Use the right filters to access the exact type of product you’re looking for, so you can find the right manufacturers or sellers.

Assess sellers

Check out every seller before agreeing to get products from them. There are many things to look out for.

1. Look up the supplier’s company name, email address, and website.

2. Select suppliers who have completed a supplier assessment: You should check off every box under Supplier Types if you want to make purchases on Alibaba with the least amount of risk possible. This includes trade assurance program (offered by Alibaba), and assessed Alibaba suppliers (inspected by a third-party provider). To safeguard your payments made through the Alibaba.com payment platform, the company provides Trade Assurance, a verification program for chosen suppliers. This trade assurance helps to provide simple and easy payment options; know when your suppliers have received your payment by tracking and reconciling your accounts, and provide refunds if necessary, either from delays in shipping products or delivery of low-quality products. Many consumers on Alibaba prefer working with trade assurance suppliers.

Trade Assurance also shields businesses from scams and low-quality or dangerous products from Alibaba. If your preferred supplier is not under trade assurance, then you should do more research to be safe before making orders.

3. Look for verification badges on each supplier before ordering from them. From here, you can know how long a supplier has been verified, the quantity of in-person inspections, response times, and customer satisfaction levels. 

4. Choose gold suppliers who have many years of selling experience. When assessing a supplier’s validity, one of the first things to do is to look for verified Gold Suppliers. Gold suppliers generally pay fees to attain this status to prevent scammers from joining in. These users purchase the Gold Supplier status directly from Alibaba. While the Gold Supplier status might be a little expensive to get, remember that since the status was purchased rather than earned, it does not indicate that a potential supplier has been independently verified. However, It will probably separate those who are sincere about doing business on the market from those who are not. 

5. Examine their ratings and reviews to judge their quality, performance, and trustworthiness. You can set the basic requirements in your filter during the product search to streamline the search results you receive.

Write practical inquiries

what is alibaba how does it work.

Write concise and easy-to-understand messages to suppliers to prevent misunderstandings during translation. You can also contact us at DFH to be the middle man in communicating between you and the supplier. We handle this for you at no charge at all.

Negotiate with confidence

You’ll be able to negotiate better if you have checked out other sellers’ pages. This way, you’ll know the average price and be able to negotiate for the MOQ you require. Remember, you can also discuss shorter manufacturing time and cost effective solutions with the suppliers before making orders.

Order Samples

It is wiser to request samples before ordering in bulk. Many buyers choose to use Aliexpress to order samples to ensure the quality is to their taste before ordering in bulk. DFH can also help to confirm the quality of your orders before you make payment i.e, we act as a third-party assessor of your potential suppliers.

Consider using Paypal when paying for orders.

Due to its simplicity, low risk, and overall strong buyer protection, PayPal is a preferred payment method for consumers. It is a great option to use this method or any other escrow method to ensure the highest form of protection for your funds. Many Alibaba sellers do not like using PayPal, so you might have to negotiate this beforehand.


 Alibaba is a vast marketplace where you can obtain almost every product you want. However, it’s easy to get lost on the platform and get frustrated in your search for a reliable supplier. And that’s why we’ve compiled everything you need to know to make buying goods more straightforward for you.

We have covered reasons many consumers all over the world consider the Alibaba group marketplace for their product sourcing, custom branding, and drop shipping. We also explained how the platform works and how to experience a hassle-free trade. These tips would come in handy for companies and small businesses alike looking to order goods and sell them online on B2C marketplaces.

Finally, once you discover a good supplier, contact DFH, the best freight forwarder in China. We will help you access the quality of your products to ensure they are to your satisfaction, then help you ship to the destination country of your choice. 


FAQs - What is Alibaba, and how does it work

Is Alibaba safe or trustworthy? 

Alibaba has grown to be one of the world’s biggest marketplaces since its founding by Jack Ma in 1999.  Alibaba’s marketplace is generally safe and legitimate because, like many contemporary eCommerce marketplaces, the majority of its merchants are reliable and trustworthy.

Alibaba also offers Trade Assurance, a verification program for select suppliers, to protect your payments through the Alibaba.com payment platform.

Alibaba is 100% authentic, and sourcing goods for selling online is extremely easy. Alibaba has also developed several security policies that permit you to thoroughly examine any of the suppliers with an escrow system eliminating fraudulent transactions.

How does Alibaba work?

Alibaba is a wholesale marketplace where buyers can find high-quality products at low prices. Alibaba offers customers the opportunity to negotiate directly with manufacturers, create custom products, and save substantially.

Both businesses and individuals can purchase products at wholesale prices on this Chinese website by ordering them directly from the manufacturers. To order on Alibaba, a company needs to:

  1. Establish the product category and niche to buy from

  2. Use the search engine tool to discover the products. You can set filters to ensure a more efficient search result.

  3. Contact potential suppliers and negotiate product cost, Minimum Order Quantities, and manufacturing duration with them.

  4. Place the order clearly and concisely so the suppliers can understand. You can sell online in your store or on other B2C platforms like Amazon when the product arrives.

 What is Alibaba used for?

Alibaba.com is a global B2B marketplace for consumers and businesses looking to buy and sell goods both online and offline. Numerous companies around the world have embraced its easy and scalable technology.

What is the difference between Alibaba and Amazon?

Amazon acts as a retailer, while Alibaba functions as a wholesale platform. Alibaba is a wholesale marketplace where companies can find products, while Amazon is a platform where companies can sell their goods online. Businesses purchase products at wholesale prices from Alibaba and sell them on retail markets like Amazon. 

What is the difference between Alibaba and AliExpress?

What is the difference between Alibaba and AliExpress?

Alibaba and AliExpress are sister sites that belong to the Alibaba group. While Alibaba is a marketplace mainly for business-to-business transactions, AliExpress caters more to consumers, i.e., a retail market. 

AliExpress offers products at retail prices to anyone without a minimum order quantity, while Alibaba serves both large and small businesses interested in placing bulk wholesale orders.

Products on AliExpress are generally more expensive than on Alibaba because it was created primarily with consumers in mind, and the particular supplier usually makes the products before hand.

Is Alibaba Only for Bulk orders?

No, Alibaba is not only for bulk orders. Although the market is primarily designed for the wholesale sale of goods in bulk, individuals can still purchase single items if they negotiate with the supplier for it. However, buying single items on Alibaba is generally more expensive than buying in bulk on the platform, and most consumers would instead buy single products from AliExpress. This sister site is also part of the Alibaba group.

Can Anyone Buy from Alibaba?

Can Anyone Buy from Alibaba

Yes, anyone can make orders and buy goods from Alibaba. Most typical purchasers are retail retailers, wholesalers, supplier agents, and manufacturer suppliers whose products will be resold to a company or re-sold to a third-party supplier. You can place orders for goods on Alibaba directly from manufacturers, whether you’re an individual or a business looking to import from China. Anyone can contact suppliers and manufacturers directly on the Alibaba website.

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